Posted: 29 March, 2023

Miss Julie Sharp

Alumnae, Community, General, News, Senior School

11 June 1958 - 25 March 2023

Our much-loved former Head of English has sadly passed away.

Although Miss Sharp retired in 2016, she very much remained part of the Putney family, attending reunions, plays and concerts and was recently rehearsing with the Putney High Choral Society for the forthcoming performance in April. She will be greatly missed by many former pupils, as well as former colleagues.

Please do feel free to get in touch with us at [email protected], particularly if you would like to share a memory or photograph of Miss Sharp with us and her family. We have posted a few of the communications we’ve received below:

Julie (second from right on the 2010 choral tour to Venice) was/is literally a legend and one of the most popular, involved, creative, selfless, conscientious, kind people ever to grace Putney High School.
Her witty and original contributions to English, Music, Drama, RS, staff and pupils is timeless and she will never be forgotten.
‘Lux perpetua’
Jenny Holl (Head of Spanish 1984 – 2020)

She was one of my favourite teachers. This is a lovely memory that I have.
Aicha McKenzie (Class of 1995)

Miss Sharp knew everyone’s names, almost from the very first day of Year 7. Coming from a small primary school, this was anchoring. Whether she taught you or not, you always felt seen, heard and understood in her presence.

The upper floors of Galbraith were always a good place to be. Lessons were a balance of light and laughter, alongside thoughtful literary analysis. I remember her having a cupboard filled with paperbacks, lent to us for extra reading, like literary prescriptions for the soul.

She was unofficial head of pastoral care for difficult teenage years – I can’t imagine how full on this must have been, or say how thankful I am to her for always listening and being a safe person to talk to.

As well as being unfalteringly kind, she was also very funny.

We had the best time working on the teachers’ pantomime with her in our final year, coming up with the ‘fairy godfathers’, a very good reason to dress three of the tallest male teachers in the lightest fairy-drag. I remember the English department doing an assembly on ‘Desert Island Poets’ and Miss Sharp talking about John Donne, accompanied by a striking oil painting of him. The hall agreed unanimously that he was likely very handsome and a very good person to be on a desert island with.

Miss Sharp had a fizzing energy and spirit about her, to read, to write and to create. I knew she was always working on something of her own. Being in her ‘Secret Life of Birds’ in Year 7 was an unforgettable experience. The play is full of extraordinary and powerful stories, woven together with her winking humour. With her encouragement, I started entering poems into the Poetry Festival, and this helped grow me as a writer, and shape my career and commitment to my art today.

Miss Sharp – thank you for being such an incredible teacher and human being. I am so grateful for the hours we shared talking about books.

Lucy Silver (Class of 2012)

Miss Sharp was a formative teacher for me. She was a breath of fresh air in the English department and I loved her lessons. I had always been drawn to drama but her encouragement really propelled my interest; I acted in her school productions and I’m sure her support and great teaching helped me first choose drama as part of my university course – and then my career. I’m now a film producer and development exec.

My mother, Elizabeth Myers, was a teacher at Lytton House and got to know Miss Sharp as a colleague which meant that I in turn got to know Miss Sharp as Julie, after I left school. I well remember going to see a production of Othello at the Donmar with her; I also remember that she was writing a novel and I read a draft of it and we discussed it.

In my adult life, she was as engaging as I’d found her as a student – curious, self-deprecating, interesting and interested in what others had to say – all with a great sense of humour alongside.

Kate Myers (Class of 1990)

I was very sad to hear this news. I started Putney High aged 4, and when I moved to the senior school I was Miss Sharp’s first class when she was a NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher). She was a lovely teacher and we loved being her first year, so much so that many of us (over a 1/3 of the class) came back for her retirement event in June 2016.
Dr. Antonia Gowan (Class of 1991)

I am so sorry to hear this sad news about Miss Sharp (second row, second from left). I was in Upper III S, which was her first form at Putney.

She was a lovely woman and an excellent teacher, and I remember her for her kindness and her love of literature.

Condolences to all in the Putney family.

Claire Simmons (Class of 1991)

I was taught English by Julie, for all of the time I was at PHS. I remember her as kind, creative and always ambitious for us her students, to develop an appreciative and rounded knowledge of her subject. I particularly recall how she supported us to enjoy poetry, to decipher Shakespeare and most of all to feel at ease with expressing our views, particularly through public speaking.

This beautiful poem she shared one day has always stayed with me:

Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

 All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

What a beautiful gift to leave her generation of students.

Rest in peace Julie, and thank you for all the wonderful lessons.

Desiree D’Souza (Class of 1996)

I am very sad to hear Miss Sharp has suddenly passed away. She was my English teacher through to A level (class of ‘97) and inspired me to read English Language and Literature at Liverpool University where I obtained essay prizes, a scholarship and First Class Honours before going on to complete my Master’s degree at UCL.

Miss Sharp was a misnomer as there was nothing sharp about her – she was funny, warm, clever, talented and knew how to blend the intellectually challenging with the downright hilarious- I still remember some of our Drama lessons to this day. I also remember her strong ethos around pastoral care and how she stepped in to help me out with a challenging situation when I was in Year 7.

Miss Sharp set me on a journey that has shaped my whole life. Instead of going into law like the rest of my family, my love of literature and of people gave me my calling- to become an English teacher myself and subsequently Deputy Head. Miss Sharp helped me gain the confidence to choose the life I wanted to lead – she believed in me and it gave me the confidence to believe in myself.

