In his early career, Sir George Gilbert Scott’s circulars to his father’s friends led to several small works, and ‘I succeeded by a strenuous canvas of every guardian in obtaining appointments to four unions in our immediate district’. Thomas Scott was well-known and much respected among the clergy on the Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire borders, and his death in 1835, at a comparatively early age of 54, must have been quite a shock. So if Scott’s plea was for support for his mother and family, rather than for his own professional advancement, it is not surprising that he received favourable reactions. The Church of England clergy, at that time, occupied positions of power in local administration and they had often had considerable influence over the local Boards of Guardians of the Poor whose duty it was to implement the legislation bringing in the union workhouses under the guidance of the Poor Law Commissioners from Somerset House.
The respect in which Scott’s grandfather was held, also helped him in the early days of his practice, as a fund was established to assist the descendants of the ‘Commentator’, and Scott was one of the beneficiaries from this fund. This must have been particularly welcome, as although he had prospects from the work that he had secured, he found that instead of assisting his mother, his precipitous decision to leave Kempthorne had left him, with no income at all, and it was his mother who had to help him ‘out of her scanty means’, rather than the other way round.
The union houses which Scott secured were to be built at Brackley, Buckingham, Northampton, Towcester and Winslow. With his sister and brother-in-law at Gawcott, he made Buckingham the centre for his visits to these unions, which were all within a radius of about eighteen miles from the town. He travelled on a mail coach to Aylesbury, where he had ‘a short bout of bed at a public house’, and then on to Buckingham by mail cart, where he stayed with William Stowe, a physician, to whom his brother, Samuel King Scott, was apprenticed. The Guardians of the five unions were no doubt impressed by this twenty-four-year-old grandson of the ‘Commentator’ and his ability to sketch out his ideas in an attractive manner, his knowledge of construction and building methods, and above all his understanding of costs. Scott, in fact, used Kempthorne’s model designs as the basis for the five workhouses and was likely to have shown them to the Guardians before they appeared in the Commissioners Report, published in August 1835. Buckingham, Brackley and Winslow were built in 1835, Towcester in 1836 and Northampton in 1837. As was usual, they were all sited on the edge of their towns: Buckingham and Towcester were built of stone, while Winslow and Northampton were built in red brick. Winslow cost £5,250 of which Scott’s fees were three and a half per cent. It was built by Willmore and Mole with the clerk of works W. J. H. Barnaul. They all follow Kempthorne’s model for three hundred paupers, except Towcester, which is a single central block with side wings, now converted into housing. The fine canted entrance block of Winslow still exists, but the accommodation wings were demolished in about 1980.
Scott’s Recollections, I 272-3, III 43.