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Image of Black and white photo. A sitting woman wearing Victorian dress, a man standing with his elbow leaning on the back of the chair.
George Gilbert Scott Jr; Ellen Gilbert Scott (née King Sampson) by W.M. Clarke albumen carte-de-visite, circa 1872 NPG x126180 © National Portrait Gallery, London. Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Jesuan architect's drawings acquired for University Library

The University Library has acquired the Scott family’s architectural drawings, including drawings by Jesuan George Gilbert Scott Junior (1863) and his son, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of the University Library (UL) building.

Until recently, the UL’s manuscript collections contained very little relating to the Scotts’ projects other than for the UL itself. Now, thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Cambridge University Library and an individual donor, the UL has acquired a group of over three hundred plans, elevations and other architectural drawings, assembled by the late architectural historian Gavin Stamp.

George Gilbert Scott Junior (1839–97) read Moral Sciences at Jesus and was elected to a Fellowship, which he was obliged to give up on his marriage. He had an extensive practice, ranging from churches and country houses to University and College buildings. He was the son of Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811–78) of Albert Memorial and St Pancras station fame, and the father of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880–1960), architect of the UL.

The George Gilbert Scott Junior drawings are from the 1870s and 1880s. Those with local or regional connections include: work on St Andrew’s Church in Cherry Hinton; the Catholic church of St John the Baptist, now the Cathedral, in Norwich; Garboldisham Manor in Norfolk; and a charming presentation drawing for the West Gate of St Peter’s Church, Ipswich, in pen and coloured washes.

Of particular interest are drawings relating to work done for Cambridge Colleges: George Junior's proposals for the restoration of Christ’s College Hall, remodelling of the Wren Chapel and the construction of a hostel at Pembroke College.

This new accession places material relating directly to the UL building, designed by George Junior's son Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, in a broader context; throwing light on the Scotts’ professional practice.

The UL tower was the most distinctive addition made to the Cambridge skyline during the Twentieth Century, and the building remains the largest single construction in the University’s property portfolio. Notwithstanding a somewhat forbidding outward appearance, it has grown to be much-loved during its eighty-odd year existence.

Sir Giles wrote that his aim had been ‘to produce a quiet, dignified building, relying for effect upon its main lines rather than upon elaboration of detail’, and many have drawn attention to the ‘family resemblance’ these lines share with other of Sir Giles’ productions, such as the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool and the Battersea and Bankside power stations in London.

Gavin Stamp studied at Gonville and Caius College, where his PhD thesis was titled: George Gilbert Scott, junior, architect, 1839–1897. The Scott collection was not mentioned in any printed catalogues or in Stamp’s own publications, and is entirely new to wider scholarship. The drawings are complemented by additional Scott family papers and correspondence.

The collection has the classmark MS Add.10327. 

This article has been adapted with the kind permission of the original author, Mr John Wells. It originally appeared in the summer 2020 edition of the Friends of Cambridge University Library newsletter.


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