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The Builder

This magazine was founded in 1843 and became the most influential architectural periodical throughout the nineteenth century, with Scott’s work always very well covered, starting with the Wanstead Asylum in its issue of 28 October 1843. This carried the comment that Scott and Moffatt would be well-known to professional and to The Builder readers, but less so to non-professional readers. George Godwin (1813-88) was editor from 1844-83, the son of George Godwin, architect, of Brompton.

Cambridge Camden Society (later the Ecclesiological Society)

The Cambridge Camden Society was founded in 1839 by Benjamin Webb (1819-85) and John Mason Neale (1818-66), with Edward Jacob Boyce its Treasurer, when they were undergraduates at Trinity College Cambridge. Its aim was to study ecclesiastical architecture, but it soon became apparent that this study was to be used to promote an architecture which would fit the rituals of the Anglican church. The Society was astonishingly popular; in its first year it attracted 118 members but six years later the membership peaked at 878. Its influence spread rapidly beyond the confines of Cambridge, no doubt because so many clergymen had studied at Cambridge or at Oxford, where the Tractarians were making equally important changes to the rites of the Church of England. It was to become the architectural arm of the Oxford Movement. The preaching halls, promoted by the Evangelicals and provided by the Commissioners, gave no scope for the old rituals and ceremonies of the Church. It was felt that a return must be made to buildings which were rich in symbolism to contain a spiritual approach to worship. The medieval churches had provided such a setting, but as these had been built to suit the liturgical requirements of the Roman Catholic Church, the Society found itself advocating many of the ceremonies and rituals of that faith, while remaining loyal to the Church of England. Pugin, nevertheless, was their architectural mentor.

Scott was a deeply religious man throughout his life. He was brought up in a family at the centre of the Evangelical movement. His grandfather was its great scholar, revered by its adherents almost as a saint, while his father, brothers and other members of the family, were all active in its propagation. So for Scott to become involved in the High Church Movement, being espoused by the Cambridge Camden Society must have represented considerable soul-searching, although Neale and Boyce were distant cousins. Scott was tentatively moving towards a ‘truer sense of dignity of the subject’ of church building, when he first heard about the Society. Perhaps it was its praise of Holy Trinity, Hartshill, that made him aware of the Society through its journal The Ecclesiologist, which first appeared in December 1841.

Scott was introduced to Webb, the Secretary of the Society, by Boyce in 1 February 1842. On the next day they went to see the work in progress on the new Houses of Parliament and were ‘disgusted with the design & the mouldings’. Six days later, Scott was elected a member of the Society which had already been in existence for three years. As well as becoming more attuned to the aims of the Society during that period, Scott may have been wary of the dominance of Neale in its affairs, whom he clearly disliked. Neale was well-known for his Anglo-Catholic views, his interest in liturgy and symbolism in architecture. The meeting with Webb happened, so Scott thought, at the same time as he read Pugin's articles in The Dublin Review. These appeared in May 1841 and February 1842, and although they were published anonymously, it is clear from their uncompromising style and content, that they were the work of the younger Pugin. In 1878 Scott recalled that:

I was awakened from my Slumber by the thunder of Pugins writings I well remember the enthusiasm to which one of them excited me one night when travelling by railway in the first years of their existence. I was from that moment a new man. Old Things (in My practice) had passed away and behold all things had become new or rather modernism had passed away from me & every aspiration of My heart had become mediaevil [sic]. What had for 15 years been a labour of love only now became the one business the one aim the overmastering object of my life. I cared for nothing as regards My Art but the revival of Gothic architecture. I did not know Pugin but his image in My imagination was like my Guardian Angel & I often dreamed that I knew him.

He was introduced to Pugin's Contrasts, subtitled,A Parallel between the noble edifices of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, and similar buildings of the present day; shewing the present decay of taste, published in 1836. Although Contrasts had a text, the main message was powerfully conveyed in a series of devastating plates, contrasting what he conceived to be the buildings of medieval England, with buildings, serving similar purposes, in Regency England. He ridicules the work of revered architects such as Sir Robert Taylor, George Dance, but particularly upsetting was his vitriolic attacks on living architects including Sir Robert Smirke, William Wilkins and the Inwoods. Even the highly respected Soane did not escape.

A meeting finally took place between Scott and Pugin in about 1842. Having seen and sketched the ruins of St Stephen's Chapel in January in 1835, Scott was very upset that this ‘Gothic ruin of unrivalled beauty’, should be demolished to make way for Barry's St Stephen's Hall as an approach route to the new Central Lobby of the Houses Parliament, particularly as the fire had revealed it to be a fine example of the early Decorated style.

I made my crusade in favour of St Stephens an excuse for writing to Pugin and to my almost tremulous delight I was invited to call. He was tremendously jolly & shewed almost too much bon-homie to accord with my romantic expectations & I very rarely saw him again though I became a devoted reader of his written, & visitor of his erected works and a greedy recipient of every tale about him, & report of what he said or did - A new phase had come over me, thoroughly en rapport with my early taste, but in utter discord with the ‘fitful fever’ of my Poor Law activity. I was in fact a new man, Though that man was, according to the trite saying, the true son of my boyhood.

In fact, there would have been no point in discussing the retention of St Stephen's by that time as most of the chapel had already been demolished by the Office of Works for safety reasons, although work did not start on the new approach road until 1845. Perhaps it was a useful pretext to contact Pugin though.

