West front, Hereford Cathedral was designed by John Oldrid Scott in 1902-8.

Hereford, like most English cathedrals, has had more than its fair share of misfortunes. The biggest came in 1787, when its west front collapsed. It had been its original Romanesque façade, with a foolhardy fourteenth-century three-storey central tower raised between the two Norman turrets. Its second misfortune was that it was repaired by James “Destroyer” Wyatt, who disposed of the fragments, demolished a bay, and put up a façade of his usual, witless Gothick. An earthquake in 1896 gave an excuse for clergy to replace it. 

Scott’s new Hollington sandstone façade has not been popular. Pevsner was rather disappointed by it, holding reservations about how little the design had to do with the shape of the building behind, despite the fact the original west front clearly went far higher than the Romanesque aisle roofs. His criticism of Scott’s choice of Decorated style is also curious, since the aisle walls and vaults had been raised in the fourteenth century, making the shape of the cross-section essentially of that date.

Scott essentially dressed up Wyatt’s west front around a large west window, but increased its depth, something early Gothic Revival always had a problem with. He used great projecting central buttresses and side turrets to create a series of porches. Any problems with the façade can be excused by Scott’s need to work with the section of the nave as Wyatt left it, for he had totally rebuilt the upper two stories of the interior, removing all wall passages. The only way of really pleasing everyone would have been the enormously expensive task of sweeping away Wyatt’s work, restoring the original western tower and interior elevation.