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ROBERT RODWELL, ARTIST AND ARCHITECT
We are grateful to his descendant Tracy Rodwell, who lives in Cheshire, for the following biographical notes about Robert Rodwell and for supplying us with photos of some of the paintings created by this son of Skelton.
Robert Rodwell was born in 1851 to Thomas and Hannah Rodwell. As a young boy growing up in Skelton, Robert would have been very familiar with local landmarks in and around the village and in particular
St. Giles Church. The family lived in Skelton at the time of both the 1861 and 1871 censuses in houses that were, at that time, part of the main manor house. In the 1861 census they can be found living at house
number 60 Manor House Skelton and house number 85 on the 1871 census. In the 1871 census the family occupation was farmers, with the exception of Robert who is recorded as being 20 years old and an
unemployed architect. Although, Robert’s four siblings (Thomas, Edward, William & Francis) initially
followed their father into farming, it would seem that he followed a very different path.
Unfortunately, we can’t say exactly when Robert made his paintings, but the next time we find him he is producing an etching of Skelton Manor house aged 36 years old in 1886. Roberts’s art was influenced by his
love of architecture which he portrayed in his etchings and oil paintings. His paintings of which include York Minster clearly reflect his love of architectural design; he appears to deliberately choose a broad aspect viewpoint which includes other architecturally notable structures in the aft and forefront.
Beneath the hallowed columns and arches, which an architect would appreciate, of St. Giles Church Robert demonstrates the delight he took in this beautiful structure. This painting demonstrates his keen eye and attention to detail. The subject matter in his etching and paintings shows his strong appreciation of the structures in Skelton (St. Giles Church / Skelton Manor) and York (York Minster). He also includes in them, scenes of the everyday lives of the people of the village.
So, little more is known about Robert, did he marry and have a family of his own? When and where did
he die? Questions that one day I hope to answer. What we do know is that in addition to being an architect by trade, for a large part of his life he lived and made his art in Skelton, he must have been a well-known
character of the time, as there was a newspaper clipping of the time –now regrettably mislaid - which
described him as regularly walking the High Road to Thirsk (now the A19).
My family’s pride in its heritage was such that when I was a little girl I remember that we had, outside our
front door a nameplate, made from wood which read ‘Skelton Manor’.
I was told it was because Skelton was where we all came from.