St Andrew’s, Bradfield

Between his trips abroad in 1847, Sir George Gilbert Scott was contacted by his friend, Thomas Stevens, who had left Staffordshire in 1842, where he had been an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner and the Curate of Keele. He had returned home to Bradfield in Berkshire, to the west of Reading, where his father, Henry Stevens, had been the squire and Rector. In 1843, he was himself appointed Rector of Bradfield. Soon afterwards, Stevens and Scott met at Bradfield ‘to consult together as to the restoration of the church’, but ‘happily’, according to Scott, nothing happened for about ten years. Work started in about 1848, which in spite of his Aylesbury lecture, seems to have been a ‘Destructive’ restoration, leaving little of the old church standing other than its sixteenth century brick and flint tower, and the north aisle. Stevens was an architectural enthusiast and was, so Scott said:

a man of very strong views & will a detester of everything weak mean, or unmanly. He as a natural consequence of this disposition he took a very determined liking to the transitional or what we usually called the ‘Square Abacus’ style. I participated strongly in this preference as a matter of taste though as a matter of theory I held with the general use of the early decorated as the point of highest perfection in the style generally.

So very soon after having produced clear public statements on the particular type of Gothic architecture that he considered to the best for new churches in his Hamburg report, and in his Aylesbury lectures on the most suitable method of restoration, Stevens was able to make him retreat from both of these stated aims. This would not be the last time that Scott had to withdraw a widely proclaimed view in the face of determined opposition, but Stevens’s friendliness towards him allowed him to accept defeat with equanimity. ‘Many were the friendly & jocose disputations’ that he and Stevens had on the question of what was the most perfect period of Gothic.

Scott’s work on Bradfield Church ‘was a time of great pleasure owing to my constant & most friendly communication with Mr. Stevens’. Externally Bradfield Church ended up as an informal composition entirely appropriate for the picturesque village and later Scott said he thought that it was ‘one of my best works’.

Scott’s Recollections, I 325, II 106-7, 109.

St Andrew’s College, Bradfield

In 1850 Stevens decided to found a boys school, which he called St. Andrews College, on the site of Bradfield Place, close to the church. He incorporated some fragments from the old buildings into his new school buildings, including part of a very large barn. Sir George Gilbert Scott says:

To the buildings of the College I do not claim to be the Architect it was not built but grew of itself bit by bit as it was wanted each part being planned by Mr. Stevens helped a little by me or by my clerk Coad. The Hall is the part I may chiefly claim as my own.

This hall was built in 1856, with late thirteenth century details externally but its great glory is in its stained glass, of which the west window is a very early work of Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

Scott’s assistant, Richard Coad (1825-1900), came from Liskeard in Cornwall, and entered Scott and Moffatt’s office in 1843, staying until 1864. John Oldrid, Scott’s second son, who had been a pupil at Bradfield, took over Coad’s role at the school after Coad had left his father’s office. John built the Big School in the late 1860’s, which must have been one of his earliest works, although presumably very much under the eye of Stevens, who was not only his old headmaster, but in 1868, became his father-in-law when he married Stevens’ daughter, Mary Anne. Scott also sent his third son, Albert Henry, to Bradfield, because he thought that the school ‘had a wonderful run of success owing to Mr Stevens admirable & courageous management of it’. In fact, Stevens’ finances became very precarious and in 1881, three years after Scott’s death, he went bankrupt. The school, however, was reorganised and two years later, John was made a governor. By 1890 its finances had recovered sufficiently to embark on building a new chapel to John’s design. But the Scott – Stevens link did not stop with John. John also sent his own son, Charles Marriot Oldrid Scott (1880-1952) to Bradfield, who after he succeeded to his father’s practice in 1913, carried out further work there until as recently as 1927. Indeed, the Stevens connection provided the Scott family with almost continuous architectural works for nearly ninety years.

Pevsner, N., Berkshire, Buildings of England (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1966), pp. 97-8.
Scott’sRecollections , II 110-11.
Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, 2 volumes (Continium, London, 2001).
Cole, D., The Work of Sir Gilbert Scott (The Architectural Press, London, 1980), pp. 42-3.
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), 90 b, 112, 88.