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Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin
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Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin

Tile, 1845 1851, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin V&A Museum no. C.1A-1978

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1 March 1812 14 September 1852) was an English architect, designer, artist and critic, chiefly remembered for his pioneering role in the Gothic Revival style; his work culminated in the interior design and "Big Ben" clock tower of the Palace of Westminster. Pugin designed many churches in England, and some in Ireland and Australia.[1] Pugin was the father of E. W. Pugin and Peter Paul Pugin, who continued their father's architectural firm as Pugin and Pugin.[2]



Pugin was the son of a French draughtsman, Auguste Pugin, who had come to England as a result of the French Revolution and had married Catherine Welby of Lincolnshire.[3] Augustus was born at his parents' house in Bloomsbury. He learned drawing from his father, and for a while attended Christ's Hospital.

In 1831, aged nineteen, he married the first of his three wives, Anne Garnet.[4] Anne died a few months later in childbirth, leaving him with a daughter. He had a further six children, including the architect Edward Pugin, by his second wife, Louisa Burton, who died in 1844. His third wife, Jane Knill, kept a journal of their married life together, between their marriage in 1848 and his death; it was later published.[5] Their son was Peter Paul Pugin.

In 1834, Pugin became a Roman Catholic convert,[6] and he was received into the faith in the following year;[7] at around the same time, he bought land at Laverstock near Salisbury, on which he built a house for his family. His conversion resulted in the loss of some commissions, but also brought him into contact with new patrons and employers. However, he continued to face financial problems, which were only partly resolved by a legacy from his aunt, Selina Welby, with whom he took up residence in Ramsgate. He continued to suffer from depression. In 1851 he went into a retreat, believing death to be imminent, and in 1852 he was admitted to Bedlam. His wife moved him to a more comfortable institution, and in a few weeks he was able to return to their home in Ramsgate.

Significance in the Gothic Revival

Diorama Building]], London 1823, by A. Pugin and J. Morgan

St Albans market square in Hertfordshire (1838)
Pugin's father had trained him to draw Gothic buildings for use as illustrations in his books.

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.

Following the destruction by fire of the Palace of Westminster in 1834, Pugin was employed by Sir Charles Barry to supply interior designs for Barry's entry to the architectural competition which would determine who would build the new Palace of Westminster. Pugin also supplied drawings to another architect who was entering the competition, James Gillespie Graham.[8] This followed a period of employment when Pugin had worked with Barry on the interior design of King Edward's School, Birmingham. Despite his conversion to Catholicism in 1834, Pugin designed and refurbished both Anglican and Catholic churches throughout the country.

Other works include 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. Also in Ireland, Pugin designed St. Mary's Cathedral in Killarney, St. Aidan's Cathedral, Enniscorthy (renovated in 1996) and the Dominican church of the Holy Cross in Tralee. He revised the plans for St. Michael's Church in Ballinasloe, Galway.

In 1836, Pugin published Conrasts, a polemical book which argued for the revival of the medieval Gothic style, and also "a return to the faith and the social structures of the Middle Ages".[9] Each plate in the book selected a type of urban building and contrasted the 1830 example with its 15th-century equivalent. In one example, Pugin contrasted a medieval monastic foundation, where monks fed and clothed the needy, grew food in the gardens and gave the dead a decent burial with "a panopticon workhouse where the poor were beaten, half starved and sent off after death for dissection. Each structure was the built expression of a particular view of humanity: Christianity versus Utilitarianism."[9] Pugin's biographer, Rosemary Hill, wrote: "The drawings were all calculatedly unfair. King's College London was shown from an unflatteringly skewed angle, while Christ Church, Oxford, was edited to avoid showing its famous Tom Tower because that was by Wren and so not medieval. But the cumulative rhetorical force was tremendous."[9]

Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster

In 1844, having won the architectural competition to design the new Palace of Westminster, Barry asked Pugin to supply detailed designs for the interior of the new building, including stained glass, metalwork, wood carving, upholstery, furniture and a royal throne. Pugin's biographer, Rosemary Hill, shows that Barry designed the Palace as a whole, and only he could coordinate such a large project and deal with its difficult paymasters, but he relied entirely on Pugin for its Gothic interiors, wallpapers and furnishings.[10] At the end of Pugin's life, in February 1852, Barry visited him in Ramsgate and Pugin supplied a detailed design for the clock tower, known as Big Ben. The design is very close to earlier Pugin designs, including an unbuilt scheme for Scarisbrick Hall, Lancashire. The tower was Pugin's last design before descending into madness. 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 & it is beautiful & I am the whole machinery of the clock."[11] Hill writes that Barry omitted to give any credit to Pugin for his huge contribution to the design of the new Houses of Parliament.[12] In 1867, after the deaths of both Pugin and Barry, Pugin's son Edward published a pamphlet, Who Was the Art Architect of the Houses of Parliament, a statement of facts, in which he asserted that his father was the "true" architect of the building, and not Barry.[13]

Pugin and the Earl of Shrewsbury

Inside SS Peter and Paul, Newport, Shropshire, designed by Augustus Pugin. The most notable of Pugin's Catholic patrons was John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury,[14] who commissioned him to build St. Giles' Catholic Church, Cheadle, completed in 1846.

The Talbots family seat was at Alton Towers, near the town of Cheadle, north Staffordshire, and Pugin was also responsible for designing the oldest Catholic church in Shropshire, St Peter and Paul, SS Peter and Paul designed by Augustus Pugin.

Pugin in Ireland

Pugin was invited to Ireland by the Redmond family to work initially in the south east in County Wexford. He arrived in Ireland in 1838 at a time of greater religious tolerance, when Catholic churches were permitted to be built. Most of his work in Ireland consisted of religious work. Pugin demanded the highest quality of workmanship from his craftsmen, particularly the stonemasons who were well able for him. His subsequent visits to the country were infrequent and of short duration.

Buildings in Ireland attributed to Pugin


  • Church of Assumption of Mary, Bree, Co. Wexford. 1837-1839. Patronage from the Redmond family.
  • Church of St. John the Baptist, Bellevue, Ballyhogue, Co. Wexford. 1859
  • St. Peter's College, Summerhill Road, Wexford, Co. Wexford. Chapel.1838-1841. 6 bay chapel integrated as part of the College. Built in Wexford red sandstone. Various Pugin elements including stations of cross, balcony, rood screen etc. were removed in renovation of 1950.
  • Church of St. James's, Ramsgrange, Co. Wexford. 1838-1843.
  • Chapel at Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16. Currently vacant and out of use.
  • Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Gorey, Co. Wexford. 1839-1842. Cruciform plan in Romanesque style. 9 bay nave. Low square tower over the crossing. The design may have been influenced by Dunbrody Abbey, Co. Wexford. Built in Ballyscartin limestone with Wicklow granite dressings. Spire not constructed. Patronage of Sir. Thomas Esmonde and family.
  • Loreto Convent, St. Michael's Road, Gorey, Co. Wexford. 1842-1844.
  • St. Mary's Cathedral, Killarney, Co. Kerry. 1842-1856. Cruciform early English style in limestone. Much modified. 12 bay nave and spire over the crossing completed by others.
  • Two Villas, Cobh, Co. Cork. 1842 for 5th. Viscount Midleton.
  • Church of St. Mary's, Tagoat, Co. Wexford. 1843-1848. Cruciform plan. 5 bay nave and aisles. Contains Pugin brasses, tiles etc. Damaged in fire 1936.
  • St. Aidan's Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. 1843-1860. Cruciform plan.
  • Church of St. Alphonsus or Blessed Virgin Mary, Barntown, Co. Wexford. 1844-1848. 7 bay church with nave and aisles. Scissors roof truss. Design may be based on an early church at Stanton, Cambridgeshire. Interior much modified.
  • Houses, Midleton, Co. Cork. For Viscount Midleton. 1845.
  • St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. 1845-1850. Quadrangles.
  • Presentation Convent, Waterford, Co. Waterford. Quadrangle and internal cloister.
  • Presentation Monastery, Port Road, Killarney, Co. Kerry. 1846-1862.
  • Adare Manor, Adare, Co. Limerick. 1846. Alterations including hall ceiling, staircase, gallery etc.
  • St. John's Convent of Mercy, Birr, Co. Offaly. 1846-1856. Completed by E.W. Pugin.

