A few months ago our team was contacted by a family who are decedents of Thomas Sketchley, the architect commissioned by George Grey, the 5th Earl of Stamford, in 1784, to build the well known Leicestershire landmark – the mock ruin known as Old John.
We were able to provide some starting points for information – however the family have been kind enough to get back in touch and share their further findings with us and to give us permission to publish the details and photographs here.
“Thomas Skertchly or Sketchley seems to have done very well for himself in a long life.
in 1784 he received £170-1-10 for work done at Wilson (the village) and the tower. Three years later he received £69 -7-2 for building Groby School (long since gone) and in 1800 he was commissioned to rebuild part of the Bradgate Park walls. By that time he was working with one of his sons – probably William, who seems to have started as a builder before becoming a farmer.
Of his children three survived to full adulthood, but it is his son Joseph who is of interest. He became a surgeon and died in 1864, in his 80s, and like his father is buried in Anstey churchyard. He married twice, and from his first marriage came John, who was also a surgeon but who, alas, could not heal himself as he died aged only 39, and is buried at Rothley. John had a son called William John, who is the little boy in the attached painting, which dates from 1849, when William John was five. William John Skertchly lived until he was 93, and my mother-in-law, who is herself nearly 88, can remember him from when she was a little girl (he was her great grandfather).
Returning to Joseph Skertchly, by his second wife he had another son, also Joseph. Joseph junior had two sons, one of whom, Sydney Barber Josiah Skertchly, became a famous botanist and geologist. He was born in Anstey in 1850 and later emigrated to Australia.”
Words: Roger Lewis
Photographs published by kind permission of the Lewis Family.