(Incorporated) Church Building Society

The urbanisation of so much of Britain in the 1820's and 1830's was proceeding at an alarming rate. Small country towns with the parish church as their focal point became the centres of a vast sprawling metropolis of industry and housing. It was a matter of deep concern to the authorities that there were many families whose parish church was too far away, or too small, that they were not only denied the ability to attend church, perhaps twice on Sunday, but they were also more importantly denied the moral and spiritual guidance which regular church-going could bring. The Church Building Society was set up in 1818 to raise money for churches in areas where they were needed. They were supported by the King, the Universities and many clergy, particularly the Evangelicals. Seen also as a celebration for the peace after Waterloo, Parliament quickly passed an Act in 1818 granting one million pounds for the building of new churches and appointed Commissioners to administer the Act. In the event, only ninety-six new churches resulted from the million pounds, and in 1824 another half-a-million pounds was voted, which was spread more thinly. Only twenty-six churches were entirely financed out of the second grant, which usually provided a contribution towards the building costs and was still being dispensed in the mid-1850's, eventually benefitting 450 churches.

The emphasis was on value for money, particularly in the first phase. This meant that the Commissioner's churches were characterised by their plainness, lack of ornament and basic plan form. They invariably had no chancels, but they usually had galleries to accommodate a large number of ‘sittings’ and were built of the cheapest materials. There was little scope for architectural expression. Gothic, or at least windows with pointed arches, proved to be the cheapest and most popular style. As Scott said when he built St. Nicholas at Lincoln in 1838, ‘Church architecture was then perhaps at its lowest level’. Scott himself benefitted from a grant from the Church Building Society in 1837, towards the building of Flaunden Church, and subsequently the Commissioners paid grants varying between £50 and £2,000, for eighteen churches he built between 1840 and 1853.

In 1840, the practice obtained six new churches in quick succession. The first of these was probably Christ Church, Bridlington, where Scott had been on his Yorkshire tour, nine years previously, possibly through the influence of his cousin at Hull, some twenty-five miles to the south. It was built between 1840-1 and followed the usual basic design of Commissioners' churches. It provided 600 sittings and although it cost £2,500, the Commissioners contributed a mere £100. It is a basic hall-church, with minor transepts as at Lincoln, and a western tower in a plain lancet style. St. Mark's, Moseley, Birmingham, was started in 1840 and consecrated in 1841. It seems to have followed the same form as Bridlington, but has since disappeared. At Holy Trinity, Shaftesbury in Dorset, at the same time, he built a stone building of the same type as Moseley for Lord Grosvenor. It has a stark interior but externally it is a substantial design with a west tower, aisles and minor transepts. The tower is a grand structure, which can be seen for miles around, a chancel added in 1908. Presumably these two churches were obtained by competition, as the partners had few connections in either Dorset or Birmingham.

The other three churches were all in what is now the western suburbs of London and within a few miles of each other, which seems to indicate a common source for the work. St. Mary's, Hanwell, was a reconstruction of a village church on top of a small hill, overlooking what is still parkland lining the banks of the river Brent. It was built in 1841, of flint with yellow brick dressings and must have been one of the first churches in the area to have had a proper broach spire of the Lincolnshire type. Again, it reflects the austerity of the Commissioners with its sparseness of ornament and the use of lancets. St. Peter's, Norbiton, was built by Scott and Moffatt in 1841 at a total cost of £4,500, although the Commissioners had awarded it a grant of £500. It is about half-a-mile from the ancient centre and market place of Kingston-upon-Thames, and provided 744 sittings for Kingston's new suburban development to the east of the town. Unlike the other churches, this is Norman, or at least round-arched, in architectural style. It is built of yellow and white brick and has a north-west tower prominently sited on an important road junction. The chancel was added later. As Pevsner has said, these show Scott as ‘already a competent if uninspired performer’. Writing more than twenty years after he had built his first seven churches, Scott is anxious to disown these seemingly successful early essays:

the cheap-church rage over-came me, and as I had not then awakened to the viciousness of shams, I was unconscious of the abyss into which I had fallen. These days of abject degradation only lasted for about two years or little more, but alas what a mass of horrors was perpetuated during that short interval!!

Ecclesiological Society, see the Cambridge Camden Society

The Royal Academy of Arts

In 1855, further recognition of Scott’s standing came when he received a hint from Philip Hardwick, the Treasurer of the Royal Academy, ‘that I had better put down my name on the list of candidates for the associateship, & in Decr. I was elected an Associate.’ This was indeed an honour for Scott. The Royal Academy of Arts London was, and arguably still is, the most prestigious art institution in England and, although dominated by painters ever since its foundation in 1768, architects have always been members. Having been elected an Associate, Scott could be confident that after a few years, usually about six, he would become a Royal Academician and receive his Diploma from the Queen. Scott had worked hard for this accolade. His first work exhibited at the Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition was in 1832, with a drawing of Louth Church, and in 1842 Scott and Moffatt exhibited two drawings of the Wanstead Asylum. From 1850 he managed to have at least one drawing, showing his latest projects, in every exhibition. In all, up to his election in the December 1855, he had had fifteen works accepted and shown at the Academy. Thereafter his work would be automatically accepted. Architects' work is assessed on the quality of the design, therefore it is not essential that it should be from the architect's own hand, and although Scott often drew his early submissions himself, the later work was usually drawn by one of his assistants such as Coe or Street, who were skilled in producing attractive-looking drawings.

There were, in fact, only five architects in the Academy at the time; Cockerell, who had been the Professor of Architecture since 1839, Sir Robert Smirke and Sir Charles Barry, who had become a full Academician in 1842, after only two years as an Associate. On the other hand, Sir Robert's younger brother, Sydney Smirke (1798-1877), was elected an Associate in 1847, but had to wait twelve years before becoming a full member. The fifth architect was, of course, Philip Hardwick (1792-1870), who had suggested that Scott should put his name forward and had been Treasurer of the Academy since 1850.

