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George Gilbert Scott

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Sir George Gilbert Scott
Sir George Gilbert Scott
Born(1811-07-13)13 July 1811
Parsonage, Gawcott, Buckinghamshire, England
Died27 March 1878(1878-03-27) (aged 66)
39 Courtfield Gardens, South Kensington, London, England
AwardsRoyal Gold Medal (1859)
BuildingsWakefield Cathedral
Albert Memorial
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Midland Grand Hotel
St Pancras railway station
Main building of the University of Glasgow
St Nicholas Church, Hamburg
St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow
St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh (Episcopal)
King's College Chapel, London
Wanstead Infant Orphan Asylum

Sir George Gilbert Scott RA (13 July 1811 – 27 March 1878), largely known as Sir Gilbert Scott, was a prolific English Gothic Revival architect, chiefly associated with the design, building and renovation of churches and cathedrals, although he started his career as a leading designer of workhouses. Over 800 buildings were designed or altered by him.[1]

Scott was the architect of many notable buildings, including the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, all in London, St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, the main building of the University of Glasgow, St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh and King's College Chapel, London.

Life and career


Born in Gawcott, Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, Scott was the son of the Reverend Thomas Scott (1780–1835) and grandson of the biblical commentator Thomas Scott. He studied architecture as a pupil of James Edmeston and, from 1832 to 1834, worked as an assistant to Henry Roberts. He also worked as an assistant for his friend, Sampson Kempthorne, who specialised in the design of workhouses,[2] a field in which Scott was to begin his independent career.[3]

Early work

Parish Church of St John in Wall, Staffordshire

Scott's first work was built in 1833; it was a vicarage for his father in the village of Wappenham, Northamptonshire. It replaced the previous vicarage occupied by other relatives of Scott. Scott went on to design several other buildings in the village.[4]

In about 1835, Scott took on William Bonython Moffatt as his assistant and later (1838–1845) as his partner. Over ten years or so, Scott and Moffatt designed more than forty workhouses in the wake of the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834.[5] Their first churches were St Mary Magdalene at Flaunden, Bucks (1838, for Samuel King, Scott's uncle);[6][7] St Nicholas, Newport, Lincoln (1839);[8][9] St John, Wall, Staffordshire (1839);[10] and the Neo-Norman church of St Peter at Norbiton, Surrey (1841).[11] They built Reading Gaol (1841–42) in a picturesque, castellated style.[12]

Gothic Revival

Nikolaikirche, Hamburg, Germany (1845–80), bombed during World War II and now a ruin

Meanwhile, he was inspired by Augustus Pugin to participate in the Gothic Revival.[3] While still in partnership with Moffat.[13] he designed the Martyrs' Memorial on St Giles', Oxford (1841),[14] and St Giles' Church, Camberwell (1844), both of which helped establish his reputation within the movement.

Commemorating three Protestants burnt during the reign of Queen Mary, the Martyrs' Memorial was intended as a rebuke to those very high church tendencies which had been instrumental in promoting the new authentic approach to Gothic architecture.[15] St Giles' was in plan, with its long chancel, of the type advocated by the Ecclesiological Society: Charles Locke Eastlake said that "in the neighbourhood of London no church of its time was considered in purer style or more orthodox in its arrangement".[16] It did, however, like many churches of the time, incorporate wooden galleries, not used in medieval churches[17] and highly disapproved of by the high church ecclesiological movement.

In 1844 he received the commission to rebuild the Nikolaikirche in Hamburg (completed 1863), following an international competition.[18] Scott's design had originally been placed third in the competition, the winner being one in a Florentine inspired style by Gottfried Semper, but the decision was overturned by a faction who favoured a Gothic design.[19] Scott's entry had been the only design in the Gothic style.[3]

In 1854 he remodelled the Camden Chapel in Camberwell, a project in which the critic John Ruskin took a close interest and made many suggestions. He added an apse, in a Byzantine style, integrating it to the existing plain structure by substituting a waggon roof for the existing flat ceiling.[20]

