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Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin

[pyoo-jin]

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1 March 181214 September 1852) was an English architect, designer, and theorist of design, now best remembered for his work on churches and on the Houses of Parliament.

He was the son of a French draughtsman, Augustus Charles Pugin, who trained him to draw Gothic buildings for use as illustrations in his books, and his wife Catherine Welby. This was the key to his work as a leader of the Gothic revival movement in architecture. Between 1821 and 1838 Pugin and his father published a series of volumes of architectural drawings, the first two entitled, Specimens of Gothic Architecture, and the following three, Examples of Gothic Architecture, that were to remain both in print and the standard references for Gothic architecture for at least the next century.

Pugin became an advocate of Gothic architecture, which he believed to be the true Christian form of architecture. He attacked the influence of "pagan" Classical architecture in his book Contrasts, in which he set up medieval society as an ideal, in contrast to modern secular culture. A fine example of his work in this regard is the church of St Giles in Cheadle, Staffordshire.

After the burning of the Palace of Westminster in 1834, Pugin was employed by Sir Charles Barry to work on the new Parliament buildings in London. He converted to Catholicism, but also designed and refurbished Anglican as well as Catholic churches throughout the country and abroad. His views, as expressed in works such as True Principles of Christian Architecture (1841) were highly influential.

Other works include the interior of St Chad's Cathedral, Erdington Abbey, and Oscott College, all in Birmingham. He also designed the college buildings of St Patrick and St Mary in St. Patrick's College, Maynooth; though not the college chapel. His original plans included both a chapel and an aula maxima, neither of which were built due to financial constraints. The college chapel was designed by a follower of Pugin, the Irish architect J.J.McCarthy. Pugin also designed St. Mary's Cathedral in Killarney. He revised the plans for St. Michael's Church in Ballinasloe, Galway.

Pugin produced a "mediæval court" at the Great Exhibition of 1851, but died suddenly after a mental collapse.

Slightly less grand than the above are the railway cottages at Windermere railway station in Cumberland. Believed to date from 1849, and probably some of the first houses to be built in Windermere, the terrace of cottages was built for railway executives,A typical example is Old Codgers Cottage currently used as a holiday Cottage.The owners have researched its history to find that it was inhabited by the head Drayman for the railway company on the 1861 census. One of the fireplaces is a copy of one of his in the Palace of Westminster. He was the father of E.W. Pugin and Peter Paul Pugin, who continued their father's architectural firm as Pugin and Pugin, including several buildings in Australasia.

Early years

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin was the son of an émigré French architect who came to England to escape the Revolution.

His father, Augustin Pugin (originally de Pugin), a French Protestant of good family, worked in the fashionable “gothick” taste of the late 18th century. In England he got work as a designer and illustrator of books on Gothic architecture and decoration compiled by the architect John Nash Elephant-siderography-LaBastille.jpg. He also kept a number of pupils whom he trained, together with his son, in architectural drawing. Every summer this little school went on trips to sketch Gothic both at home in England and also in France. In this way the younger Pugin accumulated a wealth of detailed knowledge about the Gothic style from an early age. At his father’s death in 1832 Pugin was able to carry on the illustrated series that his father had begun.

The young Pugin received his elementary education as a day-boy at Christ's Hospital, better known as the Bluecoat School. Pugin had shown a precocious talent for design and at the age of 15 went to work for the London furniture-makers Morel & Seddon, designing furniture in “gothick” style for Windsor Castle. At the same time he was involved, as a freelance designer, in making drawings of furniture and metalwork for other London firms. At 17 Pugin set up his own small business, supplying furniture and ornamental carved work for houses throughout the United Kingdom. After an initial success the business failed in 1831. During this period Pugin was also designing for Covent Garden Theatre, notably the staging for Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth adapted as a ballet.

