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Tribute to city metal master; PLAQUE UNVEILED TO 'FORGOTTEN CRAFSTMAN' WHO DIED IN POVERTY.

A VICTORIAN master craftsman will be remembered in Coventry next week when a plaque is unveiled on the site of his former factory.

Francis Skidmore was one of the best metalworkers in the country in the 19th century, but died in poverty.

He worked in wrought iron, copper and bronze from his factory in Alma Street, Hillfields, on a site now owned by Coventry University.

The plaque will be unveiled by his great granddaughter Rita Kenderdine on Wednesday.

Skidmore was born in Birmingham in 1816 and moved to Coventry as a child.

After starting work in his father's jewellery business, he developed a skill for using non-precious metals.

His reputation grew at the Great Exhibition and he started up his own factory as commissions poured in from around the globe.

One of his most striking projects was the decorative metalwork he made for the Albert Memorial in London.

The stunning tribute erected by Queen Victoria was restored to its former glory in 1998 and Skidmore's work can clearly be seen on the statue overlooking Kensington Gardens.

Examples of his work in Coventry can still be seen in Holy Trinity Church and St Mary's Guildhall.

The project closest to his heart, the pulpit in St Michael's Church - the old Cathedral - was destroyed in the Blitz in November 1940.

Skidmore also made decorative metalwork for several Oxbridge colleges and government buildings, as well as the choir screen at Hereford Cathedral, which is now in storage at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

His skill was also his undoing, as his quest for perfection led him to throw away thousands of pounds of work he considered sub-standard. He died in poverty in Eagle Street, Hillfields, aged 73.

Peter Walters, of Coventry and Warwickshire Promotions, which has put up six other plaques to great figures in the city, said: "Francis Skid- more is one of Coventry's forgotten craftsmen.

"He was chosen to work on one of the most prestigious memorials in Vic- torian England yet he died in poverty in Coventry in 1896."
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Author:Hopker, Antony
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 8, 2000
Words:340
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