George Gilbert Scott

Sir George Gilbert Scott RA (13 July 1811 – 27 March 1878), styled Sir Gilbert Scott, was a prolific English Gothic revival architect, chiefly associated with the design, building and renovation of churches and cathedrals, although he started his career as a leading designer of workhouses. Over 800 buildings were designed or altered by him.[1]

Sir George Gilbert Scott
Sir George Gilbert Scott
Born(1811-07-13)13 July 1811
Died27 March 1878(1878-03-27) (aged 66)
39 Courtfield Gardens, South Kensington, London
AwardsRoyal Gold Medal (1859)
BuildingsWakefield Cathedral
Albert Memorial
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Midland Grand Hotel
library of Hall Cross Academy
St Pancras railway station
Main building of the University of Glasgow
St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow
St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh (Episcopal)
King's College Chapel, London

Scott was the architect of many iconic buildings, including the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, all in London, St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, the main building of the University of Glasgow, St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh and King's College Chapel, London.

Life and career

Born in Gawcott, Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, Scott was the son of a cleric and grandson of the biblical commentator Thomas Scott. He studied architecture as a pupil of James Edmeston and, from 1832 to 1834, worked as an assistant to Henry Roberts. He also worked as an assistant for his friend, Sampson Kempthorne, who specialised in the design of workhouses,[2] a field in which Scott was to begin his independent career.[3]

Early work

Scott's first work was built in 1833. It was a vicarage for his father, a clergyman, in the village of Wappenham, Northamptonshire. It replaced the previous vicarage occupied by other relatives of Scott. Scott went on to design several other buildings in the village.[4]

In about 1835, Scott took on William Bonython Moffatt as his assistant and later (1838–1845) as his partner. Over ten years or so, Scott and Moffatt designed more than forty workhouses,during the boom in building such institutions brought about by the Poor Law of 1834.[5] In 1837, they built the Parish Church of St John in Wall, Staffordshire. At Reading, they built the prison (1841–42) in a picturesque, castellated style.[6] Scott's first church, St Nicholas', was built at Lincoln, after winning a competition in 1838.[7] With Moffat he built the Neo-Norman church of St Peter at Norbiton, Surrey (1841).[8]

Gothic Revival

Meanwhile, he was inspired by Augustus Pugin to participate in the Gothic revival.[3] While still in partnership with Moffat.[9] he designed the Martyrs' Memorial on St Giles', Oxford (1841),[10] and St Giles' Church, Camberwell (1844), both of which helped establish his reputation within the movement.

Commemorating three Protestants burnt during the reign of Queen Mary, the Martyrs' Memorial was intended as a rebuke to those very high church tendencies which had been instrumental in promoting the new authentic approach to Gothic architecture.[11] St Giles', was in plan, with its long chancel, of the type advocated by the Ecclesiological Society: Charles Locke Eastlake said that "in the neighbourhood of London no church of its time was considered in purer style or more orthodox in its arrangement".[12] It did, however, like many churches of the time, incorporate wooden galleries, not used in medieval churches[13] and highly disapproved of by the high church ecclesiological movement.

In 1844 he received the commission to rebuild the Nikolaikirche in Hamburg (completed 1863), following an international competition.[14] Scott's design had originally been placed third in the competition, the winner being one in a Florentine inspired style by Gottfried Semper, but the decision was overturned by a faction who favoured a Gothic design.[15] Scott's entry had been the only design in the Gothic style.[3]

In 1854 he remodelled the Camden Chapel in Camberwell, a project in which the critic John Ruskin took a close interest and made many suggestions. He added an apse, in a Byzantine style, integrating it to the existing plain structure by substituting a waggon roof for the existing flat ceiling.[16]

Scott was appointed architect to Westminster Abbey in 1849. In 1853 he built a Gothic terraced block adjoining the abbey in Broad Sanctuary. In 1858 he designed Christchurch Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand which now lies partly ruined following the earthquake in 2011 and subsequent attempts to demolish the cathedral by the Anglican Church authorities. Demolition was blocked after appeals by the population of Christchurch but the future of this historic building is still in dispute[17][14]

The choir stalls at Lancing College in Sussex, which Scott designed with Walter Tower, were among many examples of his work that incorporated green men.[18]

Later, Scott went beyond copying mediaeval English gothic for his Victorian Gothic or Gothic Revival buildings, and began to introduce features from other styles and European countries as evidenced in his Midland red-brick construction, the Midland Grand Hotel at London's St Pancras Station, from which approach Scott believed a new style might emerge.

Between 1864 and 1876, the Albert Memorial, designed by Scott, was constructed in Hyde Park. It was a commission on behalf of Queen Victoria in memory of her husband, Prince Albert.

Scott advocated the use of Gothic architecture for secular buildings, rejecting what he called "the absurd supposition that Gothic architecture is exclusively and intrinsically ecclesiastical."[13] He was the winner of a competition to design new buildings in Whitehall to house the Foreign Office and War Office. Before work began, however, the administration which had approved his plans went out of office. Palmerston, the new Prime Minister, objected to Scott's use of the Gothic, and the architect, after some resistance drew up new plans in a more acceptable style.[19]


Scott was awarded the RIBA's Royal Gold Medal in 1859. He was appointed an Honorary Liveryman of the Turners' Company and in 1872, he was knighted. He died in 1878 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

A London County Council blue plaque marks Scott's residence at the Admiral's House on Admiral's Walk in Hampstead.[20][21]


