Historic Churches 2021

BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 28 TH ANNUAL EDITION 35 THE DAYLESFORD SCREENS Peter Meehan S T PETER’S Church in the Cotswold village of Daylesford contains two very ornate, painted iron transept screens. These, and other Victorian metalwork in the church are believed to be the work of Francis Skidmore, a well-known craftsman and leading figure in the Gothic Revival Movement, who is perhaps best known for the Hereford Screen now on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. The church itself is a Grade I listed building which was designed in 1859 by John Loughborough (JL) Pearson (1817–97), a Gothic Revival architect, but it is now redundant and in the care of St Peter’s Daylesford Charitable Trust. The church building required some conservation and repair to its fabric, and conservation architects Donald Insall Associates were employed by the charitable trust to undertake this. Works included repairs to deteriorating stonework inside the church, repairs to the stone-tiled roof, renewal of the electrical wiring, an enhanced lighting scheme, and the cleaning and consolidation of the ironwork transept screens, altar rail and wall lights. HISTORIC BACKGROUND St Peter’s Church was built in 1863 for Harman Grisewood, the new owner of the adjacent manor house, to replace the Norman church that dated from the 12th century. His chosen architect, JL Pearson, had a long association with church architecture, and was responsible for designing a large number of church buildings, including Truro Cathedral (1880). The new church at Daylesford was built in high Gothic style on a cruciform plan with a pyramidal spire of limestone, with red sandstone features and stone slate roofs. The interior was decorated with mosaic marble walls, fine floor tiles and painted wrought iron transept screens, altar rails and wall lights. Although no direct evidence has been found to confirm that the decorative ironwork in St Peter’s church was by and domestic ironwork in the early 1850s. In 1855 Francis had been invited to design the roof for the new natural history museum in Oxford, and by 1859 he had begun work on the first of three cathedral screens designed by Gilbert George Scott (1811–78), another leading light of the Gothic Revival. Their choir A small section of one of the iron transept screens at St Peter’s Church in Daylesford, Gloucestershire showing its decoration after conservation, and (below) the Gothic Revival exterior of the church (Both photos: Peter Meehan) Francis Skidmore, the style, date of manufacture and Skidmore’s link to Pearson point to them being made at his Coventry factory. JL Pearson worked on a number of churches with internal decorative ironwork where the wrought iron is known to have been supplied by Skidmore. These include St Mary’s, in South Dalton, Yorkshire which was being built at almost the same time, but here a ledger entry survives that confirms that the ironwork was supplied by Skidmore. Furthermore, during the initial examination of the transept screens at Daylesford, a number of stamp marks were found on the main iron uprights which appear to be the letters ‘SC’ and a crown. Similar ‘SC’ stamps have also been found on verified Skidmore pieces and record the iron’s high quality. The initials stand for Skidmore’s Art & Manufactures Company. By this time (the early 1860s) Francis Skidmore was already a rising star in the Gothic Revival Movement. Originally trained in his father’s jewellery business in Coventry, he and his father had moved into the manufacture of ecclesiastical