In 1833 he was working with Sir Charles Barry on designs for King Edward’s School, Birmingham. This collaboration was followed in 1835-6 by detailed designs for Barry's entries in the competition to build the new Houses of Parliament. 1835 was a major turning point in Pugin’s career. His book Gothic Furniture in the Style of the Fifteenth Century was published, showing a new understanding of medieval techniques of construction. In the same year he built his first house, St Marie’s Grange, Salisbury, and most importantly, converted to Catholicism. While still a delicate youth he became intensely fond of the sea, had a smack of his own, did some small trading in carrying woodcarvings from Flanders, and was shipwrecked off Leith, near Edinburgh in 1830. This love of the sea was strong in him to the end of his life.

Marriage and conversion

In 1831 he married Ann Garnett, and shortly afterwards was imprisoned for non-payment of rent. He then opened a shop in Hart Street, Covent Garden, for the supply of architects' drawings and architectural accessories. The venture, however, did not succeed. His wife died in childbirth on 27 May 1832. In 1833 he married Louisa Burton who bore him six children, among them Edward (1834–1875) one of the two sons who successively carried on his business (the other was the younger Peter Paul (1851–1904) from his last marriage with Jane Knill). Both received from the Pope the decoration of the Order of St Sylvester. After his second marriage he took up his residence at Salisbury, Wiltshire and in 1834 embraced the Catholic faith, his wife following his example in 1839. Of his conversion he tells us that the study of ancient ecclesiastical architecture was the primary cause of the change in his sentiments, by inducing him to pursue a course of study, terminating in complete conversion. He never swerved in his fidelity to the Church, notwithstanding the bitter trials he experienced. In 1835 he bought a small plot of ground at Laverstock, near Salisbury, on which he built for himself a quaint 15th century-style house, St Marie's Grange.

Pugin the man

Pugin was somewhat below the middle stature and rather thick-set, with long dark hair and grey eyes that seemed to take in everything. He usually wore a sailor's jacket, loose pilot trousers, a low-crowned hat, a black silk handkerchief thrown negligently round his neck, and shapeless footwear carelessly tied. His form and attire suggested the seaman rather than a man of art. A voluble talker both at work and at table, he possessed a fund of anecdotes and a great power of dramatic presentation; and when in good health overflowed with energy and good humour. And if sometimes his language was vigorous or personal, he was generous and never vindictive. Inured to industry from childhood, as a man he would work from sunrise to midnight with extraordinary ease and rapidity. His short thick hands, his stumpy tapering fingers, with the aid of a short pencil, a pair of compasses and a carpenter's rule, performed their delicate work even under such unfavourable circumstances as sailing his lugger off the south coast of England. Most of his architectural work he entrusted to an enthusiastic builder whom he had known as a workingman at Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire. He trained the workmen he employed, and was in turn idolised by them. In his home at Ramsgate, Kent he lived with the regularity and abstemiousness of a monk, and the intellectual eagerness of a student. His benevolence made him everywhere the father of the poor.

Architecture did not take up his entire attention at The Grange; from the tower of the house Pugin would watch for ships aground off the Goodwin Sands. He supplemented his income by the activity of wrecking - using his lugger "The Caroline" to salvage cargoes from wrecked and stranded ships.

Scarisbrick Hall

By 1836 Pugin had formulated his ideas on architecture, and in that year he published Contrasts, which was virtually his manifesto as a Catholic, Gothic, architect. In it he set out to prove that “the degraded state of the arts in this country is purely owing to the absence of Catholic feeling”, and that the Gothic style of architecture was the only one appropriate for a Christian country to adopt. Classical architecture, he argued, was irredeemably pagan and unsuited to express Christian social values. Contrasts brought Pugin’s ideas to a wide audience, and as the new champion of Catholic architecture he was rapidly taken up by Catholic patrons including Charles Scarisbrick. In 1836 he designed the roofed stone garden seat at the north side of Scarisbrick Hall, and also the fireplace in the Great Hall. On 24 April 1837 he noted in his diary “Began Mr Scarisbrick’s house.”

Pugin began work on Thomas Rickman’s existing west wing, to which he added the library bay window, the garden porch and north-west turret, as well as external and internal decoration. Also in 1837 he designed the south front of the Hall; although this was further embellished when built.

