Education and Training
To supplement his stipend, Thomas Scott advertised that he ran a small private academy to educate young men who wished to enter the Church of England. These students lived with the Scott family, which meant that Mr. and Mrs Scott had little time to devote to their own children. The older boys, Thomas and John, were expected to educate the younger ones and Scott recalls that he was thrashed by John when he stumbled over his Latin. The elder brothers, in fact, had formal educations: Thomas went to Cambridge and John was articled to Dr Rumsey of Chesham. He later abandoned medicine and also went to Cambridge from where both brothers entered the Church. By the time Scott was ready, there was no money for a formal education and, anyway, he was seen as not clever enough to go to university. In the midst of this intensely academic environment, he was left to work out his own destiny.
The loneliness of his existence was increased by the relationship between, and isolation of, the Evangelicals within the Church of England, along with the lack of contact with local society. The family bonds were clearly strong, but their separation from the community at large is well-illustrated by the fact that three of the family married their second cousins.
Apart from the lessons administered by his brothers, and occasionally by his father, Scott spent much time wandering around the neighbourhood on his own. No one in the family seems to have been at all interested in architecture, apart from his father's essay in designing the church and the parsonage. Scott was left very much on his own to discover the joys of the local buildings. Gawcott had nothing of architectural interest but within four miles there were several interesting medieval churches.
Tingewick and Maids' Moreton are particularly mentioned in The Recollections
, but his favourite was the glorious fifteenth century church at Hillesden. This was ‘our local cathedral and all our guests were taken’ by the young Scott to see it. Buckingham has some pleasant Georgian houses, but apart from a twelfth century chapel, which in Scott's day housed the Royal Latin Grammar School, contained nothing of special architectural interest. The parish church was an eighteenth century structure. The great architectural masterpiece in the area, was, and still is, Stowe, the magnificent palace of the Dukes of Buckingham, who as Scott says ‘lorded it over the county’. This great house, set in one of the finest landscape parks in Europe, is two miles from Gawcott. In Scott's youth, the Duke was one of the most powerful men in England, and his estate and his collection were at the height of their glory. Subsequently, mis-management, and therefore debt, led to a series of sales which dispersed the collection and finally the sale of the house in 1925.
The Duke, like most of the noblemen of England at the time, travelled abroad collecting antiques and in 1829, returned to Stowe with two ship loads of treasures. The young Scott was clearly impressed by what he saw when the family were shown around by the butler. He mentions various paintings, including ‘The Burgomeister Six, by Rembrandt’. However, when writing in the 1860s about the architecture, Scott seems to suggest that it was of little interest: it was grand by ‘gimcrack’. Today the architecture still conveys a powerful feeling of grandeur. A two mile avenue from Buckingham is on an axis which passes through a huge triumphal arch to terminate on the central portico of the house. Thus the palace, although at a distance, is part of the landscape of the town, and was a constant reminder of the relationship between the townspeople and the Duke. Scott was familiar with the famous Elysian Fields, where William Kent had introduced the idea of informally arranged groups of trees and buildings in a picturesque landscape setting. The Scott family brought elaborately arranged picnics to eat beside the massive classical Temple of Concord and Victory overlooking the Fields. Although he wrote very little about the relationship between his buildings and their landscape setting, it is tempting to think that some of Scott’s successful picturesque compositions in later life, such as the church, bridge and manor house at Clifton Hampden, or the relationship between Regent Street and the Foreign Office, or even the spectacular setting of Glasgow University, owe something, however subliminal, to his childhood experiences at Stow.
As the young Scott wandered around the countryside, he recorded the buildings that he saw in a sketch-book and much to his delight in about 1825, when he was fourteen, his father paid for him to have drawing lessons. These were from Robert Jones, who advertised himself as a drawing master and portrait painter. According to Scott, he was patronised by the Stowe family, and had been a student at the Royal Academy, where he was noticed by Reynolds. Jones walked over from Maids' Moreton, some one-and-a-half miles to Gawcott, where young Scott eagerly awaited his arrival. Scott said that Jones was an accomplished artist and made great improvement to his technique. His ‘knowledge of anatomy and perspective was perfect’ and together they went sketching around the neighbourhood with Hillesden Church as the favourite subject. There are several sketches of Hillesden in his sketch-books, one preserved in the Church, and one in the British Museum, all dating from about this period.
In 1826, whilst living with his uncle, Samuel King, Scott had his horizon’s broadened. It seems that Samuel King knew something about a variety of subjects, but was particularly interested in trigonometry, mechanics, mathematics, science and astronomy. This may have stemmed from his curacy at Hartwell, where Sir George Lee, the owner of Hartwell House, was a notable scientist and built an observatory on the side of the House. King had a ‘very fair knowledge’ of Greek and Roman architecture, and he augmented this by persuading friends to lend the young Scott various architectural books. ‘Chamber's Work’ was lent to him by the Reverend H. Foyster, who had once intended to be an architect. This work was the popular Treatise on the Decorative Part of Civil Architecture
, first published by Sir William Chambers in 1759, and it was the second edition of 1768 which Foster gave to Scott. It is one of the great books of Classical architecture and shows how the system of proportions used by the ancient Romans could be applied to modern buildings. Scott retained the massive folio volume in his office, where, thirty-five years later, he used it when designing the Government Offices in Whitehall.
