Obituary: Schomberg Scott
Friday 27 March 1998
Many of his projects (Monteviot and Dupplin, for example) were for his own relatives, at a time when country houses were being retrieved from wartime misuse by the military, or from decades of neglect. He worked on Mellerstain, Abbotsford (which was sorely trauchled with dry rot), Drumlanrig, Monzie, Gordon Castle, Winton, Hamilton House, Lennoxlove, Pitmuies, Elshieshields, Stobo, Dalkeith Palace, Cleish, Pilmuir and Balmuto. He was also commissioned to design the largest post-war country house in Scotland, Dupplin in Perthshire (1970-76), along with Monteviot (1961-63), Membland, Haddington (1966), Gannochy Lodge, Edzell (1973), and a competition-winning church at Barrow in Furness.
Walter Schomberg Hepburn Scott (he dropped the Walter in the 1950s) was born in 1910; his father was the Chamberlain of the Duke of Roxburghe at Floors. He was educated at Radley, and studied architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art. In the early 1930s he entered the office of the craft architect Reginald Fairlie (whom he possibly met when Fairlie was creating the new lodges at Floors) before moving to the office of Sir Edward Maufe in London.
During the Second World War he rose to Captain in the Royal Engineers, serving among other places in India, where he designed a missionary chapel at Simla. A shy man, he proposed to Deborah Howard, later his wife, by telegram from Suez.
In 1946 he joined the Edinburgh architects Orphoot Whiting and Lindsay, later becoming a partner in Ian G. Lindsay & Partners, who were specialists in the conservation of big houses, heirs to the tradition of Edwardian craft architecture of Sir Robert Lorimer. But the dissonance between Lindsay's fastidiousness and Scott's impatience - particularly with things contractual - led to the partnership's being dissolved in 1961.
Scott's office in Forres Street remained small, although he appears also to have acted as partner in Lorimer and Matthew, the inherited practice of Sir Robert Lorimer. For three years, he was bizarrely joined as virtual partner by the ex-footballer Ron McKinven, who fed his parrot grapes in the office, and who added barber shops and night-clubs decorated with rubber hoses to the practice's portfolio of country houses. In 1974 Schomberg was joined by Anthony Dixon as partner, who strengthened the practical side of the partnership.
From 1965 Schomberg was retained by the National Trust for Scotland. He had sat on their Architectural and Artistic Advisory Panel since 1953, and gone on to be Adviser on Architecture and Furnishings, Architect and Design Consultant, and finally Consultant for Architecture, Design and Furnishing. His work for the NTS eventually took up three- quarters of his time.
He was repeatedly requested to join their staff, but was unwilling to relinquish his practice. Major trust projects included Culzean, Falkland, the speedy rebuilding of the Queen Anne wing at Crathes in Aberdeenshire after a ferocious fire, and the Georgian House in Charlotte Square.
He designed plain, harled Scots-style information centres at Falkland, Inverewe, Glenfinnan, Killiecrankie (he parodied a Scots song with an ode to the "Lats of Killiecrankie") and an octagonal one at Culloden - after which he remarked that he would like to be remembered as "Octagon Scott". In 1970, he relinquished his part-time post and remained architect only for specific projects thereafter.
Schomberg was a small-scale designer, much more at home with detail and craftwork than the grand conception - as may be inferred from the rather blank and unmodulated facades of Dupplin and Monteviot. From Fairlie he had imbibed a feeling for ironwork, exemplified in stair balusters at Dupplin, and the gates at Pitmedden and Malleny. He made curtains for trust property on his kitchen table, tapestry for the chairs at Leith Hall and at Northfield, his 16th-century villa, and furniture and wallpaper for Monteviot. Absorbed by drawing, which he did brilliantly and speedily, he was also an excellent photographer with an informed eye.
As oblivious to his own appearance as to his commensurately shambolic office, this wiry short-fused architect liked leaping up ladders in preference to the bureaucratic and contractual side of architecture. He eventually retired in 1979.
The National Trust for Scotland is currently seeking an old file in their archives entitled "Odd Odes", consisting of subversive ditties decorated with tiny drawings which indicate how Scott mastered NTS executive meetings. One began:
A tumble-down house with a second-
Is just what the trust needs on Mull.
He had a wide circle of friends, who particularly prized a car trip with him for his conversation, vivid humour, and arcane if not outrageous knowledge of aristocratic preferences and peculiarities. A "social" at Northfield might easily end with dancing in the garden. His manner bore as easily with the sorority of the trust's Council as with the Prestonpans miners whom he persuaded to assist him in the rescue of the garden at Northfield.
His drawings and photographs are held at the National Monuments Record of Scotland to intrigue future generations.
Walter Schomberg Hepburn Scott, architect: born 14 September 1910; married Deborah Howard (died 1992; one son, and one son deceased); died Leith 11 February 1998.
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