Giles Gilbert Scott

Giles Gilbert Scott

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, OM, FRIBA (November 9 1880February 8 1960) was an English architect known for his work on such buildings as Liverpool Cathedral and Battersea Power Station.

He came from a family of architects. He was the son of George Gilbert Scott, Jr., the grandson of Sir George Gilbert Scott, a nephew of John Oldrid Scott, and brother of Adrian Gilbert Scott. Architect Richard Gilbert Scott was his son. Scott was noted for his blending of Gothic tradition with modernism, making what might have been functionally designed buildings into popular landmarks.


Born in London, Scott was the third son of George Gilbert Scott, Jr. When he was three, his father was declared as being of unsound mind and consequently his sons saw little of their father. Giles Gilbert Scott claimed to remember only seeing his father twice in his life. A bequest from his uncle in 1889 gave him ownership of Hollis Street Farm, near Ninfield, Sussex, with a life tenancy to his mother. It was here that they came to escape the occasional violent outbursts of his father. Fact|date=September 2007

Scott was sent to Beaumont College on the recommendation of his father, not because of any educational significance but because he admired the buildings of its preparatory school, the work of J. F. Bentley. Fact|date=September 2007Scott spent his school holidays 'steeple-chasing' with his mother, which meant riding round Sussex on bicycles to look at interesting church architecture. Giles Gilbert Scott and his siblings were raised as Roman Catholics by their mother. Fact|date=September 2007

Qualification as an architect

Scott's mother decided that Giles and his brother, Adrian, should become architects and he was articled to Temple Lushington Moore in 1899 for three years. Moore, who had been a pupil of Scott's father, actually worked at home while Scott worked in his office, which allowed Scott to develop his own architectural knowledge of his father's designs - which he regarded as the work of a genius, and superior to those of his grandfather (the latter judgment not shared by most architectural commentators).

Liverpool Cathedral

Scott is perhaps best-known for his work on Liverpool Cathedral. When the competition for a 'Design for a twentieth century cathedral' was announced in 1902, he began work on the drawings at his home in Battersea in his spare time. He was surprised to be one of the five architects selected for the second round of the competition (his employer's designs were rejected) and even more surprised to win, in 1903.

Because of these factors, the Dean and Chapter decided that Scott should work with George Frederick Bodley on the new Cathedral. However, they did not get on, with Scott complaining that Bodley had taken on too much other work. Scott was on the verge of resigning when Bodley died suddenly in 1907. This allowed Scott to continue single-handed and he immediately redesigned the Lady Chapel (one of the parts then under construction) more in the style he favoured.

In 1910 Scott realised that he was not happy with the main design, which looked like a traditional Gothic cathedral in the style originated in the previous century. He persuaded the cathedral committee to let him start all over again (a difficult decision, as some of the stonework had already been erected) and redesigned it as a simpler and more symmetrical building with a single massive central tower instead of the original proposal for twin towers.

With construction halted temporarily in the First World War and other delays, the building of the Cathedral lasted the whole of Scott's life and he remained involved in the project until his death, refining the design as he went. He designed every aspect of the building down to the fine details. With the choir and the first pair of transepts completed, the cathedral was consecrated in 1924. The tower was finished in 1942 but the first bay of the Nave was not completed until 1961, after Scott had died. The Cathedral was finished in 1978.

Other early work

While Scott was feuding with Bodley in Liverpool, he managed to design and see built his first complete church. This was the Church of the Annunciation, a Roman Catholic Church in Bournemouth, in which he made a high transept similar to that he wanted at Liverpool. His work on another new Roman Catholic Church at Sheringam,Norfolk showed his preference for simple Gothic frontages. Other churches built by Scott at this time, at Ramsey on the Isle of Man, Northfleet in Kent and Stoneycroft in Liverpool, show the development of his style. While working in Liverpool, Scott met and married Louise Wallbank Hughes, who was a receptionist at the Adelphi Hotel; his mother was reportedly displeased to learn that she was a Protestant. Fact|date=September 2007

During the First World War Scott was a Major in the Royal Marines. He was in charge of building sea defences on the English Channel coast.

