Split Pediment

The musings of a Brighton-based architecture dweeb and town planner in training.

Tag: George Gilbert Scott

Know thy station; or, the various fates of three north London termini – part 2

Greetings one and both! I hope this finds you well. St Pancras was a Christian zealot, apparently decapitated at the behest of Diocletian in 303AD. He was fourteen years old. There are three¬†fine nineteenth century buildings that, directly or not, memorialise this headstrong lad. The station – of which more later; St Pancras new church (built, anachronistically, in the supposed Greek renaissance style, fashionable in the early 19th Century); and the old church (the fabric of which is mostly newer than the new church. Natch), in the churchyard of which stands Sir John Soane’s memorial to his wife and in which Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin plotted their elopement. And they say romance is dead. Or something.

Pancras means, literally, “the one that holds everything”, and the station that bears this martyr’s name tries to do precisely that. “fine” burgers, “natural” remedies, “authentic” fossil (apparently that’s a distinctive modern vintage global lifestyle company specialising in consumer fashion accessories). You can even go to somewhere that helps you to “transform daily routines into the special rituals they once were”; going to the toilet never sounded so appealing. You can see a giant statue of two people melodramatically kissing, a much smaller statue of that wonderful old curmudgeon Sir John Betjemen, and – presumably for the next year or so – some Olympic-sized rings. If you’re really unlucky you might get to hear someone as arse-crushingly anodyne as Ed Sheeran whipping a crowd of international commuters into a frenzy of bedraggled bemusement as part of the “station sessions” series of unfortunate concerts.

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Good Scott

A fuss (and given we’re talking about architectural history here, you can imagine the sheer scale of said fuss) has lately been made over George Gilbert Scott. See, for example, the oaf that is Simon Jenkins do his level best to portray Scott as a victim of an incomprehensible miscarriage of historical justice. Jenkins’ major argument is that nobody’s yet written a biography of Scott; this may be unfortunate, but it doesn’t exactly make him an architectural pariah, weighted down as he was with those triple guarantors of obscurity, a knighthood, RIBA’s royal gold medal and being buried here.

Scott’s name was one of the first I learnt as an autodidact of architectural history. Difficult to remember exactly why one remembers something, but I suspect it had something to do with the name’s dynastic tendencies and trying not to get into a muddle over my Gileses and (multiple) Georges. Indeed, both Jenkins’ article (now corrected) and the Mirror (brava Kirsty Henley-Washford! We commend your architectural predilections if not your accuracy!) cocked up the lineage. Of course, I need not have bothered. That excruciatingly embarrassing faux pas never occurred; very few people have heard of George Gilbert Scott (or his progeny) because very few people have heard of any architect. And, yes – I realise that you (dear readers both) have heard of all the architects, but that’s because you’re special. Seriously, though, which Victorian architects are better known? I offer Charles Barry and Pugin, but only because they did this. Waterhouse, maybe. Butterfield? Blomfield? Street? Hardwick? I can barely remember what they built, and I actually care about these things. Sigh.

Of course, this is all due to a bicentenary and the trend-setting power of Google. More interesting to me than whether this man deserves a biography (what a dreckishly dull conceit to hang an article on!) is the architectural furore that Sir GGS provoked.

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