The problems of planning the building were considerable, as it was the client’s wish to preserve the old part of the Hall, and any new work had to take this into account. Pugin’s solution was to provide a north-south and east-west corridor connecting the old and new parts of the Hall on both ground and first floors. The problem of lighting these corridors was solved with masterly ingenuity; Pugin put skylights over the east-west corridor and a glazed turret over the point where the corridors crossed. He then made the upper corridor floor half the width of the one beneath and introduced superbly carved bracket supports between which light could fall into the lower corridor. True to his own code, he had made an awkward problem into a feature of the building.

In 1838 Pugin proceeded to design the north elevation and this was followed by the Clock Tower in 1839. This has since been replaced with a more spectacular tower by E.W. Pugin (his son), but the original appears in the carved view of the Hall on the main staircase at Scarisbrick. It apparently had a steeply pitched roof over the clock stage, and was the prototype for the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament.

Drawings of 1840 show Pugin working on the windows of the Great Hall, and designing the series of attractive and humorous carvings that ornament the bosses on its exterior. This vast room was planned as a banqueting hall, and so the bosses all show scenes concerned with eating and drinking. In the same year Pugin made designs for the main staircase and staircase roof. The previous lack of this apparently vital feature would not have disturbed Charles Scarisbrick’s comfort, as there are two spiral staircases leading from the Oak Room and the North Library in the West Wing to his bedroom suite above.

In 1841 Pugin was engaged in designing the leaded windows of the Library. There is a range of very attractive geometric patterns in the leading of casements at Scarisbrick. The original effect must have been rich, as they were finished with gilding.

After this there comes a gap in the dated drawings. Pugin’s work was in demand from other clients, and although he continued to work at Scarisbrick until at least 1845, the first impetus was gone and Charles Scarisbrick’s generosity seems to have been wearing thin. From 1844 onwards Pugin was involved in the tremendous task of designing the interior decoration and furniture for the new Houses of Parliament. He was also keeping up his own busy architectural practice and finding time to write more books. Once asked why he kept no clerk to help him, Pugin replied: “Clerk, my dear sir, clerk, I never employ one. I should kill him in a week.” Instead, Pugin wore himself out, and died in 1852.

In such a short life it is remarkable that Pugin had managed to influence the course of architecture and design so strongly. Through his writings he could justly claim that he had “revolutionised the taste of England.” At Scarisbrick Hall he had been given his first real opportunity to put his ideas into practice, and the result must have justified Charles Scarisbrick’s expectations completely.

St Mary's College, Oscott

In 1837 he made the acquaintance of the authorities of St Mary's College, Oscott, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire where his fame as a writer had preceded him. He found there men in sympathy with his ideas about art and religion. The president, Rev. Henry Weedall, was so impressed by him, that he accepted his services for the completion of the new chapel and for the decorations of the new college, which was opened in 1838. He designed the apse with its effective groinings, the stained glass of the chancel windows, the decorated ceiling, the stone pulpit, and the splendid Gothic vestments. He constructed the reredos of old wood-carvings brought from the Continent, he placed the Limoges enamels on the front of the super-altar, he provided the 17th century confessional, altar rails, and stalls, the carved pulpit (from St Gertrude's, Louvain), the finest in England, as well as the ambries and chests of the sacristy (see "The Oscotian", July, 1905). He built both lodges and added the turret called "Pugin's night-cap" to the tower. Above all he inspired superiors and students with an ardent enthusiasm for his ideals in Gothic art, liturgy, and the sacred chant. Tradition points out the room in which on Saturday afternoons he used to instruct the workmen from Hardman & Co. of Birmingham in their craft. The president appointed him Professor of Ecclesiastical Antiquities (1838-44). While at the "Old College" he gave his lectures in what is now the Orphans' Dining Room, and at the new college in a room which still bears in the inscription "Architectura". This association with one of the leading Catholic colleges in England afforded him valuable opportunities for the advancement of his views.