Scott was also lent, by somebody else, a copy of what he calls ‘Stewart's Athens’. This was undoubtedly the equally seminal Antiquities of Athens
by James Stuart and Nicolas Revitt, which was based on their accurate survey of the monuments of the Acropolis between 1751 and 1755. He also saw at Latimer for the first time, he thought, ‘Rickman’. This was Thomas Rickman's An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation
, first published in 1817. This was probably, in Scott's eyes, the most important book which he could read and even today stands as one of the great landmarks in architectural history. Here, for the first time, Rickman produced a systematic treatise on English Gothic architecture and introduced the terms, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular, which, ever since, have been popular as titles for the phases of the Gothic style.
These three books were a good basic grounding for any intending architect in the 1820's, but apart from Rickman, they would have told Scott little about Gothic. This deficiency was partly made up by seeing ‘Storer's Cathedrals’, which he thought was ‘the choicest and dearest to my memory’. This is a four volume antiquarian survey by James Storer, entitled History and Antiquities of the Cathedral Churches of Great Britain
, published from 1814 to 1819. It contains histories of all the major cathedrals of England and Wales, with plans and numerous engravings.
Scott’s first extant sketch-book was given to him by his aunt and uncle and bears their book-plate. This shows that, in spite of Jones's efforts, his sketching ability to start with was no better than average for a fifteen-year-old. However, he was an avid sketcher and they provide an accurate chart of Scott's movements and interests during the period before his pupilage. The first sketches, dated 1826, are of landscapes in the Latimer area, two of the house and village, and the old church before it was rebuilt by Edward Blore (1789-1879) in 1841. Also of nearby Chenies Manor, where he made detailed studies of the different patterns formed in the brickwork of the chimneys.
Young Scott returned to Gawcott late in 1826, apparently with a good grounding in many aspects which would be useful in his future career. However, King's main contribution to his education may have been the stimulation of an interest in mathematics and the sciences. Scott, throughout his life, had a good appreciation of structural forces and much of his professional success seems to stem from being renowned in his ability to ensure that his buildings were solidly constructed. When he returned to Gawcott he found his father in the midst of rebuilding the church. This was his first involvement in practical building, but the lessons that he learnt from Willmore's style of building ‘were not the best’. A search was instigated by the family for a religious architect to whom the young Scott could be articled, religion being central to the family. Eventually the name of James Edmeston (1791-1867) was suggested by a travelling Bible salesman and in 1827 he began his articles with him and lived in with the family. Scott's evening sitting room at Homerton was Edmeston's library, which apparently he was allowed to use freely. Here he read again ‘Stewart's Athens’ and what he calls ‘the works of the Dilettante Society’. He also saw other books on ancient Roman architecture: Desgodetz's Les Edifices Antiques de Rome
published in 1822, and ‘Vitruvius’. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was the only ancient classical writer to produce a work on architecture and it was probably the 1826 translation that Scott saw. From these studies along with the books that he had seen at Latimer, Scott must have acquired a sound knowledge of ancient classical architecture. Most of the books consisted of plates of scale drawings of ancient buildings, showing the system of proportioning all the various parts of the building to produce a harmonious whole. This system, based on the classical columns, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian, known as the Orders of Architecture, was almost universally applied to all buildings in eighteenth and early nineteenth century Britain. It was the accepted and well-understood method of designing buildings when Scott entered Edmeston's office. Scott dutifully copied some plates of examples of Greek architecture from Stewart’s book. Vitruvius would have given him a wider view of ancient building, as he included useful advice on a range of subjects such as construction, heating and town planning. For more up-to-date information on technical matters, according to Scott ‘Peter Nicholson's’ was the office text book. Nicholson was a prolific author on a variety of subjects relating to building. His best known work was The Architectural Dictionary
, first published in 1819 and containing entries relating to all aspects of buildings, but it could have been one of his other works such as The Builder and Workman's New Director
, published in 1824, to which Scott was referring.
The books which had the greatest influence on his subsequent career were those published by Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832). This was the father of the famous A. W. N. Pugin, whose Specimens of Gothic Architecture
, was first published in 1821 and re-published in 1825. It was similar to the examples of classical architecture, with its numerous plates of accurately scaled details, but the great difference was that Pugin's work showed Gothic architecture, whereas the earlier works were almost exclusively ancient Greek or Roman.
