The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

March 1, 2016

March 1, 1812

A century ago no one would need to be introduced to the legacy of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (March 1, 1812 to September 14, 1852), or need help to distinguish him from his father Augustus Charles Pugin (1762 to 1832) who was also obsessed with medieval architecture. "Gothic Revival" is the term with which we refer to the Pugin effects in the English landscape. The Palace of Westminster shows his aesthetic, as do many English churches. Augustus Northmore Pugin wrote out his ideals in The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture.

Writing was an aspect of his campaign for a Gothic Revival, and here is a quote from:

Examples of Gothic architecture: selected from various ancient edifices in England: consisting of plans, elevations, sections, and parts at large ... accompanied by historical and descriptive accounts

The authors listed are:  Augustus Pugin, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, Edward James Willson, Thomas Larkin Walker.

Below from this volume are excerpts from the commentary accompanying one plate:

Wolterton Hall....has since been regarded as one of the richest examples of ornamented brickwork in the kingdom, and some of its details have been copied in more than one modern mansion...

These ...
[ornaments, including]... the king's arms and supporters, [those features around the arms] are carved in brick; but [for] the jambs of the gate, and some other parts, [which] are of chalk-stone. The rest of the materials are brick; the ornaments being cast in moulds, and then burnt. ...
All the English sovereigns from Richard II., who was the first that added supporters to his arms, down to James I., who introduced the unicorn of Scotland as a companion to the lion of England, adopted different supporters. Henry VII. used a red dragon, the ensign of Cadwallader, the last king of the Britons, from whom he claimed descent; and a white greyhound, in right of his queen, Elizabeth of York, she being descended from the family of Nevile, to which it belonged....

Henry VIII. supported his arms with a dragon and a greyhound, the same as his father had done, in the beginning of his reign; but afterwards laid aside the greyhound, and adopted a lion, which all the succeeding sovereigns have retained....

Here is an example of the Pointed architecture which thrilled Pugin.

Above is the home Pugin built for his own family, named The Grange. I believe you can see on the right a church he also built.  Next and finally we have a brief essay on Pugin's life, excerpts from an article Christopher Howse wrote for The Telegraph (February 18, 2012):

Ramsgate... thanks to St Augustine, gave Christianity to the English, and, thanks to the plumbing, gave typhoid to Queen Victoria...[Ramsgate is the community where 
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin]....the most influential architect of the 19th century, [built his home, seen above.]

Pugin .... [l]ike Ruskin ... climbed over cathedral roofs and up teetering ladders to capture in pencil the details of the Middle Ages. ...[H]e did things, day and night: visiting, writing, arguing, building, pushing on, short of money, short of backers and always short of time. His motto was En avant....

He lived at such a rate that he seemed to burst through the surface of the world as if through a drumskin. From solid land, he launched out into the ever restless sea in his own boat, the Caroline. From reality, he launched into stage illusion at Covent Garden. By force of character he dressed the Age of Steam as the Gothic Age, and he kept the pressure in the boiler of his brain so high that, having outlived two and half wives, he died mad himself, aged 40.

Pugin got going before he quite knew what was to be done. He couldn’t write a sentence without a mistake in spelling or grammar, but he wrote a million sentences in carriages, in vestries, in ships, in inns, in trains (which he took to avidly), in daylight and lamplight, haste post haste and reply by return. He told the world that only Gothic would do before he half understood Gothic idiom. He .... produced ideal buildings, such as the Deanery or St Marie’s College, which by 1834 existed fully formed on paper before Pugin had ever built a house.

He got it into his head that because Gothic architecture had historically been Catholic, then Catholic architecture ought to be Gothic. A Neo-Classical church was to him a pagan temple. It was an attitude that amused and exasperated John Henry Newman, who knew Rome, to which Pugin had made one hurried visit, where only a single Gothic church had ever been built amid its scores in the Classical mode....

Because of him, St Pancras station, finished 16 years after his death, was to have pointed arches, like the cathedrals of old. The pagan Neo-Classicism of King’s Cross was old hat now to advanced Victorian taste. For Pugin had invented a style fit for the Victorian polity. When we see the Queen open Parliament, she sits on the throne designed by Pugin, on a carpet of his design, in the chamber of his design in the Palace of Westminster, design by Charles Barry, but with Pugin’s constant aid. Even the clocktower for Big Ben bears strong resemblance to one designed by him for Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire.

There is also a domestic side to Pugin that is very winning. He made buildings for use and houses to be lived in. The house he built himself at Ramsgate, the Grange, with its one entrance for both family and servants, and its staircase-hall for a parlour, is safe in the hands of the Landmark Trust. Next to it stands St Augustine’s church, built at his own expense unhampered by patrons’ whims. Outside, it is of dark, vitreous, knapped flint. The tile-floored interior has, like his house, one space opening into another. ....

In the church stands a font with an exuberant wooden spire-cover once displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was Pugin’s triumph there that pushed him over the edge. In that vast crystal showroom of everything modern – looms and iron pianos, brewer’s vats and reaping machines – nothing caught the eye of the time more than Pugin’s Medieval Court, dominated by the font and a huge stove, cased in Minton tiles and protected by wrought iron so that it looked like a saint’s shrine. There were textiles, glass, wallpaper and ceramics – all sure to make any Victorian villa truly Medieval. “He has marvellously fulfilled his own intention,” declared the Illustrated London News, “of demonstrating the applicability of medieval art in all its richness and variety to uses of the present day.”

Reacting from this burst of energy, Pugin was prostrated. “I am sure it was brought on,” he wrote in a letter, “by that detestable amount of Paganism ...[the] debasement in that exhibition.” ....He drifted in and out of lucidity in his last six months, but his hurried brain found time to have laundry lists printed to save his wife work in writing them out each time. He was never happier than in his own house with the women and children he loved.

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