Scott, Sir Giles Gilbert
, was born on 9 November 1880 at 26 Church Row, Hampstead, London, the third son of and the grandson of , both architects. Scott's mother, Ellen King Sampson (18541953), was the daughter of William King Sampson, of a Sussex yeoman family. In 1889 her uncle George King-Sampson died and left Hollis Street Farm outside Ninfield to the young Giles Scott, with a life tenancy to his mother, which enabled her to take her children to Sussex and escape her sometimes violent husband who, in 1884, had been declared of unsound mind. The most direct influence of Scott's father on his upbringing was to choose his school, Beaumont College, Windsor, because he admired the buildings there designed by J. F. Bentley.
In Sussex Ellen Scott took her children steeplechasing on bicycles to visit churches and she decided that her two youngest children, Giles and Adrian, should follow in their father's profession. In 1899 Scott was articled for three years to Temple Lushington Moore, his father's former pupil and coadjutor, but it was not a conventional pupillage as he saw little of Moore, who worked at home in Hampstead while his office in Staple Inn was run by P. B. Freeman. Although Scott hardly knew his fatherhe later recalled seeing him only twicehe became familiar with his architecture, and later remarked that I always think that my father was a genius. … He was a far better architect than my grandfather and yet look at the reputations of the two men! (Scott to J. Betjeman, 19 Dec 1938, Betjeman papers, University of Victoria, British Columbia).
Cathedral and church commissions
With the encouragement of Moore, Scott entered the second competition for a new Anglican cathedral in Liverpool in 1902 with a Design for a twentieth century cathedral, for which he prepared the drawings at home in Battersea in his spare time. To his surprise, this was one of five designs chosen to go forward to a second round, in preference to schemes by, among others, Temple Moore. In 1903 Scott's design was selected by the assessors, Norman Shaw and G. F. Bodley, but it was a choice which dismayed the Liverpool Cathedral committee on account of Scott's youth, lack of experience, and religion: he was still only twenty-two, and a Roman Catholic. In the event, the compromise was reached that Bodley should join Scott as joint architect for the project.
Although Bodley had been a close friend of Scott's father, this was not a happy collaboration, especially after the elder architect had acquired two more cathedrals in the United States to design; Scott complained that this has made the working partnership agreement more of a farce than ever, and to tell the truth my patience with the existing state of affairs is about exhausted (Kennerley, 38). He was on the point of resignation when Bodley died in 1907. The separate lady chapel was then under construction and Scott promptly redesigned everything above the arcades, making the vault more continental in style with curvilinear ribs and the triptych reredos more elaborate. This first part of the cathedral was opened in 1910. In that same year the cathedral committee approved Scott's proposal completely to redesign the rest of the building: a remarkably brave decision, not least because it necessitated the demolition of stonework already executed. Scott had become increasingly unhappy with his winning design, which, for all its imagination, belonged essentially in the Gothic tradition established by his father, Bodley, and Temple Moore. With Bodley gone, I decided to start all over again (Cotton, 29), and Scott made his new conception much more monumental, sublime, and, in its overall symmetry, almost classical in feeling: what John Summerson described as a sudden diversion of late Victorian Gothic into an equivalent of Edwardian Baroque (Ford, 235). Instead of twin towers inspired by Durham Cathedral, Scott now proposed a single, central tower rising above pairs of transepts, which had the further advantage of providing the central space required but not supplied in the original competition design.
Scott also greatly simplified the elevations to create a masterly balance between massive bare walls of pink sandstone and concentrated detail. Writing later, he explained how at Liverpool I have endeavoured to combine the uplifting character imparted by vertical expression with the restful calm undoubtedly given by the judicious use of horizontals (Morning Post
, 19 July 1924). This, together with the rich sculptural feeling of the great reredos and other furnishings, may reflect the influence of Albi Cathedral, France (which, in fact, Scott never saw), as well as that of a visit to Spain made with Sir Frederick Ratcliffe, honorary treasurer and later chairman of the cathedral executive committee, who became a lifelong friend. Scott designed every detail in the building and the work of craftsmen and artists, such as the sculptor Edward Carter Preston and the stained-glass artist J. H. Hogan, had to conform to the architect's personal vision.
By adopting symmetry for the cathedral, Scott imposed an obligation on posterity which ensured its completion in a very different economic and social climate and he continually refined his design as the building rose. In 1922 the American architect Bertram Goodhue described it as the finest modern church building without a doubt (Daily Courier
[Liverpool], 5 Sept 1922, 5), while for H. S. Goodhart-Rendel it was
a scenic prodigy, displaying the great imaginative power of its designer … it has permanence as the memorial of long and arduous labour on the part of an architect exceptionally sensitive to the tastes and aspirations of his contemporaries, and permanence also as a memorial of the lofty aims of countless able artists who, in three generations, spent their efforts in the service of Romance. (Goodhart-Rendel, 252)
The choir and first pair of transepts were opened in 1924, the central tower was finished in 1942, and the first bay of the nave was opened a year after the architect's death, in 1961. The (liturgical) west end was finally completed to a revised and reduced design by his old assistant, Roger Pinckney, made for Scott's former partner Frederick G. Thomas.
The building of Liverpool Cathedral, an undertaking on a prodigious scale, dominated Scott's life, and it was in Liverpool that he met Louise Wallbank Hughes (18881949), whom he married in 1914. The daughter of Richard Hughes, she had been working as a receptionist in the Adelphi Hotel and was, to the distress of Scott's mother, a protestant. Despite his astonishing early success, Scott initially had little work other than the cathedral; his first complete church was the Annunciation at Bournemouth (19056), in which he used the high, flush transept idea he had initially proposed for Liverpool to make a sort of crossing tower at the end of a low nave. Another Roman Catholic church, at Sheringham, Norfolk (190914), revealed Scott's development towards simplifying Gothic forms, and the contemporary church at Ramsay on the Isle of Man (190912), with its rugged tower facing the sea, displays his acute sensitivity to site. At the church of Our Lady at Northfleet, Kent (191316), Scott's Gothic was made more monumental and unified with horizontal banding like classical rustication, and the modelling of the tower and shallow transepts makes the building seem like a prototype for Liverpool Cathedral. Similarly experimental is St Paul's, Stonycroft, in Liverpool (191316), where the wide vaulted interior is cleverly expressed externally in triple transepts.
Scott established himself as one of the most accomplished and sophisticated inter-war ecclesiastic designers in Britain in the several churches he designed for both Anglican and Roman Catholic parishes. In these buildings traditional styles were given a distinctive contemporary expression. He always took great care over building materials, and at St Andrew's, Luton (19312), long and streamlined behind a powerful squat west tower, interior transverse arches of reinforced concrete were expressed externally by buttresses faced in beautiful brickwork. At St Francis's, Terriers, High Wycombe (192830), a church of sophisticated simplicity faced in knapped flint, he demonstrated his masterly handling of natural light by omitting the west and clerestory windows so that dramatic illumination comes from the transepts and crossing tower placed towards the east. The Roman Catholic church at Ashford, Middlesex (19278), with its inward-sloping, self-buttressing walls, was a particular favourite of the architect.
Scott seldom repeated himself, and he experimented with different church plans. The Anglican church of St Alban, Golders Green, London (19323), is cruciform and built of special thin bricks, with pitched tiled roofs over the four arms and the low central tower. The Roman Catholic cathedral at Oban (193151) has a massive, rugged tower of pink granite facing the sea while the timber roof raised above tall, simple piers gives the interior a grandeur out of proportion to its actual size. A. S. G. Butler wrote how
Oban cathedral is a notable example of a design most suitable to its site and, in every way, to its purpose. It was Scott's power to grasp clearly the practical object of a building and design it on that basis. Appearance followed from the expression of this more than from a preconceived idea of beauty. (DNB)
Scott also designed the church at Ampleforth College, Yorkshire, as well as boarding-houses for the school, and completed the nave of the church at Downside Abbey, Somerset. At St Alphege's, Bath (192730), and at the chapel for Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (19312), he used a simplified Romanesque style instead of Gothic. Perhaps his finest chapel for an educational institution is that at Charterhouse, Godalming (19227), where a long, powerful mass like a fortress is articulated by a row of thin flush transepts which allow light to enter laterally as if from a hidden source.
Scott was far from being exclusively a church architect, and his success at Liverpool led to a series of large secular commissions after the First World War (in which he served as a major in the Royal Marines, supervising the construction of defences in the English Channel). The Memorial Court for Clare College, Cambridge (192232), was built on the west side of the River Cam in a refined neo-Georgian or neo-Grèc manner in silver-grey brick. His own London house, Chester House, in Clarendon Place (19245), and Whitelands College at Putney (192931) were designed in a similar style. At Clare, a few years later, the dramatic central axis through the war memorial arched entrance was closed by the tall tower and massive wings of the new Cambridge University Library (193034), a building designed after study of American libraries in which windows between bookstacks were linked to leave the intervening brickwork to read as massive pilasters. The New Bodleian Library at Oxford University (193546), in its semi-traditional style with rounded corners, was perhaps less successful, but the technical achievement of keeping the building low in scale by building underground was considerable. More appropriate in Oxford was Longwall Quad at Magdalen College (19289), which continued St Swithun's Buildings by Bodley and Garner in a simplified Tudor manner.
As an established architect, knighted in 1924, Scott was in demand as consultant on new commercial building projects in London. He acted as associated architect with Gordon and Viner on the William Booth Memorial Buildings at Denmark Hill in south London (1926), where his personal treatment of the tall brick tower is unmistakable. Scott's Gothic canopy proposed in 1939 for the King George V memorial close to Westminster Abbey met with opposition, however, particularly from the newly founded Georgian Group defending the buildings on the site, and his alternative, classical design, with a statue by William Reid Dick executed in 19467, is not characteristic. Equally untypical but much more successful was Scott's design for the Charing Cross Road façade of the Phoenix Theatre. He was also responsible for Cropthorne Court at Maida Vale (19289), where a clever diagonal zigzag plan was adopted to obviate light wells. American architects expressed surprise that Scott could handle so much work; in the 1920s, Roger Pinckney recalled,
it was a small office, not more than 8 to 10 altogether, very informal and apparently unbusinesslike, but it was our pride never to have delayed a job from lack of drawings. Sir Giles designed everything himself, down to the smallest detail, but did not do a lot of visiting. (Pinckney to Stamp, 11 Sept 1974)
Other assistants included A. G. Crimp, the office manager, Lesslie K. Watson, and Arthur Gott.
A remarkable aspect of Scott's career was how he rose to the technological challenges of the twentieth century, for which his training as a church architect can hardly have prepared him. In 1924 he was one of three architects invited by the newly founded Royal Fine Arts Commission to design a standard telephone kiosk for the General Post Office. Scott proposed a classical design in cast iron surmounted by a Soanian dome which reflected the contemporary interest in Regency architecture (it may be significant that he became a trustee of Sir John Soane's Museum at this time). This was chosen the following year and went into production as the General Post Office's kiosk no. 2. Scott subsequently adapted his design for other kiosk types and a decade later reduced and refined it for mass production, giving the fenestration a more horizontal and modernistic character. This, the no. 6 or jubilee kiosk, was introduced in 1935 and soon became ubiquitous and a familiar aspect of the British landscape.
Scott's resourceful talent as an industrial designer was confirmed in 1930, when he was asked to act as consultant architect to the London Power Company for its electricity generating station in Battersea. This large and controversial structure had already been designed by J. Theo Halliday, of Halliday and Agate, and the engineer Sir Leonard Pearce. Scott's evident ability to handle huge awe-inspiring masses of masonry, to balance concentrated ornament against bare wall-surfaces, was put to good effect in such buildings; he chose the external bricks, detailed the walls with jazz modern fluting to humanize the structure while not denying its scale or industrial character, and remodelled the four corner chimneys to resemble classical columns. After the first half of the Battersea power station was completed in 1933, it became one of the most admired as well as conspicuous modern buildings in London. Whatever criticisms have been levelled against it, it remains one of the first examples in England of frankly contemporary industrial architecture, concluded Nikolaus Pevsner in 1957 (Pevsner, London
, 1957, 510).
