Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Sir George Gilbert Scott

Born in Cawcott, Bucks, the son of the village Rector and builder, he trained with James Edmeston, 1827-31, and formed a partnership with W B Moffatt, 1834-45.

From then he worked independently, with his sons George and John Oldrid Scott as assistants.

Working almost exclusively in the Gothic style, he became one of the most succesful architects of his generation, but his unshakeable belief in the supremacy of Gothic over the Classical and Renaissance styles for public and collegiate buildings, together with his often conjectural 'restorations' of medieval churches, often resulted in controversy.

The 'Battle of the Styles' which raged between him and Lord Palmerston's government, after their rejection of his designs for the Foreign Office (1857) in preference for an Italian Renaissance alternative, dashed his hopes of gaining official recognition for Gothic as the state architectural style.

The battle was almost refought in Glasgow in the 1860s, when he was appointed to design Glasgow University (1864-70) in his favourite Gothic style, his opponents being the Classical and Renaissance minded Glasgow architects.

Led by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson , they argued that Gothic was a wholly inappropriate style for a modern Scottish educational institution and that Scott's overworked practice could only produce a second rate design.

However, having already set aside a florid Renaissance design by John Baird I (1846), the University Senate stuck to their guns and appointed Scott without further hesitation.

His finest Scottish buildings are St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh (1872-9) and the Albert Institute, Dundee (1865-7); whilst his St Mary's Episcopal Church (later Cathedral), Glasgow (1871-93) and Glasgow University (1864-71) were later completed and improved by John Oldrid Scott.

His most famous buildings in England are both in London, the Albert Memorial (1862-72), which incorporates his carved portrait (by J B Philip), and the Grand Midland Station and Hotel, St Pancras (1868-74), where his son George committed suicide in 1897.

His work outside Britain includes, the Nikolaikirche, Hamburg (1844-60), and St John's Cathedral, Newfoundland (1846).

Knighted in 1872, he served as RIBA President from 1873-5.

After his death, the firm passed to John Oldrid Scott and later to his grandson, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960), the architect of Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral.


Works in our Database:
1: University of Glasgow (Gilmorehill),
Main Building: Above the entrance to the Hunterian Museum
Portrait of William Hunter (not dated)
Sculptor: unknown; Architect: GG Scott
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