Sir George Gilbert Scott

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Scott, Sir George Gilbert ( ‘Great’) (1811–78). Prolific English Gothic Revival architect. He was articled to James Edmeston (1791–1867) in 1827, who was better known as a writer of hymns (‘Lead us, Heavenly Father, lead us’ (1821) was one of his efforts) than as an architect, and later joined the office of Henry Roberts in 1832, where he worked on the new Fishmongers' Hall, London, and on a school at Camberwell (1834). Early in 1835 he assisted Sampson Kempthorne (1809–73), Architect to the Poor Law Commissioners, who produced several designs for workhouses and schools that were published and widely copied in the 1830s and 1840s. By the end of 1835 Scott was practising on his own, but had also formed a working relationship with William Bonython Moffatt (1812–87) that developed into a partnership (1838) which was responsible for over 50 workhouses and many other buildings. In 1838 Scott designed the little Gothic church of St Mary Magdalene at Flaunden, Herts. (1838), and thereafter, possibly through the influence of Blore, greatly expanded his architectural practice. The first real success was when Scott & Moffatt won the competition (1840) to design the Martyrs' Memorial, Oxford (1840–2— a finely detailed version of the C13 ‘Eleanor Crosses’). At the same time, Scott designed a new north (or Martyrs') aisle for the nearby Church of St Mary Magdalen, the first archaeologically correct piece of C19 Gothic Revival in Oxford, demonstrating that he had acquired sufficient expertise to be considered as a scholarly Goth in his own right. In 1842 the firm was selected to design the Church of St Giles, Camberwell, London (consecrated 1844—which gained the approval of Ecclesiologists). By 1841 Scott had started to immerse himself in the writings of A. W. N. Pugin, which excited him (he declared he had been awakened from his slumbers by their ‘thunder’), and he began to contribute to The Ecclesiologist, the influential journal of the Cambridge Camden (later Ecclesiological) Society. Scott & Moffatt entered the competition to design the Church of St Nikolaus, Hamburg, in 1844, and came third, but through the influence of Zwirner, their scholarly German Gothic design (with its handsome steeple which survived the 1939–45 war) was accepted and realized (but, as it was to be a Lutheran Church, gained the architects no credit with the Ecclesiologists, who did not recognize the validity of Lutheran Orders). The 1840s also saw Scott developing a career as a restorer of ecclesiastical buildings, starting with Chesterfield, Derbys., and continuing with several major churches, including Ely Cathedral, Cambs. (1848), and Westminster Abbey (1849). Moffatt's extravagance and financial recklessness led to a dissolution of the partnership in 1845, the year in which the firm's Reading Gaol, Berks., was completed.

In the 1850s, in common with many of his peers, Scott developed an interest in Continental Gothic. His designs for the Government Buildings, Whitehall, London (1856), drew on Flemish and Italian Gothic exemplars, but he was obliged to Classicize them: the resultant Foreign and India Offices (1863–8) and Home and Colonial Offices (1870–4) are accomplished Italian Renaissance Picturesque essays. Meanwhile he had built the handsome Parish Church of St George at Doncaster, Yorks. (1853–8—one of his best buildings), the Chapel at Exeter College, Oxford (1856–9—based on Sainte-Chapelle, Paris), the huge Middle Pointed All Souls, Haley Hill, Halifax, Yorks. (1855–9), St Mary Abbots, Kensington, London (1869–72), and the Cathedral of St John, Newfoundland (1846–80). He also added the Cathedrals of Hereford, Lichfield, and Peterborough to the ever-growing list of buildings in his care. In 1861, Albert, Prince Consort, died, and Scott's design for his memorial in London (drawn by his son, George Gilbert, jun.) was chosen. Like Worthington's Albert Memorial in Manchester (1862–3), it was in the form of a canopied shrine, but Scott's version was in the Italian Gothic style, glowing with colour and richness (1862–72). For this, the epitome of High Victorian Gothic Revival, Scott was knighted in 1872.

He also enjoyed considerable success as a secular architect. His Kelham Hall, Notts. (1858–62), and Midland Grand Hotel, St Pancras, London (1868–74) have much in common: both are self-confident eclectic brick structures, based on Continental Gothic sources from Ieper (Ypres), Leuven (Louvain), and Venice, with a dash of English and French Gothic, and both were almost outrageously opulent and extravagant. He designed the University, Gilmore Hill, Glasgow (1866–70), including Scots tourelles to give the building a regional flavour, although J. O. Scott added the Germanic tracery spire in 1887. His Albert Institute, Dundee (1865–7), also employed Scots features such as crow-step gables and circular turrets of the Scottish Baronial style. Among his other works the Chapel at St John's College, Cambridge (1863–9), and the Episcopal Cathedral of St Mary, Edinburgh (1874–9), may be mentioned, the latter a noble composition with three spires.

