During the autumn of 1875, perhaps hastened by the Gold Medal affair, Scott was in a depressed mood. He wrote:
I became painfully impressed in the costliness of my mode of living & the falling off of My practice – & as My Son & Daughter in Law did not care for Ham determined to remove to London whether wisely or not God knows! We did not however move till a year later. I am now a Londoner & have much lost in position May God bless the change! I fear it was not well considered.
It was probably after he stood down as President that Scott bought the lease on two new houses in the area to the west of South Kensington which was being developed at the time. John Oldrid, with his wife and children, and Dukinfield moved in with him. The houses are at the junction of Collingham Road and Courtfield Gardens, then on the newly built Gunter Estate between Gloucester Road and Earl’s Court Stations. Scott lived in the larger of the two houses, Courtfield House, which faces Courtfield Gardens. The estate surveyor was Scott’s friend George Godwin, the editor of The Builder, who in partnership with his brother Henry, laid out the estate and designed its three Gothic-style churches. One of these, St Jude’s, is opposite Courtfield House. It is a hall church and was completed in 1870. But the great rows of tall terrace houses which make up the bulk of the estate were designed and built by William Jackson, a speculative builder.
Jackson started building on land adjacent to the South Kensington Commissioners’ estate in 1855 and, because of this, the design of his development required the approval of Prince Albert. Inevitably the houses are in an Italianate style echoing Osbourne. Jackson continued building westwards in the same style over the next twenty years and erected the Courtfield Gardens houses in about 1874. The Building News, perhaps in view of the involvement of its rival’s editor, was scathing about the development. In 1876 it said that it:
May be called the haut ton architecture of the day … There is a meretricious unentertaining character about it that would only suit the humdrum or the wearied follower of fashion, and would be almost agony to the genus irritable of poets and painters.
Scott had possibly met Jackson through Hunt, who had acted for Jackson in 1855, and Jackson may have been relieved to obtain someone of Scott’s wealth and prestige to take one of his largest mansions. Although the area was well served by the Metropolitan District underground railway, with direct connections to the mainline stations, it never became as fashionable as its developers had hoped. As early as 1878, The Estates Gazette reported that the builders were finding it hard to attract purchasers for their big houses and were subdividing them for multiple occupation. When the Scotts’ moved in there were still large tracts of open land to the south and west of Courtfield House waiting to be developed.
Scott had demonstrated the broadness of his taste in his choice of previous homes which all had particular virtues. The Grove has an unrivalled position on Hampstead Heath, The Manor House at Ham is a fine Georgian house and Rooks Nest is a magnificent Regency mansion. Courtfield House was very different to any of these. It was a brand-new, over-blown, double-fronted five storied house on a road junction. Although it has accommodation for a family of ten and ten living-in servants, it has no external space. However, the gardens of St Jude’s could be seen from the windows, which to Scott, a countryman at heart, was his ‘sole remaining joy’. It is hard to understand why Scott decided to move to Courtfield House, although Spring Gardens is only three miles away and the closeness of St Jude’s may also have been a factor. Its first vicar, the Reverend Robert Forrest, was appointed in 1870. He was a great Bible scholar, an outstanding preacher and was awarded a Doctorate in 1877, just the type of incumbent Scott would have felt at home with. St Jude’s was a new church in the old parish of Kensington and the grand mother church of the parish, St Mary Abbots, which Scott was rebuilding at the time, was only ten minutes walk to the north.
Scott’s move to Courtfield House was at the instigation of John Oldrid and his wife. It seems that after the loss of Caroline with her business like approach to his affairs, he increasingly placed John Oldrid in a special position of trust. On 28 November 1876, Scott signed what became his final will in the presence of his assistants, Charles Baker King and William Niven. It was drawn up by his nephew John Henry Scott, who was a solicitor in the City of London, and who seems to have taken the leading part in settling Scott’s affairs after his death. He was one of the executors, along with Scott’s youngest brother Melville and another nephew, Thomas Scott, the Vicar of West Ham. Scott stipulated that his personal effects should be divided between his four surviving sons and that George Gilbert and John Oldrid would have his architectural books and his practice, divided equally between them, and that they should continue his practice in partnership within twelve months of Scott’s decease. If they did not enter into partnership during this period, John Oldrid was to be given the option of taking over Spring Gardens and the practice. The loyal Pavings was awarded £200 for his years of service, the same as each of the three executors, and Dukinfield £3,000. Loans to his brother, William Langston Scott, and to his cousin William Henry Scott, were to be paid off and the residue of his estate was to be divided equally between his four sons. He made elaborate arrangements in case of a dispute between his sons, with an arbitrator to be appointed and, if necessary, an umpire.
Throughout his career Scott had constantly justified his professional decisions by referring to the needs of his wife and family. Now, with Caroline gone, the will shows that he was anxious to ensure that the benefits of his practice would pass to his remaining family. The meagre legacies and the loan from his bank to pay his medical expenses seem to indicate that he was not aware of the full extent of his wealth. In fact he left £120,000. After the loan was paid off the residue would make the four sons into very rich men. The two sons who were his companions at Courtfield House were to gain the most. Dukinfield’s £3,000 was a handsome legacy in 1876 for a young man of twenty-two, while John Oldrid would probably inherit the practice. When Scott drew up his will, John Oldrid was working alongside him at Spring Gardens while George Gilbert had his own office and was producing work very different to that of Scott’s. Scott must have known that a partnership between his two architect sons would not succeed and that John Oldrid would eventually take over the whole practice.