He studied art in Leeds, and in 1914 attended the Royal College of Art London. He produced many designs for Ashtead Pottery between 1923 and 1936. One of his noted sculptural works is the bronze war memorial in Durban, South Africa.
Metcalfe designed the first coinage of the Irish Free State in 1928. He was responsible for the design of the George Cross in 1940, particularly the head of King George VI on it; and was involved in the design of the Great Seal of the Realm. He produced designs for coinage of several countries including Ireland and Australia. He created a portrait of King George V which was used as the obverse for coins of Australia, Canada, Fiji, Mauritius, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia.
In the 1930s Metcalfe designed car mascots.
In 2010, the Central Bank of Ireland plans to issue euro coins featuring Metcalfe's Irish coin designs with slight modifications to represent the "new generation." This will represent the first time his work is presented on the euro currency.
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