Prolific English Gothic Revival architect. He was articled to James Edmeston (1791–1867) in 1827, who was better known as a writer of hymns (‘Lead us, Heavenly Father, lead us’ (1821) was one of his efforts) than as an architect, and later joined the office of Henry Roberts in 1832, where he worked on the new Fishmongers' Hall, London, and on a school at Camberwell (1834). Early in 1835 he assisted Sampson Kempthorne (1809–73), Architect to the Poor Law Commissioners, who produced several designs for workhouses and schools that were published and widely copied in the 1830s and 1840s. By the end of 1835 Scott was practising on his own, but had also formed a working relationship with William Bonython Moffatt (1812–87) that developed into a partnership (1838) which was responsible for over 50 workhouses and many other buildings. In 1838 Scott designed the little Gothic church of St Mary Magdalene at Flaunden, Herts. (1838), and thereafter, possibly through the influence of Blore, greatly expanded his architectural practice. The first real success was when Scott & Moffatt won the competition (1840) to design the Martyrs' Memorial, Oxford (1840–2— a finely detailed version of the C13 ‘Eleanor Crosses’). At the same time, Scott designed a new north (or Martyrs') aisle for the nearby Church of St Mary Magdalen, the first archaeologically correct piece of C19 Gothic Revival in Oxford, demonstrating that he had acquired sufficient expertise to be considered as a scholarly Goth in his own right. In 1842 the firm was selected to design the Church of St Giles, Camberwell, London (consecrated 1844—which gained the approval of Ecclesiologists). By 1841 Scott had started to immerse himself in the writings of A. W. N. Pugin, which excited him (he declared he had been awakened from his slumbers by their ‘thunder’), and he began to contribute to The Ecclesiologist, the influential journal of the Cambridge Camden (later Ecclesiological) Society. Scott & Moffatt entered the competition to design the Church of St Nikolaus, Hamburg, in 1844, and came third, but through the influence of Zwirner, their scholarly German Gothic design (with its handsome steeple which survived the 1939–45 war) was accepted and realized (but, as it was to be a Lutheran Church, gained the architects no credit with the Ecclesiologists, who did not recognize the validity of Lutheran Orders). The 1840s also saw Scott developing a career as a restorer of ecclesiastical buildings, starting with Chesterfield, Derbys., and continuing with several major churches, including Ely Cathedral, Cambs. (1848), and Westminster Abbey (1849). Moffatt's extravagance and financial recklessness led to a dissolution of the partnership in 1845, the year in which the firm's Reading Gaol, Berks., was completed.
In the 1850s, in common with many of his peers, Scott developed an interest in Continental Gothic. His designs for the Government Buildings, Whitehall, London (1856), drew on Flemish and Italian Gothic exemplars, but he was obliged to Classicize them: the resultant Foreign and India Offices (1863–8) and Home and Colonial Offices (1870–4) are accomplished Italian Renaissance Picturesque essays. Meanwhile he had built the handsome Parish Church of St George at Doncaster, Yorks. (1853–8—one of his best buildings), the Chapel at Exeter College, Oxford (1856–9—based on Sainte-Chapelle, Paris), the huge Middle Pointed All Souls, Haley Hill, Halifax, Yorks. (1855–9), St Mary Abbots, Kensington, London (1869–72), and the Cathedral of St John, Newfoundland (1846–80). He also added the Cathedrals of Hereford, Lichfield, and Peterborough to the ever-growing list of buildings in his care. In 1861, Albert, Prince Consort, died, and Scott's design for his memorial in London (drawn by his son, George Gilbert, jun.) was chosen. Like Worthington's Albert Memorial in Manchester (1862–3), it was in the form of a canopied shrine, but Scott's version was in the Italian Gothic style, glowing with colour and richness (1862–72). For this, the epitome of High Victorian Gothic Revival, Scott was knighted in 1872.