The prime function of the Academy, as its name implies, is as a school of art and from the outset a Professor of Architecture was supposed to give six public lectures on the subject to the students of the Academy. Following those of Soane and Cockerell, Scott gave his first lecture in 1857, two in 1858, and four more between 1859 and 1860, when he was still an associate. When Cockerell finally retired as Professor, Sydney Smirke who had been made a full Academician the year before, was appointed Professor of Architecture. Scott was elected a full Academician late in 1860, filling the place of ‘my dear friend Sir Charles Barry who had died suddenly during the autumn’. Scott was now eligible to be Professor but Smirke had just been appointed and Scott, clearly upset with this turn of events, gave up lecturing altogether. He stated:

It is a pity that we have not two professorships the one for Classic & the other for Gothic Archr. [sic] It is sad that the latter should be either utterly neglected or taken up by a man, who has not made it his special study nor cares about its revival except to head deputations to discourage it.

Smirke's lectures have been described as ‘a disappointing performance - predictably empty and predictably popular’, and he retired as Professor in 1865. Scott then gave two lectures at which he distributed printed versions of his previous seven lectures to the architectural students and resurrected his old illustrations. He was finally appointed Professor of Architecture in 1866 and held the post until 1873, but during these seven years only managed another nine lectures which he admitted was ‘a very fitful and non-continuous series of lectures’, and was unable ‘owing to the press of other engagements, to give the full complement of six lectures in each season; and that in some years I have been prevented by circumstances – wholly beyond my own control - from lecturing at all’. He was, however, very proud of the lectures that he actually gave and in 1864 said that he wanted to publish his efforts up until that time. He had never been to south-eastern France before, so on his European trip in 1873 he seized the opportunity to see some of the Romanesque churches that he had discussed in his Royal Academy lectures, particularly in the two lectures on 1872 which he had devoted to domes. He had resigned as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1873 but as he intended to publish his lectures and he could now amend his notes to accord with what he would actually see. At Lyons he saw the cathedral and at Le Puy, eighty-nine miles south-west of Lyons, he cites the cathedral as an example of ‘quasi-domed architecture’. He then proceeded to Nimes and then to St Gilles where he saw the remains of the great priory church. He started sketching on 10 October 1873 at Avignon where he sketched the exterior of the dome of the cathedral and an elaborate sketch of its internal structure. He had already mentioned its vaulting in his second lecture on domes in 1872. Three days later he had travelled to Arles where he sketched the cloisters and the portal to the cathedral of St Trophimus. He then continued on to Italy. Scott and Pavings reached Ravenna on 25 October 1873 and had spent two days there when they met Edward Freeman. Ravenna as the centre of western Byzantine architecture was a major omission from Scott’s 1851 itinery, although this fact did not prevent him from discussing the baptistery of the cathedral at length in his first lecture on domes. Scott had cited Freeman extensively in his Academy lectures and in the first lecture on domes he quotes a passage from Freeman’s History of Architecture which is followed by a description of the churches of Ravenna. At the time Freeman wrote these passages he, like Scott, was resorting to the dangerous practice of describing buildings that he had not seen. In fact he did not begin his travels abroad until seven years after he had published his History. By the time that he met Scott he was something of an authority on Ravenna, having published an article in The British Quarterly Review entitled ‘The Goths at Ravenna’. Freeman gave the ailing Scott a whirlwind tour of the city. Poor Scott was given no time to sketch and was only able to make a list of the buildings that he had seen.

Scott’s great uncompleted work at the time of his death was the publication of his Royal Academy lectures. In February 1878, just weeks before his death, he wrote a preface for the intended publication in which he thanked ‘my friend and assistant, Mr. W. S. Weatherley’ for drawing the illustrations. The publication of all eighteen lectures took place the following year, in two volumes with the long title: Lectures on the rise and development of Mediaeval Architecture Delivered at the Royal Academy. Most of the numerous illustrations were drawn by William Samuel Weatherley (1851-1922), who was an assistant in the office. But the frontispiece to the second volume is a drawing by John Oldrid Scott of the domed central hall of Scott's unsuccessful design of 1866 for the Law Courts. Two lectures, out of the nine in the volume, are concerned with Scott's preoccupation with domes. According to Weatherley, he had made many of them ten years before Scott’s death and when Scott died, over 200 had been made and engraved. By the time Mediaeval Architecture was published in 1879, Weatherley had left Spring Gardens and had set up in partnership with F. E. Jones, just round the corner in Cockspur Street. They were superb draughtsmen, as exemplified by the two pen and ink drawings of Scott’s designs for the Hamburg Rathaus that they exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1878, as a final tribute to Scott.

Royal Archaeological Institute

This was founded as the British Archaeological Association in 1843 and re-founded as a separate institute in 1845 with a particular interest in the medieval period. Scott was among the leading lights at its foundation which included Ferrey, Blore, Whewell, Willis, Gambier Parry, Burges and E. W. Godwin. It gained its royal status in 1866.

Royal Architectural Museum

Very soon after his return from Italy, in November 1851, Scott attended a number of meetings to set up what became the Royal Architectural Museum. It had all started in the previous February when he wrote a letter to The Builder which was published on 15 February, entitled ‘On the formation of a Mediaeval Museum’. He pointed out that Cottingham's museum was to be put up for sale and urged:

its purchase by Government as the nucleus of a collection of mediaeval specimens for the use of Carvers etc. This was without avail ... I had a call in consequence of my letter from a strange person, Mr. Bruce Allen, who told me that he had long had a plan of the same kind in connexion with a school of art for art-workmen After my return from Italy he pressed the matter & invited me to a meeting a number of architects to whom he proposed his scheme chiefly for School of Art.

Cottingham’s museum was assembled by the architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham (1787-1847) and his son Nockalls Johnson Cottingham, (1823-54), and housed in a specially designed museum in their house at 43, Waterloo Bridge Road, just south of Waterloo Bridge. It was not at all unusual for architects at this time, to form collections around fragments from the buildings upon which they had worked. The Gwilts had such a collection, open to the public, at their house in Union Street, conveniently close to their work on Southwark Cathedral, and the most famous of all still exists at Sir John Soane's house in Lincoln's Inn Fields. The intention was that by studying examples of fine craftsmanship and good design from the past, work of a high standard could be achieved in modern buildings. These collections also provided an opportunity for architects and craftsmen to examine in considerable detail work which, if not geographically remote, was often high-up in an inaccessible part of some great building.