Scott's success at Battersea resulted in similar industrial commissions, notably the Guinness brewery at Park Royal (19335), where he worked with the consulting engineers, Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners, on designing the several large brick-faced blocks; Scott wrote of such work that there is not nearly as much to do as might be anticipated from the size of the buildings (Scott to H. Robertson, 17 Oct 1947, RIBA). In 1932 he was appointed by the London county council to design the controversial new Waterloo Bridge. Working with the engineers Rendel, Palmer, and Tritton and with Sir Pearson Frank, he proposed an austere and elegant structure of reinforced concrete with five shallow arches faced externally in Portland stone. After further controversy over the demolition of John Rennie's Greek Doric bridge, work on its replacement began in 1937 and it was formally opened in 1945, although without the railings or the sculptural groups at either end proposed by the architect.
Having demonstrated such versatility and openness to new ideas, Scott was an ideal choice for president when the Royal Institute of British Architects was celebrating its centenary. It was a time when the authority of historical styles was being undermined by the impact of ideas from the modern movement in Europe and, in his inaugural address, delivered in 1933, Scott announced that I hold no brief either for the extreme diehard Traditionalist or the extreme Modernist and it seems to me idle to compare styles and say that one is better than another. Scott believed in a middle line and was impatient of dogma, although happy to use new types of construction such as reinforced concrete when appropriate; his approach to design was intuitive rather than intellectual. He was not hostile to modernism, and recognized its negative quality of utter simplicity as a healthy reaction against unintelligent Traditionalism. But although he liked fast cars (and drove a Buick at the time), Scott believed that the machine aesthetic had been taken to extremes at the expense of the human element in architecture: I should feel happier about the future of architecture had the best ideas of Modernism been grafted upon the best traditions of the past, in other words, if Modernism had come by evolution rather than by revolution (RIBA Journal
, 11 Nov 1933, 514).
Scott's belief in compromise and in gradual evolution was to be rejected in the changed architectural climate after the Second World War, but at first enemy bombs brought opportunities. He was appointed architect for the new Coventry Cathedral in 1942, following the destruction of the town centre, and prepared a scheme with a remarkable centralized plan around a free-standing baldachin. The arrival of a new bishop in 1943 obliged him to modernize the interior with unusual parabolic arches, but this scheme was criticized by the Royal Fine Arts Commission for its compromised character and in 1947 Scott resigned, commenting that
it is unlikely that a modernist or a traditional design will ever meet the approval of both parties. … These differences of opinion, and the formation of numerous societies, committees and commissions etc. to give them expression, are characteristics of our time; they harass the unfortunate artist and hamper the production of the work. (Scott to the provost of Coventry, 2 Jan 1947, RIBA)
Scott's scheme for rebuilding the House of Commons was less controversial. Following the decision by the wartime parliament to rebuild the chamber exactly the same size and shape as the old, a select committee sought the architect best qualified to provide plans in keeping with the Gothic style of the Palace (Select committee on the House of Commons, 4), so that Scott's appointment in 1944 now seems almost inevitable. Assisted by his younger brother Adrian and working with Dr Oscar Faber as consulting engineer, he succeeded in creating a new chamber in harmony with, but distinct from, the surrounding architecture by Barry and Pugin, while incorporating new technology and creating much more ancillary accommodation within the confined space. Scott described this as the most complex building with which he had ever been involved, and compared the new interior to that of a battleship. He followed Pugin in adapting Gothic to new purposes, but his was different, personal in style and characteristic of his time. Feeling as we do that modernist architecture in its present state is quite unsuitable for the rebuilding of the House of Commons, Scott wrote,
and bearing in mind that the Chamber forms only a small portion of an existing large building, we are strongly of the opinion that the style adopted should be in sympathy with the rest of the structure, even if it has to differ in some degree in order to achieve a better quality of design. (Select committee on the House of Commons, 8)
Although when the new chamber was opened in 1950, few had a good word to say for Scott's unfashionable Neon Gothic, both the tact and the cleverness of his approach have become evident over the intervening years.
