Scott’s Law Courts design was an indifferent affair. Perhaps he realised this and he probably withdrew to save himself the embarrassment of it being the subject of further public scrutiny. He also wanted to return to the work that he loved, his cathedral restorations, and by 1868 Bangor was emerging as a fascinating jig-saw.
The spread of non-conformity in Wales, which had prompted Thirwall's appointment as Bishop of St. David’s, was particularly rapid in Caernarvonshire in the north-west of the country. Here the proposal to restore Bangor Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in Wales, was part of the campaign to raise the image of the Church of England and revive it as the main religion of the people. Scott says that in about 1845 he went to Bangor ‘in search of Green Slate with Mr. Moffatt’. This is about the time he went by coach on a tour of North Wales, including Bangor, with Caroline. Twenty-one years later, in 1866, he was asked by the Dean and Chapter to report on their cathedral with a view to restoration. He stated that the cathedral had the appearance of ‘a large but unambitious and somewhat uninteresting Parish Church’, and complains that ‘Never was so dreary a work undertaken as this looked at first sight!’ In spite of its ancient foundation, he found ‘nothing worth seeing but three buttresses!’ The oldest visible part of the church was the choir which was built in the early thirteenth century at the start of a rebuilding programme which continued during the fourteenth century. In 1402, during the Welsh rising, the cathedral was badly damaged by Owen Glendower and it stood as a semi-ruin until Henry Deane (d. 1503) became bishop in 1498. He was a Councillor of the Tudor king, Henry VII, and was soon appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. At Bangor he started a rebuilding campaign which continued under his successors, resulting in the building looking very much as Scott first saw it.
Scott found that the fine carved oak nave ceiling, which Browne Willis had admired in 1721, had gone as well as ‘many interesting monuments which have since been ruthlessly swept away, as has also the stained glass, of which there were in his days considerable remains’. In 1857 Henry Kennedy (d. c.1897), a local architect, had provided a new chancel roof. He had an extensive church and restoration practise in North Wales, but his church at Llanrwst has been described as ‘ignorant in its detail, but not without charm’, while his prominent clock tower in the centre of Machynlleth, erected in 1873, is a sort of Gothic extravaganza. Clearly the young Kennedy was not the type of architect that should be let loose on Bangor Cathedral.
Bangor was the smallest cathedral that Scott had so far encountered in his career but he may have been coaxed into such an unpromising restoration through the Gladstone connection at Hawarden. The Gladstones were frequent visitors to Penrhyn Castle, which was then owned by Edward Douglas-Pennant (1800-1886), whose immense wealth largely came from slate quarrying. In August 1866 he was raised to the peerage as Lord Penrhyn and his ennoblement may have been a factor in his decision to contribute generously to the restoration fund for Bangor Cathedral. Nine years later his association with the Gladstones was firmly cemented with the second marriage of his son to Gladstone's niece, Gertrude Glynne, whose father Scott had just commemorated with the reredos at Hawarden.
In his report of 1866, Scott gave the Dean and Chapter the choice of three routes which they could follow. The first was to repair the fabric, provide new roofs to the transepts, install new choir stalls and seats in the nave, and to unite what he calls the English and Welsh portions of the church; the choir and nave. The exterior would not be altered, but the interior would be refitted and decorated in a manner ‘worthy of a Cathedral’. This option would cost approximately £10,000. The second route would be to carry out all this work, but to add the restoration and partial reconstruction of the choir, the transepts and the chapter room in accordance with remaining fragments. ‘This, I well know, is a departure from the conservative line of treatment, which I am in the habit of contending for, but I am not sure whether the special circumstances of the case do not warrant it’. All this would cost an additional £9,500 to £10,000, of which, he emphasised, the south transept in a poor state accounted for £6,000. The third route would be to provide a fine central tower to the cathedral, giving it a ‘great crowning feature’. This would add between £4,500 and £5,000 to the cost of the work.