Palace of Westminster

Much discussion has arisen concerning the claims of Pugin to the credit of having designed the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. The old Palace of Westminster had been destroyed by fire in 1834; plans for the new buildings were invited, and those of Charles (later Sir Charles) Barry received the approval of the Commissioners from among about 84 competitors. Work on the new parliament started in 1840 and Queen Victoria formally opened its two houses in 1852. At the outset Barry called in Pugin (1836-37) to complete his half-drawn plans, and he further entrusted to him the working plans and the entire decoration (1837-52). Pugin himself wrote: "Barry's great work was immeasurably superior to any that I could at the time have produced, and had it been otherwise, the Commissioners would have killed me in twelve months" ' [by their opposition and interference]. Pugin's biographer Rosemary Hill (God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain (2007) shows that, Barry may have designed the Palace as a whole and that only he could coordinate such a large project and dealing with its difficult paymasters, but he relied entirely on Pugin for its Gothic interiors, wallpapers, and furnishings, including the royal thrones and the Palace's clock tower in which Big Ben hangs. It is very close in form to earlier Pugin designs, including one for Scarisbrick Hall. The tower was Pugin's last design before descending into madness and dying. In her biography, Hill quotes Pugin as writing of what is probably his best known building: "I never worked so hard in my life [as] for Mr Barry for tomorrow I render all the designs for finishing his bell tower and it is beautiful."

Writings

The influence he wielded must be ascribed as much to his vigorous writings and exquisite designs as to any particular edifice which he erected. His Contrasts (1836) placed him at once ahead of the pioneers of the day. His "Glossary" (1844), so brilliant a revival in form and colour, produced nothing short of a revolution in church decoration. Scarcely less important were his designs for Furniture (1835), for Iron and Brass Work (1836), and for Gold and Silversmiths (1836) to which should be added his Ancient Timber Houses of the XVth and XVIth Centuries (1836), and his latest architectural work on Chancel Screens and Rood Lofts (1851). Besides the above elaborately illustrated productions, many other explanatory and apologetic writings, especially his lectures delivered at Oscott (see Catholic Magazine, 1838, April and foll.) gave powerful expression to the message he had to deliver. As closely allied with his idea of the restoration of constructive and decorative art, he brought out a pamphlet on the chant: An Earnest Appeal for the Revival of the Ancient Plain Song (1850). It is worthy of mention that some of his earliest drawing appears in the volumes published by his father (Examples of Gothic Architecture, 1821, 226 plates; Architectural Antiquities of Normandy, 1828, 80 plates; Gothic Ornaments, England and France, 1831, 91 plates).

"Architectural genius"

In knowledge of medieval architecture and in his insight into its spirit and form, he stood above all his contemporaries. As a draughtsman he was without a rival. The success of his career is to be sought not so much in the buildings he erected, which, being mostly for the Catholic body, were nearly always shorn of their chief splendour by the poverty of his patrons. He invented now new forms of design, though he freely used the old; his instinct led him to art as such, but to the Gothic embodiment of art, which seemed to him the only true form of Christian architecture. He lacked the patience and breadth of the truly great mind, yet he may justly claim to rank as the architectural genius of the century. His unquestioned merit is the restoration of architecture in England and the revival of the forms of medieval England, which since his day have covered the land. Queen Victoria granted his widow a pension of £100 a year, and a committee of all parties founded the Pugin Travelling Scholarship (controlled by the Royal Institute of British Architects) as the most appropriate memorial of his work and a partial realisation of the project which he had brought forward in his Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England (1843).

Pugin and the Earl of Shrewsbury

Pugin had a long term professional relationship with John Talbot, the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury. It was an interesting combination of minds for both architect and patron were Roman Catholic converts: Pugin, a wealthy gentleman architect from the upper middle class, and Talbot, the richest noble in the land. It was, to all intents and purposes, a business partnership made in heaven for the furtherance of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Pugin's genius fused with the Catholic fervour and finance of the Talbots, and peppered Staffordshire with churches, convents and schools of medieval splendour and magnificence. Pugin, the medieval dreamer and set designer of Victorian Gothic found in John Talbot not only a friend but also a collaborator. The building programme was certainly led by Talbot as patron, with Pugin as his master-craftsman. Indeed, it has overtones of the rapport between Edward III and Henry Yevele, in the 14th century and of Henry VII and his master builder, John Wastell of Bury St Edmunds, in the 15th century.

