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SKIRROW, John

Born: ?
Died: 1846

Architect


His training is still obscure; he probably trained in England before he was brought to the Cape in 1825 by the Admiralty in England to act as contractor and to superintend the erection of the Royal Observatory, Cape Town; he was clerk of works. By April 1826 the work on the Observatory was well advanced; the Admiralty planned to send Skirrow to work in India but were prepared to release him from their service should he have preferred another job at the Cape. In September 1826 the Lieutenant Governor of the Cape recommended to the Secretary for the Colonies that Skirrow be made Civil Engineer and Architect to the Cape Government. Skirrow wrote to the Admiralty a week later to say that the Cape Government would give him a job as Surveyor of Government Buildings and he took up this post. In 1826-1827 he and H SCHUTTE prepared the specifications to build St Andrew's Church, Cape Town, and in January 1828 the Secretary of State suggested that Skirrow be made Assistant Engineer, a post he appears to have held for six months before being appointed Government Architect in June 1828 (cf HW REVELEY); the Observatory was completed in December 1829. According to the Records of the Cape Colony, Skirrow was closely connected with the design and erection of St George's Church, Cape Town from 1827 when he examined the site and made proposals about foundations, preparing plans for the building in July 1828; the church was certified complete in June 1836. From 1825 until 1834 Skirrow also held the post of Civil Engineer and Superintendent of Waterworks. He was appointed architect of the Anglican Church, Wynberg in July 1832; the design (by Skirrow?) was apparently based on Sudely Chapel, Gloucester, England. The church was completed in July 1834, but collapsed during a storm a week later. A replacement building was completed by April 1839. Skirrow's duties were many but he found time to design several private houses in about 1834 to 1835 and from 1838 until 1844 was Civil Engineer to the Cape Government and on the Council of the South African Literary and Scientific Institution from 1838 to 1844. He was also a Freemason and one of the two Grand Superintendents of Works in the Provincial Grand Lodge of Freemasons from 1838 onwards. He died in January 1845 at Riversdale, Cape and was buried, it seems, at Somerset Rd, Cape Town. He was respected as being able, zealous and indefatigable by the Admiralty and the Lieutenant Governor.

(DSAB 3:740; Greig 1971; Langham-Carter MS; Lewcock 1963:264-67; Radford 1979; Rennie 1978a)

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.