Inter-war years

As Liverpool Cathedral rose Scott's fame rose too, and he began to secure commissions for secular buildings. One of the first was for Clare College, Cambridge, Memorial Court, which was in a neo-Georgian style on the west bank of the River Cam. This style was also used for a house he designed for himself in Clarendon Place, Paddington in 1924. Scott rarely designed residential buildings but when he did, they could be successful as the Cropthorne Court mansion block on Maida Vale in London, where the frontage juts out in diagonals in order to reduce the need for lightwells.

Scott continued working on churches during the inter-war years. Shortly after his work on the nave at Downside Abbey he was commissioned to design the small Roman Catholic church of [ Our Lady and St Alphege] , Oldfield Park, Bath, Somerset, the first part of which was completed in 1929. The design was inspired by the church of St Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Scott's distillation of the main elements of that large and ancient church into the much smaller Bath parish church has been described as "a delight" which "cannot fail to astonish" [ Forsyth M., "Bath", Pevsner; see now also Christopher Martin, "A Glimpse of Heaven: Catholic churches of England and Wales", English Heritage, 2006] . Some 25 years later he wrote "The church was my first essay into the Romanesque style of architecture. It has always been one of my favourite works". On the capital of one of the pillars beneath the west gallery D.W.Gough carved a representation of the architect, and a shield inscribed "AEGIDIO ARCHITECTO" (Giles Architect) - possibly the only depiction of Scott in stone.

By far Scott's most ubiquitous design was for the General Post Office. He was one of three architects invited by the Royal Fine Arts Commission to submit designs for new telephone kiosks. The invitation came at the time Scott was made a trustee of Sir John Soane's Museum. His design in the classical style, but topped with a dome reminiscent of Soane's self-designed mausoleum in St Pancras' Old Churchyard, London, won favour. It was put into production in cast iron as the GPO's "Kiosk no. 2" or "K2". Later designs adapted the same general look for mass-production: the Jubilee kiosk, introduced for King George V's silver jubilee in 1935 and known as the K6 eventually became a fixture in almost every town and village.

ignature buildings

The London Power Company had commissioned a new electricity generating station at Battersea and in 1930 commissioned Scott as a consultant to make the inevitably massive architecture more appealing. Scott chose external bricks and put some detailing on the sheer walls, then remodelled the four corner chimneys so that they resembled classical columns. Battersea Power Station, completed in 1933 but disused since 1982, remains one of the most conspicuous industrial buildings in London.

In Cambridge, next to Clare Memorial Court, Scott designed a matching library for the University of Cambridge. He placed two six-storey courtyards in parallel with a twelve-storey squat tower in the centre, and linked the windows vertically to the bookstacks.

Perhaps most iconically, however, Sir Giles also entered (and won) the 1924 competition to design a telephone kiosk that would be acceptable to the London Metropolitan Boroughs, which had hitherto rejected the previous design. No tourist visit to London is complete without a picture of one of Sir Giles's red telephone boxes.

Professional recognition

In the early 1930s Scott's reputation was at its height, and he was chosen as President of the Royal Institute of British Architects for 1933, its centenary year (having already been awarded the RIBA's prestigious Royal Gold Medal in 1925). In his inaugural address he criticised both the diehard traditionalist and the diehard modernist, calling for a "middle line" in which architects accepted new methods of construction while seeking to always place the human element in architecture.

Scott's search for the 'middle line' caused him difficulties when he was appointed as architect for the new Coventry Cathedral in 1942. Pressured by the new Bishop of Coventry for a modern design and by the Royal Fine Arts Commission for a recreation of the old cathedral, he was criticised for trying to compromise between the two and designing a building that was neither fish nor fowl. Unable to reconcile these differences Scott resigned in 1947; a competition was held and won by Sir Basil Spence with an uncompromisingly modern design.

After the Commons chamber of the Palace of Westminster was destroyed by bombs in 1941, Scott was appointed in 1944 to rebuild it. Here he was hemmed in entirely by the surviving building, but was entirely of the view that the new chamber should be congruent with the old as anything else would clash with the Gothic style of Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. This view found favour with Winston Churchill who observed "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." In a debate on January 25 1945 the House of Commons approved his choice by 121 to 21 on a free vote.

Late work

After the immediate rush for building work caused by war damage had died down, Scott put a new roof on the Guildhall in the City of London and designed modernistic brick offices for the Corporation just to the north. Despite having opposed placing heavily industrial buildings in the centre of cities, he accepted a commission to build Bankside Power Station on the bank of the River Thames in Southwark, where he built on what he had learnt at Battersea and gathered all the flues into a single tower. This building was converted in the late 1990s into Tate Modern art gallery.

