‘I have no doubt you will rise to the head of your profession’. These were the prophetic words uttered by a family friend in 1827 when he heard that the young Gilbert Scott was training
to be an architect, but they were quickly countered by his father: ‘Oh no, his abilities are not sufficient for that’. Was this the spark that drove his amazing architectural career?
Although his name is not familiar to most people today, his buildings are, forming the background to news reports at the Foreign Office, the landmark Albert Memorial, through to the numerous
work on parish churches and other buildings he designed throughout England and beyond. This gazetteer aims to catalogue the buildings that Scott and his office were involved with, both
building and restoring throughout his lifetime.
The procedure for a building was Scott visiting the client to obtain his requirements and then inspecting the site or perhaps writing a report. He then returned to Spring Gardens to produce
a sketch scheme, which was probably drawn out neatly by one of his assistants or ‘clerks’ as they were known. The scheme would be taken back to the client for approval and if satisfied,
he would return and instruct the clerks to produce the drawing and specifications to enable the builder to price the building. These were then sent to the builders who Scott felt were
competent to carry out his work, perhaps in consultation with the clients. This pre-contract information was usually much less extensive than with modern buildings; the smallest builders
were often capable of producing a high standard of craftsmanship. Even the despised Willmore at Gawcott, with an amateur's drawings, produced work which would be considered to be excellent
by today's standards. Detailed drawings or amendments, if required, were often made by the Clerk of Works as the work proceeded. Scott only visited his buildings in the course of their
erection very occasionally, with the supervision being left to his peripatetic Clerk of Works riding around between the various jobs. These men either came from a building background or
were assistants seconded from the office. The big restorations required a trusted colleague to be stationed on site, as in the case of Burlison at Chesterfield, or Mortimer at Stafford.
Scott himself was probably able to keep a close watch on Boston, and at the same time give Caroline and the children a break from the confines of Spring Gardens with her parents.
Of course, entering a competition to win a commission required far more preliminary preparation.
Scott recalled about the 1840s, ‘My church practice rapidly increased in quantity and in merit’. He started taking pupils, and the premiums he could charge, which in the case of Sir Thomas
Graham Jackson in 1858 was three hundred guineas, became a helpful source of additional income. Benjamin Woolfield Mountford was articled to Scott and Moffatt between 1841 and 1846,
while Scott’s first pupil is often considered to be George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907) who joined Scott's office in 1845.
It is tempting to trace the growth of Scott's work with the development of the railways. Certainly after the railway network was fully in place in 1855, his practice grew considerably, but
before then it is difficult to establish any correlation between the transport system and the situation of various jobs. The Swindon works from the outset, would, of course, have been
very accessible from London on the Great Western Railway, but the railway did not reach Boston until 1848, and even the main Great Northern line did not reach Peterborough until 1845.
Inevitably Scott relied on horse-drawn vehicles, whether for the whole or part of the journeys to his works. It seems likely that he hired post-chaises, or coaches, according to his
needs, as in 1845 he thought Moffatt was extravagant for keeping four horses. The astonishing aspect of Scott and Moffatt's work was the size and widespread nature of their practice in
a period when travelling at ten-miles-an-hour was considered to be fast. It must have taken twenty-four hours allowing for stops, to travel from London to Boston. And yet his work is
scattered across most of England as well as large parts of Scotland and Wales, as well as other countries too.
Scott never did anything in half measures. His reports were longer than those of anybody else, his drawings bigger and more numerous, his hundreds of letters tediously long, and, of course,
his buildings are everywhere, as this section of the site will testify.