Francis Skidmore (1817-1896) was the son of a jeweller, sometimes more specifically described as a watchmaker and silversmith or goldsmith. Born in Birmingham, Skidmore is chiefly associated with Coventry, to which the family moved during his early chikldhood. He soon took an interest in his father's trade, becoming his apprentice and developing a special enthusiasm for early metalwork. His church plate attracted much attention at the Great Exhibition, and he began taking commissions from designers like George Gilbert Scott. He was soon seen as "one of the most active and adventurous apostles of Gothic in general, and medieval metalwork in particular" (Banham and Harris 143). A member of the Ecclesiological Society, he did much of his work for churches or cathedrals, but he was also responsible for the splendid metalwork of the Natural History Museum, Oxford (1859) and the Albert Memorial (1866-73). In 1861 he had opened a foundry for "large-base metalwork," taking his son into partnership (see Meara 76). By 1865, Skidmore's Art and Manufacturing Company had "an extensive showroom, 2 drawing offices, pattern shops, a 14-horse power engine, a boiler room, a large workshop equipped with lathes and a steam hammer, as well as separate rooms for enamelling, stamping and electrotyping" ("Francis Skidmore"). However, he was too much of a perfectionist for his own good, and put quality of workmanship before profits. He had to sell the company in 1872, but he continued to work in smaller premises in Meriden, a village between Coventry and Solihull, until 1883. Sadly, failing eyesight and a carriage accident in London led to an impoverished old age. His headstone in Coventry's London Road Cemetery is beautifully fashioned but stands crookedly now. — Jacqueline Banerjee
"Francis Skidmore (1817-1896)." The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry. Web. 1 February 2012.
Meara, David. Victorian Memorial Brasses. London: Routledge, 1983.
Last modified 1 February 2017