Apart from his access to Edmeston's library, Scott also found that the office provided a good grounding in the practical aspect of architecture. He says that, ‘I learned too in his office a great deal which I might have missed in a better one. I learned all the common routine of building, specifying, &c so far as was practised by him.’ Towards the end of Scott's pupilage, Edmeston appointed him, with his other pupil, Enoch Hodgkinson Springbett, joint Clerks of Works on a proprietary school. They attended on alternate days to his ‘no small advantage, though perhaps not that of the building’. This perhaps was a real recognition by Edmeston of his two pupils' abilities. The Clerk of Works is responsible, on behalf of the building owner, to insure that the construction, workmanship and materials are carried out in accordance with the building contract. In the days of Scott's pupilage, the task was often more onerous than it is today, as general contractors were rare and the Clerk of Works had to co-ordinate the different specialist tradesmen, such as bricklayers, carpenters and joiners, to ensure a satisfactorily completed building. This, at under twenty years of age, was an invaluable experience for Scott. But he also continued sketching and exploring.
In his evenings, ‘in the summer, I searched out objects of architectural interest in London itself’. There were many interesting old buildings close to the office, which was in the part of the City of London that had survived the Great Fire. A sketch survives, which he made in his second year at Edmeston's, of the White Hart Inn, which was adjacent to the office. Also, on the opposite side of Bishopsgate, was Crosby Hall. This magnificent medieval structure was built by Sir John Crosby between 1466 and 1475 and was moved to the Chelsea Embankment in 1908-10. He also mentions the Austin Friars Church which was destroyed in the Blitz and St Giles Church, Cripplegate, which he sketched in 1828, was a ten minute walk away. Although it escaped the Great Fire and its basic structure was early fifteenth century, its appearance resulted from a reconstruction after a fire in 1545 and would not have related to Scott's notion of a medieval church.
A longer walk would have taken him over the old London Bridge, which was as he says, still standing, although the old houses had been removed seventy years before, while the new one was being erected between 1825 and 1831. Here he saw St Saviour's Church, or Southwark Cathedral, as it is now called, just over the bridge. This is one of the great medieval buildings of central London and it greatly impressed Scott, although it was only a parish church at that time. He saw it before it was surrounded by railways and curtailed by the new access road to London Bridge. He says that ‘about that time or just before’, the church was being restored by ‘Old’ George Gwilt (1775-1856). The nave was a fine late thirteenth century structure with a fourteenth century west doorway, which is illustrated in the second volume of Pugin's Specimens
. In 1828, he made a sketch of St Mary's, Lambeth, with its fine late fourteenth century tower and the adjacent Tudor Gatehouse to Lambeth Palace. He also made two ten mile walks eastwards from Edmeston's house to sketch Waltham Cross ‘which was then unrestored, or rather unspoiled’. A restoration took place between 1832 and 1833 when Sir Richard Westmacott provided new statues. To the young Scott, used to wandering miles over the Buckinghamshire countryside to sketch old churches, these walks across London would have required little effort.
In his early days at Edmeston's, he ‘almost dreamed of St Albans’, having heard about it from his father's pupil, Henry Rumsey. His enthusiasm was such that he inspired Springbett, ‘though not much of a Gothicist’, to go off and see it for himself before the young Scott had been able to organise his own trip. Scott was given liberal holidays at Midsummer and Christmas, as well as other ‘scanty holidays’. In one instance, in 1828, he achieved his aim when he apparently made his ‘pedestrian journey home, by way of St Albans’, with his older brother, John. The great abbey, like Southwark, was not a cathedral, and as an over-sized parish church, had been allowed to fall into a deplorable state. When Scott saw it, would have looked very different to its present day appearance, largely due to his own later efforts, and more obviously those of Lord Grimthorpe. The tower had a small spire, at the west end was a large fifteenth century window and the nave roof was hidden behind a parapet. Internally, St Albans School inhabited the Lady Chapel and retrochoir, and was divided from the rest of the abbey by a public passage. But Scott says that he had not ‘given my-self time to sketch’ the abbey.
With his long and numerous breaks from Edmeston's office, Scott was able to keep in close contact with the family at Gawcott and with the Kings' at Latimer. He also visited his eldest brother, Thomas, who was then a student at Cambridge and they walked the fourteen miles to Ely to visit the great cathedral, where in later life he would make such an impact. In June 1830, he embarked on a long journey, presumably on foot from Gawcott, to see and sketch the Eleanor Crosses at Northampton and Geddington. So having been able to visit Waltham Cross from Edmeston's, he was later able to write ‘that I thoroughly knew, & had sketched in detail all of the 3 Eleanor crosses by the time I was 19 years old’. Ten years later, he successfully submitted a design based on the Eleanor Crosses for the Martyrs' Memorial in Oxford.
After four years learning the basics to practise as an architect in late Regency London, in March 1831, at the age of twenty, Scott returned to Buckinghamshire. He had a good grounding in Classical architecture, whether Greek or Roman. He knew how to design and construct buildings in these styles, supervise their erection, and to control the costs involved. This, he must have assumed, would be the type of career that he would be following. His great interest in medieval buildings was, as was usual at the time, no more than a pleasurable pastime with no relevance to his professional activities.
