Scott’s Churches and Morris Windows

The inaugural lecture in the series was given by Dr Sue Branfoot, who teaches at Reading University, mainly in Continuing Education. Her major research has been on Scott’s restorations of churches and cathedrals. Scott was involved in the restoration of all but three English cathedrals but was also, of course, one of the most important church architects of the 19th Century.

Scott was born in 1811 and came from a long line of clergymen. However, the church was not for him and in 1833 he qualified as an architect.

The Poor Law was passed in the following year and Scott’s first commissions were for workhouses. These, he thought, should be like a home from home, similar to an almshouse. One of his workhouses in Amersham, built in flint and brick, now houses Amersham Hospital.

In 1838 Scott was married in Boston. The broach spire of the church in nearby Sleaford was a favourite of his, dating from the 13th Century. It was a style that he subsequently used in many of his church designs, including that of Christ Church Southgate.

Mosaics by Salviati, such as that of the Christ Church reredos, were also often a feature in Scott’s churches, but each was individual: no details were ever repeated.

Scott designed several wrought iron choir screens in the Victorian Gothic Revival style (though not one at Southgate), which were made by Skidmore of Coventry. That which was made for Hereford Cathedral was displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1862 before being erected in the cathedral. It was subsequently sold and can now be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In 1862, after the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria announced a public competition to design a suitable memorial to her late husband. Scott won the competition and as a result was knighted. It was Scott’s intention that the Albert Memorial, in Hyde Park opposite the Royal Albert Hall, should be in marble but the Queen insisted that Albert was gilded. The statue was painted black during the Second World War, so as not to attract enemy aircraft, and has only recently been restored to its former gilded glory.

In 1865 Scott designed the St Pancras Station and Hotel, in High Gothic style. St Pancras Hotel is currently being renovated as part of the Kings Cross redevelopment programme. A similar design by Scott for the Foreign Office was rejected in favour of a second design (the present one) in the Italianate style.

By the time Scott died in 1878, he had designed almost 1000 buildings.

William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones met at Oxford in 1853. Both of them intended to enter the church but in fact they both left Oxford without finishing their degree. They both went to London, where they became friends with Rossetti and Philip Webb. Burne-Jones had decided to become an artist and Morris to train as an architect.

In the late 1850s Morris, Burne-Jones, and friends such as Philip Webb, Ford Madox Brown and Rossetti, formed their own design and decorating company, Morris and Company. They specialised in stained glass, furniture, wallpaper and fabrics.

Early windows by the firm can be seen in the church at Middleton Cheney, where the east window is by Morris and Ford Madox Brown. Other windows are by Burne-Jones and Madox Brown.

The Burne-Jones windows in Christ Church are light and delicate, using pale shades of glass, and come from his ‘White period’. In later windows the leading became much heavier and the pieces of glass smaller.

Dr Branfoot demonstrated developments in technique and design of stained glass by Morris and Company with slides from a variety of churches.

In answer to questions at the end of the lecture, Dr Branfoot suggested that the use of smaller pieces of glass enabled the designer to incorporate more textural nuances into his works.

Jill Bowden

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