Scott continued to receive commissions for religious buildings. At Preston he built a Roman Catholic Church which is notable for an unusually long and repetitive nave. His Carmelite Church in Kensington used transverse concrete arches to fill a difficult site (the church replaced another lost in the war).


Scott remained working into his late 70s. He was working on designs for the Roman Catholic Church of Christ the King, Plymouth, when he contracted lung cancer. He took the designs into University College Hospital, where he continued to revise them until his death on February 9 1960, aged 79.

He is buried with his wife outside the main entrance to Liverpool Cathedral. A requiem mass for Scott was said by Father Patrick Casey at St. James Roman Catholic Church, Spanish Place, London, on February 17 1960.


A comprehensive list of Giles Gilbert Scott's designs:
*St. Botolph's Church, Carlton-in-Cleveland, Yorkshire (1896 - 1897; Gilbert Scott did not design the church but was Clerk of the Works)
*Nanfans (private house), Prestwood, Buckinghamshire (1903)
*Liverpool Cathedral (design 1903 - Scott continued to be associated with the building until his death)
*Chapel on London Road, Harrow, London (1905 - 1906)
*Church of the Annunciation (RC), Bournemouth (1906)
*Church of the Holy Ghost, Midsomer Norton (1907-1913; conversion of a tithe barn for use as a church)
*Nave seating, All Saints' Church, Bubwith, East Riding of Yorkshire (1909)
*East window, St. Giles' Church, Burnby, East Riding of Yorkshire (1909)
*Our Lady Star of the Sea and St. Maughold Church (RC), Ramsey, Isle of Man, (1909 - 1912)
*Nave, St. Mary's Church, Bury (c. 1910)
*St. Michael and St. George Cathedral, Grahamstown, South Africa, (c. 1910)
*restoration of cloisters, including east window of the refectory and the Rood in the crossing at Chester Cathedral (1911 - 1913)
*Chancel of All Hallows' Church, Gospel Oak (1913 - 1915)
*Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (RC), Northfleet, Kent (1913 - 1916)
*Lady Chapel Reredos, St. Michael's Church (RC), Elswick, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1914)
*Rood Beam, St. Deiniol's Church, Hawarden, Flintshire (1915 - 1916)
*St. Paul's Church, Stoneycroft, Liverpool (1916) [ weblink]
*Chancel, St. Catherine's Church, Pontypridd (1919)
*War memorial, Hanmer, Flintshire (1919)
*War memorial, Hawarden, Flintshire (1919 - 1920)
*War memorial, St. Saviour's Church, Oxton, Birkenhead (1920)
*War memorial cross, Our Lady of Victories Church (RC), Clapham (1920)
*Alterations to south chancel chapel, Church of St. Mary Abbot Kensington (1920 - 1921)
*War Memorial Chapel, Church of St. Michael Chester Square, Belgravia (1920 - 1921)
*Rectory, War memorial tablet and northern aisle screen, Holy Trinity Church, Trefnant, Denbighshire (1921)
*New church, Ampleforth Abbey, Gilling, North Riding of Yorkshire (1922, not completed until 1961)
*Extensions to Junior House, Ampleforth College, Gilling, North Riding of Yorkshire (1920s -1930s)
*Memorial Court, Clare College, Cambridge (1923 - 1934)
*Nave and monument to Abbot Ramsay, Downside Abbey, Somerset (c. 1923 - 1925)
*K2 Red telephone box (1924)
*Reconstruction of St George's Church, Kidderminster (after 1924)
*War memorial, All Saints' Church, Wigan (1925)
*Church of St. Alban and St. Michael, Golders Green (1925, built 1932 - 1933)
*Chester House (private house), Clarendon Place, Paddington, London (1925 - 1926; his own home)
*Charterhouse School chapel, Godalming, the largest war memorial in England (1922; completed and consecrated 1927)
*War memorial, Market Square, Preston and Municipal Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum, (1923 - 1927); completed and unveiled 1927)
*All Saints' Church, Wallasey (1927 - 1939, uncompleted)
*Church of St. Michael, Ashford, Surrey (1928; uncompleted)
*New Chapel, Bromsgrove School, Bromsgrove (1928 - 1939)
*Continuation of the north range, St. Swithun's Buildings, Magdalen College, Oxford (1928 - 1930)
*St. Ninian's Church (RC), Restalrig, Edinburgh (1929; uncompleted)