All architects at the time were faced with the problem of the decline of craftsmanship, brought about by the introduction of mechanisation into the building industry and the emergence of the general contractor. Architects working in the classical style had great collections of classical antiquities, like that of Sir John Soane, to hold up as exemplars to their builders and craftsmen as, in fact, Scott did on the Foreign Office, but the architects of Gothic Revival buildings had few such examples. So, apart from the paucity of examples, how was the Gothic craftsman supposed to perform? Was he expected to produce a slavish copy of what was before him and precisely follow the architect's detailed instructions or would he be allowed a considerable amount of self-expression in his work as it was thought the medieval masons were allowed? Scott was quite clear on this: ‘I do my work by influence’, while Street ‘gives drawings’ to his ‘hand-piece’ Earp. However, Allen went further than Scott and in a letter in 1865, complained that not only had the big builders killed off the craftsmen by absorbing them into their organisations but there was no room for art in the paper contracts drawn up by architects for their clients.

But in 1852 Scott and Allen seem to have got on well enough, although Scott seems to have become impatient with Allen's inaction.

After several meetings, it was determined to establish an architectural museum & to allow Allen to carry on his School of Art as a private speculation of his own within the Museum, to which he was to be the curator. The matter went on but sleepily for some months, when I determined to take it into my own hands & nail my flag to the mast. I accordingly wrote private letters & sent circulars to every one I could possibly think of begging both annual subscriptions & donations to a special fund for starting the collection The labour I gave to it was immense - I called on all such people as seemed to need it & frequently over and over again - the number of times I wrote & called on Mr. Blore, without getting one word or one penny, was amazing! Street discouraged it as tending to copyism. Butterfield gave very cold support. Poor Pugin was just laid by, but I nevertheless obtained liberal support got up a good list of annual subscribers & some £500 in donations.

As Pugin's funeral took place on 21 September 1852, Scott must have spent almost twelve months setting up and trying to obtain support for his Museum.

Specimens poured in from all quarters (not always good ones) I lent nearly the whole of my large collection & employed agents & workmen all over the Country getting new casts. Mr. Gerente acted as my agent in France & got us an excellent lot of casts. Later on Ruskin gave or lent us his whole collection of Venetian casts & I some very fine French ones. Much of Cottinghams museum came to us and before long we had a most wonderful collection.

Scott says that although he personally ‘held against’ the conventionalised foliage of the earlier Early English period, he did introduce it into the museum, with a ‘fear & trembling’, that it would ‘condemn the whole institution!’ in the eyes of the middle-pointed enthusiasts. Ruskin's contribution included the head of St. Simeon from St. Simeon's in Venice, sculptured panels from Notre Dame and Rouen, capitals from the Doge's Palace, and the loan of drawings of Continental architecture. Eventually even the Ecclesiological Society added its collection. Alfred Gérente, as a sculptor with frequent visits to England, was well qualified to hunt for examples of French medieval work for the Museum.

Scott undoubtedly played a very important part in the formation of the museum but writing in his Recollections some twelve years later he seems to suggest that he felt that the immense amount of work he put into it had never been properly appreciated, or had been forgotten. Certainly Eastlake, in his History of the Gothic Revival of 1872, says that the museum was set up by a ‘few architects and amateurs’ and Scott was only mentioned as the contributor of ‘a fine collection of casts from Ely and Westminster’. At first the collection was housed at Cannon Row Westminster, which was one of the few medieval streets left in Westminster and is now an alley behind Portcullis House. Then, it was very convenient for the large concentration of builders yards immediately over Westminster Bridge. In the Museum in Canon Row, Scott recalled:

We used to have lectures in the midst of our specimens - there Ruskin poured forth his most telling eloquence; here we held annual conversaziones where 500 or 600 persons were presided over in the cock loft by the prince-like Earl de Grey & addressed often by some of the first men in the country - but, above all, here were our Carvers taught their art from the best of ancient models & our students acquired a degree of skill & taste in the drawing of architl [sic] ornament which had never before been reached nor has (since the removal of the museum) been retained ...

Scott says that he gave four lectures at the Museum, one of which was at the first annual meeting on 27 July 1856. Lord Grosvenor took the chair and Scott spoke on the ‘Architectural Peculiarities of the Structure of Westminster Abbey’, which presumably became the basis of his main contribution to the Gleanings in 1861. In another lecture, which ‘was of a very impassioned character’, he advocated the use of naturalistic carving which he thought was being promoted by the Ecclesiologists and was rather taken aback when the Secretary of the Museum, Henry Clutton (1819-93), ‘whispered in my ear “You've been preaching heresy"’. It was only later, in 1856, when he saw the prize-winning entry for Lille Cathedral, which Clutton had submitted with William Burges, that he realised how the Ecclesiologists were changing their rules and accepting a more conventionalized type of ornamental foliage.

But the museum was soon in trouble. Scott had been seen as a prudent businessman and made Treasurer but ‘I had allowed my enthusiasm to outrun our finances and a heavy debt stared us in the face!’ Earl de Grey was the President of the Museum and he arranged for Scott and Clutton to go with him to meet Prince Albert to find out if he could help. ‘He received us graciously’ and agreed to become their patron but ‘He took occasion however to read us a not very complimentary lecture on the state of architectural education in this country which he described as contemptible in the extreme’. Scott believed that there was much truth in what the Prince had said, but Albert should have initiated ‘a strenuous movement to improve the artistic education of our profession rather than to employ in their stead Builders … & military engineers, who make no pretence whatever to aesthetical training’. Scott assumed that Henry Cole was behind the Prince's comments, which particularly annoyed him in view of Cole's dislike of the profession and his employment of military engineers instead. The Prince, as Scott predicted, passed the museum's problems onto Cole, who in turn passed them on to another member of his circle, Richard Redgrave (1804-88), the head of the Government School of Design. Redgrave met the committee of the Architectural Museum, and it was agreed that there would be:

an annual subscription of £100 (not pledged to continue) on condition of the free admission of the students of their school of art. This lasted however but a single year (1855 I think) for South Kensington was in embryo & nothing could be permitted elsewhere!

