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Beckett, Edmund, (Lord Grimthorpe), 1816- 1905

Mr. E. B. Denison, later as Sir Edmund Beckett, and today known as Lord Grimthorpe, was an amazing polymath. Grimthorpe's father, the Chairman of the Great Northern, was described as ‘the greatest benefactor to Doncaster that the town has ever known’. The family came from Leeds where their considerable wealth was derived from the bank, Beckett and Co., which their ancestors had established in the city in the late eighteenth century, enabling the family to pursue the role of enlightened benefactors. The destruction of St. George's, Doncaster, provided a good opportunity for Grimthorpe’s father to demonstrate beneficence by donating £200 to the rebuilding fund. However his son gave £500 and was also able to give the people of Doncaster have the benefit of his passionate interest in architecture. Grimthorpe went to Eton and graduated with distinction from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1838. He trained as a lawyer, was called to the Bar in 1841, and became a Queen's Counsel in 1854. While at Cambridge he developed an interest in mathematics and architecture, which was encouraged by his tutor William Whewell (1794-1866), who was to become Master of Trinity in 1841. Grimthorpe applied his mathematical interests to clock-making, and designed a clock for a church which his Beckett cousins were building in 1849, on their estate at Meanwood, near Leeds. It was here that he had his first encounter with an architect. This was William Railton (c.1801-77), the designer of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, whom Grimthorpe accused of shabby tricks and an incompetent use of Gothic features in his church.

Grimthorpe also designed the clock for the Houses of Parliament in association with a professional clock-maker, E. J. Dent, but when they and the architect, Sir Charles Barry, inspected the tower in course of construction, they found that it would not fit, and the clock had to be redesigned. Grimthorpe was furious and never forgave Barry. He had a notoriously combative approach to all his problems. There is no doubt that he enjoyed controversy and treated anybody who disagreed with him as an enemy to be exposed and crushed, and, from these encounters with architects, he assumed that the architectural profession was composed of fraudsters and incompetents. Scott described Grimthorpe as:

my friend & then my tormentor ... He was a strenuous supporter however of doing it well & a very liberal supporter of the funds & were it not that he has an unpleasant way of doing things which makes one hate ones best works I should have far more reason to thank than to complain of him.

It was at St Albans that Scott had his final and fiercest confrontation with Grimthorpe. In July 1875 Scott gave a dinner at St Albans ‘to the Council of the Institute & many friends & we had a jolly field day in the abbey’. But he made the fateful decision to invite Grimthorpe to the dinner where he heard Scott appeal for another £30,000 to continue the restoration of the abbey. Grimthorpe answered the appeal and this was the start of his interference in the restoration of the abbey and the hounding of Scott in the last few years of his life. Grimthorpe liked a good fight so there was nothing more useless than opponents who just collapsed. He urged Scott to be vigorous and forthright in his restorations and to fight off those who were pleading for restraint. In a book on the restoration of St Albans Abbey, published seven years after Scott's death, Grimthorpe makes a vicious attack on the dying architect, when Scott was hardly in a position to defend himself. This may have been an attempt to partially justify his own take-over of the Abbey, but it reveals a nastiness in Grimthorpe which Scott was either too naive to appreciate, or too charitable to acknowledge. However, shortly after his death, Grimthorpe declared that Scott’s fault was that he was too timid in defending his position and was, he said, ‘in every sense of the word, the pleasantest man he had ever met with’.

