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Pugin, Augustus Welby Northmore

Pugin, Augustus Welby Northmore (1812–52). English architect and polemicist, the son of A. C. Pugin, he was one of the key personalities of the Gothic Revival. After his conversion to Roman Catholicism in c.1835 he became a leading figure in Ecclesiology.

In 1836 he published Contrasts; or, a Parallel between the Noble Edifices of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, and Similar Buildings of the Present Day; Shewing the Present Decay of Taste. He claimed that Pointed architecture (Gothic) was produced by the RC faith, that Classical architecture was pagan, that the Reformation was a dreadful scourge, and that medieval architecture was greatly superior to anything produced by the Renaissance or Classical Revivals. The great test of architectural beauty was the fitness of the design to the purpose for which it was intended, and the style of a building should tell the spectator at once what its purpose was. Buildings of C19 (especially those of the leading architects of the day) were weighed in the balance against those of C14 and found wanting. His other main works, The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture set forth (1841), The Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England (1843), and An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England (1843), made it clear that Gothic was not a style, but a principle, a moral crusade, and the only mode of building possible for a Christian nation. His arguments and his very deep knowledge of all aspects of Gothic design had an immense impact on Anglican church-archi-tects, however. George Gilbert Scott was to write that he was ‘awakened’ from his ‘slumbers by the thunder of Pugin's writings’.

Pugin assisted Charles Barry with the details and furnishings of the Palace of Westminster (built 1840–70) and indeed it was Pugin, rather than Barry, who designed the exquisite architectural enrichments and confident colour-scheme for what is one of the great monuments of the Gothic Revival. As a church-architect, however, Pugin was unfortunate. Most of his churches have a mean and pinched look owing to a shortage of funds, and the RC hierarchy was not always convinced by the furious arguments of its recent convert, but at St Giles's, Cheadle, Ches. (1840–6), where his patron, John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury and Earl of Waterford (1791–1852), paid handsomely (against his better judgement), Pugin was able to create a scholarly and sumptuous revival of a parish-church of the time of King Edward I (1272–1307), with a glowing polychrome interior, complete with chancel-screen, all in the Second Pointed style. Other works by him include St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham (1839–41), St Alban's Church, Macclesfield, Ches. (1838–41), St Barnabas's Cathedral, Nottingham (1841–4), and St Mary's (or Marie's), Derby (1837–9).

His secular architecture and his polemics were of great importance because he demonstrated by historical argument (e.g. Haddon Hall, Derbyshire (C12–C17) ) and by his own example (e.g. Alton Castle, Staffs. (1840–52); the complex of the Grange and St Augustine's, Ramsgate, Kent (1843–52—where he is buried); and Scarisbrick Hall, Ormskirk, Lancs. (1836–47) ) that the three-dimensional form of the building should grow naturally out of the plan. This he called the ‘true Picturesque’, while many houses he criticized were sham Picturesque with ‘donjon keeps … nothing but drawing rooms’, ‘watch-towers … where the house-maids sleep’, and bastions ‘where the butler keeps his plate’. Such buildings (e.g. G. L. Taylor's Hadlow Tower, Kent (c.1840)) were ‘mere masks’ and ‘ill-conceived lies’, whereas beauty should grow from necessity. Pattern-books and illustrations of historical architecture, to Pugin, were dangerous because they were mindlessly copied, and bits jumbled together in new concoctions. Such publications, in the possession of architects and builders, were as ‘bad as the Scriptures in the hands of Protestants’. His arguments led to the adoption of freely composed asymmetrical buildings (e.g. the vicarages of Butterfield) and to the Domestic Revival, the Queen Anne, and Free styles.

Bibliography

M. Aldrich (1994);
Atterbury & and Wainwright (1994);
Crook (1987);
Belcher (ed.) (2001);
Crook (1987);
J. Curl (1995);
Dixon & and Muthesius (1985);
Eastlake (1970);
Ferrey (1861);
Germann (1972);
Graby (ed.) (1989);
J. Harries (1994);
Hitchcock (1977);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);
Pevsner (1972);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Port (ed.) (1976);
Pugin (1841, 1843, 1843a, 1973);
G. Scott (1995);
Stanton (1971);
Jane Turner (1996);

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Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) was the most influential English ecclesiastical architect of his day and the principal theoretician of the Gothic revival.

Born in London on March 1, 1812, A. W. N. Pugin was the son of, and early assistant to, Augustus Charles Pugin, the producer of pattern books of Gothic building, such as Examples of Gothic Architecture (1831). The younger Pugin's conversion to Catholicism in 1834 led to a series of publications defending his chosen religion against the Established Church and advocating a correct Gothic style for its buildings. These publications had a great influence beyond the small circle of aristocratic Catholic restorationists, such as Lord Shrewsbury, who were Pugin's principal patrons.