Cole was anxious to embrace as many different collections and educational establishments as he could at South Kensington. There was a scheme to include the National Gallery on the site, which did not materialise, but other collections, such as that of the Society of Arts, the Museum of Patented Inventions, as well as the items purchased after the 1851 Great Exhibition, were all to be housed in Cole's new South Kensington Museum, or the Victoria and Albert as it became in 1899.

It must have seemed a happy co-incidence to Cole that, at the same time he was trying to build up South Kensington as a great centre of artistic and educational activity, the Architectural Museum was inadequately housed and, apparently due to Scott's mis-management, bankrupt. By accepting the insufficient grant of £100, the Museum had placed itself in his hands:

He [Cole] then delicately suggested that if we were to change our venue & petition for a grant of space in their new building rent free it might be favourably be entertained & we were shewn on a plan of the building a noble gallery which might be at our service with attendance lighting warming, &c gratis!

Scott was furious that the result of all his efforts was to be taken away from his control but Cole’s offer of grand new accommodation at public cost won over the Museum Committee. ‘Our wrath was great but our poverty greater & at last the compact was signed with the fullest consciousness that we were doomed to be engulphed’. The accommodation was certainly not as luxurious as Cole had made out that it would be. A great tract of undeveloped land had been purchased, largely out of the profits of the Great Exhibition, stretching south from Hyde Park to the Brompton Road. In 1854, Cole and Redgrave showed a plan for this area to Prince Albert, which was presumably the plan that Scott had seen. Gottfried Semper was called in but his scheme was too expensive and the Prince then decided that temporary buildings should be built. On 18 June 1855, Charles Young, an engineer from Edinburgh, submitted a design for an iron-framed building to the Commissioners of the Great Exhibition. This was for a huge building covering almost two acres on a plot to the south-east of their main rectangle and adjacent to Brompton Road. The £15,000 required was voted by Parliament and work started early in 1856. It had a roof of three parallel barrel vaults, externally covered with sheets of corrugated iron painted in green and white stripes. The Builder, on 19 April 1856, likened the half-finished building to three ‘huge boilers placed side by side’, and thenceforth it was nick-named ‘the Brompton Boilers’.

When the Architectural Museum’s great collection of casts and sculpture was moved into the Boilers, late in 1856, the gallery floor on which they were placed was found to be too weak to carry their weight and extensive reinforcement had to be provided. A photograph taken in 1857, just after the collection was installed, shows it in a spacious, well-lit gallery, with the exhibits neatly displayed. However, the tidiness and inaccessibility of many of the exhibits hardly suggests that it conformed to the original aim in founding the museum as a place where craftsmen could study and draw medieval workmanship. In 1864, Scott wrote:

It is now about 8 years since we removed to South Kensington, & I can truly that I have never felt any satisfaction in the museum since … our capitulation & our making over the collection on loan followed by its removal & re-arrangement without our leave or knowledge All this however would be as nothing were it not our students frightened away by distance & red tape & the beneficial effects of the Collection seriously reduced.

By 1861 the collection had acquired some 4,000 casts and Cole, having lured the Architectural Museum to South Kensington, felt that he was now being inundated with casts and decided that he wanted to get rid of it. He served notice on it to quit the Boilers. Scott seems to have lost interest in the museum after the ‘notice to quit’. Perhaps his mis-management was being blamed for the Brompton episode but, nevertheless, it had acquired some influential and wealthy friends, including Beresford Hope, who were able to give it a much sounder basis. In 1869, the museum moved into a new purpose-built building, just to the south of the Dean's Yard at Westminster, where it existed until 1916. The great collection of casts was then presented to the Victoria and Albert Museum where many of them can still be seen today in the Cast Court, on almost the exact spot from where they were evicted in Scott’s time.

Royal Institute of British Architects RIBA

The Architectural Society was founded in 1831 and open to all who studied in an architect’s office for more than five years. This had as its patron the brother of the King, the Duke of Sussex, and amongst its luminaries was William Tite. He was already well established as an architect having built several buildings in London and, as a director of the London and Westminster Bank, was engaged on its new headquarters in the City. Scott prepared a paper to read to the Society at one of its fortnightly meetings, ‘on the origin of the stone of wh [sic] Stone Henge is composed written about 1836 ... but which I could not muster courage to bring forward’. The Society existed until 1842 when, thanks to its then president, Tite, it combined with a newer body, the Institute of British Architects. Some architects, including Charles Fowler and Decimus Burton (1800-81), had apparently not been satisfied that the Society was able to provide the profession with a suitable status, so in June 1835, the Institute of British Architects was formed, to which Soane also gave his blessing, but declined its presidency. Scott was probably not a member by then, as it was not until December 1849 that he was admitted to the Institute and then he was elected directly into the Fellowship.

On 18 December 1849, Scott’s hard work and ability was recognised by his professional colleagues when they elected him directly as a Fellow of the Institute of British Architects, without the customary period as an Associate of the Institute. At the same meeting Charles Robert Cockerell (1788-1863), was also elected a fellow. In 1848 he had been the first recipient of the Institute's Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, and since 1839 had been the Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy. Scott was proposed by his friend Henry Roberts, who was one of the founding members of the Institute in 1835 and became a Fellow in 1837, and two other luminaries of the Institute. One of these was another original member, Thomas Bellamy (1798-1876), who at that time was one of the three Vice-Presidents, and the other was Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-80), a second cousin of the infamous Sir James Wyatt, the Surveyor-General, and brother of Matthew Digby Wyatt. Scott first met Wyatt at Maddox's and, like Scott, he was extensively involved in church building and restoration. As a Consulting Architect to the Incorporated Church Building Society, he would have had dealings with Scott as a member of the Society's Committee of Examining Architects.

