Augustus Pugin Structures

For the completion of interiors and the design of furniture at Windsor, the task was entrusted to Messrs Morel and Seddon. Morel, a French upholsterer, was aware of 'the superior knowledge of Gothic architecture' of another French émigré, Augustus Charles Pugin (17621832), who had worked for Nash and had measured and drawn historic buildings for the publications of R. Ackermann, J. Britton and E. W. Brayley (Ferrey, 1861:50). Pugin, however, passed this 'great responsibility' to his son Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52), who had great talent as a draughtsman and had accompanied his father to record historic structures even in Normandy. Pugin's designs for Windsor can now be considered 'dignified and simple', and his colleague and biographer Benjamin Ferrey (1810-80) doubted 'whether any person but Pugin could have designed such a multitude of objects with equally happy results' (Linstrum, 1972:191; Ferrey, 1861:53). It was the king's desire to reuse some elements such as fireplaces from his demolished London residence (Carlton House), and he even considered removing a fine sixteenth-century roof from the Banqueting Hall of Eltham Palace to Windsor, but this was found too decayed to stand removal 'from its legitimate position'.

Pugin became one of the key figures in the development of the Gothic Revival in England, and he was well known abroad. His most important undertakings was the collaboration with Sir Charles Barry on the new Houses of Parliament. He was an extremely hard worker and designed a great number of buildings, but he was also an active writer and promoted Gothic as the only morally acceptable

Christian architecture for religious buildings. He attacked Classicism and Protestantism, accusing their supporters of the destruction of the Gothic heritage of the country, but even Catholic priests were not spared from his accusations. He worked earnestly for a Catholic revival, and himself took the Catholic faith, although he deplored the baroque luxury that surrounded the pope in Rome.

His first book, Contrasts, published in 1836, was a comparison of mediaeval and present-day buildings. It gave a brief history of the neglect and destruction of mediaeval churches in England, and attacked especially their ignorant treatment in recent times. The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture of 1841 and An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture of 1843 were his contribution to the definition of the principles according to which the Gothic Revival was to be conducted. During his tours of cathedrals, Pugin had already come across Wyatt's work, and he took up again the criticism voiced by Carter. Bishop Barrington and Wyatt deserved the 'severest censure' at Salisbury for their 'improvements', where the bell tower on the north-west side of the church had been demolished, the Hungerford and Beauchamp chapels pulled down, and the tombs set up in the 'most mutilated manner' between the pillars of the nave (Pugin, 1836, 1973:38). At Hereford, he rushed to the cathedral, 'but horror! dismay! the villain Wyatt had been there, the west front was his. Need I say more? No! All that is vile, cunning, and rascally is included in the term Wyatt, and I could hardly summon sufficient fortitude to enter and examine the interior' (Ferrey, 1861:80). A different picture was presented to him at Ely Cathedral, which had suffered neglect and decay but not restoration. Pugin felt delighted to see this magnificent structure with features that had not even been completed such as the lantern, that he likened to a torso. He was also pained; only one person was in charge of the structure, and no precautions had been taken to keep the building even dry, not to mention the alarming fissures, particularly around the western tower.

Although the absence of restoration was positive on the one hand, it was certainly negative on the other. The problem was that either the churches were adapted to the requirements of the Protestant faith by providing seating for the congregation, good visibility and good acoustics, as well as eliminating the symbols of popery, which meant rearrangement of chapels or, if not, then the church was abandoned. In Westminster Abbey he was critical about the 'most inappropriate and tasteless monuments' that had been erected in the church. In Contrasts he wrote that the neglected state of this once glorious church was a national disgrace, and he was appalled at the apathy of those who were in the position to take care of this heritage, 'as the legitimate conservators of our national antiquities' (Pugin, 1836:41).

Pugin felt encouraged, however, and recognized an improvement in certain recent restorations of cathedrals and other churches, regarding especially the accuracy of moulding and technical details. He remained concerned, though, that 'the principles which influenced ancient compositions, and the soul which appears in all the former works' (Pugin, 1836: 43) had not been properly understood so far. The only way to guarantee their respect was through a restoration of the ancient feelings and sentiments themselves. 'Tis they alone that can restore pointed architecture to its former glorious state; without it all that is done will be a tame and heartless copy, true as far as the mechanism of the style goes, but utterly wanting in that sentiment and feeling that distinguishes ancient design' (Pugin, 1836:43).

This was his main criticism of modern alterations in the choirs of Peterborough and Norwich. While the details had been well worked out, the whole general layout was mistaken. At Canterbury, instead, even if the same criticism applied, Pugin was pleased about the rebuilding of the north-western tower, which he considered 'an undertaking quite worthy of ancient and better days' (Pugin, 1836:43). To Pugin everything about English churches was Catholic. Society, instead, had become Protestant, and consequently the original concept of the church had been lost. However, something was saved due to Protestant apathy, while in France the ravages of the Revolution and the 'pagan influences' of Classicism had caused even more damage.

The first thing to do, in his opinion, was to promote a fundamental change in the minds of modern Catholics, and 'to render them worthy of these stupendous monuments of ancient piety' (Pugin, 1836:55). Pugin rejected the word 'style' because there was only one way to build truly Christian architecture. He was the first writer to judge the values of art and architecture on the grounds of the moral worth of their creator. Morality extended even to the details of the construction, where all had to be real and a true expression of necessity. Protestants had ignored the traditional form of the church and destroyed much for the sake of their practical requirements, which according to Pugin were not compatible with the original form. He wanted to restore all the ancient features that had made part of early Christian churches, including even the stone altar.

Pugin's concern was not about preservation of the original historical material, but rather about fulfilment of the original idea in the Catholic church. Speaking even about ruined churches, he exclaimed: 'Heaven forbid that they should ever be restored to anything less than their former glory!' There was a direct consequence of these concerns, and while Pugin reinstated the ideas of Gothic Revival in England, he also encouraged an 'ecclesiologi-cal' movement for the repair of old churches, not only in their form but also their moral content (to be discussed in the next chapter). Some architects sympathized with these ideas, and they contributed to the development of stylistic restoration and a debate on the treatment of historic buildings in general.

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