Sir George Gilbert Scott’s work at Exeter lasted until late in 1859, and in the following year he started work on another library for an Oxford college. By this time he had become deeply immersed in the Foreign Office controversy and the fact that the later building, for University College, compares unfavourably with the Exeter library, is possibly because it was designed when his main concern was to produce a design for the Foreign Office which would satisfy Lord Palmerston and yet remain true to his principles. In 1842 Sir Charles Barry had built the so-called ‘New Range’, in a Tudor Gothic style. It is a clear indication of Scott’s prominence that immediately after Barry’s death in May 1860, he was considered to be his natural successor for a Gothic building. Scott’s library at University College is larger and bulkier than his attractive little library at Exeter but there is similarity in its garden setting behind the old quadrangle of the college. A writer in 1861 described the library as ‘an elegant and beautifully-finished building’, but regretted that it could only be seen properly from inside the college grounds. The fine interior, with its shaped boarded ceiling, lost much of its elegance in 1937 when an additional floor was inserted and at the same time Scott’s entrance at the west end was altered. In 1862 he restored the college chapel where he rebuilt the east end in the same style as the library, including an elaborate traceried window, and provided a new roof, reredos and sedilia.
Colvin, H., A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1995), pp. 102-3.
Companion to the Almanac or Year Book of General Information of 1862 (Knight & Co., London, 1862), p. 270.
Pevsner, N. and Sherwood, J., Oxfordshire, Buildings of England (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1974), pp. 210, 212.
Royal Commission for Historic Monuments, Oxford, 1939, p. 117.