Scott made rapid progress in the Institute. Within six months of joining he was elected on to its governing body, the Council, and six years later became one of its Vice-Presidents. This rapid promotion of a new member was perhaps due, as much as anything else, to the small size of the Institute. When Scott joined it had 216 members, most of whom were architects in London, and it had its rooms in Mayfair, at 16, Lower Grosvenor Street, ten minutes walk from Scott's office. The President of the Institute, since its formal inauguration in June 1835, was Earl de Grey (1781-1859), a wealthy connoisseur and aristocrat, whose main claim to architectural fame was as an advisor to Queen Victoria on the completion of Buckingham Palace and for the alterations and garden buildings that he designed, with the help of a French architect, for his own estate at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire. De Grey was chosen by the architects as their President to give their new Institute a respectable face to society, which was particularly essential in the 1830's when they were struggling to overcome the tradesman image. By the time that Scott was elected he was little more than a figure-head with the Council meetings being presided over by one of the Vice-Presidents. With twenty-four years, de Grey is the longest-serving President of all time, but at his death in 1859, there was no question that he should not be suceeded by a professional architect and the much revered Cockerell was elected in his place. Almost from its foundation the Institute tried to give itself additional status by using the prefix ‘Royal’, on the basis of the Charter granted by King William IV in January 1837. But this was quite unofficial and it was only eventually made legal in May 1866, when Queen Victoria commanded that the ‘Royal’ be added to the Institute's title.

It was probably the pressure of building-up his practice which forced Scott to let his membership of the Architectural Society lapse before 1842. If he had kept it on he would have automatically become a member of the Institute when the two organisations merged at that date. Now in 1849, with perhaps the office almost running itself, he was finding that he had some time that he could devote to the affairs of his profession and allowed himself to become involved in its organisation by being elected on to the Council. The education of architects has, ever since its inception, been the main preoccupation of the Institute and Scott was clearly interested in this. His lectures to students at the Royal Academy, the large number of pupils in his office and his involvement in the formation of the Royal Architectural Museum in 1851 to educate craftsmen, all testify to this. But when it came to promoting Gothic architecture, Scott would have found some hostility among the leading members of the Institute. Most notable of the anti-Gothicists was Thomas Leverton Donaldson (1795-1885), who had been the first Secretary of the Institute and at the time of Scott's election, was its Secretary for Foreign Correspondence. He considered himself to be the founder of the Institute and on a table of precedence which he drew up, placed himself at the top. He was Professor of Architecture at University College, London, between 1841 and 1864, and later the Dean of the College. He had produced some half-hearted attempts at Gothic Revival buildings but he was in reality a classical scholar, with his literary efforts far outweighing the number of buildings that he produced. Another prominent member of the Institute was William Tite who had organised the merger between the Architectural Society and the Institute. Tite, like Donaldson, had produced some weak Gothic designs, but he too was a dedicated classicist, although unlike Donaldson, also a prolific architect.

Scott would have found a few like-minded Gothicists, such as his friend Benjamin Ferrey at the Institute. The pervading atmosphere was classical, as it was in the profession as a whole, and it was not until 1865, with the election of Beresford Hope, that it had its first Gothic President. Maybe the main asset of membership for Scott was that it kept him in touch with his old friends, like Ferrey, Roberts and Charles Fowler, who became a Vice-President the year after Scott joined. In 1859, Scott heard that the Institute was to ask the Queen to confer its highest award for architecture on him, the Royal Gold Medal, and he was described in The Gentleman's Magazine as ‘the leading living architect’. He could, with some justification, have assumed that he would go from strength to strength, but the rest of his career, and the view of him by his peers, was to be tainted by the Government Offices affair.

Six months after the return to Ham in 1872, Scott had another ‘severe attack of illness’, but nevertheless he then accepted the position of President of the Institute. He had been selected by the Council in 1870 to succeed Tite in a battle between the Gothicists and the Classicists. He then:

declined to stand feeling that my extensive engagements my distance from London & the claims of my family upon my spare time forbade it. I also felt that I was not by nature fitted for such a post.

Thomas Henry Wyatt was then chosen as a safe compromise. He was hardworking, efficient, but as John Martin Robinson says, ‘he was so dull!’ In contrast to his jolly younger brother, Digby Wyatt, ‘he had little sense of humour and never said a really funny thing in his life’. Scott must have known him well since their first meeting at Maddox’s. They were both members of the Athenaeum Club, worked together for the Incorporated Church Building Society and must have met frequently at the Institute.

Scott’s acceptance of the second offer of the presidency seems to have arisen from changes that had taken place over the intervening three years. His move back to Ham made it easier for him to travel up to Conduit Street and with Caroline gone, Alwyne about to graduate and Dukinfield shortly to enter university, ‘the claims of my family’ were somewhat diminished. But the climate at the Institute had also changed. In March 1871 under Wyatt’s presidency, the Council of the Institute appointed Charles Eastlake, the nephew of the Queen’s advisor on the Albert Memorial, as its first salaried permanent secretary. Donaldson was furious. Not only was the appointment the end of the system which he had initiated of architects acting as the Institute’s secretaries, but Eastlake was a Gothic man. His famous book, A History of the Gothic Revival was only one year from publication.

