Sharp, Anthony (1643–1707), Dublin woollen merchant and leading quaker, was born in January 1643 in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, son of Thomas Sharp, woollen manufacturer, and his wife Elizabeth. He probably attended the local grammar school founded by Sir William Romney (d. 1611) and was interested in trade and commerce from an early age. In 1657 Sharp was apprenticed to an attorney in Marlborough, Wiltshire, whom he accompanied to Ireland. However, Sharp did not pursue a legal career because he believed that changes in law were driven fundamentally by profit. Returning to Tetbury, he worked for his father as a journeyman comber of worsted and subsequently launched his own woollen business. He married (27 March 1663) Esther (Hester), daughter of Ann and Thomas Curtis, woollen draper. Their two sons and two daughters died in infancy. Esther died 24 October 1672 of tuberculosis. Sharp married secondly (17 August 1674) Ann, daughter of Sarah and Thomas Crabb, a substantial woolstapler of Marlborough, Wiltshire. Ann bore him seven daughters and nine sons, but only four lived to adulthood.
Sharp's involvement with the Society of Friends began in the early 1660s when he visited imprisoned quakers in Warwick and Worcester. Moving to Dublin in the late summer or autumn of 1669, Sharp established a woollen manufactory in the Liberties, and developed a reputation for honesty. At the height of his business career he employed nearly 500 workers, exported wool to London and other leading English towns, owned nearly thirty houses in Dublin, and engaged in land speculation in New Jersey after his son Isaac moved there in 1700. In February 1678 Sharp and fellow quakers Samuel Clarridge, Robert Turner, and William Maine (or Mayne) successfully petitioned to be admitted as freemen of Dublin in return for a money payment rather than swearing the traditional oath. He also became a city alderman in November 1687.
Using his knowledge of the law to draft petitions and other legal documents, Sharp assisted numerous Irish quakers persecuted for their religious beliefs. His efforts made him second in importance only to William Edmundson (qv) and helped Irish quakers to develop a church polity. He also travelled throughout Ireland as a ‘publick Friend’, ministering to various meetings and co-authoring several semi-official quaker publications, including William Morris's Tithes no gospel ordinance (1680), George Whitehead's The Christianity of the people commonly called quakers vindicated (1690), and William Penn's Gospel-truths (Dublin, 1698; reprinted in Penn, A defence of a paper, entituled, Gospel-truths (1698)). Although Sharp was never imprisoned for refusing to pay tithes, his goods were distrained several times. Ann Sharp died on 7 June 1702, and Anthony Sharp's health deteriorated slowly thereafter. He died on 13 January 1707 and willed most of his property to Isaac. The Anthony Sharp manuscripts are located in the Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland.