Born 1811 Died 1878
Sir George Gilbert Scott was born in 1811 at Gawcott near Buckingham, where his father was rector; his grandfather, Thomas Scott (1747- 1821), was a well-known commentator on the Bible. In 1827 young Scott was apprenticed for four years to an architect in London named Edmeston, and at the end of his pupildom acted as clerk of the works at the new Fishmonger's Hall and other buildings. In Edmeston's office he became acquainted with W. B. Moffat, a fellow-pupil, who possessed considerable talents for the purely business part of an architect's work, and the two entered into partnership.
In 1834 they were appointed architects to the union workhouses of Buckinghamshire, and for four years were busily occupied in building a number of cheap and ugly unions, both there and in Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. In 1838 Scott built at Lincoln his first church, the design for which won the prize in an open competition, and this was quickly followed by six others, all very poor buildings without chancels; church building in England had then reached its very lowest point both in style and in poverty of construction.
About 1839 his enthusiasm was aroused by some of the eloquent writings of Pugin on medieval architecture, and by the various papers on ecclesiastical subjects published by the Camden Society. These opened a new world to Scott, and he thenceforth studied and imitated the architectural styles and principles of the middle ages with the utmost zeal and patient care. The first result of this new study was his design for the Martyrs' Memorial at Oxford, erected in 1840, a clever adaptation of the late 13th-century crosses in honour of Queen Eleanor. From that time Scott became the chief ecclesiastical architect in England, and in the next twenty-eight years completed a large number of new churches and restorations, the fever for which was fomented by the Ecclesiological Society and the growth of ecclesiastical feeling in England.
In 1844 Scott won the first premium in the competition for the new Lutheran church at Hamburg, a noble building with a very lofty spire, designed strictly in the style of the 13th century. In the following year his partnership with Moffat was dissolved, and in 1847 he was employed to renovate and refit Ely cathedral, the first of a long series of English cathedral and abbey churches which passed through his hands. In 1851 he visited and studied the architecture of the chief towns in northern Italy, and in 1855 won the competition for the townhouse at Hamburg, designed after the model of similar buildings in north Germany. In spite of his having won the first prize, another architect was selected to construct the building, after a very inferior design.
In 1856 a competition was held for designs of the new government offices in London; Scott obtained the third place in this, but the work was afterwards given to him on the condition (insisted on by Lord Palmerston) that he should make a new design, not Gothic, but Classic or Renaissance in style. To this Scott very reluctantly consented, as he had little sympathy with any styles but those of England or France from the 13th to the 15th century. In 1862-1863 he was employed to design and construct the Albert Memorial, a costly and elaborate work, in the style of a magnified 13th century reliquary or ciborium, adorned with many statues and reliefs in bronze and marble. On the partial completion of this he was knighted.
In 1866 he competed for the new London law-courts, but the prize was adjudged to his old pupil, G. E. Street. In 1873, owing to illness caused by overwork, Scott spent some time in Rome and other parts of Italy. The mosaic-pavement which he designed for Durham cathedral soon afterwards was the result of his study of the 13th-century mosaics in the old basilicas of Rome. On his return to England he resumed his professional labours, and continued to work almost without intermission till his short illness and death on the 27th of March 1878.
He was buried in the nave of Westminster Abbey, and an engraved brass, designed by G. E. Street, was placed over his grave. In 1838 Scott married his cousin, Caroline Oldrid, who died in 1870; they had five sons, two of whom adopted their father's profession.
An incomplete list of his works from 1847 in the Builder for 1878 (p. 360) ascribes to Scott 732 buildings with which he was connected as architect, restorer or the author of a report. These include 29 cathedrals, British or colonial, 10 minsters, 476 churches, 25 schools, 23 parsonages, 58 monumental works. 25 colleges or college chapels, 26 public buildings, 43 mansions and a number of small ecclesiastical accessories. While a member of the Royal Academy, Scott held for many years the post of professor of architecture, and gave a long series of able lectures on medieval styles, which were published in 1879. He wrote a work on Domestic Architecture, and a volume of Personal and Professional Recollections, which, edited by his eldest son, was published in 1879, and also a large number of articles and reports on many of the ancient buildings with which he had to deal.
Being the entry for SCOTT, SIR GEORGE GILBERT in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.