Scott also rebuilt the war-damaged hall of London's Guildhall for the city corporation (195054), replacing Sir Horace Jones's Victorian timber roof with one with transverse stone arches which the medieval original probably possessed. In addition, he designed an office building to the north in his modernistic brick manner. But his greatest impact on the City of London was to rebuild Bankside power station on the south bank of the Thames opposite St Paul's Cathedral, even though the Royal Academy planning committee, which he had chaired after the death of Sir Edwin Lutyens, had advocated the removal of industrial buildings from such sites in 1944. Scott's design was published in 1947 and provoked controversy, with the architect lamely countering that power stations can be fine buildings, but it must be demonstrated (The Builder
, 23 May 1947, 494).
This Scott certainly did demonstrate in what was his supreme cathedral of power. He disagreed with modernists by arguing that appropriate ornament had a purpose even in industrial buildings, and that contrast between plain surfaces and sparse well-placed ornament can produce a charming effect (Stamp and Harte). At Bankside the brickwork is superb, achieving a monumentality that reflects Scott's generation's interest in the sublime monuments of the ancient world, and, in contrast to Battersea where he had never been happy with the upturned table configuration, he contrived to gather all the flues into one single chimney or campanile. Completed in 1960, the building had a short life as an oil-fired power station before becoming an art gallery, Tate Modern at Bankside, although in the conversion carried out in the 1990s by the Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, the symmetrical stepped profile of the principal elevation was removed.
Death, the work of his son and brother, and posthumous reputation
Scott continued to design churches in the post-war years which, although superficially conservative, reveal a continuing interest in internal structural expression. In his new Carmelite church in Kensington (19549), which replaced another casualty of the Second World War, Scott used transverse concrete arches pierced by passage aisles to support a continuous clerestory as well as developing his favourite motif of flush transepts. The new Roman Catholic church in Preston (19549) is reminiscent of his pre-war church at Luton in its repetitive length. Scott's last church was the Roman Catholic church of Christ the King at Plymouth, and he was working on the preliminary details of the executed scheme in University College Hospital when he died there of lung cancer on 9 February 1960.
After a requiem mass at St James's, Spanish Place, London, Scott was buried by the Benedictine monks of Ampleforth outside the west end of his great cathedral at Liverpool next to his wife at a point which should have been enclosed by a porte-cochère
had his final design of 1942 been carried out. The marriage had been singularly happy and they had three sons, of whom two survived infancy. The younger, Richard Gilbert Scott (b
. 12 Dec 1923), trained as an architect and became a partner in the firm in 1952, before eventually completing several projects such as the Guildhall Library, London, but he resigned from Liverpool Cathedral rather than make further economies to his father's conception. The firm of Sir Giles Scott, Son & Partner was finally dissolved in 1986. Until 1934 Giles Scott practised from 7 Gray's Inn Square, where Bodley had had his office; he then worked in 3 Field Court, Gray's Inn, and in 1956 moved to 6 Gray's Inn Square. He shared these offices with his younger architect brother, Adrian.
Adrian Gilbert Scott
was born on 6 August 1882 and had also been articled to Temple Moore. He assisted his brother Giles in early domestic jobs such as Greystanes, Mill Hill (1907), and during the First World War served in the Royal Engineers at Gallipoli and Egypt and was awarded the Military Cross. His principal work was the Anglican cathedral in Cairo (19338; dem.), for which the first designs were made in 1918. Most of his other buildings were for the Roman Catholic church and are very similar in style to his brother's. Adrian Scott also designed his own house, Shepherd's Well, Frognal Way, Hampstead (1930), in a neo-Georgian manner. After the Second World War, during which he was deputy controller of military aircraft production, Adrian Scott rebuilt the Roman Catholic church of Sts Joseph and Mary in Lansbury, Poplar (19513), using a pyramidal cruciform plan similar to that earlier used for St James's Church, Vancouver (1937). Mercifully, his simplified scheme for completing the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens was soon abandoned. A particular success was the rebuilding of St Leonard's Church, Hastings (195361), which is enlivened by nautical symbolism. Adrian Scott married Barbara Agnes, daughter of the marine painter Charles Napier Hemy. He died on 23 April 1963 and was buried alongside his wife and father in the Hampstead churchyard extension.
