Like his contemporaries, Scott had been trained as an architect in classical style, influenced by Renaissance masters such as Vitruvius and the architects of the previous generation, Soane and Nash. [see education] In 1842, when Scott was visiting his rather pedestrian effort at Hulme, Manchester, he must have seen another church which was nearing completion.
This church would have shown him how stringent economy could help, rather than hinder, good design. It is built of brick, but has been described as ‘impressive, well composed, and in a significant way original’ . St. Wilfred's, Hulme was an early masterpiece of the young Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, and its significance is that it showed architects like Scott, that by using the essence of the Gothic style, a way could be found out of the straight-jacket of the Commissioners' style. Pugin's experience and deep knowledge of Gothic, led him to produce a remarkably self-confident design. When Scott saw this building designed by a younger man than himself, albeit a Roman Catholic, he must have taken another step towards an understanding of the true nature of Gothic. He, no doubt, felt that with his own knowledge of old Gothic buildings, if only he had the confidence, he too could produce something equally exciting.
Over the next twenty years, Scott built up a considerable respect for his allegiance to the Gothic style, but this was shattered in 1861 when he gave way to Lord Palmerston’s pressure to abandon his Gothic scheme and design the new Foreign Office in the classical style. Nevertheless, Scott’s innate creativity enabled him to produce what his former pupil, Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, described as ‘the finest thing he ever did’. But for the rest of his life, Scott was haunted by his capitulation and many in his profession regarded him as a traitor.
Aside from the ‘Battle of the Styles’ commenced over the Foreign Office controversy, Scott’s allegiance to various architecture styles and practices is best manifested through his writing and published books. This section examines these works in the context of architectural styles and the intellectual battles that Scott had both with himself and his contemporaries.