Scott married Caroline Oldrid of Boston in 1838. Two of his sons George Gilbert Scott, Jr. (founder of Watts & Company] in 1874) and John Oldrid Scott, and his grandson Giles Gilbert Scott, were also prominent architects.[22] His third son, photographer, Albert Henry Scott (1844–65) died at the age of twenty-one. George Gilbert designed his funerary monument in St Peter's Church, Petersham.[23] His fifth and youngest son was the botanist Dukinfield Henry Scott.[24] He was also great-uncle of the architect Elisabeth Scott.[25]


Scott's success attracted a large number of pupils, many would go on to have successful careers of their own, not always as architects. In the following list, the year next to the pupil's name denotes their time in Scott's office, some of the more famous were: Hubert Austin (1868), Joseph Maltby Bignell (1859–78), George Frederick Bodley (1845–56), Charles Buckeridge (1856–57), Somers Clarke (1865), William Henry Crossland (dates uncertain), C. Hodgson Fowler (1856–60), Thomas Gardner (1856–61), Thomas Graham Jackson (1858–61), John T. Micklethwaite (1862–69), Benjamin Mountfort (1841–46), John Norton (1870–78), George Gilbert Scott, Jr. (1856–63), John Oldrid Scott (1858–78), J. J. Stevenson (1858–60), George Henry Stokes (1843–47), George Edmund Street (1844–49), William White (1845–47).


  • Remarks on secular & domestic architecture, present & future. London: John Murray. 1857.
  • A Plea for the Faithful Restoration of our Ancient Churches. Oxford: James Parker. 1859.
  • Gleanings from Westminster Abbey / by George Gilbert Scott, with Appendices Supplying Further Particulars, and Completing the History of the Abbey Buildings, by W. Burges (2nd enlarged ed.). Oxford: John Henry and James Parker. 1863 [1861].
  • Personal and Professional Recollections. London: Sampson Low & Co. 1879.
  • Lectures on the Rise and Development of Medieval Architecture. I. London: John Murray. 1879.
  • Lectures on the Rise and Development of Medieval Architecture. II. London: John Murray. 1879. online texts for vols. I & II

Additionally he wrote over forty pamphlets and reports. As well as publishing articles, letters, lectures and reports in The Builder, The Ecclesiologist, The Building News, The British Architect, The Civil Engineer's and Architect's Journal, The Illustrated London News, The Times and Transactions of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Architectural work

His projects include:

Public buildings

Domestic buildings

Church buildings



Scott was involved in major restorations of medieval church architecture, all across England.


Additionally Scott designed the Mason and Dixon monument in York Minster (1860), prepared plans for the restoration of Bristol Cathedral in 1859 and Norwich Cathedral in 1860 neither of which resulted in a commission, and designed a pulpit for Lincoln Cathedral in 1863.

Abbeys, priories and collegiate churches

Other restoration work

Scott restored the Inner Gateway (also known as the Abbey Gateway) of Reading Abbey in 1860 – 1861 after its partial collapse.[70] St Mary's of Charity in Faversham, which was restored (and transformed, with an unusual spire and unexpected interior) by Scott in 1874, and Dundee Parish Church, and designed the chapels of Exeter College, Oxford, St John's College, Cambridge and King's College, London. He also designed St Paul's Cathedral, Dundee.

Lichfield Cathedral's ornate West Front was extensively renovated by Scott from 1855 to 1878. He restored the cathedral to the form he believed it took in the Middle Ages, working with original materials where possible and creating imitations when the originals were not available. It is recognised as some of his finest work.

See also


  1. Cole, 1980, p. 1.
  2. "George Gilbert Scott (1811–1878) and William Bonython Moffatt (−1887)". The Workhouse. 23 April 2007. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  3. Bayley 1983, p. 43
  4. "England: Northamptonshire". Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  5. The Workhouse Encyclopedia. Stroud, Glos: History P. 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  6. Hitchcock 1977, p. 146
  7. "St Nicholas's, Newport – Lincoln". Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  8. Cherry and Pevsner 1990, p. 313
  9. Hitchcock 1977, p. 152
  10. Eastlake 1872, p. 219
  11. Whiting, R. C. (1993). Oxford Studies in the History of a University Town Since 1800. Manchester University Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780719030574. The terms of the commission had stipulated that it should be based on the Eleanor Cross at Waltham
  12. Eastlake 1872, p. 220
  13. Eastlake 1872, p. 221
  14. Hitchcock 1977, p. 153
  15. Mallgrave, Harry Francis (2005). Modern Architectural Theory: A Historical Survey, 1673–1968. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521793063.
  16. Blanch, William Harnett (1875). Y parish of Camberwell. A brief account of the parish of Camberwell, its history and antiquities. G.W. Allen.
  17. Cathedral, Restore Christchurch. "Restore Christchurch Cathedral - Cathedral Report Delivered to Government". Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  18. Hayman, Richard (April 2010). "Ballad of the Green Man". History Today. 60 (4).
  19. Eastlake 1872, pp. 311– 2
  20. "SCOTT, SIR GEORGE GILBERT (1811–1878)". English Heritage. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  21. "Sir George Gilbert Scott". Flickr.
  22. Allinson, Kenneth (24 September 2008). Architects and Architecture of London. Routledge. p. 164. ISBN 9781136429644.
  23. Historic England. "Tomb of Albert Henry Scott in the Churchyard of St Peter's Church (1380183)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  24. Arber, Agnes; Goldbloom, Alexander. "Scott, Dukinfield Henry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35984. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  25. Stamp, Gavin (2004). "Scott, Elisabeth Whitworth (1898–1972), architect". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/24869. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
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