Scott probably felt that the Institute would be a more congenial place, particularly after the death of its two-time President Tite, on 20 April 1873. Scott’s new knighthood was an obvious factor to the status-seeking Institute in his re-selection but it would seem that his supporters were so keen to elect the ailing Scott that they were willing to forego his involvement in the Institute’s affairs for an unlimited period for the sake of his health as he began a six month tour of Europe. Almost as soon as he returned from his continental tour Scott was plunged into a crisis that had nothing to do with his practice and more to do with his incorrigible naivety. As his pleasure in receiving the Royal Gold Medal in 1859 had been tainted by his view of Donaldson’s behaviour at the time, it seems strange that fifteen years later as President, he did not ensure that the conferment of the medal for 1874 would run smoothly. John Ruskin had been an Honorary Fellow of the Institute since 1865 and on 16 March the Council decided that he would be a worthy recipient of the Institute’s highest honour, subject to the Queen’s permission. On 25 March, Scott wrote to Ruskin advising him of the honour that would be conferred on him. But nothing was heard from Ruskin. With ‘time pressing’, the recommendation of the Council was ratified by a general meeting of the Institute and sent to the Queen who gave her approval.

Ruskin had been at his home in the Lake District, Brantwood, until late March. He had promised to give three lectures at Oxford as Slade Professor, but his mental state was such that he abandoned the lectures and decided to go to Italy. He crossed the Channel on 30 March 1874 and by 9 April he was in Pisa where he started to feel better. He then stopped at Naples on his way to Sicily. The weather was bad so he stayed there a few days and pondered as to how to reply to Scott’s letter which he had probably received before he left England. On 20 April he wrote to his friend Thomas Carlyle:

I am going to do what will be ill-thought of by many of my friends; but I do it after a very careful thought, - to refuse the gold medal of the Architects’ institute, saying that in the present state of Architecture I cannot think it a time either for bestowing or receiving honours … I cannot accept medals from people who let themselves out to build Gothic Advertisements for Railroads Greek Advertisements for firms in the city – and – whatever Lord Palmerston or Mr. Gladstone chose to order opposite Whitehall – while they allow every beautiful building in France and Italy to be destroyed, for the ‘job’ of its restoration.

It was over three weeks before Carlyle endorsed Ruskin’s decision. On 13 May he wrote:

You appear to me to be clearly in the right in reference to your Architectural Society Medal. The offer of it I find to be a decidedly pretty little thing; but, - for a name so clothed with lightning & quack-devouring Fire, it is at least equally becoming & imperative to decline speech or acceptance on any terms which exist at present in that quarter.

Carlyle’s letter must have convinced Ruskin that he was doing the right thing and in Rome, on 20 May, he finally wrote to Scott and at the same time told Carlyle what he had done.

Scott is described as Ruskin’s ‘friend’ by his biographer, E. T. Cook, but Ruskin never forgave him for his capitulation to Palmerston over the Government Offices. This, coupled with the state of the buildings that he had just seen in his travels, played on his troubled mind and resulted in a letter which came as a bombshell to Scott: he had turned down the medal and wrote:

The delay in my reply has been owing to the necessity of prolonged reflection before adopting the line of conduct, which, after such reflection, I still find to be the only one open to me.

He then listed four examples of old buildings which had been demeaned by recent events: the tomb of Cardinal Brancaccio at Naples was being used as a lumber store; San Miniato at Florence had been turned into a common cemetery; at the church of Santa Maria della Spina in Pisa he saw a mason smash the cross on the western arch so that a copy could be carved from it; and at Furness, not far from Brantwood, the railway was ‘carried so near the Abbey that the ruins vibrate at the passing of every luggage train; and the buildings connected with the station block the window over the altar of the Abbot’s chapel’.

Why Ruskin chose these examples is not clear as none of them involved British architects and the only one in Britain was in Cumbria where railway engineers followed the contours when they built the Furness Railway. But it is an indication of Ruskin’s state of mind at the time. However his argument becomes more intelligible when he goes onto criticise ‘the destruction under the name of restoration, of the most celebrated works, for the sake of emolument’, and in these circumstances it is no time for us, as members of the Institute ‘to play at ajudging medals to each other’.

Ruskin was also probably irritated by Scott’s assumption that he would accept the medal. Scott may have remembered the happy time that they had together in Venice in 1851 and thought that he could rely on Ruskin’s friendship to help him now. But Ruskin had changed, while Scott had become wealthy and important. Nevertheless he wrote another letter to Ruskin, early in June, in an attempt to persuade him to change his mind. He later recalled that he said that:

besides the apparent disregard which his refusal seemed to involve for the honour graciously offered by the Sovereign, I argued that he and our Institute were labourers in the same cause whether we define that cause as the advancement and perfecting of architectural art or the conservation of its ancient monuments and productions; that, in so far as we may have failed, we were sharers in that failure, and vice versa; and that for him to refuse the sympathy of us … a corporation sole labouring in the same direction, was, to say the least, vexatious and inconsistent.

He reminded Ruskin that for years the Institute had had a standing committee for the defence of ancient monuments and it was ‘doing actively and practically what he advocated for their preservation; so that to visit these misdoings on us would be the reverse of being just’. This committee was set up in 1864 as a direct result of a paper that Scott had read to the Institute in 1862 entitled ‘The Conservation of Ancient Monuments and Remains’.

Ruskin replied promptly this time. On 12 June he wrote from Assisi saying that if he had been offered the medal twenty years ago, after he had written The Stones of Venice, ‘I should have gratefully and respectfully accepted it. I now proudly refuse it’. He now felt that the primary object of such associations, as the Institute, ‘is summed in four words, “Commission on the Cost”’. But if a body of architects bound themselves to accept a salary for their daily work, ‘I will take a medal tomorrow’. Now Ruskin’s refusal was beginning to make sense. He realised that fees based on the cost of the work, as recommended by the Institute, provided little incentive for an architect to carry out a modest self-effacing restoration while a wholesale reconstruction would considerably inflate his fees. A large part of Scott’s wealth was derived from his long-running cathedral restorations but in this exchange of letters, Ruskin does not appear to have wanted Scott to feel that he was criticising him personally. Scott had apparently sent him a copy of his first presidential address in an effort to show Ruskin his high regard for the buildings of the past. Ruskin, in his second letter, replied, ‘I agree with every word’ of the address, except that Scott was overstating the case that Ruskin was making.

