In 1842, Sir George Gilbert Scott and Moffatt entered a competition for Reading Gaol, and Mr Russell, Inspector of Prisons, chose their design. Presumably Moffatt did the planning, although the government laid down strict requirements and the only scope for originality was in the elevational treatment. Pentonville, the model prison, was in a classical style, but Scott chose a late Perpendicular castle style for Reading, like Herstmonceux Castle, in red brick with stone dressings. The entrance area was highly ornamented with Tudor mullion windows, castellated turrets and battered walls of diapered brickwork. It was described as ‘resembling more a ducal seat than a penitentiary’, with the style both ‘castellated and collegiate’. The building was hugely expensive for those days, costing a total of £32,959, of which Scott and Moffatt, and the Clerk of Works, received £1,460 between them, for fees. Russell blamed the architects for this run-away expenditure, to which Scott wryly commented that it ‘perhaps served us right for being so easily gulled. I doubt, however whether it was more costly than other prisons & it is unquestionably a first rate building’. Nevertheless, the general feeling that the high cost of prisons was often attributable to the unnecessary decoration included by architects in their schemes, seems to have had some justification.
King, A. D. (ed.), Buildings and Society: Essays on the Social Development of the Built Environment (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1980), p. 110.
The Surveyor, Engineer and Architect V (1843), p. 374.
Scott’s Recollections, I 319.