Pugin, Augustus Welby Northmore

views updated Jun 08 2018

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.


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);

Pugin, Augustus Welby

views updated May 18 2018


PUGIN, AUGUSTUS WELBY (1812–1852), English architect, designer, and theorist.

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin grew up with Gothic architecture; his father, the French émigré architect and draftsman Augustus-Charles Pugin (1762–1832), had earned fame as the illustrator of books on Gothic architecture, furniture, and ornaments. Pugin's architectural training consisted of traveling with his father around England and France, assisting in the measurement and drawing of medieval buildings. He provided many of the illustrations for his father's last book (Examples of Gothic Architecture, 1831), proving himself a gifted draftsman.

Pugin's architectural career started in 1835 with the construction of his own house (St. Marie's Grange, Salisbury) and his first work for Sir Charles Barry (1795–1860)—the design of furniture and ornamental details for the King Edward VI Grammar School in Birmingham. In the same year Pugin converted to Roman Catholicism and began writing his first and most influential book, Contrasts; or, A Parallel Between the Noble Edifices of the Middle Ages and Corresponding Buildings of the Present Day, Shewing the Present Decay of Taste.

Published in 1841, Contrasts was the first serious polemic of the Gothic Revival movement. Juxtaposing illustrations of medieval buildings with those of his own time, Pugin compared the beauty and harmony of the Middle Ages with the squalor and ugliness of the contemporary world. It was a contrast Pugin attributed to the relative decline in religious faith and the abandonment of the Gothic style after the Reformation. In a bold synthesis of his religious views and love of Gothic design, Pugin argued that Gothic was not merely a "style": it had moral value as the true architectural embodiment of Christian belief, whereas other styles were "pagan" in origin, and therefore un-Christian. It was a turning point. Previously Gothic had been admired for its picturesque and ornamental qualities; now Pugin gave it a moral and symbolic value. It was an argument he developed further in The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (1841). Pugin's ideas were to be an influence on later Gothic Revival theorists including John Ruskin (1819–1900), who wrote Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849), and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (1814–1879).

Contrasts was published at a time of religious revival. In 1818, Parliament had called for the construction of six hundred new churches to serve Britain's expanding cities. The Oxford Movement, which sought the revival of Roman Catholic ideals and rituals in the Church of England, was gaining momentum through the 1830s and 1840s. Pugin's arguments appealed especially to Catholic patrons, and he began to receive commissions from prominent members of the Catholic community, particularly Charles Scarisbrick (Scarisbrick Hall, Lancashire, 1837–1845) and John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury (Alton Towers and Alton Castle, Staffordshire, 1837–1852). But of greater significance was the series of more than thirty churches and religious buildings that Pugin designed. The most notable of the early works was St. Marie's, Derby (1837–1839), where Pugin achieved a sense of soaring verticality in the interior through the use of scale and an exaggerated proportion between height and width, accentuated by tall arcades of bare stonework. A similar verticality can be seen in St. Chad's, Birmingham (1839–1840)—Pugin's first cathedral, and the first Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in England since the Reformation. In the 1840s, through the patronage of the Earl of Shrewsbury, Pugin was able to build the church that most clearly fulfilled his architectural manifesto—St. Giles', Cheadle (1840–1846). Huge in scale, opulent but restrained, in the year of its opening St. Giles was described by John Henry Newman (1801–1890), leader of the Oxford Movement, as "The most splendid building I ever saw."

Pugin's best-known work is the Houses of Parliament (from 1836), which he worked on throughout his career. Sir Charles Barry won the competition to design a new building in 1835, but it is now widely accepted that Pugin was involved in the design, especially in the decorative details. Pugin had never restricted himself to architecture but from the earliest days of his career had designed furniture, ceramics, textiles, wallpaper, and metalwork, collaborating with the manufacturers John Gregory Crace, Herbert Minton, and John Hardman. His work in the interior of the Houses of Parliament presented the opportunity to bring all these aspects together into a Gothic whole. From chandeliers to inkwells, Pugin designed every detail and the result was arguably the finest Gothic Revival interior of the nineteenth century.

See alsoBarry, Charles; Nash, John; Romanticism; Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène.


Atterbury, Paul, ed. A. W. N. Pugin: Master of Gothic Revival. New Haven, Conn., 1995.

Clark, Kenneth. The Gothic Revival: An Essay on the History of Taste, 3rd ed. London, 1962.

Stanton, Phoebe. Pugin. London, 1971.

Mark Foley

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin

views updated May 11 2018

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. □

Pugin, Augustus Welby

views updated May 17 2018


Architect and author; b. London, March 1, 1812; d. Ramsgate, Kent, Sept. 14, 1852. The only child of Augustus Charles Pugin, he led the Gothic revival in England, striving as a Catholic for an architecture of Christian inspiration. After being professionally trained early in life by his father (an architect, illustrator, and teacher), he accompanied a party to Normandy in 1825 to study Gothic architecture. Following his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1834, he established his reputation with Contrasts (1836), wherein he attributed the artistic decline to the change of religion in the Reformation; as an architect he worked chiefly within a Catholic milieu. His theories linked the social and religious convictions of an age with the quality of its art. The principles he formulated were derived from a study of medieval art (published in True Principles, 1841) and won him a place in the development of modern design. With their somewhat utopian view of the Middle Ages, his studies of Gothic art and the history of the liturgy contributed to a revival of interest in liturgical art. His writings, coupled with the high quality of his buildings and decorative designs, influenced both Protestant and Catholic circles.

Among his more than 25 publications are a Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament (1844) and A Treatise on Chancel Screens and Rood Lofts (1851). His buildings include the cathedrals of Birmingham (St. Chad, 183941) and Nottingham (St. Barnabas), and the churches at Brewood (St. Mary, 183444), Cheadle (St. Giles, 1846), and Ramsgate (St. Augustine, 1851).

Bibliography: m. trappes-lomax, Pugin: A Mediaeval Victorian (London 1932). h. sirr, "Augustus Welby Pugin: A Sketch," Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects 3d ser., 25 (191718) 213226. p. b. stanton, ibid. 60 (195253) 4754, well illus. c. l. eastlake, A History of the Gothic Revival (London 1872). k. m. clark, The Gothic Revival, an Essay in the History of Taste (London 1928). h. r. hitchcock, Early Victorian Architecture in Britain, 2 v. (New Haven 1954).

[p. b. stanton]

Pugin, Augustus Welby

views updated Jun 11 2018

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

Pugin, Augustus Welby Northmore

views updated Jun 11 2018

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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