The whole affair was acutely embarrassing to Scott. He seems to have been convinced that Ruskin would accept the medal and, as the weeks passed, it would appear that he failed to warn the Council of the Institute that there was a problem. He must have felt that Ruskin’s stance would undermine his prestige in the Institute and avoided appearing in front of its members. It was left to John Gibson, the senior Vice-President at an Ordinary General Meeting, on 15 June, to express ‘his regret at being obliged to announce that Mr. John Ruskin … had declined to receive that honour’. Confusion reigned. Not only had Scott let his colleagues down, he had probably offended the Queen. Fortunately he could use his important contacts to help to rescue the situation. He knew the Keeper of the Queen’s Privy Purse, Sir Thomas Biddulph, who was also the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Albert Memorial, and suggested to him that the medal could remain in abeyance for the year. But the Queen commanded that the medal should be awarded for 1874 so the Council unanimously chose Street in Ruskin’s place. At a Special General Meeting on 17 August, with Gibson again in the chair, the Council’s new choice of Street was approved and the meeting recommended the decision to the Queen and the correspondence between Scott and Ruskin was made public. Again it was left to Gibson to reveal the whole sorry affair to the membership as Scott had once more gone abroad, this time with John Oldrid.

They went through France and Belgium to Germany, where the massive 480 feet high spire of St Nicholas, Hamburg, had been completed and its consecration took place on 26 August 1874. The mighty structure was taller than any building in Britain and this occasion could have been seen by its designer as a good excuse to absent himself from embarrassing meetings at the Institute. Scott says that they then went on to ‘Vienna Saltzburg, Munich &c & home by way of Strasburg & Rheims’, presumably in good time before he had to face the Institute with his second Presidential address. This took place on 2 November 1874. He, of course, tried to show his actions in the best possible light but he did not blame Ruskin for leading him into an intolerable situation. In fact he goes much further than Ruskin in condemning the horrors of modern restoration, which included the rebuilding of the Fondaco dei Turchi in Venice, the destruction of the ancient wall of Servius Tullius in Rome, which he had just witnessed, and the pulling down of the fourteenth century Guesten House in Worcester. But he goes onto say, regarding the award of the Royal Gold Medal to Street that the Institute ‘may go the length of congratulating ourselves on having been led by force of circumstances to better choice than we had at first made’. Perhaps he was trying to assure Street that he was not a second-best substitute and said that when he went to the original Council meeting that chose Ruskin, his intention had been to propose Street. However Street did not come to the Institute to receive his medal. His wife had just died after a short illness and, as Scott said, Street had ‘deputed his valued friend and ours, Mr Pearson, to receive it in his name’.

For the next Gold Medal, that for 1875, the Council appeared to want to demonstrate the Institute’s commitment towards ancient buildings and unanimously agreed, and the Queen confirmed, that it would be awarded to Edmund Sharpe of Lancaster. Scott presumably ascertained that there would be no reoccurrence of the 1874 fiasco, but Sharpe was not widely known outside the profession. He had been a pupil of Rickman and in 1848 he was elected a Fellow of the Institute. In 1851 he retired from architectural practice so that he could devote more time to examining the medieval abbeys of England. Eastlake points out how useful Sharpe’s published drawings were to the practising architect. They were drawn ‘with the careful accuracy of a draughtsman who understood the construction and rationale of every feature which he saw’. Scott presented the medal to Sharpe on 7 June 1875 only seven months after Street had been awarded his. He made it clear that it was given for Sharpe’s publications and particularly for his work on abbeys. In the discussion that followed Scott said that he had seen how ruins had become ‘almost unintelligible’ in his lifetime and in this view ‘he was supported by Mr. Ruskin’. He thought that they were ‘under great obligations to all those who took up the matter of saving these ruins from perishing in the manner Mr. Sharpe had done’. Ewan Christian concurred with Scott and cited Furness Abbey as an example where over twenty-five years ‘it had fallen most distressingly into decay’.

On Monday 1 November 1875, Scott gave his third and final address as President of the Institute. Again he was obliged to defend the role of the Institute in the preservation of ancient monuments. He said that its committee on the Conservation of Ancient Monuments had received various reports of outrages committed against churches by incumbents and owners:

Here and there they would be found to be in a dilapidated condition, but generally they only needed that gentle, loving handling to preserve all that time had spared, and to give them a new lease of existence.

Scott’s successor as President in 1876 was his old rival in the Foreign Office controversy, Charles Barry junior, who although being the oldest son of the great Sir Charles, had a fairly undistinguished career. He was basically a classical architect as his competition designs for the Government Offices and the Albert Memorial show. It had become the custom to award the Gold Medal in every third year to a foreign architect and Barry’s medal of 1876 went to the French architect Joseph-Louis Duc, who had designed the Bastille Column and restored the Palais de Justice in Paris. However, there was no Ruskin-type problem with the 1877 Gold Medal as it was awarded to Barry himself!

After he stood down as President in 1876, Scott seems to have had little further involvement in the affairs of the Institute. His presidency had not been a success. His earlier misgivings about accepting the post had proved correct. He had nearly offended the Queen, he had made an enemy of Ruskin, placed his friend Street in a difficult situation and had shirked from explaining the fiasco to the members of the Institute. But worst of all, he had inadvertently sparked off a controversy over his restoration methods which was to dog him for his remaining years.

On 27 June 1877 Scott sat for the distinguished portrait painter, George Richmond, who produced a chalk sketch as a preliminary study for Scott’s presidential portrait for the Institute. All past presidents are requested to donate either a portrait bust or a painting and Scott commissioned Richmond, who had already painted him in 1872, for his presidential portrait.