The list of buildings erected by the Talbot–Pugin partnership in Staffordshire during the twelve years between 1836 and 1848 is formidable: St Mary’s, Uttoxeter; the Hospital of St John, Alton Castle and Alton Towers; St Giles’ Church, School and Presbytery, Cheadle; St Joseph’s Convent, also in Cheadle; St Wilfrid’s, Cotton; St Mary’s, Brewood. Fourteen buildings in all.

Pugin and Australasia

The first Catholic bishop of New South Wales, Australia, John Bede Polding, met Pugin and was present when St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham and St Giles' Church, Cheadle were officially opened. Polding persuaded Pugin to design a series of churches for him. Although a number of churches do not survive, St Francis Xavier's in Berrima, New South Wales is regarded as a fine example of a Pugin church. In Sydney there are several altered examples of his work , namely St Benedict's, Chippendale; St Charles Borromeo, Ryde; the former church of St Augustine of Hippo (next to the existing church), Balmain; and St Patrick's Cathedral Parramatta, which was gutted by a fire in 1996 Pugin's legacy in Australia, is particularly of the idea of what a church should look like:

Pugin's notion was that Gothic was Christian and Christian was Gothic, ... It became the way people built churches and perceived churches should be. Even today if you ask someone what a church should look like, they'll describe a Gothic building with pointed windows and arches. Right across Australia, from outback towns with tiny churches made out of corrugated iron with a little pointed door and pointed windows, to our very greatest cathedrals, you have buildings which are directly related to Pugin's ideas.

After his death A.W. Pugin's two sons; E.W. Pugin and Peter Paul Pugin, continued operating their father's architectural firm under the name Pugin and Pugin. This work includes most of the "Pugin" buildings in Australia and New Zealand.

Later years

During this period he did much of his best work in writing, teaching, and structural design. Although at different times he had visited France and the Netherlands either alone, or in the company of the Earl of Shrewsbury, he did not visit the great cities of Italy until 1847. The ecclesiastical buildings of Rome sorely disappointed him; but he had his compensation in the gift from Pope Pius IX of a splendid gold medal as a token of approval, which gratified Pugin more than any event in his life. His second wife having died in 1844, he married Jane, daughter of Thomas Knill of Typtree Hall, Herefordshire, by whom he had two children. They were the first couple to be married in the newly built St George's Cathedral, Southwark, designed by Pugin, on 10 August 1848.

In the meantime he had removed from Laverstock, and after a temporary residence at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea (1841), he took up his residence at Ramsgate, Kent living first with his aunt, Miss Selina Welby, who made him her heir, and then in the house called St Augustine's Grange, which, together with a church, he had built for himself. Of these he said that they were the only buildings in which his designs had not been curtailed by financial conditions.

Under a presentiment of approaching death, of which he had an unusual fear, he went into retreat in 1851, and prepared himself by prayer and self-denial for the end. At the close of the year his mind became affected and early in 1852 he was placed in the asylum commonly called Bedlam (now the Imperial War Museum), in St George's Fields, Lambeth, south London. At the urgent request of his wife and in opposition to the wishes of the rest of his friends, he was removed from the asylum, first to the Grove, Hammersmith, where after six weeks' care his condition had improved to such an extent that it was possible for him to return to Ramsgate; but two days after he reached home he had a fatal stroke.

A.W.N. Pugin died, at the age of 40, on 14 September 1852 as a result, not of insanity, but probably of the effects of syphilis .. His body is in a vault under the church that he designed next to The Grange in Ramsgate .

Pugin's legacy extends far beyond his own architectural designs. He was responsible for popularising a style and philosophy of architecture that reached into every corner of Victorian life. He influenced writers like John Ruskin, and designers like William Morris. His ideas were expressed in private and public architecture and art throughout Great Britain and beyond.

