In a lecture delivered to the students at the Royal Academy in 1859, Scott discusses the different merits of the square and the round abacus. The abacus is the pad placed on top of a column to spread the load of the arch or beam that it supports. In classical or Romanesque architecture it forms the upper part of the capital and is square or concave in plan. In Gothic architecture, as Scott explained in the lecture, the square abacus generally persisted in France, but in the late twelfth century round ones appeared in England. The arch usually springs straight out of the abacus in medieval work, so the shape of the arch mouldings was affected by the design of the abacus. During their arguments over Bradfield Church, he was not in favour of the square abacus, but:
I always willing to be beaten as an excuse for using a favourite though not theoretically correct style Mr. Stevens got to use the term ‘Square Abacus’ as a moral adjective used in the sense of Manly, Straight forward, real, honest, & all cognanate epithets, & ‘round abacus’ for what was milder ‘ogee’ being used in the sense of mean, weak dis-honest &c. This drilling probably made me ready at a later time to fall in with the French system of using the square abacus irrespective of date or of other details.
Perhaps this light-hearted banter between these two highly intelligent men arose from the awareness of how ridiculous it was to ascribe the characteristics of human nature to architectural forms.
Gothic - Plea for Faithful Restoration
Soon after his return from Germany, on 27 July 1848, Scott addressed what he said was his first public meeting. He claimed to be very nervous at the prospect, which does seem rather extraordinary considering the number of submissions that he already made to numerous committees, some quite hostile, and at thirty-seven years-of-age, he was a mature architect with considerable experience and prestige. He says that, ‘Being a native of Buckinghamshire, I was requested to attend the first annual meeting of the Architectural and Archaeological Society for that county, and to read a paper’. The society was typical of the numerous antiquarian societies being formed at that time in the wake of the Ecclesiological movement. It was dominated by the clergy of the area. Membership was confined to communicants of the Church of England and most of the incumbents in the county were members, with the Bishop of Oxford as the ex officio President of the Society. The Archdeacon of Buckinghamshire was an ex officio Vice-President and all the Rural Deans in the county were on the Committee.
Scott's nervousness possibly arose from the realisation that he would have in front of him the leading churchmen of the area, who could, if they were impressed by his performance and sympathetic to his views, bring him a considerable amount of work. He probably thought, with some justification, that his audience would consist of the new generation of ecclesiologically-minded clerics who would be hostile to the well-known evangelical views of his father and grandfather. He admits that ‘My paper was very hastily written’, which probably contributed to his nervousness, and he was:
puzzled on what subject to write; but the restoration of our ancient churches being a matter which occupied much of my thoughts, and the reckless manner in which it is too frequently carried out being, to me, a continual source of grief and indignation, I thought I might be doing some good if I took advantage of the opportunity for making an appeal on behalf of a more tender and conservative way of treating them.
Scott's choice of subject was good. There was little point in outlining the rudiments of Gothic architecture, as these had already been explained at the Society's first meeting, by the Secretary, the Reverend A. Baker, the previous January. Buckinghamshire was generally a poor county and most of the medieval churches, which are widely scattered across the countryside, were in an appalling state. The Industrial Revolution had hardly made any impact on the county so there was not any urbanisation with the need for new buildings, particularly churches. Scott was anxious to impress this audience of potential clients with his abilities as a church restorer. However, the lecture became almost an attempt to provide a rationalisation of the Gothic Revival and it was nearly halfway through before he started to talk about the restoration of old churches. He condemns the restorer who ‘adds what features his caprice dictates and removes such as do not happen to please him, without the smallest consideration that the building should be treated with more veneration than if it had been erected yesterday’. He refers to a classification of restorations made by Freeman in The Ecclesiologist
into ‘Conservative’, ‘Destructive’ and ‘Eclectic’, and deplored the fact that an apparently serious discussion took place in public on the merits of the ‘Destructive’ system. These churches represent ‘one vast treasury of Christian art’, and ‘Conservatism’ should be the great objective. He urged his audience to look for clues as to how the restoration should be carried out by examining old remains and to avoid destroying specimens of decorative painting, stained glass, encaustic tiles and ironwork. The constant co-operation of the incumbent was essential in retaining this work. He mentioned that Petit pointed out that most parish churches have an ‘individual character’ which restoration should respect and that ‘it is often preferable to retain reminiscences of the age of Elizabeth, of James, or of the martyred Charles, rather than to sweep away, as is the fashion, everything which dates later than the Reformation’.