Pugin and Australia

St Francis Xavier's Church, Berrima, New South Wales, designed by Augustus Pugin. The first Catholic Bishop of New South Wales, Australia, John Bede Polding, met Pugin and was present when St. Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham and St. Giles' Catholic 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.

St Stephen s Chapel in the cathedral grounds in Elizabeth Street, Brisbane, was built to a design of A.W.N. Pugin. Construction began in 1848, and the first mass in the church was celebrated on 12 May 1850. In 1859 James Quinn was appointed Bishop of Brisbane, Brisbane becoming a diocese, and Pugin's small church became a cathedral. When the new cathedral of St Stephen was opened in 1874 the small Pugin church became a school room, and later church offices and storage room. It was several times threatened with demolition before its restoration in the 1990s.

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.[15]

After his death A.W.N. 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.

Death and legacy

The Grange, Ramsgate, designed by Pugin as his family home. In February 1852, while travelling with his son Edward by train, Pugin suffered a total breakdown and arrived in London unable to recognise anyone or speak coherently. For four months he was confined to a private asylum, Kensington House. In June, he was transferred to the Royal Bethlem Hospital, popularly known as Bedlam.[16] At that time, Bethlem Hospital was opposite St George's Cathedral, Southwark, one of Pugin's major buildings, where he had married his third wife, Jane, in 1848. Jane and a doctor removed Pugin from Bedlam and took him to a private house in Hammersmith where they attempted therapy, and he recovered sufficiently to recognise his wife.[16] In September, Jane took her husband back to The Grange in Ramsgate, and there he died on 14 September 1852.[16]

On Pugin's death certificate, the cause listed was "convulsions followed by coma". Pugin's biographer, Rosemary Hill, suggests that, in the last year of his life, he was suffering from hyperthyroidism which would account for his symptoms of exaggerated appetite, perspiration, and restlessness. Hill writes that Pugin's medical history, including eye problems and recurrent illness from his early twenties, suggests that he contracted syphilis in his late teens, and this may have been the cause of his death at the age of 40.[17]

Pugin's legacy began to fade immediately after his death.[17] This was partly due to the hostility of John Ruskin. In The Appendix to The Stones of Venice (1851), Ruskin wrote of Pugin, "he is not a great architect but one of the smallest possible or conceivable architects."[18] Contemporaries and admirers of Pugin, including Sir Henry Cole, protested at the viciousness of the attack and pointed out that Ruskin's idea on style had much in common with Pugin's.[18] After Pugin's death, Ruskin "outlived and out-talked him by half a century".[17] Sir Kenneth Clark wrote, "If Ruskin had never lived, Pugin would never have been forgotten."[19]

Nonetheless, Pugin's architectural ideas were carried forward by two young architects who admired him and had attended his funeral, W. E. Nesfield and Norman Shaw. George Gilbert Scott, William Butterfield and George Edmund Street were influenced by Pugin's designs, and continued to work out the implication of ideas he had sketched in his writings.[17] In Street's office, Philip Webb met William Morris and they went on to become leading members of the English Arts and Crafts movement.[17] When the German critic Hermann Muthesius published his admiring and influential study of English domestic architecture, Das Englische Haus (1904), Pugin was all but invisible, yet "it was he... who invented the English House that Muthesius so admired".[17]

On 23 February 2012 the Royal Mail released a first class stamp featuring Pugin as part its "Britons of Distinction" series. The stamp image depicts an interior view of the Palace of Westminster.[20]

List of Pugin's principal buildings in the United Kingdom

House designs, with approximate date of design and current condition


  • Hall of John Halle, Salisbury (1834) Restoration of an existing hall of 1470, largely intact but extended prior to and following the 1834 restoration; now in use as the vestibule to a cinema
  • 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; a hotel
  • Rampisham rectory (1846) unaltered; private house
  • Woodchester Park scheme (1846) unexecuted
  • Fulham presbytery (1847) intact; in use
  • Leighton Hall, Powys (1847) intact; in use
  • Banwell Castle (1847) - intact now a hotel and restaurant
  • Wilburton Manor House (1848) largely intact; a school
  • Pugin's Hall (1850) - intact, a private house