In his account of the completion of the Albert Memorial Scott said that:
The Queen has been graciously pleased to award me on the occasion the honour of knighthood Oh that she were with me who I confess to have so long and so earnestly wished might live to be the beloved sharer of this honour now in her absence but a name!
From this it seems that, even before Caroline died, Scott thought that he would be knighted on the completion of the memorial. This was an extraordinary achievement for a self-made man such as Scott, particularly as there were no architectural knights during the eight years after Sir Charles Barry's death in 1860, and even then the knighthoods conferred were mostly for services other than architecture. This was a situation which perhaps reflected the low esteem of the architectural profession at the time as well as Queen Victoria's reluctance to become involved in architectural affairs after Albert's death.
In 1868, the former Lord Mayor of Belfast and M.P., Charles Lanyon, who happened to be an architect, was knighted, and in the following year that faithful supporter of the Liberal Party, William Tite was rewarded with a knighthood. In the same year, 1869, Digby Wyatt was knighted on the completion of the India Office although this may have been as much for his work on the rebuilt Crystal Palace and as a member of the Cole circle. In November 1870 James Pennethorne, who had laboured for years under successive First Commissioners, was finally rewarded with a knighthood, only to die less than a year later. Scott's architectural achievements far outshone any of these men and although he was in favour with the Queen, there is a suggestion of impatience that he had to wait so long to receive the recognition that he felt was due to him.
The ceremony took place on Friday 9 August 1872 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. It was arranged that he would be knighted immediately after a meeting of the Privy Council, which was to be held at 1 o'clock to swear-in George Young (1819-1907) as the Lord Advocate of Scotland and Hugh Childers as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Scott was invited to travel by a special train to Portsmouth. It left London at 9 o'clock and on it he met Childers, Young, Edward Cardwell who was the Secretary of State for War, Sir Arthur Helps, the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Marquis of Ripon, who was the Lord President of the Council. Scott had probably already met Ripon when his mother commissioned Scott to design a new church and a monument to her husband on their estate at Nocton, near Lincoln. This was completed in 1863 in an elaborate Early English style and he also designed some houses, a lodge, and the school in the village.
A visit to Britain by the European Squadron of the United States Navy in July 1872 was taken, as The Times
said, to signify ‘a sincere desire to cultivate good relations with the great people across the Atlantic’, after strained relations during the American Civil War. The squadron, which was commanded by Rear Admiral James Alden, had been moored in Southampton Water and consisted of six propeller-driven wooden warships. On 31 July, Alden held a banquet on board the U. S. S. Brooklyn in honour of the Prince and Princess of Wales, which was accompanied by much firing of salutes and manning of yard-arms. It appears that Scott and his companions were ferried from Portsmouth to Osborne just after the main body of the American ships had sailed. He said:
we adjourned to a large man of war's Boat of 12 oars & were rowed under the command of an officer to the mouth of the harbour Here we embarked on a fine steamer, and proceeded towards Osborne. after a little time our attention was called by an officer to a mass of smoke far ahead. It was the American fleet which had been for some time lying in the Southampton Water Saluting the Queen in passing Osborne. Presently we met them, one after another, 5 Vessels. On coming off Osborne we were landed in the Ship's boat & found carriages to take us up to the house.
Osborne House was designed by Prince Albert as a private residence for Victoria and himself, with practical assistance from Thomas Cubitt and artistic help from Ludwig Gruner. Scott had seen the house nine years earlier when he went with Sir Charles Phipps to have his design for the Albert Memorial approved by the Queen. Today, it is very much as Scott saw it with the exception of the Durbar wing, which was added to the north-west side in 1890.
At the waterside Scott recognised the two young sons of the Prince of Wales. The older was Prince Albert Victor, whose death twenty years later was to result in his tremendous tomb in the Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor, while the other was the future King George V. On reaching the house, Scott said:
after a little walking about I was asked to go with the Ministers towards the presence chamber Among them was Lord Bridport with a Sword which he informed me was to be used on me & we waited in a Staircase a long time while Lord Ripon alone as the President of the Council and I think Sir Arthur Helps as the Secretary were with the Queen. While we waited there the Prince of Wales passed through the Staircase.
Scott added that he had ‘not seen the Prince since his illness’. In the previous November a national panic had occurred when the Prince was diagnosed with typhoid fever, which ten years earlier had killed his father. For a while he was critically ill, but he gradually recovered. The Prince ‘shook hands with and congratulated me’. ‘He looks stouter and fairly well, yet showing of his illness in a more languid tone and manner but I hope this will pass off’. Although Osborne was designed as a private retreat for the Royal Family, it contained a Council Chamber for official business in the main wing and it was presumably at the foot of the staircase to this wing, close to the Council Chamber, that Scott encountered the Prince.