Although Scott seems to have been uncharacteristically brief, he asked his audience for their ‘kind indulgence for the needless length to which, for the want of time and skill to condense, I have extended these remarks’. It was, in fact, a powerful plea put across in a forthright manner and was well received. So pleased was Scott with his effort, that in 1849 he repeated it at a combined meeting of the Architectural Society of the Archdeaconry of Northampton and the Bedfordshire Society, at Higham Ferrers. Moreover, in 1850, it formed the leading part of his first book, A Plea for the Faithful Restoration of our Ancient Churches
. But, perhaps more importantly for Scott, it seems to have secured for him a major commission at St Mary's, Aylesbury.
Scott wanted to publish his Aylesbury lecture, but as it would have only taken up thirty-eight pages, he decided, perhaps on the advice of his friend, John Henry Parker (1806-84), the Oxford antiquarian and bookseller who published the work, that it should incorporate, ‘some miscellaneous papers’. A Plea for the Faithful Restoration of our Ancient Churches
was completed in January 1850, and ‘dedicated to good Dean Peacock whose friendship had become one of my greatest sources of pleasure.’ He describes Peacock with the characteristic obsequiousness that he employed when addressing those in authority, as one
WHOSE ENLIGHTENED AND DEVOTED ZEAL IN THE RESTORATION OF THAT GLORIOUS TEMPLE AND RICH TREASURY OF ANCIENT ART WHICH HAS SO HAPPILY BEEN PLACED UNDER HIS GUARDIANSHIP, COMMANDS THE GRATITUDE OF EVERY LOVER OF CHRISTIAN ARCHITECTURE …
, as Scott admits, is little more than a rag-bag of his ideas in the late 1840's, with the lecture coming over as a forthright statement in contrast to the rambling style of the rest of the book. Its importance in the development of Scott's career was that it was a public restatement of his return to earlier ideas, after he might have appeared to have been deflected by Street's robust arguments. Pevsner discusses the book at length and points out the discrepancies between Scott's stated approach to restoration and the works that he actually carried out. Scott, as an architect, was well aware of his literary shortcomings, as he stated in the opening of his Aylesbury address, but perhaps with Pugin in mind, he thought that his writings could explain his approach to his work. In fact, he is not the first architect to have his buildings criticised in the light of his published theories. He seemed oblivious of the potential traps that he was setting for himself and, by 1864, he described himself as ‘a confirmed scribbler’, and filled three pages of his notebook with a list of his reports, lectures and published correspondence. Conspicuously absent from this list is a long report that he produced in 1843 on the state of Boston Church.
Secular and Domestic Architecture
In about 1855, Scott began ‘in my leisure moments a series of somewhat unconnected papers’ on secular buildings. No doubt the numerous sketches that he made of old houses in France and Germany were part of this study. This eventually led to his second book, Remarks on Secular & Domestic Architecture, Present & Future
, which John Murray published in 1857, with a second, slightly amended, edition, in the following year.
Scott argued that as Gothic was now accepted for church-building, its principles should extend to all building, and it should provide the groundwork for secular building which could be bent to ‘the requirements of our age’. He urged his reader to follow medieval precedents and suggested that lack of relief can be compensated by what ‘has recently received the name of constructive polychromy’, which has been ‘a continual recurrence in Italy’. He quotes from Ruskin's chapter on ‘The Nature of Gothic’, in the second volume of The Stones of Venice
, which came out in 1853; if Gothic builders ‘wanted a window, they opened one; a room, they added one; a buttress, they built one, - utterly regardless of any conventionalities of external appearance’. But he says that it was Pugin who first pointed out this characteristic in The True Principals
and it was a great error if ‘the plans of buildings are designed to suit the elevation, instead of the elevation being made subservient to the plan’. It is noticeable that Scott, in a long extract from Pugin, carefully omits the portions which reveal his hero’s ardent Catholicism, such as, ‘Catholic England was merry England, at least for the humbler classes’, and in the Protestant Elizabethan period, ‘the very worst kind of English architecture’, called after ‘the female tyrant’ was carried out. Scott goes on to complain that ‘nothing was ever half so villanous as the villa-building about London!’ with the ‘outlying masses of the same hideous and close-packed house-building which disgraces the outskirts of London’. This strange outburst was no doubt prompted by the fact that when the Scotts first moved to Avenue Road it stood on the northern edge of built-up London but during the time that they were there, the countryside rapidly receded from them. After this digression about the degradation of London, Scott returns to country buildings, which he states should be based ‘upon the traditional style of building in the neighbourhood’. He urges his readers not to go to ‘ancient Greece or Rome for examples, but to the remains of our own villages and farmsteads’ and he describes at length the appropriate materials for cottages including cob.