Scott was appointed architect to Westminster Abbey in 1849, and in 1853 he built a Gothic terraced block adjoining the abbey in Broad Sanctuary. In 1858 he designed ChristChurch Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand which now lies partly ruined following the earthquake in 2011 and subsequent attempts by the Anglican Church authorities to demolish it. Demolition was blocked after appeals by the people of Christchurch, and in September 2017 the Christchurch Diocesan Synod announced that the cathedral would be reinstated.[21]

The choir stalls at Lancing College in Sussex, which Scott designed with Walter Tower, were among many examples of his work that incorporated green men.[22]

Later, Scott went beyond copying mediaeval English gothic for his Victorian Gothic or Gothic Revival buildings, and began to introduce features from other styles and European countries as evidenced in his Midland red-brick construction, the Midland Grand Hotel at London's St Pancras Station, from which approach Scott believed a new style might emerge.

Tomb of Catherine Parr, designed by Gilbert Scott

In 1863, after restoration of the chapel at Sudeley Castle, the remains of Queen Catherine Parr were placed in a new neo-Gothic canopied tomb designed by Gilbert Scott[23] and created by sculptor John Birnie Philip.[24][25]

Between 1864 and 1876, the Albert Memorial, designed by Scott, was constructed in Hyde Park. It was a commission on behalf of Queen Victoria in memory of her husband, Prince Albert.

Scott advocated the use of Gothic architecture for secular buildings, rejecting what he called "the absurd supposition that Gothic architecture is exclusively and intrinsically ecclesiastical."[17] He was the winner of a competition to design new buildings in Whitehall to house the Foreign Office and War Office. Before work began, however, the administration which had approved his plans went out of office. Palmerston, the new Prime Minister, objected to Scott's use of the Gothic, and the architect – after some resistance – drew up new plans in a more acceptable style.[26]

Scott designed the memorial to Thomas Clarkson in Wisbech, where his brother Rev John Scott was vicar. The Clarkson Memorial was completed after his death under the direction of his son John in 1881.[27]


Commemorative Window in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, London
Commemorative window in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, London

Scott was awarded the RIBA's Royal Gold Medal in 1859. He was appointed an Honorary Liveryman of the Turners' Company; and on 9 August 1872 he was knighted, choosing the style Sir Gilbert Scott.[28][29] He died in 1878 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

A London County Council "blue plaque" (in fact brown) was placed in 1910 to mark Scott's residence at the Admiral's House on Admiral's Walk in Hampstead.[30][31]



Scott married Caroline Oldrid of Boston in 1838. Two of his sons George Gilbert Scott, Jr. (founder of Watts & Company in 1874) and John Oldrid Scott, and his grandson Giles Gilbert Scott, were also prominent architects.[32] His third son, photographer, Albert Henry Scott (1844–65) died at the age of twenty-one; George Gilbert designed his funerary monument in St Peter's Church, Petersham, whilst he was living at The Manor House at Ham in Richmond.[33] His fifth and youngest son was the botanist Dukinfield Henry Scott.[34] He was also great-uncle of the architect Elisabeth Scott.[35]



Scott's success attracted a large number of pupils and many would go on to have successful careers of their own, not always as architects. Some notable pupils are as follows, their time in Scott's office shown after their name: Hubert Austin (1868), Joseph Maltby Bignell (1859–78), George Frederick Bodley (1845–56), Charles Buckeridge (1856–57), Somers Clarke (1865), William Henry Crossland (dates uncertain), C. Hodgson Fowler (1856–60), Thomas Garner (1856–61), Thomas Graham Jackson (1858–61), John T. Micklethwaite (1862–69), Benjamin Mountfort (1841–46), John Norton (1870–78), George Gilbert Scott, Jr. (1856–63), John Oldrid Scott (1858–78), J. J. Stevenson (1858–60), George Edmund Street (1844–49), and William White (1845–47).


