Life and career
Born in Gawcott, Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, Scott was the son of a cleric and grandson of the biblical commentator . 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, a field in which Scott was to begin his independent career.
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.
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. 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. Scott's first church, St Nicholas', was built at Lincoln, after winning a competition in 1838. With Moffat he built the Neo-Norman church of St Peter at Norbiton, Surrey (1841).
Meanwhile, he was inspired by Augustus Pugin to participate in the Gothic revival. While still in partnership with Moffat. he designed the Martyrs' Memorial on St Giles', Oxford (1841), 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. 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". It did, however, like many churches of the time, incorporate wooden galleries, not used in medieval churches 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. 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. Scott's entry had been the only design in the Gothic style.
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.
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
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.
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." 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.