When it comes to building for ‘the nobleman or great landed proprietor’, he lists the ‘material requisites for a dignified building’, which should include a ‘good and commanding position’, and generous dimensions, especially height. He also urges the reader to look at the way that materials dictated the design of old cities, such as brick in Lubeck or Verona, or timber in Coventry or Brunswick, and see how this approach can be adapted to the requirements of the present day. His Evangelical up-bringing reappears with a forthright plea for better housing for the poor. ‘Of all our national crimes, perhaps the most flagrant is the state in which, year after year, we leave the dwellings of the poor in London and others of our great cities’. A new palatial style, with a Gothic basis, is needed for all public building, not just schools, colleges and, of course, churches. This new style requires stateliness, which can arise ‘from a noble simplicity of general form, and the avoiding of needless breaks and subdivisions’, beauty and refinement of details and the use of certain features, such as porticoes, cornices, a columnar style of decoration and long ranges of covered arcading. Costly materials contribute to a ‘dignity of style’ and sculpture should be of the highest class. In a chapter, entitled ‘Commercial Buildings, &c.’, Scott particularly mentions the medieval warehouses of Nuremberg, which are ‘noble structures’, as are some of the factories of the West Riding of Yorkshire. He likes the engine sheds at Camden Town, one of which is now known as the Round House, the roof at Birmingham Station and the ‘simple country stations between Lancaster and Carlisle’, but the ‘best developments of railway architecture I have seen are on the Hanoverian lines’, which are in coloured moulded brickwork or in timber. He has a chapter headed ‘On Restorations’, but having already ‘expressed myself pretty strongly on the restoration of churches’, he is mercifully brief on secular restorations. It is not necessary to slavishly extend a house in the existing style, but ‘to regulate our course according to the merits of each particular case’. In his last chapter, Scott predicts ‘The Architecture of the Future’. ‘We should avoid a capricious eclecticism’, and he looks forward to the union of lintel and arch with, of course, ‘our own pointed architecture as a nucleus’. This union should include the ‘great Eastern branch of Christian art’, and its ‘most noble feature, the dome’. The book ends with Scott's account of the architecture that he saw in Italy in 1851, which first appeared in The Ecclesiologist
in June 1855.
The book is an even greater rag-bag of ideas than the Plea
. Most of it is written in the style of a public address and some of the chapters do not relate to each other. There is much repetition of ideas and, in several places, he completely loses track of his arguments, which become vague, rambling and even contradictory. The probable reason for these shortcomings, as Scott revealed in his Recollections
, is that he often wrote while travelling. ‘I find that it rather amuses than fatigues me & that my thoughts are freer at such times than any other while in a night journey, I often warm up to more enthusiastic sentiment than at other times I have leisure for’. There are no illustrations other than an elaborate title page which incorporates an architectural fantasy drawn by Orlando Jewitt. This shows what Scott would have considered to be the two most important secular buildings in Europe, the Cloth Hall at Ypres, representing the architecture of the north, facing across a square to the Doge's Palace at Venice, representing the architecture of the south.
He dedicated the book to Beresford Hope, who was just the sort of person that Scott could have been expected to honour in this way; he was wealthy, influential, and a well-known Gothic enthusiast. Scott had probably first met him at Ecclesiologist Society meetings, and he had been an Honorary Fellow of the Institute since 1850. Hope was Scott's most persistent ally in the Foreign Office controversy while he was in the House of Commons, and in the pages of The Saturday Review
, which Hope owned, as well as being its joint-editor and its chief contributor on architectural matters. Events show that the aristocratic Hope liked Scott personally although he was never one of the various architects that Hope employed directly. Perhaps he was too evangelical for Hope's high-church beliefs.
Scott, after this dedication, might well have been disappointed with the tone of a review of the book when it appeared in The Saturday
on 1 May 1858, presumably from the pen of Hope. The reviewer commented:
Though somewhat diffuse in style, and occasionally perhaps rather too familiar and colloquial in expression, this work is so agreeably written and with such evident heartiness and sincerity of purpose that it almost disarms formal criticism and may [be] recommended to general readers in pursuit of amusement as well as ... instruction.
After several years work, this patronizing tone is hardly what Scott would have hoped for his serious work, but the review is probably better than the book deserves. The first print run was soon sold out and a second edition appeared in the following year, but the publishers mis-calculated the demand and it eventually had to be remaindered.
