Great Scott left an architectural legacy
Historian DONALD STANLEY looks at the importance of Buckinghamshire architect George Gilbert Scott and how his family followed in his footsteps
CHILDREN of the parsonages of Buckinghamshire who have risen to prominence include the aviator Geoffrey de Havilland, the musician Richard Hickox and, in the case of Gawcott near Buckingham, the leading architect of the Victorian age, George Gilbert Scott.
He commenced by designing a vicarage for his father and subsequently another at Hillesden, near his birthplace, where he also restored the church.
One of his grandsons contributed the finishing touch to Beaconsfield’s Roman Catholic Church.
The Poor Law of 1836 had led to a demand for workhouses and the design and building of them, including one at Amersham, was Scott’s early speciality.
Later he designed, built or renovated churches and cathedrals throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Germany, Newfoundland, New Zealand and India.
He also worked on Canterbury Cathedral and St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle and was architect to Westminster Abbey.
Sometimes the renovation of centuries old churches gave rise to bitter controversy. In their work, Scott and others featured the ‘green man’ with his face of leaves who had long appeared in ecclesiastical architecture despite pagan connections.
Scott’s other notable buildings included the Albert Memorial, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Midland Hotel at St Pancras Railway Station, which has become the frontage of the present railway station.
At first Scott followed the mediaeval English Gothic style, but later, under the influence of Pugin, who is best known for his interior design of the Palace of Westminster, adopted the Gothic revival architecture favoured by Victorians.
Scott is credited with some 800 works, one of his few domestic buildings being 16 High Street, Chesham.
Scott’s father had dabbled in building matters and encouraged the interest of the young man whose marriage would give rise to an architectural dynasty as sons, grandsons and a great niece followed his profession.
The last, Elisabeth Scott, designed what is now known as the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, believed to be the first important public building in Britain designed by a woman. It has listed status.
A grandson, Giles Gilbert Scott, designed the GPO’s red telephone box to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V.
Another, Adrian Gilbert Scott, designed the GK Chesterton memorial tower of St Teresa’s, Beaconsfield.
Scott himself became President of the Royal Institute of British Architects and received its Gold Medal.
He was knighted for his work for the royal family.
Importance: George Gilbert Scott worked on Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey (right); (below) his grandson Giles designed the red telephone box