Gavin Stamp’s knowledgeable championship of the Gilbert Scott dynasty of architects is so well established that I approached this beautifully produced book, resplendent with polychrome brickwork and painted ceilings, with some trepidation, being far less qualified to pronounce on the Scott oeuvre than the author. I need not have worried, for underlying everything specific that Stamp has to say about George Gilbert Scott’s work in soaring iron and stone is a wider theme, never laboured but constantly present, relating to the Victorian era itself, its remarkable technical achievements and 20th-century reactions to them. In concentrating on one emblematic figure, Stamp carries us through not only the massive practical and social revolutions that the railways brought in their wake but also the impassioned religious battles between high and low Anglicanism that were a feature of the era, bringing us eventually to the inexorable decline of both Victorian pride in material progress and religious faith itself.
The tide was already beginning to turn against Scott, and more specifically against what many considered his over-restoration of ancient churches, by the last years of his life. Ruskin refused a gold medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1873 because Scott was then its president, informing Thomas