Queen Anne Movement
The term ‘Queen Anne’ first appeared in The Building News
in May 1872, about the same time that Maurice Bingham Adams was appointed its editor. Adams was to become one of the style’s most prolific architects but Scott’s friend and supporter, Edward William Godwin, was a regular contributor to the paper and Adams was content to allow Godwin, along with older members of the profession, to vent their criticism of the new movement in his paper. Therefore at the same time as championing Scott as the leading architect of the day, The Building News
was giving considerable coverage to the rising generation of Queen Anne architects. This style emanated from a group of his former pupils and assistants with Bodley and George Gilbert junior leading the way, followed by Jackson, Stevenson, Robson and R. J. Johnson.
Their buildings, in fact, are much more exuberant than the quiet Wren-style houses that were built during the period that they were named after. There is a profusion of tall chimneys, ornate gables and sash windows set in elaborate brickwork with terracotta decorations and classical details appear throughout. Scott said that he had no doubt that the Queen Anne style was a ‘vexatious disturber of the Gothic Movement’. He described his past experiences and compared the rise of Queen Anne with his own conversion to Gothic when he was ‘awakened from My slumber by the thunder of Pugin’s writings’. The Gothic Revival, he said, was first disturbed by the Italian mania, ‘arising from Mr Ruskins writing’, then by the ‘French rage’ but this ‘Gallomania’ became anti-Gothic, turned towards the seventeenth century and finally Queen Anne.
It did however seem hard that the very men who had once goaded me for not being Gothic or French enough should be the very men to forsake Gothic (for secular buildings at least) at the moment when its success was the most promising. I had always resented My Classic opponents calling our Mediaeval enthusiasm a mere fashion but this charge did really appear no better than a tailors change in the cut of a coat and the trifles which gave rise to it seem to be evinced by the strange vagaries of dress etc etc which accompanied it.
However he does concede that it is an ‘unquestionable gain’ to have:
rich colour and lively picturesque architecture in lieu of the dull monotony of the usual street architecture – and – more than this – the style in halfway between Gothic & Classic in its effect & goes all the way in the use of material.
No Gothic man would fail to appreciate the picturesque character of Queen Anne, but the adoption of all kinds of old fashions by its architects meant that a ‘so called “Queen Anne” house is now more of a revival of the past than a Gothic house’.
The reference to ‘strange vagaries of dress’ was probably directed to George Gilbert junior as much as anybody else. ‘Greek’ Thomson met the young Scott at a dinner party at Stevenson’s and said that he appeared in ‘black knee breeks [sic] black silk stockings high heeled shoes with large buckles, blue coat, yellow vest white neck cloth with stiffner and frilled shirt’. Thomson explained to his brother, ‘he is one of the Queen Ann folks’. Whether he liked it or not, Scott was surrounded by ‘the Queen Ann folks’.
It was as if Scott realised that his entrenched position on restoration was showing him to be inflexible and outdated so in January 1878 he wrote a sympathetic piece in his Recollections
notebook about the rising Queen Anne style. His own work in the 1870s was deviating from his recognisable High Victorian Gothic, most notable with his German Renaissance design for the Hamburg Rathaus, but also in designs for small scale secular buildings such as St Mary’s Homes at Godstone, Hillesden Parsonage or the Cottage Hospital at Savernake of 1872. These derived from traditional buildings, with tile hanging, exposed timberwork and over-hanging first floors, similar to Norman Shaw’s ‘Old English’ style. In the final paragraph of his last Recollections
notebook he said, ‘I heartily wish them all success’. A few weeks later Scott was dead.
Anti- Restoration Movement
In February 1877 Scott rewrote and enlarged the various accounts of his restorations in his fourth Recollections
notebook. As this was after he had decided that the Recollections
should be published, the intention was, possibly, to show his critics how much care went into his restoration work. In some places he disclaims responsibility for the mistakes. At Ripon an ‘over zealous clerk of works introduced too much new Stone’ and at Exeter, Clayton had ‘weakly departed’ from Scott’s proposals for decorating the side chapels. But at St Albans he confessed to getting into a muddle over doorways in the aisles of the presbytery and at Hereford he made a mistake in confining the choir to the eastern arm. At Worcester, it was the division of responsibilities between himself and Perkins that led to several problems. But he makes no apologies for his more radical undertakings. Although his Chichester tower purports to be an exact replica of the old, he calmly added ‘5 or 6 feet to its height so that [it] rises above the surrounding roofs’. At St David’s it was the sensible thing to do, apparently, to take down the fifteenth or sixteenth century side walling of Bishop Vaughan’s chapel ‘for the treasure buried in it & having secured that treasure rebuilt [sic] it’. When he comes to the amazing spire-like attachment to the south-east corner of Chester, he is defiant. The old chapel was ‘horribly decayed [that] it spoiled that side of the beautiful Lady Chapel’ but it is difficult to understand how he thought that his own fantastic concoction would provide a better setting for the chapel.
