Sir George Gilbert Scott had always proclaimed that his favourite period of architecture was that which was produced in England around 1300, the so-called Middle Pointed, and certainly his new churches usually show an allegiance to that style. But there is no doubt about his affection for Hillesden, which was built some two hundred years later in the Perpendicular style, and although Grimthorpe had forced him to modify Doncaster, his work on other late Perpendicular buildings, such as Boston, Ludlow and Newark churches and later Kings College Chapel at Cambridge, reveal that Scott had an amazing affinity with the later style. This was so much so that today his work on Perpendicular buildings often goes unrecognised.
A very spectacular Perpendicular work was his rebuilding of the great 163 foot high west tower of Taunton Church, which he started with Benjamin Ferry, the Diocesan Architect, in 1858. The original construction took place between 1488 and 1514, and he and Ferry lovingly replaced the characteristic features of the style such as delicate filigree battlements and parapets, panelled wall surfaces and fan-vaulting internally. Scott seems to have enjoyed studying and working in the style, and in a lecture at the Royal Academy in 1869, he discusses fan-vaulting at length, emphasising its beauty and special Englishness. But it was considered decadent by the ecclesiologically correct and by the 1860’s, nobody would publically admit to liking the style of the Houses of Parliament. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Scott tends to be rather coy about his involvement with Perpendicular buildings.
The tower of Taunton was dismantled in three months, the reconstruction started on 3 August 1858 with Henry Davis of Taunton as builder and the work was completed ‘amid great rejoicing’ on 8 September 1862. During the whole of this period, apart from the first few months, Scott was deeply involved with the Foreign Office and must have relied on Ferry to shoulder most of the work.
Pevsner, N., South and West Somerset, Buildings of England (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1958), p. 310.
Scott, G., Sir, Lectures on the Rise and Development of Medieval Architecture delivered at the Royal Academy (John Murray, London, 1879), vol. II, pp. 217-27.
Morey, D., A Pictorial Guide to St. Mary Magdalen, Taunton (n.d.), p. 18.