Ripon's meeting with the Queen would have taken place in the Audience Room, adjoining the Council Chamber. ‘Presently Lord Ripon came out & told me my business would come last. Then the Council were called in’. The members were the Prince of Wales, Ripon, Cardwell, Childers, and Young, ‘but their business did not occupy more than a few minutes’. Cardwell then came out and ‘asked me which of my names I chose to be called by when I chose “Gilbert”. My dearest wife would have chosen it as she used to tell me to call myself "Mr. Gilbert Scott"… At length I was called for’. In accordance with etiquette, Scott was introduced to the Queen by Cardwell:
Having made my bows - The sword was given to the Queen She touched both My shoulders with it and said in a familiar gentle way "Sir Gilbert" Then she held her hand & kneeled again & kissed it & backed out The whole taking less than half a minute.
Scott then added ‘I thank God for this honour!’ The Prince of Wales had remained to see the ceremony and Scott was invited to have lunch with several members of the Albert Memorial Executive Committee. Scott, rather child-like, comments, they ‘treated me with much kindness’ and ‘All the Members of the Council were very kind and agreeable’. As he returned home, Scott's thoughts turned to Caroline as he started to write his account of the day.
Oh that My dearest Carry was here to share this honour & that on reaching home I could salute her as "Lady Scott", but she is in greater honour by infinite degrees. "Thou hast set my feet in a large Room" said David when relieved from some of his troubles. I too can say this, but Oh what a Glorious Room does She inhabit! Oh that I may share that Glorious place with her and all our dear children!
I have had a very agreeable day …
Scott’s death and funeral
In spite of his earlier health problems, Scott’s death, in the early morning of 27 March 1878, seems to have taken everyone by surprise. Earlier in March he had travelled to Tewkesbury but back at Courtfield House on Tuesday 19 March, he began to feel ill.
For some time, it seems, Scott had varicose veins in his left leg and these were now causing him considerable pain. As usual, he was able to obtain the best medical advice and Dr Thomas Westlake, the Surgeon at The London Infirmary for Diseases of the Leg Ulcers and Varicose Veins, was called in. He ordered Scott to stay in bed but the family did not seem to have been particularly concerned as the following day John Oldrid and Mary Anne left London for four days. Westlake came back on the Friday and said that ‘Sir Gilbert will be about again in a week’. On Saturday Scott left his bed for a sofa and Dukinfield went off to Suffolk for four days fishing leaving Scott in the capable hands of Pavings.
The situation deteriorated on Sunday and Scott’s regular doctor, Dr David Seton of Thurloe Place, half a mile away, was called in. Scott stayed in bed all day. On Monday morning, although the veins in his leg were painful, he could no longer resist his enthusiasm for work and got up to meet Allen Thomson and a colleague from Glasgow University in his study, inviting them to stay for lunch. George Gilbert junior said: ‘There is reason to fear that this imprudence cost him his life’ and in the evening Seton came to him for what was to be the last time. On Tuesday 26 March, he stayed in bed but ‘discussed with a confidential assistant some contemplated changes and re-arrangements in the office’. John Oldrid returned in the evening but he did not stay long at his father’s bedside as Scott seemed tired and wanted to go to sleep. The pain in his leg must have kept him awake as he reminisced to Pavings about his childhood experiences at Gawcott. Pavings then retired but was summoned about four o’clock in the morning by Scott’s bell. His master was dying. A poultice was applied to his heart. John came at once but all to no avail. Scott died about twenty minutes later of a coronary thrombosis. As his son said:
A kindly Providence spared him the sad consciousness of failing powers, the weariness of enfeebling old age and the slow misery of a lingering sickness. Too soon, alas! …. he was called away.
He was sixty-six years of age.
His ‘sudden and lamented death’ resulted in a great flurry of activity. The news spread amazingly quickly. George Gilbert wrote on the same day to Charles Barry, the President of the Institute. Spring Gardens was informed straight away and Charles Baker King immediately wrote to Irvine at Lichfield. The next day a notice appeared in The Times
and Dean Stanley wrote to George Gilbert proposing that Scott should be buried in Westminster Abbey. This was before Barry had had time to send an official request from the Institute that Scott ‘should find his last resting-place in the Abbey he loved so well’. This, in fact, may have been a long-standing arrangement as the beautiful tomb-chest that he designed for his beloved Caroline at Tandridge leaves no room for him to be buried beside her. Perhaps Stanley’s offer had been made some years earlier. Stanley proposed to the family that the funeral should be delayed until Saturday 6 April as he would then be completely recovered from his present illness and able to deliver a sermon on Scott on the following day. IA long editorial in The Times
, two days after his death, was realistic about Scott’s place in the development of British architecture.
Many critics will think, and perhaps justly, that he has been surpassed in originality of conception and in fertility of design by more than one of his contemporaries, especially by those who have given to English architecture a new direction and a more extended scope.