The tone of the eighteen accounts of his cathedral restorations shows that Scott was generally satisfied with his work. He was, after all, the most sought-after restorer of his day. He made frail old structures sound and appropriate for modern worship and could not understand why there was this rising tide of criticism of his methods. St Albans seems to have been a particular worry. Here he was ‘obliged to face right & left to combat two enemies from either hand the one wanting me to do too much & the other finding fault with me doing anything’. It was, of course, Grimthorpe who wanted him to do ‘too much’ and William Loftie who wanted him to do as little as possible.
Scott describes William Loftie as the leader of a ‘narrow party’ in 1877 and it is significant that in 1879, George Gilbert junior omitted ‘narrow’ from the published text. In the two intervening years, what Scott had considered to be a small affair had grown into a huge movement against the restoration methods that he and his generation of architects had employed. This was largely due to the efforts of William Morris. On 3 March 1877, the launch of the national appeal to complete the work on Tewkesbury Abbey was held at Lambeth Palace. Two days later Morris wrote off a furious letter which was published on the 10 March in The Athenaeum
. This was a somewhat radical literary and artistic journal edited by the notorious Liberal M. P., Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, with Frederick George Stephens, who was an early member of the pre-Raphaelites as its art critic. In 1931 it became The New Statesman
. This was the sort of paper that Scott avoided reading. However, Lechmere sent him a copy and when thanking Lechmere he wrote:
I have been told that I am systematically and very bitterly traduced by writers in that paper; but as I know that I do not deserve it, I never seek to see these articles, much less to answer them.
The letter that Scott saw in The Athenaeum
opens with Morris saying:
My eye just now caught the word ‘restoration’ in the morning paper, and, on looking closer, I saw that this time it is nothing less than the Minister of Tewkesbury that is to be destroyed by Sir Gilbert Scott. Is it altogether too late to do something to save it, - it and whatever else of beautiful and historical is still left us on the sites of the ancient buildings we were once so famous for?
Morris then proposed that an association should be immediately set up:
to keep a watch on old monuments, to protest against all ‘restoration’ that means more than keeping out wind and weather, and, … to awaken a feeling that our ancient buildings are not mere ecclesiastical toys, but sacred monuments of the nation’s growth and hope.
Only ten days later, on 22 March, a meeting was held at Morris’s workshops at 26, Queen Square. There were ten present including Philip Webb and Stephens, and they decided to set up ‘The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ with Morris as its Honorary Secretary. By March 1879, its membership had grown considerably to include such luminaries as Ruskin and Carlyle, along with E. R. Robson, J. J. Stevenson, Loftie and Sidney Colvin.
What in February 1877 had seemed to Scott to be a routine reaction to his work, two months later had developed into a torrent of criticism against the form of restoration that he had been carrying out for thirty-six years. He had championed conservation in the Plea
, read a paper to the Institute, drawn-up directions to builders and Clerks of Works and advocated conservative restoration in all three of his Presidential addresses at the Institute.
It is therefore rather hard to bear that I should now be made the butt of an extreme party who wish to make me out to be the ring-leader of destructiveness.
It was through the Institute that Scott largely proclaimed the correctness of his approach, so it must have been galling that it was there that he received his most hurtful attack, particularly as that attack came from one of his former pupils, J. J. Stevenson.
After 1866, when Stevenson was involved in ‘Greek’ Thomson’s assault against Scott over the Glasgow University commission, he had inherited a fortune, dissolved his Glasgow partnership and ‘spent two leisurely years writing and holidaying in Paris and Broadstairs’. In 1870 he settled in London and built his own house, the Red House on Bayswater Hill, which became the prototype Queen Anne town house. He was now in the fore-front of the Queen Anne Movement with other well-heeled alumni of Scott’s, such as Bodley, Garner and Jackson. He entered into partnership with E. R. Robson in 1871. Robson had been a member of the Institute since 1860 and had probably invited Stevenson to Conduit Street to give a paper although Stevenson did not become a member until the year after Scott’s death.
On 28 May 1877, with the President, Charles Barry, in the chair, Stevenson delivered his bombshell. It was entitled ‘Architectural Restoration: its principles and practice’. In it he cites Scott’s ‘admirable address on the evils of restoration’, read to the Institute in 1862 and then said:
It is difficult after reading his address to believe that any more old churches would be destroyed by restoration. Yet the process has been going steadily on, approved by clergy and architects, the press and the public.
