Victorian Art & Design
A.W.N. Pugin and the Gothic Revival

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, or A.W.N. Pugin, started the Victorian Gothic Revival. This differed from the 18th century 'Gothick' by its emphasis on historical accuracy. In the 1750s Horace Walpole had built Strawberry Hill, his house at Twickenham in the Gothick style. He used an archbishop's tomb as a fireplace and his Long Gallery had fan vaulting copied in plaster from Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

 Pugin, however, took his Gothic Revival far more seriously. Vaulting had to be in stone not plaster. The whole building had to be in the same style, and Pugin was inspired by his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. He thought that churches built and richly furnished in the Gothic style would help to restore the faith in God of medieval times. Pugin thought the classical styles of Greece and Rome, as used by Wren in St. Paul's Cathedral, were pagan and quite unsuitable for Christian buildings. Pugin's illustrated books and his buildings both helped to spread his ideas. As a boy, A.W.N. Pugin had drawn illustrations for books on medieval buildings by his father, Augustus Charles Pugin. He continued with this after his father died.

In 1836 A.W. N. Pugin published his book Contrasts. In it he used pairs of drawings to contrast buildings of the Middle Ages with buildings serving a similar purpose in the 19th century to show 'the present decay of taste'. In his Floriated Ornament Pugin drew geometric patterns based on plants. These followed the beliefs of the 'Design Reformers' by avoiding the use of shading. Pugin thought that the popular Victorian designs with three dimensional realistic pictures of flowers were unsuitable for patterns on flat objects like carpets, wallpapers etc. Instead his plants and animals, like the lion on this tile, were flat. 

 In 1834 the Palace of Westminster containing the Houses of Parliament was destroyed by fire. Charles Barry won the competition to rebuild it, but it is unlikely that he could have done so without the help of Pugin's drawings. Once the work started it was Pugin who provided all the drawings for the decorative features on the exterior and the interior. These included the brightly coloured tiles made by Herbert Minton and hand printed wallpapers. Pugin also provided most of the furniture. Examples of these designs can be seen in the British Galleries of the V&A.         Also to be seen there is a cope with richly embroidered hood from St. Augustine's Church which Pugin built next his house in Ramsgate. Below is one of the windows still in St Augustine's. Poison is shown leaving the chalice in the form of a dragon, a miracle of St John.

A.W.N. Pugin became a Roman Catholic in 1834 at the age of 22, so most of the churches which he designed were Roman Catholic, like St. Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham. Pugin's wealthy patron  the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury paid most of the building costs of St. Chad's and also of St. Giles at Cheadle in Staffordshire. St Giles is the most richly decorated of all his churches. Every surface is covered with brightly coloured patterns.

Pugin did design a few houses, including Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire. His son, E.W. Pugin, completed it and replaced his father's tower by a much taller one.( It is now used as a college.) Pugin built himself two houses. The first, St. Marie's Grange, is near Salisbury. The second is The Grange at Ramsgate in Kent. It had its own chapel, but he also built St. Augustine's Church at his own expense next this house. His eldest son, E.W. Pugin finished it after his father's death.

Eastnor Castle near the Malvern Hills has a Gothic Drawing Room furnished and decorated by Pugin and Crace in 1849-50. They furnished it with a polygonal  oak table with an inlaid border and chairs with X frame legs. The room also has an elaborate family tree of the ancestors of Earl Somers above the fireplace.

 Pugin was in charge of the Medieval Court at the 1851 Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace. Many of the objects on display were designed by him. A number came from St Augustine's. It was a great strain arranging all the exhibits. Pugin had a nervous breakdown and died at the Grange in 1852. 

Pugin Stained Glass    Books on Pugin and the Gothic Revival