Cole, Henry, 1808-82

‘1851’, Scott wrote, ‘This year the Great Exhibition had occupied much of my attention’, with the preparation of his exhibits for the Crystal Palace. He attended the opening on 1 May by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He had the model of Queen Philippa's tomb on show and one of St. Nicholas's Church by Stephen Salterand some other objects, ‘(or at least one)’ but he is not sure what they were. But the recognition of all his work went to the others involved. Salter received a prize medal for his model, Cundy was awarded a medal for Queen Philippa’s tomb and Alfred Gerente for his Ely windows. Scott’s name is not to be found on the great roll of honour of exhibitors. In 1851 it does seem that Scott was rather put out by the whole affair. He thought perhaps, with some justification, that he had established himself as one of the leading architects of the day and, apart from Pugin, the leading medievalist, yet he was not invited to participate as a juror or in any other capacity, even though there was a great interest and appreciation of medieval art as was shown by the almost universal praise of Pugin's court and the awards of medals to all his craftsmen. Even Henry Roberts, now deeply involved in workers' housing, received much praise for a model lodging house, or what we would call a block of four flats, immediately to the south of the Palace, which Prince Albert had ordered to be included in the exhibition. It would not have been in Scott's nature to have written anything in his Recollections which would have detracted from the honours bestowed on his friends, or more importantly, appear to diminish Pugin's last great triumph, but he is uncharacteristically forthright about his dislike of Sir Henry Cole. Cole, as much as Prince Albert, was responsible for the Great Exhibition actually taking place. He was an energetic fixer of anything to do with the arts and had ‘a conspicuous talent for getting things done’. He was the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the driving force behind the establishment of South Kensington as a kind of national precinct of artistic activity, but his claim to popular fame is as the inventor of the Christmas card. Scott clearly did not like Cole's pushfulness and thought that his nickname, after King William I's right-hand man, ‘the Modern Ingulphus’, was doubly appropriate, as he also engulfed everything in his path. Cole was the nephew of the architect David Laing, who was disgraced in 1825 when part of his Custom House collapsed. This event seems to have permanently soured Cole’s view of architects and is possibly the reason that he employed military engineers to build most of South Kensington. Unquestionably Cole and his artistic advisors, ‘The Cole Circle’ as Pevsner calls them, had important connections with considerable power and influence, which probably accounts for the ease with which Scott was to allow Digby Wyatt, one of the Circle, to take over his India Office commission a few years later.

Dukinfield, Rev. Sir Henry Robert Bt., 1791-1858

From Sulham, Berkshire, he was educated at Eton and then Christchurch, Oxford. Between 1834-58 he was vicar of St Martin in the Fields, when the Scott family attended that church. He was godfather to Scott’s youngest child who was also named after him.

Hope, Alexander Beresford, 1820-87

Beresford Hope, was an aristocrat, Conservative politician and author. He was a pupil at Harrow School between 1833 and 1837, and subsequently took an active interest in its affairs, particularly Scott's work there. Scott had probably first met him at Ecclesiologist Society meetings which had helped to found, and he had been an Honorary Fellow of the Institute (RIBA) since 1850. He co-founded the The Saturday Review in 1855. Scott's book,Remarks on Secular & Domestic Architecture, Present & Future, published by John Murray in 1857, was dedicated 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. 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. Beresford Hope was elected as President of the Institute (RIBA) in 1865, seeming to signify the final triumph of Gothicists. However, Scott, ever wary of criticism, was unsure of Hope's stance on his Albert Memorial design when it was completed and unveiled in 1872. He said:

I believe that Mr Beresford Hope though nominally friendly is only too glad to promote these attacks … I am told that I have to expect another probably this week in the Saturday Review. I must trust in God & take Courage.

This, of course, was Scott being paranoid again and nothing appeared. Certainly Hope had criticised him in the Saturday in July 1860, for having given in to Palmerston’s demands to a classical Foreign Office, but although Hope appeared somewhat aloof he was basically a solid supporter of Scott and his work. When he was a member of the select Committee on Public Offices and Buildings in June 1877, he described Scott as an eminent architect, and at his cross-examination of Scott he carefully framed his questions to enable Scott’s replies to appear in the best possible light. After Scott’s death, a few month’s later, he headed a list of subscribers towards a prize fund set up as a memorial to Scott and acted as one of the pall-bearers at his funeral.