As a church architect, Scott sometimes had his drawbacks. In his A Plea for the Faithful Restoration of Our Ancient Churches (1850) and other writings he argued for a sensitivity in dealing with ancient fabric he did not always show in practice. Indeed, his work at St Mary de Castro, Leicester, was mechanical. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) was founded by William Morris in 1877 as a direct result of Scott's draconian proposals for the ‘restoration’ of Tewkesbury Abbey, Glos. However, he worked on over 300 churches and cathedrals, and often had to swallow his own principles because of the destructive ambitions of clergy and building committees. Among the Cathedrals (in addition to those mentioned above) he restored were Canterbury (1860, 1877–80), Chester (1868–75), Chichester (1861–7 and 1872), Durham (1859, 1874–6), Exeter (1869–77), Gloucester (1854–76), Ripon (1862–74), and Rochester (1871–4). His work on old buildings was, for the most part, firmly based on scholarship, and he was sensitive to detail: in addition, it should be remembered that he had to adapt them for contemporary worship, at a time when the Anglican Church was powerful, vigorous, and permeated every corner of national life. He was a tireless advocate of Gothic as the only style in which to build, as in his Remarks on Secular & Domestic Architecture Present and Future (1857). His Personal and Professional Recollections (1879) is entertaining and interesting. Industrious and professionally competent, he was also modest, kind, and generous to pupils and younger architects. His Gleanings from Westminster Abbey (1860), was scholarly, and demonstrates his great love for medieval architecture, to the understanding of which he devoted his life.


AH, xix(1976), 54–73, and xxviii (1985), 159–82;
C. Brooks (1999);
C. Brooks (ed.) (2000);
B. Clarke (1958, 1966, 1969);
Cole (1980);
J. Curl (2002b);
Eastlake (1970);
G. Fisher et al. (1981);
Hitchcock (1954);
Howell & Sutton (eds.) (1989);
T. Jackson (2003);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Pevsner (ed.) (1972);
Physick & and Darby (1973);
Port (1961);
G. Scott (1861, 1995);
Jane Turner (1996);
Toplis (1987);
Victoria & and Albert Museum (1971, 1978)

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Sir George Gilbert Scott, 1811–78, English architect. Prominent in the Gothic revival, he designed many public structures. He also directed a vast amount of Gothic restoration work, beginning with renovations of Ely Cathedral (1847) and including Westminster Abbey (where he worked upon the north front and the chapter house) and many other cathedrals and churches. His design for the Church of St. Nicholas, Hamburg, Germany, won first place in an 1844 competition. Among his other designs were the buildings (1860–70) for the British home and foreign office, the Albert Memorial, and St. Pancras Station, London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. His grandson, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, 1880–1960, English architect, submitted designs in the competition for the proposed Liverpool Cathedral while still a pupil. They were accepted (1903), but because of the winner's young age G. F. Bodley was placed in partnership with him. After his associate's death (1907), Scott redesigned the cathedral, creating a monumental modern Gothic structure. Consecrated in 1924, it was completed in 1978. His many works, chiefly ecclesiastical, include buildings for Clare College, Cambridge, several Univ. of Oxford structures; a number of war memorials; and the Waterloo Bridge over the Thames River.

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Scott, Sir George Gilbert (1811–78). Architect. Scott was the most famous and successful of Victorian Gothic master builders; and also the most correct stylistically, except when it came to railway stations. The most famous of those is St Pancras in London (1865), a kind of Disneyland castle in bright orange brick. A few years earlier he had submitted a similar design for the new Foreign Office in Whitehall, only to have it vetoed by Palmerston on the grounds that Scott would ‘Gothicize the whole country’ if given his head. This was called the ‘battle of the styles’. Scott lost it, but not the commission itself, if he promised to carry it out in an Italian Renaissance style, which he did. The result probably vindicates Palmerston's pig-headedness. Scott was also a restorer—even an over-restorer—of hundreds of ancient churches. His talent was inherited by his grandson, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880–1960), who built Liverpool's Anglican cathedral in his grandfather's favourite style, and Battersea power station in a more modern one.

Bernard Porter

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Scott, Sir George Gilbert (1811–78) English architect, prominent figure in the Gothic revival. He achieved a reputation with his design for the Church of St Nicholas, Hamburg. Scott was involved in the restoration of Westminster and Ely Cathedrals. He designed the Albert Memorial (1862–70) and St Pancras Station, London. His son, Giles Gilbert Scott (1880–1960), designed the new Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, the last major example of the Gothic revival.