Pugin's propaganda campaign began with the publication, at his own expense—since it was too controversial for a commercial publisher—of his intemperate Contrasts (1836; 2d ed. enlarged, 1841). The theme of contrast between the unity and goodness of the Middle Ages and the pluralism and degeneracy of the industrialized 19th century was common in intellectual circles of the time, but Pugin gave it architectural expression through a series of plates contrasting medieval with modern, classically inspired buildings. The final plate, in which buildings from the two periods are weighed on the scales of Truth and the modern ones "found wanting, " summed up Pugin's attitude. This work established architectural criticism on an ethical basis. Only good men (that is, Christians, and more specifically, Catholics) build good buildings (that is, Gothic ones; classical buildings are pagan). John Ruskin made this a fundamental principle of architectural criticism in his popular Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849).

Pugin's The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (1841) explained the Gothic as a rational, utilitarian architectural system in stone and announced the "two great rules for design" as "1st, that there should be no features about a building which are not necessary for convenience, construction, or propriety; 2nd, that all ornament should consist of enrichment of the essential construction of the building."

In Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England (1843) Pugin added nationalism to religion as a justification for using Gothic forms. Christian or Gothic architecture is "the only correct expression of the faith, wants, and climate of our country … whilst we profess the creed of Christians, whilst we glory in being Englishmen, let us have an architecture, the arrangement and details of which alike remind us of our faith and our country." The classically inspired buildings of his contemporaries had no place in England because they were not Gothic and therefore neither Christian nor English.

The Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England (1843), illustrating and describing Pugin's own church designs, pointed out his religious use of Gothic. His ornamental contributions in the English Perpendicular style to Charles Barry's Houses of Parliament (1836 onward) demonstrated the application of Gothic in the cause of nationalism.

Pugin's influence through these publications was farreaching, but his buildings, some 70 in all, also represent an impressive achievement. They range from small parish churches such as St. Giles's, Cheadle, Staffordshire (1841-1846), to cathedrals such as St. Chad's, Birmingham (1839-1841), and from great country houses such as Alton Towers, Staffordshire (1840-1844), the seat of Lord Shrewsbury, and Scarisbrick Hall, Lancashire (after 1837), to monastic and other institutional buildings such as St. John's Hospital, Alton, Staffordshire (1840-1842). Quality varies with the budget in these works, but all are more Victorian than Gothic, and they reflect the infant state of medieval studies of the period.

Pugin died on Sept. 14, 1852, in Ramsgate, Kent, and was buried there in the church of St. Augustine, designed and built (1846-1851) at his own expense.

Further Reading

The older biographies of Pugin by Benjamin Ferry, Recollections of A. N. Welby Pugin (1861), and by Michael Trappes-Lomax, Pugin (1933), have been superseded by Phoebe Stanton's well-illustrated Pugin (1970). For a brief account of Pugin's role in English Catholicism see Denis R. Gwynn, Lord Shrewsbury, Pugin and the Catholic Revival (1946). His buildings are discussed in the context of the architecture of his time in Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Early Victorian Architecture in Britain (1954). There are good chapters on Pugin's life and work in Kenneth Clark, The Gothic Revival (1928), and in Alexandra Clark, Victorian Architecture, edited by Peter Ferriday (1963).

Additional Sources

Ferrey, Benjamin, Recollections of A. W. N. Pugin and his father Augustus Pugin, London: Scolar Press, 1978. □

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Pugin, Augustus Welby

Pugin, Augustus Welby (1812–52). Architect and pioneer of the Victorian Gothic Revival. Before Pugin, ‘Gothick’ architecture had been largely a romantic plaything of rich dilettantes. He saw something deeper in it. According to Pugin, Gothic was the only Christian—by which he meant Roman catholic—style. His book Contrasts (1836) set drawings of medieval buildings beside drawings of their modern—square, crude, simple—equivalents, in order to show how much more attractive the former were. It was grossly unfair, but influential. Pugin was commissioned to put his set-square where his mouth was all over the country. Alton Towers (1836), Scarisbrick Hall (1837), the catholic cathedrals of Birmingham (1841) and Newcastle (1844), and the lush Perpendicular-style detailing of the new Houses of Parliament (1840–52)—the classicist Charles Barry did the main plan—are some of the results. They are not the greatest examples of the genre; but Pugin should really be judged by the inspiration he gave to better architects (like Scott and Butterfield) after him. Besides, he died very young, after religious fanaticism turned to certifiable madness in his late thirties. His son, E. W. Pugin (1834–75), another short-liver, carried on his work.

Bernard Porter

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Pugin, Augustus Welby Northmore

Pugin, Augustus Welby Northmore (1812–52) English architect. With Sir Charles Barry, he designed (1840–70) the Houses of Parliament. Through his designs and writings, especially True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (1841), he was a leading promoter of the Gothic revival.

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