Howson, John Saul, 1816-1885

Howson was another of those amazingly energetic clerics that Scott encountered throughout his career. He was a student at Trinity College Cambridge, when Peacock was tutor and Whewell the Master of the college, and in 1839 became one of the first members of the Cambridge Camden Society. In 1849 he became the Principal of the Liverpool Collegiate Institution which, like Brighton, was a newly founded boys’ school with evangelical tendencies catering for the needs of the professional and middle classes of the city. Liverpool College, as it became in 1864, was housed in buildings designed by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, as a result of a competition held in 1840 in which Scott and Moffatt came second out of twenty-eight entries. As Principal of the College, Howson became a figure of some importance in Liverpool and in 1854 was able to set up the Liverpool Northern School of Art. However, in October 1865 he left Liverpool to become the Vicar of Wisbech, only to return to the area twenty months later when appointed Dean of Chester. He then raised £80,000 for the restoration of Chester Cathedral between 1868-72. During one of Scott’s bouts of illness in 1870, Scott stayed with him and his wife for five weeks to recouperate.

Loftie, Reverend William John, 1839-1911

Scott describes Loftie as the leader of a ‘narrow party’ 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. Loftie was an early member of ‘The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ set up in 1877 in William Morris's workshops. In 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 an outright attack on Scott 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. Scott in Macmillan shows up Loftie’s ignorance about Canterbury and he seemed to have regarded Loftie as a light-weight.

Reichensperger, Dr August, 1808-95

In May 1848 Scott was in Frankfurt for his second visit and met August Reichensperger, one of his ‘friends of this period’, whom he had first met two years earlier in England. Reichensperger was another nineteenth century polymath; a lawyer, politician, traveller, writer on architectural matters and an ardent Roman Catholic. He was the editor of the Kolner Domblatt from 1842-44 and from 1849 onwards, and after the dissolution of the Frankfurt Assembly, was a member of the Prussian Parliament from 1850-63, and of the Reichstag from 1867-84. He had travelled in France, Belgium and Italy before 1840, and in 1846 was invited to England to attend the consecration of Pugin's St. Giles, Cheadle, by its benefactor, the Earl of Shrewsbury. He was a great admirer of Pugin and his book, Die christlich-germanische Baunkunst, which came out in the year before his visit to England, depends on Pugin for many of his arguments favouring a return to the architecture of the Middle Ages. The friendship with Scott flourished, inspite of Reichensperger’s Catholicism, and they met again in London in 1851 when he visited the Great Exhibition with Scott as guide. He also saw Scott in England in 1857 and also, perhaps, in 1866 when Reichensperger was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1854 he published Scott's report on his design for Hamburg Town Hall in the Kolner Domblatt, but he does not seem to have been involved with St. Nicholas although he would have approved of its style.

Ruskin, John, 1819-1900

Scott met Ruskin in Venice with Ferrey in 1851, as he says:

I here met Ruskin whom I knew before and we spent a most delightful evening with him.

Scott had probably first met Ruskin in connection with St. Giles, Camberwell, the Ruskin family's church, but they might have had contact more recently over Scott's Plea, as he mentions Ruskin's The Seven Lamps of Architecture in several places, although it had appeared, in 1849, only one year before Scott's book. This was too late, so Scott says, to consider it when he was writing the main part of his book. However he did manage to incorporate some footnotes and end-notes on Ruskin's work, as well as a quotation from the chapter entitled, ‘The Lamp of Memory’, on the fly-leaf. For example, in an end-note, while agreeing with Ruskin's plea for the preservation of old buildings, he stated that Ruskin ‘goes far beyond me in his conservatism; so far, indeed, as to condemn, without exception, every attempt at restoration, as inevitably destructive to the life and truthfulness of an ancient monument’. As an architect, Scott says that he would, quoting Ruskin's own words, ‘watch an old building with anxious care’, and ‘count its stones as you would the jewels of a crown’, but, he claims, ‘alas! the damage is already effected; the neglect of centuries and the spoiler's hand has already done its work’, and if ‘the building is to be something more than a monument of memory’ it is necessary ‘that its dilapidations and its injuries shall be repaired’. This is probably just another example of Scott's touchiness, when he felt that every slight criticism, whether directly aimed at him or not, required vigorous refutation.

