1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Pointed/Gothic Architecture in Scotland

(Part 94)

Pointed/Gothic Architecture in Scotland

A few words will suffice for the necessary notice of the progress of Gothic architecture in Scotland and Ireland. In point of fact, most of what was done in the best period -- that is, during the 13th and 14th centuries -- was done by English artists, and is in no way more distinct in character than their work was in different dioceses or counties. The Gothic of Lincolnshire, of the eastern counties, of Kent and Susex, of Somersetshire and South Wales, of Devon and Cornwall, and of Yorkshire, were distinct varieties of style full of local peculiarities.

In the case of Scotland, the best buildings which remain did not grow up in the same way by the efforts of local architects, but appear to have been the work of architect brought for the purpose from England, north of the Humber. There is a broad distinction between English art north and south of the Humber; and though it is easy to point to evidences of similarity between Scotch buildings and those north of the Humber, it is not possible to show the same connection with any buildings to the south of it.

The evidences of general similarity are to be seen everywhere; it will suffice to mention one or two examples of particular similarity. The beautiful 13th century transept of Hexham Abbey church has some of its most marked features repeated in the also very beautiful transept of Pluscardine Abbey near Elgin. The architect of Lanercost in Cumberland was certainly responsible also for Dryburgh Abbey, either as actual architect, or as having inspired the architect. The buildings generally have, on both sides of the border, the same details the same general disposition of plan, the same traceries and there is nothing to indicate that those to the north of the border are not English. In truth, until the end of the 14th century the two styles are identical.

Then Scotch art became more national, because it separated itself from English, and, borrowing some of its inspiration from abroad, developed in a certainly picturesque and interesting line.

Melrose Abbey is one of the most national, as it certainly is one of the most charming, of Scotch buildings; but its influence does not seem to have been extensive, and it must be classed as a variety of the latest English Middle Pointed, executed by Scotchmen who knew something of English work, and as much of French (if not Iberian) art, but who were determined to leave the mark of their own hands and minds on their buildings.

The other most remarkable late ecclesiastical building is the famous chapel at Rosslyn; but the art of this is in no sense whatever Scotch, and we must look again, probably, to Portugal as the country of whose art it is an example.

Scotland has been unfortunate, in that ecclesiastical changes have involved the disuse and ruin of so many of her ecclesiastical buildings. But still enough remains to make the country a most interesting field of study in regard especially to the art of the 13th century. Glasgow, St Andrews, Kirkwall, Dunblane, and Elgin Cathedrals, and the Abbeys of Pluscardine, Sweetheart, Kelso, Dryburgh, Jedburgh, Holyrood, Dundrennan, and Melrose, afford a series as beautiful as any that can be named elsewhere, though most of them are on a moderate scale in their dimensions.

The domestic remains in Scotland are far more numerous, and full of picturesque beauty and magnificence. They are a distinctly national class of buildings of great solidity, and a great deal was sacrificed by their builders to the genius of the picturesque. They can only be classed with the latest Gothic buildings of other countries, but the mode of design shown in them lasted much later than the late Gothic style did in England.

The vast height to which their walls were carried, the picturesque use made of circular towers, the freedom with which buildings were planned at various angles of contact to each other, and the general simplicity of the ordinary face of the walling, are all distinct features in them, and make them more worthy of admiration than most works of the corresponding period in England.

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