At St. Michael’s, Cornhill, between 1857 and 1860, Sir George Gilbert Scott, in collaboration with the Surveyor to the Parish, Herbert Williams (1812/13-1873), carried out a refurbishment of the church, which is in the heart of the banking area of the City of London. Again, subsequent changes have made it difficult to assess the extent of Scott’s work. It was one of the fifty-two City churches which Wren rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666, although its medieval tower survived the fire, and perhaps because of this, Wren rebuilt the church in his own version of Gothic. Scott and Williams refitted the interior, altered and formed new windows, and with William Andrew Mason, constructed a new north-west porch. This is entirely in Scott’s version of Gothic and has a fine tympanum carved by Philip. Scott fitted simple Florentine tracery to the aisle windows but inserted heavy Gothic tracery into Wren’s circular clerestory windows. The interior was decorated extensively with stencil patterns by Clayton and Bell with a painted ceiling by Stacy Marks. All the decorations have since disappeared, as has the light-inhibiting clerestory tracery, but the fittings still remain, including Scott’s reredos, which is in a round-arch Gothic style as well as the iron Gothic altar rails, pulpit and carved choir stalls, the font given a new stem. The whole ensemble seems to have been very successful. The Ecclesiologist says that Scott, ‘fuses the vaulting into something transitional between Pointed and Italian. And he inserts tracery into all the round-headed windows, and the great ugly stable-like circles of the clerestory become roses under his plastic hand’. With praise like this, from where he most wanted it, it is not surprising that Scott turned to St. Michael’s, Cornhill, as a possible solution to his problems over a style for the Foreign Office.
Colvin, H., A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1995), p. 710.
Read, B., Victorian Sculpture (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1984), p. 267.
Clarke, B. F. L., Church Builders of the Nineteenth Century, A Study of the Gothic Revival in England (David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1969), p. 244.