In late 1851 Ruskin was an established author having published, or about to publish, some seven books, as well as numerous magazine contributions. Although only thirty-two years old, he was widely read and highly acclaimed as a critic, poet and artist in his own right. Scott, on the other hand, at forty, had only produced one disjointed short book, which had little popular appeal. While it is unlikely that Ruskin would have read Scott's Plea at the time of their meeting in Venice, it is certain that Scott would have read the first volume of Ruskin's The Stones of Venice, which had come out earlier in 1851. Scott continued to disagree with Ruskin on restoration and, in 1858, he wrote a note in which he ‘combated the extreme views of Mr. Ruskin against any form of restoration’. Presumably it was because of this note, and Ruskin's declining interest in architecture, that Ruskin remained aloof from the Gothic verses classic controversy over the design of the Foreign Office. In 1859, Ruskin dismissively wrote that ‘there is not a man living who can build either. What a goose poor Scott (who will get his liver fit for pate de Strasburg with vexation) must be, not to say at once he'll build anything’. Although this was written in a private letter, and it has been suggested that Ruskin overstated his dislike of Scott, he very publically humiliated him fifteen years later, refusing the Institute's offer of the Royal Gold Medal when Scott was its President. (see RIBA)

Stevens, Rev. Thomas, 1810-88

Stevens met Scott in around 1838 when he was Assistant Poor Law Commissioner for Staffordshire and Derbyshire. He left Staffordshire in 1842 to return home to Bradfield in Berkshire, to the west of Reading, where his father, Henry Stevens, had been the squire and rector. In 1843, he was himself appointed Rector of Bradfield. He consulted Scott about the restoration of Bradfield Church in 1848 and then the building of St Andrews School which he founded there in 1850. Scott’s sons were to subsequently be educated there.

Thirlwall, Connop, 1797-1875

Scott's first work in Wales probably stemmed from a somewhat daring appointment by Lord Melbourne in 1840, when he selected an Englishman, Newell Connop Thirlwall, to be the new Bishop of St. David’s. St. David’s was the largest diocese in England and Wales, embracing all the old Welsh counties of Pembroke, Cardigan, Carmarthen and Brecknock, as well as most of Radnor, west Glamorgan, parts of Montgomery and Monmouth, and even contained eleven churches outside Wales, in Herefordshire. Thirwall visited every part of his huge diocese, inspecting schools and churches, supplemented out of his pocket the poorest parishes and their charities, and in his first year learnt Welsh. He also embarked on a programme of building or restoring Anglican churches throughout his diocese. This programme seems to have started in 1843 when he commissioned Scott and Moffatt to survey the church at Abergwili, next to his palace. Thirlwall probably heard about Scott through the publicity arising from his success in the competition for St. Giles, Camberwell, and he must have known Scott's cousin, John Scott of Hull, who was an undergraduate at Trinity when Thirlwall was the assistant tutor there, at the same time as Whewell and Peacock. By the time Thirlwall retired in 1874, he had completed 183 new churches or restorations, with work in hand for another thirty. Scott, however, made a rather modest contribution to this impressive programme.

Willis, Professor Robert, 1800-75

Willis was another of those amazingly versatile clerics, like Buckland and Peacock, who taught at the English universities in Victorian times. He was ordained in 1827, elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1830, and in 1837 he was appointed Jacksonian Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a post which he held for the rest of his life. However, his abiding interest was architecture. Charles Robert Cockerell, the architect of the new University Library and the leading exponent of classical architecture, was a close friend, but it was old Gothic buildings which particularly interested Willis. Here he was able to apply his knowledge as a structural engineer to understand the constructional techniques of medieval times. His studies of vaulting published in 1842 as a paper, On the Construction of the Vaults of the Middle Ages, according to Pevsner ‘established a standard of insight and meticulous accuracy which has never since - in England or anywhere else - been surpassed’, and between 1845 and 1861, he published a series of painstaking studies of the fabric of English medieval cathedrals.