While Brownsover Hall was still in its early stages, Sir George Gilbert Scott was very fortunate to receive a somewhat smaller commission, where he was allowed to put into practice, ‘a great deal of what I was working out’ at the time. This was a house that he built for William Henry Forman (1794-1869), a millionaire ironmaster, at Dorking in Surrey. Forman bought the eighteenth century Pippbrook House, which stood on a sloping site on the southern edge of Dorking overlooking the Surrey Hills, and in 1855 commissioned Scott to turn it into a Gothic mansion. Scott made a modest little house into something more appropriate to the wealth and dignity of its owner. His main addition to the old house is two storeys high, with a basement and a high-pitched roof with dormers behind a parapet. It is an asymmetrical design with bay windows to make the most of the views to the south-west. The style is Middle Pointed with square-heads to most of the windows and the work was carried out by Francis Ruddle between 1856-7.
Almost before the work was completed, Forman decided to add a museum to the rear of the house, where the ground falls away to the south, to house his collection of antiquities. This is a large single-storied room, on a basement which emerges out of the sloping ground, and is of a much more advanced design than the rest of the house with a range of pointed traceried windows at the main level, the design exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1858. The house cost Forman the then enormous sum of £20,000, and was the public library of Dorking until it closed in 2012. It displays the sort of opulence, particularly in its interiors, which Scott would have thought befitted his client. However, the special interest of Scott’s work at Pippbrook is that it shows, with the extension, the exact time when he gained enough confidence to actually build a domestic building in a High Victorian Gothic style that he had been thinking about since the Hamburg Rathaus design, and was able to explain in a second book which he writing at the time. This was his Remarks on Secular & Domestic Architecture, Present & Future, which John Murray published in 1857, with a second, slightly amended, edition in the following year.
Scott’s Recollections, II 272.
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), 28 [b & c].
Crook, J. M., The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches, Style and Status in Victorian and Edwardian Architecture (John Murray, London, 1999), p. 288, n. 22.
Eastlake, C. L., A History of the Gothic Revival (Longmans, Green and Co., London 1872), p. .