Godfrey Sykes was a pupil and later assistant headmaster of the Sheffield School of Art. Much influenced by Alfred Stevens when Stevens was working for the iron-founders Hoole's of Sheffield, Sykes became a well-known designer himself. He produced a 60'-long frieze for the Sheffield Mechanics Institute, and from 1859 superintended the decoration of the Victoria and Albert Museum. There, he and his assistants, notably Reuben Townroe and James Gamble, were responsible for the "decorative constructional ironwork" of the south court, the "enamelled metalwork" in the refreshment rooms, ceramic mosaic work on the floors and walls, and so on (Graves). Sykes was especially important in the revival of terracotta decoration in the 1860s, as seen in the western wing of the museum. His earthenware tile alphabet in the refreshment room has also been seen as significant, because it "revived a Venetian 16th-century tradition of letters decorated with figures symbolizing each initial" (Crawley 71). The High Renaissance style was favoured by Prince Albert and the Cole group as a whole, so Sykes's designs were used for years after his death, embellishing even those areas of the museum which postdate him.

Something of Sykes's importance can be gauged from the fact that he was visited both at the museum and at home by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He also designed the cover for the Cornhill Magazine for Thackeray. There is a splendid monument to him in Weston Park, Sheffield, shown offsite here. [Jacqueline Banerjee, 2009.]



Crawley, David. Introduction to Victorian Style. London: Eagle Editions, 1998.

Graves, Susan. "Sykes, Godfrey (1824-1866)." The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition. Viewed 23 January 2009.

Last modified 25 January 2009