His adherence to the revived Gothic had resulted in a reaction by those around him producing a fresher architecture, ‘more refined than his, more catholic in sympathy, more vigorous in purpose, and not less beautiful in effect’. While in his own work Exeter College Chapel contrasted poorly with the Sainte Chapelle, St John’s College Chapel ‘leaves us cold’ when compared with King’s College Chapel, and with the Albert Memorial, ‘we may fairly doubt if it ever gave as much true artistic pleasure to any one as the simpler and more graceful Martyr’s Memorial’. But the new Foreign Office was ‘a noble pile, and viewed from St James’s Park, it forms an admirable and harmonious group with some of the worthiest edifices of that historic portion of London’.
the fact remains that Sir Gilbert Scott was one of the foremost architects of his time, that his works are known and admired throughout the land, and that he did as much as any man to form a taste which now in its turn advances beyond his range and enters on fields which he never trod. He will be surpassed.
Nevertheless for restorations, The Times
thought that the Plea
a true principle, though its application was unfortunately and sometimes even disastrously narrow. Other restorers will follow him with more instructed tastes and with a more reverent regard for the historic continuity of ancient buildings.
With its extraordinary obituary, The Times
seems to fly in the face of the opinions that were being aired about Scott immediately after his death. The architectural press was about to indulge in an orgy of praise to the memory of the great man, but perhaps the editor of The Times
remembered the way that he had attempted to use the paper in October 1859, in that deplorable affair involving Freeman and Ruskin.
The first reaction from the architectural press came a day later with a three and a half column obituary in The Building News
. It is a largely straight-forward account of his life and works with a list of twenty-seven architects ‘who have made names for themselves’, having ‘gone forth’ from Spring Gardens. It states that Scott ‘occupied a middle ground between the ultra-mediaevalists of the severer schools and the modern eclectic’, and no one:
felt more keenly the attacks made on himself and other early workers in the great Gothic revival by some whose sympathy with a movement of a very different kind seemed to many, closely allied with a feeling of personal rancour and animosity, as ungenerous as it was unjustifiable.
In its next issue on Friday 5 April 1878, The Building News
reported on a meeting held at the Institute on the Monday following Scott’s death, when tributes were paid to Scott and the funeral arrangements discussed.
On the same day The British Architect
led with a personal obituary from E. W. Godwin. Scott’s relationship with Godwin was particularly affable. As Godwin said in his obituary, ‘We had our little fights about archaeological questions, art criticisms, and even competitions. Sometimes we hit one another perhaps a trifle hard, but over all and through all he was ever kindly courteous and pleasant’. He related how, only a few weeks before Scott’s death, they met in a railway carriage going north. Scott was critical of the early editorial policy of The British Architect
but when Godwin assured him that the policy had changed, he smiled and promised his support. Godwin’s biographer comments that at this encounter Scott also complained about ‘the lack of appreciation of his work by his professional colleagues, and Godwin had tried to comfort him. It must have seemed queer to him that so successful a man should be in need of sympathy’.
On the day of the funeral, George Godwin seems to have been determined that The Builder
would outshine his namesake’s modest tribute to their mutual friend. It contains a thirteen-column obituary followed by a list of the eighty illustrations of Scott’s work which had appeared in The Builder
since the first illustration of the Infant Orphan Asylum at Wanstead in October 1843. Twelve pages further on, another seven columns are devoted to the meeting about Scott at the Institute, which had been reported in The Building News
eight days earlier. There is also another list of 712 works, supplied by George Wood. He obviously produced it very quickly and it contains many errors. Some works are given twice, others omitted, while others were just reports. In the following week John Drayton added a further thirty-one works to the list and there was a detailed description of the funeral.
The meeting at the Institute held on the Monday after Scott’s death gave its members the opportunity to air their memories of Scott. Charles Barry, as President, led the tributes. He said that they ‘had come into competition more than once, but professional emulation had never interfered with personal friendship, and that friendship had continued … up to the last’. Hope emphasized Scott’s industry and how he was ‘ever anxious to do his best and was, perhaps, over-sensitive to the criticisms of others, feeling hurt at what he could have afforded to laugh at’. Then Grimthorpe delivered a long speech. He had known Scott for twenty-five years and, as has been said of Wren, ‘Si monumentum requires, circumspice’, it might be said of Scott, in a wider sense ‘Si monumentum requires, circumspice Britanniarum’. He claimed that there was now in existence a school of anti-restorationists and he believed that Scott had been ‘seriously affected by the writings and doings of that school, although he replied to them with effect; indeed, though his replies were unanswerable, those attacks upon him made him extremely timid’. Grimthorpe confessed that he was, himself, a ‘wilful man’ and had had occasional differences of opinion with Scott:
but he had never known a professional man of any kind who was so thoroughly candid, so ready to listen to what could be said against his views, and so ready to confess to a mistake when he found he had made one … he was the most honest, the most forebearing, and, in every sense of the word, the pleasantest man he had ever met with.