I last saw Miss Sharp in 2017, meeting her for a coffee in Wimbledon following a school reunion. She was just as I always remembered- very approachable, kind, interesting and a wonderful memory for people.

I am so sad to learn that this was to be the last time I saw her – we always think there will be one more time, until there isn’t.

Pippa Whitfield-Jones (Class of 1997)

How terribly sad. I cannot credit Miss Sharp enough for inspiring me to love language, to pursue it as a career and to study English Literature at university. I will miss her dearly.

I have so many memories of Miss Sharp, from book club (always with biscuits), to her stories from South America.

Below is the leaving speech I wrote for her:

In the past few months two massive pieces of news have hit Putney High School. Firstly, Britain is leaving the EU and secondly, Miss Sharp is leaving the EU…. Sorry, I mean, is leaving us.

Miss Sharp has been such an inspiration to us all. Her lessons are always fascinating and enjoyable- even when I’m drowning in revision and coursework they never fail to cheer me up with impressive attempts of Southern Alabaman accents and literary themed foods. And whilst sometimes I feel as if we are moving through the course at ridiculous speeds, her lessons are still sprinkled with stories of her Southern American adventures and her gap year experiences, which I look forward to every week.

However, Miss Sharp is so much more than just a teacher here. She has been a vital part of Putney life, orchestrating not only book clubs and Christian Union but also entertaining us on a yearly basis with her Christmas Nativity and other plays such as the ‘Inspector English’ sequel and ‘Face to Face’.

Those lucky enough to be in her form in Year 7 will know about how welcoming she is towards the new students of Putney High School, making the gap between Junior and Senior school seem as small as physically possible. The  current Year 12s may be familiar with the very famous song “All about that Woodspurge”.

You never fail to surprise us Miss Sharp so thank you for always being your amazing, quirky self. Thank you for forever inspiring us to try new things, be it a new accent during the reading of “To Kill a Mockingbird” or going to the Globe for the first time. You put so much into your lessons and we are so proud to have been your students.

Thank you for your constant generosity and for all of the gifts that you have given us. It goes without saying that you will be sorely missed by the ‘remain camp’ here at Putney. We wish you well in your retirement and hope that you will come and visit us often.

When Miss Sharp first came to Putney High School her students said to her “Well you’re nice, but you’ll never be the same as our old teacher”. Maybe, in years to come, we will be saying that about the new English teachers, but whatever happens, there will only ever be one Miss Sharp.

Students know about her very special end of year 11 quiz, and as a thank you for writing one every year we thought we would make one just for you!

1)    Which teacher makes you digest quotes by using icing to write them on rice paper?

2)    Which teacher, just this Tuesday, said “My favourite form of banter is shady banter”?

3)    Which teacher created a fictional village in which shocking crimes took place?

4)    Who makes their book clubs start at 7.58 on the dot every week?

The answer to all of these questions is, of course, Miss Sharp.

Lydia Sax (Class of 2017)

I am deeply saddened by the news of Miss Sharp passing. She made my experience at Putney High School what it was. As my year seven form tutor she created a warm, nurturing and engaged tone which immediately put me at ease and made me excited for the years ahead.

She inspired, she cared, she gave everything to each of her students.

She was highly involved in making the school experience more than just learning the syllabus. I remember the ‘village’ she created in our form time where we had a murder mystery to solve in the mornings; I remember the many nativity plays she wrote for Christian Union; I remember panicking about Romeo and Juliet just before my English GCSE and her saying exactly the right thing to calm me down in time.

She is inseparable from Putney High in my memory.

Esmé Hicks (Class of 2010)

I’m deeply saddened to hear about Miss Sharp’s passing – she was the most incredible teacher who we all have the fondest memories of. I recently joined the alumnae/parent choir and it’s been such a pleasure singing alongside her again. It won’t be the same without her.

I’ve attached a photo I took at the first rehearsal on 20 February this year, proudly standing between two of my favourite teachers, Miss Sharp and Miss Coate.

Emily Walport (Class of 2011)


Miss Sharp (or – as she signed off as – Miss #) taught me briefly in the Sixth Form and I remember her as a fun, inspiring teacher with a love of literature.  Whether she was writing plays for the years 7 and 8 to perform – always with a ‘Beatrice and Benedick’ element, singing with us in the school choir, or organising trips to the Globe (“no need to buy seats, we can stand just as the peasants used to!”) she was a special presence at Putney High.

But to me, she was much more than a teacher.  Through my years at Putney, Miss # guided me in my faith and gave me a safe space to explore and grow.  Every Thursday lunchtime we would meet for Christian Union where she would lead us with thought-provoking questions, humour, patience and, above all, joy.  The Christian Union Christmas play was a highlight of the year (“will there be a real baby?!”) and, somehow, she made us comfortable enough to make utter fools of ourselves in front of the school – remember the rapping camel, the accident-prone Angel, and the tempestuous Mary?  She was always willing to get stuck in.  Once, when leading a session, we asked her to denounce Shakespeare for a box of chocolates. I think we were trying to prove a point about Judas…. I still remember her squirming.

I was fortunate enough to stay in touch with Miss # and in recent years we sang together at various events and talked endlessly about books over coffee.  I will miss her vibrancy and excitement about the projects she was involved in, her enthusiasm for life, her openness and vulnerability, and her humour.   The last text she sent me included a list of her current ‘Random Ten Books’  (we agreed we could never have a ‘top ten’).  I’m making my way through them in her memory but my goodness, I wish we could chat about them over a cappuccino.

Millie Freeman (Class of 2006)

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