Of Giles Gilbert Scott, A. S. G. Butler recalled that this excellent architect was a man of medium height and, at first sight, not unduly impressive, in view of his high distinction. He was very modest and approachable, with a charming sense of humour (DNB
). Apart from architecture, Scott's passion was for golf. He lost most of his hair at an early age and John Summerson, who worked briefly in his office, was initially dismayed to find that the famous architect was a short man in an overcoat and bowler hat, with a newspaper under his arm, smoking a cigarette (he then smoked sixty a day): I was disappointed that the creator of so passionate a piece of architecture as Liverpool Cathedral could be so unpassioned in his person (autobiography of Sir John Summerson). In many ways Scott had a very conventional outlook, and assistants were sometimes disconcerted by his golfing and business friends. He was a jovial, generous man who looked more like a cheerful naval officer than an architect (Birmingham Post
, 10 Feb 1960), recorded Sir John Betjeman. For Sir Hubert Worthington his was a singularly beautiful character, free of the jealousies that so often spoil the successful artist. He bore life's triumphs and life's trials with an unruffled serenity (RIBA Journal
, April 1960, 194).
Scott became a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1912 and received the institute's royal gold medal in 1925. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1918 and a full academician in 1922, the youngest since Turner. He was knighted in 1924 after the consecration of the first portion of Liverpool Cathedral and was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1944. He was also made a knight of the order of St Olaf of Norway for his advice on the completion of Trondheim Cathedral.
correspondence and drawings, RIBA BAL · H. Worthington, RIBA Journal, 67 (195960), 1934 · N. Pevsner, ArchR, 127 (1960), 4246 · Architect and Building News (20 April 1960), 51116 · The Builder, 198 (1960), 3456 · The Times (10 Feb 1960) · Manchester Guardian (10 Feb 1960) · J. Betjeman, Birmingham Post (10 Feb 1960) · Liverpool Daily Post (10 Feb 1960) · private information (2004) [Richard Gilbert Scott, son; colleagues] · family papers, priv. coll. · G. Scott, My life for one job, Daily Herald (12 Nov 1931) · C. H. Reilly, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Building (March 1929), 10611 [repr. in Representative British architects of today (1931), 14256] · G. G. Scott, RIBA Journal, 42 (1933), 514 · G. G. Scott, The Builder (23 May 1947) · G. Stamp and G. B. Harte, Temples of power (1979) · unpublished autobiography of Sir John Summerson · P. Kennerley, The building of Liverpool Cathedral (1991) · Profile: Giles Gilbert Scott, The Observer (29 Oct 1950) · G. Stamp, Giles Gilbert Scott: the problem of Modernism, Britain in the Thirties: Architectural Design, 49/1011 (1979), 7283 · J. Heseltine, G. Fisher, G. Stamp, and others, eds., Catalogue of the drawings collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects: the Scott family (1981) · V. E. Cotton, The book of Liverpool Cathedral (1964) · B. Ford, ed., The Cambridge guide to the arts in Britain, 8 (1989) · H. S. Goodhart-Rendel, English architecture since the Regency (1953) · DNB · London: the cities of London and Westminster, Pevsner (1957) · Select committee on the House of Commons, Parl. papers (19434), 2.591, no. 109 · C. Riding and J. Riding, The houses of parliament: history, art, architecture (2000) · G. Stamp, Giles Gilbert Scott and Bankside power station, Building Tate Modern, ed. R. Moore and R. Ryan (2000)
CUL, notebook of memoranda, sketches, etc.
Pembroke Cam., letters
RIBA, professional corresp., drawings, sketchbooks | RIBA BAL, letters to W. W. Begley
St Deiniol's Library, Hawarden, corresp. with Henry N. Gladstone relating to Burton church
W. Stoneman, two photographs, 192444, NPG · P. Evans, pen-and-ink drawing, 1927, NPG · H. Coster, photograph, 1934, NPG [see illus.] · R. G. Eves, oils, 1935, NPG · R. G. Eves, oils, 1935, RIBA · R. Guthrie, chalk drawing, 1937, NPG
Wealth at death
£98,965 0s. 1d.: probate, 3 May 1960, CGPLA Eng. & Wales