*Our Lady & St Alphege, Oldfield Park, Bath, Somerset 1929 [ weblink] .
*St. Francis of Assisi Church, High Wycombe (1929 - 1930) [ weblink]
*Whitelands College (Church of England), Wandsworth (1929 - 1931)
*Plinth for statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Burlington House, Piccadilly (1929 - 1931)
*Battersea Power Station, London (consultant on exteriors 1929 - 1935)
*North East Tower, Our Lady of Grace and St. Edward Church (RC), Chiswick (1930)
*K3 Red telephone box (1930)
*Phoenix Theatre, off Charing Cross Road, London (1930 with Bertie Crewe)
*Altar, St. Augustine's, Kilburn, Kilburn Park Road, London (1930)
*St. Columba's Cathedral, Oban, Argyll 1930 - 1953)
*Cropthorne Court (private residences), Maida Vale (1930 - 1937)
*Apse and north tower, Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea (RC), Broadstairs, Kent (1930 - 1931)
*Classroom range, Gilling Castle, Gilling, Yorkshire (after 1930)
*St. Andrew's Church, Luton (1931 - 1932)
*Chapel and college buildings, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (1931)
*New University Library, West Road, Cambridge (1931 - 1934)
*Whitelands College, West Hill, Putney, South London (1931)
*William Booth Memorial Training College, Camberwell, South London (1932)
*Vincent House, Vincent Square, Westminster (1932; consultant)
*Clergy House for St. Francis of Assisi Church, High Wycombe (1933)
*Guinness Brewery, Park Royal, London (1933 - 1935) "(demolished 2006)"
*Buildings in north court, Trinity Hall, Cambridge (1934)
*Font, Church of St. Michael, Chester Square, Belgravia (1934)
*Additions to St. Joseph's Church (RC), Sheringham, Norfolk (1934)
*Restoration of St. Etheldreda's Church (RC), Ely Place, Holborn (1935)
*Fountains House, Park Lane, London (1935 - 1938; consultant)
*K6 red telephone box (1935)
*Main Building, University of Southampton, Southampton (1935, in association with Gutteridge and Gutteridge)
*Private house, 22 Weymouth Street, St. Marylebone (1936)
*New Bodleian Library at Oxford (1937 - 1940)
*Alterations to barn at Denham Golf Club, Denham, Buckinghamshire (1938)
*St. Anne's College, Oxford (1938)
*High pedestal for King George V monument, Old Palace Yard, Westminster (1939)
*North and South Blocks, County Hall, London (1939 and 1950 - 1958)
*Waterloo Bridge, London (1937 - 1940)
*Chamber of the House of Commons, Palace of Westminster (1945 - 1950)
*War memorial, St. John the Baptist Church, Penshurst, Kent (1947)
*Forth Road Bridge (1947; consultant)
*Bankside Power Station, London (1947, constructed 1957 - 1960) (now the Tate Modern art gallery)
*Extension to St. Anne's College, Oxford (1949 - 1951)
*Rye House Power Station, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (c. 1952) (demolished early 1990s)
*St. Leonard's Church, Saint Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings (1953 - 1961, with his brother Adrian)
*Roof for the bomb-damaged Guildhall, City of London (1953 - 1954)
*Extension at Clare Memorial Court, Clare College, Cambridge (1953 - 1955)
*Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church (RC), Kensington (1954 - 1959)
*St. Anthony's Church (RC), Preston (1954 - 1959)
*Offices for the City of London Corporation, Guildhall, City of London (1955 - 1958; alterations and refurbishment proposed)
*Chapel of Trinity College, University of Toronto, Canada (1955)
*North Tees Power Station, Billingham (1950s; demolished)
*St. Mark's Church, Biggin Hill (1957 - 1959)
*Church of Christ the King (RC), Plymouth (1961 - 1962; built posthumously)
*St Joseph Church [Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East, By Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson ISBN 0-300-09607-0 ] (RC) Sheringam, Norfolk, 1910-1936


*Gavin Stamp, 'Giles Gilbert Scott' in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.


*Michael Forsyth, Page 291, "BATH", Pevsner Architectural Guides, Yale University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-300-10177-5.

External links

* [ Design Museum biography]


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