  • Remarks on secular & domestic architecture, present & future. London: John Murray. 1857.
  • A Plea for the Faithful Restoration of our Ancient Churches. Oxford: James Parker. 1859.
  • Gleanings from Westminster Abbey / by George Gilbert Scott, with Appendices Supplying Further Particulars, and Completing the History of the Abbey Buildings, by W. Burges (2nd enlarged ed.). Oxford: John Henry and James Parker. 1863 [1861].
  • Personal and Professional Recollections. London: Sampson Low & Co. 1879.
  • Lectures on the Rise and Development of Medieval Architecture. Vol. I. London: John Murray. 1879.
  • Lectures on the Rise and Development of Medieval Architecture. Vol. II. London: John Murray. 1879. online texts for vols. I & II

Additionally he wrote over forty pamphlets and reports. As well as publishing articles, letters, lectures and reports in The Builder, The Ecclesiologist, The Building News, The British Architect, The Civil Engineer's and Architect's Journal, The Illustrated London News, The Times and Transactions of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Architectural work

Although he is best known for his Gothic revival churches, Scott felt that the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras station was his most successful project
Scott designed the Mumbai University Convocation Hall (1870), working from London, and it is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site
Wanstead Infant Orphan Asylum (1842), now Snaresbrook Crown Court

His projects include:

Public buildings

Sandbach Literary Institution (1857)
The University of Glasgow's main building (1870)
Panoramic view of Brill's swimming bath, Brighton. Lithograph by J. Drayton Wyatt
  • Brill Swimming Baths, Brighton (1866–69), demolished 1929
  • Clifton Hampden Bridge, Oxfordshire (1867)
  • The library of the Grammar School (now Hall Cross School) in Doncaster (1868)
  • Market Cross, Helmsley, Yorkshire (1869)
  • School Nocton, Lincolnshire (1869)
  • Extension to Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford (1869–71)
  • Lincoln's Inn, London, Library extension (1870–72), New Chambers Block A (1873) and New Chambers Block B (1876–78)
  • The main building of the new campus of the University of Glasgow (1870), often called the Gilbert Scott Building
  • Savernake Hospital, Wiltshire (1871–72)
  • Gatehouse to Ramsgate Cemetery, Kent (1872)[41]
  • The University Senate Hall, Mumbai University (1869–74)
  • The University Library and Rajabai Clock Tower, Mumbai University (1869–78)
  • The Clarkson Memorial in Wisbech. Scott first put forward designs in 1875, but work did not start until 1880. The eventual design was a slightly altered version of Scott's original design.

Domestic buildings


Church buildings

St John's College Chapel, Cambridge (1866–1869)
The chapel of St John's College, Cambridge is characteristic of Scott's many church designs





Scott was involved in major restorations of medieval church architecture, all across England.

The West Front of Lichfield Cathedral



Additionally, Scott designed the Mason and Dixon monument in York Minster (1860), prepared plans for the restoration of Bristol Cathedral in 1859 and Norwich Cathedral in 1860 neither of which resulted in a commission, and designed a pulpit for Lincoln Cathedral in 1863.

Abbeys, priories and collegiate churches


Other restoration work


Scott restored the Inner Gateway (also known as the Abbey Gateway) of Reading Abbey in 1860–61 after its partial collapse.[89] St Mary's of Charity in Faversham, which was restored (and transformed, with an unusual spire and unexpected interior) by Scott in 1874, and Dundee Parish Church, and designed the chapels of Exeter College, Oxford, St John's College, Cambridge and King's College, London. He also designed St Paul's Cathedral, Dundee.

Lichfield Cathedral's ornate West Front was extensively renovated by Scott from 1855 to 1878. He restored the cathedral to the form he believed it took in the Middle Ages, working with original materials where possible and creating imitations when the originals were not available. It is recognised[who?] as some of his finest work.

In 1854 Gilbert Scott began a restoration of Sudeley Castle "working on the western side of the inner court in the style of the existing Medieval and Elizabethan buildings" and subsequently began the restoration of St Mary's chapel, with the assistance of John Drayton Wyatt.[90]


See also



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  13. ^ Hitchcock 1977, p. 152
  14. ^ Eastlake 1872, p. 219
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