However a paper published by the Institute in 1865, as a result of Scott’s address, he says, ‘seems to me to consist largely of recommendations for their destruction’. This was a short pamphlet entitled Conservation of Ancient Monument and Remains – General Advice to the Promoters of the Restoration of Ancient Buildings
, which Scott as a member of the sub-committee of the Institute drew up as a directive for builders and Clerks of Works. In spite of Stevenson’s criticisms it was re-issued in 1888 in a revised and enlarged form.
Stevenson bewailed the fact that in the last thirty years so many old churches have lost valuable features, particularly those installed since the Reformation. He partly blamed the muddled nature of the Advice
, as he called the pamphlet, where one paragraph said ‘a vigilant guard should be kept … against the theory that a restored church must be purged of all features subsequent to some favourite period’, while another stated that ‘one main object should be to get rid of modern additions put up without regard to architectural propriety’. He then spitefully said that he assumed that Sir Gilbert Scott had applied the word ‘modern’ in the case of the screen at Canterbury Cathedral to include work from the period of Charles II ‘or probably even of Edward VI’. Stevenson had probably seen Scott’s report of March 1875 in The Archaeological Journal
, where he hoped that the fourteenth century screens would be faithfully restored from existing evidence ‘untampered with by modern ideas or prepossessions!’ But two days before he delivered his paper, Stevenson had gone to Canterbury and although the work had been approved by the church authorities, he must have been somewhat dismayed to find that nothing of Scott’s was to be seen.
Scott was, so Stevenson claimed, excluding churches from Ruskin’s advice that old buildings should be carefully preserved and he was encouraging clergy ‘to restore their churches from motives of religion’. He then quoted Ruskin’s famous passage from ‘The Lamp of Memory’ in The Seven Lamps of Architecture
Take proper care of your monuments, and you will not need to restore them … Watch an old building with anxious care; guard it as best you may, and at any cost, from the influence of dilapidation. Count its stones as you would the jewels of a crown; set watches about it as if at the gates of a besieged city; bind it together with iron where it loosens; stay it with timber where it declines; do not care about the unsightliness of the aid; better a crutch than a lost limb; and do this tenderly, and reverently, and continually, and many a generation will still be born and pass away beneath its shadow.
Scott had used this passage as the basis of an additional note to the Plea
in 1850, and again in his address of 1862, but Stevenson was now resurrecting it to attack Scott.
However it was not only Scott who was under fire: Street was criticised as were Waterhouse, Butterfield and even Bodley. Modern medieval restorers have filled old buildings with those:
dreary ranges of long benches covered with sticky-looking varnish, the Minton tile pavements, the new stained glass, harsh gaudy purple or dull and colourless, or the gimcrack brasswork in screens and gas-brackets, with their vulgar blue paint, from the eminent firm of Skidmore.
Stevenson’s paper was a long, wide-ranging and somewhat repetitive attack, but in his closing remarks he made it clear whom he felt were the main culprits. It is ‘the knowledge and skill of the architect which destroys the authenticity of the building as a record of the past. He is by profession a clever forger of old documents’.
The impact of the paper was immediate. Beresford Hope sprang to the defence of his adopted profession. This was an onslaught on the whole idea that he had been advocating for so many years, of giving churches a spiritual atmosphere. Perhaps Stevenson, with his non-conformist training, regarded church buildings in a different light to the High Church Hope. He accused Stevenson of preaching ‘the gospel of despair and death’ by wanting ‘to keep these poor mutilated buildings in their actual condition of patchwork rottenness’. He finished with this rousing peroration:
Sir, I protest, in the name of this Institute, and in the name of the party which has laboriously year after year, been working for conservative, and every year more and more conservative, and at the same time more eclectic and more liberal principles of restoration, against the attempt to include them in one epigrammatic, inconsistent indictment, ejaculated in the name of a principle which, if carried out, can only be the stagnation of art and a dropping of a curtain between the history of the past and of the present and future: or, in other words, of the glorification of intellectual barbarism.
Ferrey hoped that the discussion would not end that evening and, backed by the President, called on Scott to reply.
