Sir George Gilbert Scott’s major church restorations really started with St. Mary’s, Stafford. His friend, Thomas Stevens, wrote to Scott in 1840 saying that ‘Mr. Coldwell, Rector of Stafford was most anxious to restore his Church if only he could get funds’. Stevens suggested to Scott that he should offer to make a survey and to write a report so that Coldwell could then use these as the basis for an appeal for funds. This became the usual procedure for his church restorations but this often resulted in a considerable lapse in time between Scott’s report and reaching the appeal target, enabling the work to commence.
Coldwell launched an appeal based on Scott’s recommendations, but it ‘was faintly responded to’, and in 1842, just before Stevens left his post as Assistant Poor Law Commissioner in Staffordshire, he and Scott found Coldwell ‘in despair’ of ever carrying out the work. Nevertheless Jesse Watts Russell of Ilam Hall would provide £5,000, if £3,000 could be raised by public appeal. This apparently was very quickly achieved as Scott produced the necessary drawings and tender documents for a contract to be made with William Evans on 30 May 1842. However, Reverend Louis Petit, who had just completed a book entitled Remarks on Church Architecture which he had illustrated with his own sketches, and was related by marriage to the principal parishioner and probably donor, Thomas Salt, of the bankers, Stevenson Salt and Sons of Lombard Street in the City of London, raised concerns about the plans. Scott recalled that ‘Mr. Petit raised some considerable objections to certain parts of my provisional restorations on the ground of their not being sufficiently conservative, and wrote a very important and talented letter on the subject’. Petit warned that an architect ‘ought to hesitate long, before he pronounces to be vile and worthless the works of those who lived [in an age] on the decline’. However, Scott argued that a church was erected for the glory of God and the use of Man and referred the problem to the Cambridge Camden Society and the Oxford Architectural Society. They both supported his proposals. The result was that St. Mary’s lost its Perpendicular south transept clerestory and the large south transept window, which was replaced by a triplet of lancets based on a single window in the west wall. He also removed the clerestory in the chancel, rebuilt the crossing arches and provided a new south porch, but he did little to alter the appearance of the nave. He states that, ‘The heavy practical work was the central tower whose four piers had become so crushed that they had to be nearly rebuilt a dangerous work which it has since been my frequent lot to repeat & a most unenviable lot it is!’ The galleries and pulpit were removed from the west end and new fittings provided which Scott calls, ‘…not very successful’. There is also a lancet in the north-west wall designed by A. W. N. Pugin. Scott and Moffat’s clerk of works was firstly Edwin Gwilt and then Mortimer. Work was completed in 1845. Sir George Gilbert Scott also built the parish school in 1856.
St. Blazey’s was probably the work of Moffatt.
Scott’s Recollections, I 326-9, 331-2.
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), 18 [b].
Pevsner, N., Some Architectural Writers of the Nineteenth Century (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1972), pp. 95, 100, 170.
Scott, G. G., Personal and Professional Recollections, Stamp, G. (ed.), (Paul Watkins, Stamford, 1995), pp. 100, 400.