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 44) unexecuted
  • Convent of Mercy, Nottingham (1844) altered; private flats
  • Mercy House and cloisters, Handsworth (1844 45) 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) intact; private house
  • King Edward's School, Birmingham (design of parts of interior) (1838)

Major ecclesiastical designs

  • St James's, Reading (1837) altered
  • St Mary s, Derby (1837) altered
  • Oscott College Chapel (1837 38) extant
  • Our Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury, Dudley (1838) altered
  • St Anne s, Keighley (1838) altered and extended
  • St Alban s, Macclesfield (1838) extant
  • St Benedict Abbey (Oulton Abbey), Stone, Staffordshire (1854) complete and in use as a nursing home[22]
  • St Marie s, Ducie Street, Manchester (1838) not executed
  • St Augustine s, Solihull (1838) altered and extended
  • St Marie s, Southport (1838) altered
  • St Marie s, Uttoxeter (1839) altered
  • St Wilfred s, Hulme, Manchester (1839) extant
  • Chancel of St John s, Banbury (1839) extant
  • St Chad s, Birmingham (1839) extant
  • St Giles , Cheadle (1840) extant
  • St Oswald s, Liverpool (1840) only tower remains
  • St George s Cathedral, Southwark, London (1840) almost entirely rebuilt after World War II bombing
  • Holy Trinity, Radford, Oxfordshire (1839) extant
  • Our Lady and St Wilfred, Warwick Bridge (1840) extant
  • St Marie s, Brewood (1840) extant
  • St Marie s, Liverpool (1841) demolished
  • St Augustine s, Kenilworth (1841) extant
  • St Mary s, Newcastle upon Tyne (1841) extant, with tower by C. Hansom
  • St Barnabas Cathedral, Nottingham (1841) extant
  • St Mary s, Stockton-on-Tees (1841) extant
  • Jesus Chapel, Ackworth Grange, Pontefract (1841) demolished
  • St Peter s, Woolwich (1842) extended
  • St Winifrede s, Shepshed (1842) now a private house
  • Old St Peter and St Paul's Church, Albury, Albury Park (mortuary chapel) (1842) extant
  • Reredos of Leeds Cathedral (1842) transferred to rebuilt cathedral 1902,[23] restored 2007[24]
  • Our Lady and St Thomas, Northampton (1844) Subsequently enlarged in stages forming St Mary and St Thomas RC Northampton Cathedral[25]
  • St Marie s, Wymeswold (restoration) (1844) extant
  • St Wilfrid s, Cotton (1844) extant
  • St Peter s, Marlow (1845) extant
  • St John the Evangelist ("The Willows"), Kirkham, Lancashire (1845) extant
  • St Augustine s, Ramsgate (1845) extant
  • St Marie s, Rugby (1845) much added to
  • St Lawrence s, Tubney (1845) extant
  • St Edmund's College chapel, Old Hall Green 1846 extant
  • St Marie s, West Tofts (1845) disused and inaccessible
  • St Thomas of Canterbury, Fulham (1847) extant
  • St Osmund s, Salisbury (1847) much added to
  • Chancel of St Oswald's Church, Winwick (1847) extant
  • Erdington Abbey, Birmingham (1848)
  • Chapel restoration, Jesus College, Cambridge (1849) extant
  • Rolle Mortuary Chapel, Bicton Grange, Bicton (1850) extant
  • St Nicholas' Church, Boldmere, Sutton Coldfield (1841) demolished
  • St James-the-Less, Rawtenstall (1844) extant, restored 1993-95

Railway cottages

Slightly less grand than the above are the railway cottages at Windermere railway station in Westmorland. 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.

See also

  • Mintons Ltd
  • John Dibblee Crace



  • 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 978-0-7139-9499-5
  • 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)

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