A restoration committee was formed and in April 1866 the Dean and Chapter organised a public meeting for the purpose of raising funds. It was presumably because of the success of this meeting that it was decided to follow Scott's second route. Lord Penrhyn's contribution of £3,000 was probably an important factor in this decision. Drayton Wyatt produced a fine drawing which was published in the Civil Engineer & Architects Journal
of August 1867, showing a tower and spire over a central crossing and a completely rebuilt south transept. Both the tower and the transept incorporate copies of the buttresses of the type which Scott considered to be the only part of the church worth seeing. He thought that they dated from the middle of the thirteenth century, with little gabled tops, moulded corners and detached shafts tied to the buttresses with bands. He discovered the upper part of the originals on the south transept without their shafts, but was so anxious to see their bases, that he started to excavate, and had to be reminded by an onlooker that ‘Scott and Moffatt’ had dug there years before, during their search for green slate.
In May 1868, Beanland of Bradford signed a contract to carry out the first stage of the work for £10,477, having completed their work on Rhyl Church for Scott, and he appointed Edwin Morgan as Clerk of Works. Morgan was to become one of Scott's leading Clerks of Works, eventually completing Glasgow University under John Oldrid.
The architects Hughes and North, in their The Old Churches of Snowdonia
published in 1924, say that Scott ‘practically demolished the side walls of the transepts - which had been rebuilt in the reign of Henry VII. - in search of material of an earlier period’. It seems that when he discovered that the Tudor walls did contain fragments from the mid-thirteenth century, he was carried away by his enthusiasm to reconstruct the transepts in his favourite style. Hughes and North regretted that the design had to be recovered ‘at the expense of the effacement of Bishop Dean's work and by the falsification of the true history as written in the fabric’. But in doing this Scott unearthed evidence of the Norman Cathedral, including the foundations of the eastern apses, and a fragment of a Norman shaft. He discovered that the central crossing piers were inadequate to support his intended tower and spire so he rebuilt them using fragments that he found, but with additional strengthening, and constructed a base for a tower over the crossing.
On the north transept window he was able to reuse the original jambs which had been reversed and reset in Tudor times, and with other remains, reconstruct a four-light window with circular openings at its head, under a large recessed arch. Following these revelations Scott produced a second report in 1870. He found that the:
exhuming and restoring to their places the fragments of the beautiful work of the thirteenth century - reduced to ruin by Owen Glendower, used as rough material by Henry VII., and rediscovered by us four-and-a-half centuries after their reduction to ruin - one of the most interesting facts I have met with in the course of my experience.
In March 1871, the Beanlands embarked on a second contract, and in July 1872 a local builder, Richard Parry, undertook to provide the organ chamber and carry out the decoration and refitting of the choir for which Lord Penrhyn donated £2,865. This was an elaborate scheme which included stalls and a canopy on each side by Farmer and Brindley. The roof was restored to its original pitch, gilded and coloured, and the walls decorated by Clayton and Bell, with Christ in Majesty over the east window. The floor was laid with Maws tiles copied from some fourteenth century green and red tiles that Scott had discovered in the choir. Lack of funds meant that Scott's restoration was incomplete when the cathedral was reopened with a service on 8 August 1873.
On 21 February 1877 he wrote ‘I am hoping to go on with the nave shortly P.G’. But this was not to be. With his death thirteen months later, he never saw his ideas carried through to a proper conclusion. In February 1879, nearly a year after Scott's death, George Gilbert junior and John Oldrid were nominated joint architects to complete the restoration using the drawings that their father had produced some seven years earlier. However, under the terms of Scott's will, the work had become John's sole responsibility by the time it could restart two months later, when John Thompson of Peterborough contracted to complete the restoration. Morgan had moved to Scotland, so Mr. Wills was appointed as the new Clerk of Works. The cost was to be a further £10,700, towards which Lord Penrhyn promised another £2,000. The largest part of the contract was the construction of the new two-storied block containing the chapter and muniment rooms which Scott had designed in the north-east angle of the building. The work was finally completed, after fourteen years, on 11 May 1880, when the cathedral was reopened in its entirety. In all it had cost about £35,000, compared with Scott's original estimate of £20,000. Lord Penrhyn had contributed a total of £9,000, but the ‘great crowning feature’ of a tower and spire was never built. In spite of Scott’s efforts, Bangor Cathedral remained little more imposing than a large parish church.