Street said that he had known Scott since he first entered Scott’s office over thirty-three years ago. He was able to bear ‘testimony to the extreme courtesy, kindness, and considerateness displayed towards the, in some cases, troublesome young men he had in his office. His modesty was a marked characteristic of his nature’. Ewan Christian also said that Scott was ‘the kindest and pleasantest man he had ever known’, while Ralph Neville, who had been a pupil of Scott’s between 1866 and 1869, gave an insight into Scott’s method of working:
He was most kind in directing them [his pupils] as to what books and buildings they should study. He had a marvellous capacity for work, and was most conscientious in all that he did. Nearly every drawing for every single detail and moulding went through his hands, receiving revision where necessary, which generally happened to be the case. It had been sometimes imagined that, with his very large practice, a great deal of work was done in his office of which he knew very little, but such was not the case. The amount of work he got through was marvellous, - many hours that other men devoted to social pleasures being spent by him at home in going through the drawings of the works he had in hand.
It would seem that there was a moment of slight embarrassment when Barry called on Stevenson to speak as he was quite sure that ‘although professional differences existed between him and Sir Gilbert, personal differences never did’. In fact all Stevenson said was that he was astonished and sad at Scott’s death and thanked ‘his old friend Mr. Gilbert Scott’ for including him among the mourners. Micklethwaite spoke about Scott’s ‘probably never equalled knowledge’ of the details of English architecture and Barry concluded the meeting with the hope that they would meet again at the funeral to pay ‘the last sad honours to our late esteemed and distinguished colleague’.
The north side of Westminster Abbey nave, just west of Scott’s marble pulpit, was becoming the resting place of eminent engineers and architects. Here there is an extraordinary brass that Scott had designed to commemorate Robert Stephenson, who died in 1859, showing Stephenson in modern dress apparently floating in space. In 1860, a magnificent brass to Sir Charles Barry was laid in this area and, after Scott, came Street and Pearson. Scott’s grave was dug to a depth of some five to six feet when some Roman remains were discovered which were said to be the pillars of a hypocaust. These are the earliest remains on the site of the Abbey and their discovery would have delighted Scott.
The invitations to attend the funeral instructed the mourners to assemble in the cloisters at 11.30 a.m. The funeral service was to commence at 12 noon. On the day a great procession set out from Courtfield House. Behind the hearse was a carriage containing Scott’s four sons, followed by one with Dr Seton, Pavings and Dr Forrest. The office was represented by five carriages each containing four members of Scott’s staff from George Wood, his private secretary, to Strugnell the office boy, and included both Bignells, Baker King, Medland, Weatherley and Jones. The procession went along Cromwell Road to Queen’s Gate, where it probably turned left so that it could pass the Albert Memorial. Then it went onto Knightsbridge, Wilton Crescent and Grosvenor Place close to Buckingham Palace. Here it was joined by a private carriage from the Queen and many other carriages, including six from the Institute. Among those in the Institute carriages were Barry, Street, Hope, Waterhouse and, of course, Grimthorpe. Scott’s friend Benjamin Ferrey was seriously ill and was represented by his son Edmund who had been am improver in Scott’s office in 1869. There were also carriages containing builders and craftsmen including Thompson of Peterborough, Brindley, the Dove Brothers and Skidmore. Clayton and Bell were already at the Abbey.
In all, twenty-two mourning coaches and sixteen private carriages followed the funeral carriage along the still incomplete Victoria Street passing close to Scott’s St Andrew’s, Ashley Place. As the procession approached Broad Sanctuary, the mourners would have seen St Margaret’s Church to the left of the Abbey, which Scott was restoring at the time. Also his Crimean War Memorial and the exterior of the Jerusalem Chamber, which he was also restoring. Passing under the archway between his Broad Sanctuary houses into Dean’s Yard, they would have seen another four buildings that Scott had worked upon. On their three mile journey from Courtfield Gardens, the mourners passed eleven of Scott’s works, including two of his major undertakings: Westminster Abbey and the Albert Memorial.
The heavy coffin was then carried into the cloisters by six stalwarts from the undertaker, Mr Sworn, with their vision obscured by a large pall draped over the coffin. Six pall-bearers walked alongside the coffin, each holding the edge of the pall as a gesture of personal respect for Scott. They were Hope, Manners, Barry, Frederic Ouvry the President of the Society of Antiquaries, Richard Redgrave representing Sir Francis Grant, the President of the Royal Academy, and Algernon Mitford, the Secretary of the Office of Works representing the First Commissioner. In the cloisters the procession was joined by other members of the Institute who had been waiting in the Jerusalem Chamber. They included Donaldson, Jackson, Stevenson, Robson, Micklethwaite, Somers Clark and William White. A large number of mourners had gathered in the Chapter House and these included representatives of the Royal Archaeological Institute, the Royal Architectural Museum, the Architectural Association and the Turners Company. Among these was Maurice Adams.
