George Gilbert Scott epitomises the illustrious Victorian, he was entrepreneurial, charismatic, energetic, dogmatic and controversial. He became not only a leading architect of the age but the most prolific, with almost 1,000 buildings designed by him and his practice. The grand Midland Hotel, St Pancras, which Scott considered his most successful project, was in more recent times allowed to fall into disuse and became semi-derelict, narrowly escaping demolition. His other great and unique work, the Albert Memorial, itself came close to demolition in the 1980s.
In the early 1990s the Albert Memorial was in a very poor state of repair and the Purcell, Miller, Tritton and Partners architectural practice was appointed to carry out a condition survey of the Memorial and provide a conservation specification. Due to their eminence in the field, their unique insight into the aesthetics and techniques of Scott and Skidmore, Janet and Andrew Naylor, then partners in Naylor Conservation, were appointed as consultants.
The attention to detail and the level of craftsmanship of the decorative work produced by Francis Skidmore’s company is absolutely astonishing. The design reproduces all the fineness and richness of decorative detail found on mediaeval reliqueries, but on a massive scale. It is now, by comparison with the original decorative scheme, somewhat subdued and difficult to interpret, but by using a variety of different materials, Scott and Skidmore gave themselves a palette that unified the design into a glorious visual celebration of Albert. All of this was achieved despite huge problems, tight deadlines and financial problems, but quality and detail above all other considerations is the key to both Scott and Skidmore’s approach to design.