Poor Scott, apparently, was quite taken aback. He said that he thought he had been dealt with rather tenderly and could hardly complain as ‘I do not think anybody has abused others for spoiling churches as I have done’. Stevenson had the advantage of knowing ‘nothing of the troubles and fightings, and turmoils which we have to do with in restoring churches … he has done nothing, either good or bad, of the kind himself. But my own position is exactly the reverse of this!’ He then defended his proposals for Canterbury and his work at Chester and St Albans which Stevenson had also attacked. He felt that he and Stevenson were ‘in the same boat’ except that ‘he exaggerates the views I have taken, and exaggerates them to such an extent as to render them certainly impracticable, and I think I may venture to say, absurd.’ The meeting then adjourned and, as Ferrey had suggested, it was decided to continue the discussion at the next Ordinary Meeting of the Institute on Monday 11 June 1877.
In the intervening fortnight Scott had had time to gather his thoughts and was not satisfied with what he had said ‘on the spur of the moment’. Typically, he had not appreciated the personal nature of Stevenson’s attack on him and he had now written down a lengthy reply. His tone was conciliatory and although ‘there has been every possible provocation to the line’ taken by the new Society, as far as Stevenson’s paper was concerned:
if purged from certain excesses and over-statements, I will at once say that a very large number of the sentiments and remarks contained in it are simply reiterations of those which I have, for not less than thirty-six years, expressed.
As early as 1841, he says, he was writing to Petit against ‘the modern system of radical restoration’. Then in 1848 came the Plea
, in 1863 his paper to the Institute, and in 1873, 1874 and 1875 his three Presidential addresses contained extensive passages on restorations.
, which Stevenson ‘held up to ridicule and reprobation’, was the result of ‘contributions from different members of a sub-committee, which will account for some trifling inconsistencies’. He did agree, however, that the first paragraph was wrong to say that modern work concealing ancient work could be cleared away by the employers rather than their architects and that plaster should not be stripped off to show the junction between parts of different dates. He said that these corrections should be made ‘at once’ but his did not happen until 1888 with the revised pamphlet.
Scott went on to list failures due to what he called the ‘do nothing’ system. His paper then became a series of reminiscences about his own restorations. At St John's, Leeds, with Norman Shaw carrying out the work, they saved this Jacobean church and its fittings. No doubt he wanted to remind his critics of his regard for Jacobean work, as well as his friendship with the rising star of the time. The ‘do nothing’ system resulted in the collapse of Buckingham church tower which led him onto a long description of Hillesden, ‘a church dearly loved by me’. He concluded by wishing the Society success ‘in all their reasonable endeavours’ and warned it against trying to persuade people that it is wrong to restore churches from motives of religion.
Scott’s two former assistants, Street and William White, loyally supported him but Gambier Parry declined to speak ‘on account of the lateness of the hour’. Ewan Christian said that he thought the restoration of Chester was ‘to my mind, a perfect success’. In reply Stevenson explained. ‘It was from no lack of reverence that I used Sir Gilbert Scott’s name; my quarrel is with the system’. But he still mentioned that chapel at Chester and the replacement of the east window at Oxford with a ‘Norman East End’. At the end of the debate, neither party could claim victory. Both sides believed that their approach was correct so inevitably the argument continued although the issue was diminishing as the number of church restorations was slowing down.
On the day following his paper to the Institute, Scott was summoned to appear before the Select Committee of the House of Commons examining methods of rehousing the government offices in the Whitehall area. Hope was Scott’s principal interrogator and his gentle questioning perhaps reflects a desire not to inflict any more pain on the already embattled Scott.
In the same month, June 1877, Loftie published an article in Macmillan’s Magazine
entitled ‘Thorough Restoration’. Scott stated that he found Loftie ‘irrepressible for no matter how often a statement of his is refuted he re-iterates it just as if no such refutation had been made’. Loftie’s article was much more of an outright attack on Scott than Stevenson’s paper and Scott promptly replied with a long article entitles ‘Thorough Anti-Restoration’ in the next Macmillan
. Loftie had criticised Scott’s work at St Alban’s on both St Michael’s Church and the Abbey. Scott was so incensed with Loftie’s comments on the Abbey that he persuaded Walter Lawrence, the Rector, and Ridgway Lloyd, the authority on St Alban’s shrine, to write in support of his restoration.
Loftie also attacked Scott’s proposals for Canterbury, which he had probably seen in The Archaeological Journal
of 1875. He had already criticised them in The Times
and, after the failure of the Society’s Tewkesbury attack, brought Scott’s proposals to the attention of William Morris as ripe for condemnation. Morris then fired off another of his famous combative letters on 4 June to The Times
but again he had chosen the wrong subject at the wrong time. Scott in Macmillan
shows up Loftie’s ignorance about Canterbury but is conciliatory towards the Society. He concludes his article with the following statement:
While I heartily sympathize with the new movement for the preservation of ancient monuments in its leading aims, I must protest against its being carried to the length of leaving our ancient buildings to fall into ruin, or to retain (in all cases) the effects of mutilation, disfigurement, and decay. And, as quite a secondary objection, I would venture respectfully to suggest that the legitimate aims of the movement are hardly likely to be furthered by overstatement or misrepresentation.