List of Pugin's principal buildings in England

House designs, with approximate date of design and current condition

  • St Marie’s Grange, Alderbury (1835) – altered; a private house
  • Derby presbytery (1838) - demolished
  • Scarisbrick Hall (1837) – largely intact; a school
  • Uttoxeter presbytery (1838) – largely intact; in use
  • Keighley presbytery (1838) – altered; in use
  • Bishop’s House, Birmingham (1840) – demolished
  • Warwick Bridge presbytery – intact with minor alterations; in use
  • Clergy House, Nottingham (1841) – largely intact; in use
  • Garendon Hall scheme (1841) – not executed
  • Bilton Grange (1841) – intact; now a school
  • Oxenford Grange farm buildings (1841) – intact; private house and farm
  • Cheadle presbytery (1842) – largely intact; now a private house
  • Woolwich presbytery (1842) – largely intact; in use
  • Brewood presbytery (1842) – largely intact; in use
  • St Augustine’s Grange (“The Grange”), Ramsgate (1843) – restored by the Landmark Trust
  • Alton Castle (1843) – intact; a Catholic youth centre
  • Oswaldcroft, Liverpool (1844) – altered; a residential home
  • Dartington Hall scheme (1845) - unexecuted
  • Lanteglos-by-Camelford rectory (1846) – much altered; an hotel
  • Rampisham rectory (1846) – unaltered; private house
  • Woodchester Park scheme (1846) - unexecuted
  • Fulham presbytery (1847) – intact; in use
  • Wilburton Manor House (1848) – largely intact; a school


Institutional designs

  • Convent of Mercy, Bermondsey (1838) – destroyed
  • Mount St. Bernard Abbey (1839) – largely intact; in use
  • Downside Abbey schemes (1839 and 1841) - unexecuted
  • Convent of Mercy, Handsworth 1840 – largely intact; in use
  • St John’s Hospital, Alton (1841) – intact; in use
  • Convent of St Joseph, school and almshouses, Chelsea, London (1841) - altered; used as a school
  • Convent of Mercy, Liverpool (1841 – and from 1847) - demolished
  • Spechley school and schoolmaster’s house (1841) – intact, now a private house
  • Balliol College, Oxford, scheme (1843) – unexecuted
  • Ratcliffe College (1843) – partially executed; largely intact; in use
  • Liverpool Orphanage (1843) – demolished
  • Magdalen College School, Oxford, schemes (1843-4) - unexecuted
  • Convent of Mercy, Nottingham (1844) – altered; private flats
  • Mercy House and cloisters, Handsworth (1844-5) – cloisters intact; otherwise destroyed
  • Cotton College (1846) – derelict
  • St Anne’s Bedehouses, Lincoln, (1847) – intact; in use
  • Convent of the Good Shepherd, Hammersmith, London (1848) – demolished
  • Convent of St Joseph’s, Cheadle (1848) – largely intact; private house

Major Ecclesiastical Designs

See also

References

Sources

  • Brian Andrews, Creating a Gothic Paradise: Pugin at the Antipodes, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, 2001. Exhibition catalogue.
  • Michael Fisher, Alexandra Wedgwood, Pugin-Land: A W N Pugin, Lord Shrewsbury and the Gothic Revival in Staffordshire, Stafford Fisher, 2002.
  • Rachel Hasted, Scarisbrick Hall – A Guide, Social History at Lancashire County Museum Service, 1984.
  • Rosemary Hill, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin: A Biographical Sketch, in A.W.N. Pugin: Master of Gothic Revival, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1995.
  • Rosemary Hill. God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain. Allen Lane, 2007. ISBN 9780713994995
  • A. Pugin and A.W. Pugin, Gothic Architecture selected from various Ancient Edifices in England, Vols. 1 and 2, J.R. Jansen, Carlton Building, Cleveland, OH, USA, 1927 (Published in five volumes between 1821 and 1838)

External links

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