William Scamp (1801-1872) An architect of the British Admiralty in Malta
250mm x 250mm
No. of Pages:
The study of architectural history during the British colonial period in Malta has been rather sparse and has not attracted the same attention as the architectural legacy of the Order of St John in Malta (1530–1798). This monograph focuses on the work of William Scamp, an architect in the employment of the British Admiralty. Although Scamp’s architectural career in Malta was limited to a four-year period 1841–1844, his achievements were considerable. He pioneered the establishment of the British naval yard in Dockyard Creek by the construction of the first dry-dock on the island and an imposing Naval Bakery that serviced the entire British fleet in the Mediterranean. In addition, he salvaged the high-profile project of St Paul’s Anglican cathedral, Valletta that had been mired in crisis under his predecessor Richard Lankesheer. Scamp assumed responsibility for the project after construction was suspended as the building fabric was deemed to be structurally defective and unstable. It is a remarkable achievement that Scamp managed to design, supervise, and oversee the successful completion of three high-profile projects in Malta within such a limited period of time.
Scamp was instrumental in introducing industrial steel structures to Malta. He not only replicated steel sheds typical of the factories and shipyards in Britain but also experimented with hybrid buildings systems of steel stanchions, beams, and local ashlar masonry. The Naval Bakery in Birgu (today the Maritime Museum) is testimony to Scamp’s knowledge, pragmatism, and ingenuity in adopting a variety of building systems. He was versatile and well-versed in various disciplines related to construction – an accomplished civil and structural engineer, a superb draftsman, a meticulous quantity surveyor, and a disciplined project manager. It would not be an exaggeration to state that Scamp was the architect who heralded Maltese architecture into the industrial era. Even after he had permanently departed the island, his professional services were still sought after (albeit in a consultative capacity) on other projects such as the Valletta Market Hall and Lunatic Asylum where there were building components in steel.
Another outstanding quality was Scamp’s ability to adapt local materials and simplify the construction to local labour resources. A pragmatist and a rationalist in his approach to building, he did not tolerate unjustified structural complexity or superfluous ornamentation. This is manifested both in his works and written documents relating to the projects. Scamp’s achievements in Malta have to be placed within the context of an illustrious career with the Admiralty which saw him actively involved in the naval yards at Portsmouth, Devonport, Chatham, Keyham, and Woolwich in Britain and in far-flung outposts of the British empire from Gibraltar to Bermuda.