But there was still no peace for Scott. Sidney Colvin joined the attack with ‘Restoration and Anti-Restoration' in the October number of the recently launched The Nineteenth Century
. Since Colvin’s criticism of the Albert Memorial in The Pall Mall Gazette
in 1872, he had been appointed the Slade Professor of Fine Art and Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. Scott seems to have regarded Loftie as a light-weight but Colvin was a more formidable opponent and on 19 November 1877 he wrote a considered reaction to Colvin’s criticism, entitled ‘Anti Restoration’ in his Recollections
Surely Colvin could understand the difference between a building which had been restored ‘with the most anxious and studious care – and one ignorantly dealt with without investigation without anxiety without knowledge’, and he widens his counter-attack to include Grimthorpe who ‘puts himself out of the pale by boasting that he is “no Antiquarian”, & by condemning persons who are so’. He concluded with a reproduction of Freeman’s pamphlet, The Preservation and Restoration of Ancient Monuments
, published in 1852. He had heard it all before and he knew he was right.
Scott had probably found that most of his family knew little about his professional achievements. But, according to his nephew, he ‘delighted in telling stories of old Gawcott days, & of the odd doings & sayings of the country people there’. So, on the way back to London from Brighton, after the death of his sister Mary in 1864, he set about writing an account of his work and childhood. After filling seventy-five pages of a leather-bound notebook, which he always carried, he concluded:
I have been cheering myself today after the death of my dear sister while travelling by writing the above reminiscence which I know she would have enjoyed to do herself, but grief will return & I must stop.
He must have very soon recovered his composure as six weeks later, by 10 March 1864, he had filled more than 750 pages in two matching notebooks with a close-packed pencil manuscript about his life and work. Scott wrote at the rate of more than 1,000 words a day in a lucid and ordered manner. His handwriting varies considerably, presumably indicating whether he was at a desk or travelling, and some words have been subsequently overwritten to make them more legible.
At the start Scott says that the purpose of his writing was to acquaint his children with the particulars of his life before the times that they could remember. When he concluded the first part of his Recollections
on 20 March 1864, he ominously commented that the death of his sister Mary Jane:
was the first breach in our immediate family circle of brothers & Sisters since the death of my dear Brother Nathaniel in 1830. A space of nearly 34 years How much do we owe to Almighty God for so long sparing us from so bitter a grief!
The double blow of the deaths of his sister Euphemia and son Albert made him ‘re-open my book after closing it for twelve months’ on 23 March 1865, with a particularly morbid account of Albert’s death which extended into a third notebook. He recorded the death of his brother Samuel King Scott on 17 June 1865 but after that he wrote nothing for seven years until March 1872, when he recorded his own wife’s death along with other family bereavements. Again he used the writing as a means of pouring out his grief. He started on 10 March 1872, two weeks after Caroline died, and by the end of March had written over 130 pages about his feelings towards Carry, betraying perhaps his own guilt at his treatment of his utterly devoted wife. He opened a fourth notebook on 8 August 1872 with the words, ‘May God bless what I have to record in this book’. In 1873, according to George Gilbert junior, his father drew up directions for the publication of his Recollections
after his own death. He said that although they were originally intended for the information of the family, ‘but as the work progressed the scope of it became enlarged’.
It seems likely that this was when Scott went through the four notebooks over-writing the illegible words and adding some instructions about publication. For instance, at the conclusion of his account of the Foreign Office affair he said: ‘I must however privately warn my sons against publishing what may get them into ill odour with authorities’, and it is noticeable that after 1870, when Scott drew up instructions for publication, the manuscript contains no more highly emotional passages.
He continued into a fifth notebook in November 1877, and his last entry, dated January 1878 only two months before his death, was his view on the so-called Queen Anne style, the ‘vexatious disturber of the Gothic Movement’. It is also a lucid summation of the development of his architectural philosophy from when he was awakened from his slumber ‘by the thunder of Pugins writings’ to wishing ‘the Queen Anneites’ all success, and forms an extraordinarily fitting conclusion to his Recollections
His eldest son edited the notebooks, in accordance with his father’s wishes and had them published as a single volume in 1879. In doing so, he omitted most personal material and altered and abbreviated much of his father’s text. The British Architectural Association hold’s Scott’s original hand-written notebooks.