In 1856, the same year that Scott was commissioned to make his first report on St. Albans Abbey, he also became involved in the restoration of Hereford Cathedral. This again was due to the death of N. J. Cottingham who had been restoring the cathedral during his father’s long illness and subsequent death. Perhaps Sir George Gilbert Scott’s involvement with the Cocks and Biddulph families at Eastnor and Ledbury, both in the Diocese of Hereford, had helped his appointment. However the Dean of Hereford, Dr. Richard Dawes (1793-1867) was also a mathematician, and had been an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge, when Peacock was a lecturer in mathematics there. Scott described him as ‘My dear friend Dean Dawes’. In 1786, the fourteenth century west tower crashed down destroying a part of the nave and James Wyatt was called in by the Dean and Chapter to rebuild their shattered cathedral. Scott commented that ‘The nave had been wretchedly dealt with by Wyatt’, who also strengthened the central tower by inserting pillars across the transepts and removing the spire.
Scott inserted a new screen under the eastern tower arch which, advancing on the ideas that he had first used at Ely, was even more transparent by making it from metal rather than timber. It was built by Skidmore of Coventry in brass, copper and iron. As Scott remarks:
Mr Skidmore was anxious to have some great work in the Exhibition of ’62 & offered to make the Screen at a very low price I designed it on a somewhat massive scale thinking that it would go better with the heavy architecture of the choir Skidmore followed My design but somewhat aberrantly. It is a fine work but too “loud” and self-asserting for an English church.
The exhibition was intended to be a repeat of the Great Exhibition of 1851, but the death of Prince Albert, in the previous December, cast a blight on the whole affair. The mourning Queen sent her cousin, the Duke of Cambridge, to represent her at the opening ceremony on 1 May 1862. Skidmore’s screen was duly displayed at the exhibition, before it was finally installed at Hereford. It is described by Pevsner as a ‘High Victorian monument of the first order’, but it did not appeal to recent tastes and it was taken down in the 1970’s and has now been re-erected in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was the first of several open-work screens made by Skidmore to Scott’s designs, and it was followed by those for Lichfield, Salisbury and Worcester Cathedrals.
Scott also restored the exterior stonework of Hereford Cathedral, ‘with the least possible displacement of old stone’. Ruddle and Thompson of Peterborough were the builders and his Clerk of Works was William Chick, the Fabric Surveyor of the Cathedral, who also acted for him on other smaller restorations around Hereford. His other restoration work included a new east wall to the Lady Chapel; replacing the side pinnacles in the Lady Chapel; an east wheel window with arcaded niche and almond shape; restoring the circular windows in the east triforium of the north transept; and he moved monuments back to their original positions. The chancel tile pavement was made by William Godwin of Lugwardine and the west transept decorated by Octavius Hudson. He also restored the dismantle stallwork and rearranged the choir with gates to the north and south transepts made by Skidmore in 1864.
In 1867 Dean Dawes died, and Scott designed him a fine alabaster tomb-chest for the north-east transept of the cathedral with a marble effigy of the Dean by Matthew Noble on the top.
Wyatt’s feeble west front survived until 1902 when John Oldrid Scott produced the present highly ornate design, which was completed in 1908.
Colvin, H., A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1995), pp. 154, 725.
Dictionary of National Biography XIV, p. 213.
Scott’s Recollections, III 297, 301-2, IV 43, 51.
Storer, J., History and Antiquities of the Cathedral Churches of Great Britain (Rivingtons, Murray, Hatchard, Clarke, Taylor and Sherwood, Neely and Jones, London, 1816), vol. III, Hereford (f-g), plates (q).
Cole, D., The Work of Sir Gilbert Scott (The Architectural Press, London, 1980), p. 207.
Pevsner, N., Herefordshire, Buildings of England (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1973), p. 166.
Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, 2 volumes (Continium, London, 2001), p. 168.
Fisher, G., Stamp, G. and Heseltine, J., (eds), The Scott Family, Catalogue of the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects (Avebury Publishing, Amersham, 1981), 95 a.