Ten of Scott’s Clerks of Works attended including Irvine from Lichfield, Chapple from St Albans and Morgan from Edinburgh, who had probably travelled the furthest to come to the funeral. As well as those in the procession there were more builders and sub-contractors waiting in the cloisters, including a representative from Dennetts who had supplied the plaster vaulting in the Foreign Office and Home and Colonial Offices. Howson was in the south of France at the time, but many of Scott’s other clerical clients were present including the Deans of Rochester, Canterbury and Chichester, and the Rector of St Albans. Lechmere, Akroyd, Cowper and Ayrton were also present along with the Duke of Westminster.
The coffin was carried along the west cloister range and into the Abbey by the west cloister door. It was then taken up the nave, past the burial place, through the choir screen and into the choir where it was laid on trestles in front of Scott’s high altar. The clergy of the Abbey, led by Stanley, conducted the funeral service, accompanied by a full choir and the Abbey’s deputy organist, Dr Frederick Bridge. Croft’s Burial Service was used which incorporates Purcell’s ‘Thou knowest, Lord’, together with the Dead Marches of Handel and Beethoven.
The coffin was then carried back through the choir screen into the nave followed by a ‘vast concourse of sorrowing relatives and friends’ and lowered into the grave with Stanley performing the concluding part of the service with some emotion. According to The Builder
, ‘The Abbey was crowded with spectators, who were, with scarcely an exception, attired in mourning’. There were even some in the triforium where they could see both parts of the service. On the following day, as he had intended, Stanley preached a sermon on Scott. He took as his text ‘The house of the Lord’ from Psalm 122. Stanley called Scott ‘the most famous builder of this generation’.
… no name within the last thirty years has been so widely impressed on the edifices of Great Britain, past and present, as that of Gilbert Scott. From the humble but graceful cross, which commemorates at Oxford the sacrifice of the three martyrs of the English Reformation, to the splendid memorial of the prince who devoted his life to the service of his Queen and country; from the Presbyterian University on the banks of the Clyde, to the college chapels on the banks of the Isis and the Cam; from the proudest minster to the most retired parish church; from India to Newfoundland – the trace has been left of the loving eye and skilful hand that are now so cold in death.
But of course Stanley particularly referred to his work at Westminster Abbey:
We in this place, who knew him and valued him, who leant upon him as a tower of strength in our difficulties, who honoured his indefatigable industry, his childlike humility, his unvarying courtesy, his noble candour … remember with gratitude his generous encouragement of the students of the rising generation.
He alluded to Pugin and Rickman and their place in the gothic Revival, and to a letter from Howson in Cannes which was published in The Times
on the day of the funeral. Stanley said:
Truly was it said by one, who from the distant shores of a foreign land rendered yesterday his sorrowing tribute of respect, that in nearly all the cathedrals of England there must have been a shock of grief when the tidings came of the sudden stroke which had parted them from him, who was to them as their own familiar friend and foster-father.
The sermon was an impassioned tribute to a man that Stanley obviously knew well and respected but the Government Offices, one of his greatest buildings, were not mentioned. Clearly their character, and the everlasting grief that they caused Scott, did not fit the theme of Stanley’s eulogy but he was forthright in his support for Scott against the anti-restorationists who had harassed him so much in his last year:
There are some eager spirits of our time, in whom the noble passion for reform and improvement has been suspended by the ignoble passion for destruction, who have openly avowed their desire to suppress all the expressions of worship or of teaching within this or like edifices, and keep them only as dead memorials of the past.
The obituaries that appeared in the press were more realistic about Scott's professional achievements.
Street designed the brass to be laid over Scott’s grave. It is engraved with a large cross within a wide border with an inscription. At the base of the cross is a small profile portrait of Scott. This shows him seated at a desk, drawing on a plan and attired in academic robes, presumably those of his Cambridge doctorate. On either side of the cross are heraldic shields, one containing the three Catherine Wheels displayed on the base of Caroline’s tomb, and the other a halved shield with more Catherine Wheels, presumably representing Caroline. Below these are the figures of St George and St Barbara the patron saint of architects. The inscription on the border is similar to that on the plate of the coffin. Both give Scott’s age as sixty-seven, yet he would not have attained his sixty-seventh birthday until the July after he died.
The brass was made by Barkentin and Krall and set into a marble slab carved by Farmer and Brindley, costing £400. This was an embarrassingly high sum as, in June 1878, the Royal Architectural Museum had set up a Scott Memorial Fund with contributions from art students and art workmen. The intention was that it should pay for the brass as well as for the endowment of a professorship or a studentship connected with Museum. But, as the fund had only raised £900, Scott’s elaborate brass left a completely inadequate sum for the endowment. The uncovering of the brass took place on 13 July 1881 with Irvine present. After he saw it he said that it was ‘most unworthy of Mr Street’s handywork. The office boy I think at Spring Gardens would have designed a better [one]’. Stanley was ill at the time of the uncovering and died five days later. Six months later Street too was dead.