Scott, Sir George Gilbert
century architect buildings england style
SCOTT, SIR GEORGE GILBERT (1811-1878), one of the most successful ecclesiastical architects of the 19th century, was born in 1811 at Gawcott near Buckingham, where his father was rector ; his grandfather was Thomas Scott (1747-1821), the well-known commentator on the Bible. In 1827 young Scott was apprenticed for four years to an architect in London named Edmeston, and at the end of his pupildom acted as clerk of the works at the new Fishmongers' Hall and other buildings in order to acquire a knowledge of the practical details of his profession. In Edmeston's office he became acquainted with a fellow-pupil, named Moffat, a man who possessed considerable talents for the purely business part of an architect's work, and the two entered into partnership. In 1834 they were appointed architects to the union workhouses of Buckinghamshire, and for four years were busily occupied in building a number of cheap and ugly unions, both there and in Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. In 1838 Scott built at Lincoln his first church, won in an open competition, and this was quickly followed by six others, all very poor buildings without chancels; that was a period when church building iii England had reached its very lowest point both in style and in poverty of construc-tion. About 1839 his enthusiasm was aroused by some of the eloquent writings of Pugin on medival architect-ure, and by the various papers on ecclesiastical subjects published by the Camden Society. These opened a new world to Scott, and he thenceforth studied and imitated the architectural styles and principles of the Middle Ages with the utmost zeal and patient care. The first result.of this new study was his design for the Martyrs' Memorial at Oxford, erected in 1840, a clevei adaptation of the late 13th-century crosses in honour of Queen Eleanor. From that time Scott became the chief ecclesiastical architect in England, and in the next twenty-eight years completed an almost incredibly large number of new churches and "restorations," the fever for which was fomented by the Ecclesiological Society and the growth of ecclesiastical feeling in England.
In 1844 Scott won the first premium in the competition for the new Lutheran church at Hamburg, a noble building with a very lofty spire, designed strictly in the style of the 13th century. In the following year his partnership with Moffat was dissolved, and in 1847 Scott was employed to renovate and refit Ely cathedral, the first of a long series of English cathedral and abbey churches which passed through his hands. In 1851 Scott visited and studied the architecture of the chief towns in northern Italy, and in 1855 won the competition for the town-house at Hamburg, designed after the model of similar buildings in north Germany. In spite of his having won the first prize, another architect was selected to construct the building, after a very inferior design. In 1856 a competition was held for designs of the new Government offices in London ; Scott obtained the third place in this, but the work was afterwards given to him on the condition (insisted on by Lord Palmerston) that he should make a new design, not Gothic, but Classic or Renaissance in style. This Scott very unwillingly consented to do, as he had little sympathy with any styles but those of England or France from the 13th to the 15th century. In 1862-63 he was employed to design and construct the Albert Memorial, a very costly and elaborate work, in the style of a magnified 13th-century reliquary or ciborium, adorned with many statues and reliefs in bronze and marble. On the partial completion of this he received the honour of knighthood. In 1866 he competed for the new London law-courts, but the prize was adjudged to his old pupil, G. E. Street. In 1873, owing to illness caused by overwork, Scott spent some time in Rome and other parts of Italy. The mosaic pavement which he designed for Durham cathedral soon afterwards was the'result of his study of the 13th-century mosaics in the old basilicas of Rome. On his return to England he resumed his professional labours, and continued to work almost without intermission till his short illness and death in 1878. He was buried in the nave of Westminster Abbey, and an engraved brass, designed by G. E. Street, was placed over his grave. In 1838 Scott married his cousin, Caroline Oldrid, who died in 1870 ; they had five sons, two of whom have taken up their father's profession.
Scott's architectural works were more numerous than those of any other architect of the century ; unfortunately for his fame, be undertook far more than it was possible for him really to design or supervise with thought and care. He carried out extensive works of repair, refurnishing, and restoration in the following buildings : - the cathedrals of Ely, Hereford, Lichfield, Salisbury, Chichester, Durham, St David's, Bangor, St Asaph, Chester, Gloucester, Ripon, 1Vorcester, Exeter, Rochester, the abbeys of Westminster, St Albans, Tewkesbury, and countless minor churches. He also built the new Government offices (India, Foreign, Home, and Colonial), the Midland Railway terminus and hotel, and a large number of private houses and other buildings. His style was (with the one exception of the Government offices) a careful copy of architectural periods of the Middle Ages, used with a profound knowledge of detail, but without much real inventive power, and consequently rather dull and uninteresting in effect. Asa "restorer" of ancient buildings he was guilty of an immense amount of the most irreparable destruction, but any other architect of his generation would probably have done as much or even more harm. While a member of the Royal Academy Scott held for many years the post of professor of architecture, and gave a long series of able lectures on mediteval styles, which were published in 1879. He wrote a work on Domestic Architecture, and a volume of Personal and Professional Recollections, which, edited by his eldest son, was published in 1879, and also a large number of articles and reports on many of the ancient buildings with which he had to deal. Owing to his numerous pupils, among whom have been many leading architects, his influence was for some time very widely spread ; but it is now rapidly passing away, mainly owing to the growing reaction against the somewhat narrow medievalism of which he, both in theory and practice, was the chief exponent.