Pugin, Augustus Northmore Welby

Pugin, Augustus Northmore Welby one of the most distinguished of modern ecclesiastical architects, was the son of a French gentleman who fled to England at the period of the Revolution. He was born in 1811, and commenced his professional career as a scene-painter and decorator at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, and then devoted himself to decoration in furniture, etc. Joining the Roman Catholic Church, he determined thenceforth to devote his best energies to ecclesiology, and during the few years that he lived to practice his profession he was called upon to erect a larger number of Roman Catholic churches, chapels, convents, and schools than has probably fallen to the lot of any Englishman since the Reformation. The following list includes his chief works: the cathedral church of St. Marie at Derby, one of his earlier and more pleasing works; St. Chad's, Birmingham; three churches at Liverpool; St. Wilfred's, Manchester; church and convent at Edgehill; churches at Oxford, Cambridge, Reading, Kenilworth, Stockton-on-Tees, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Preston, Keightley, Rugby, Northampton, Stoke- upon-Trent, Brewood, Woolwich, Hammersmith, Fulham, Pontefract, St. Edward's near Ware, Buckingham, and St. Wilfred near Alton; a church, and a convent and chapel, at Nottingham; convents of the Sisters of Mercy at London, Birmingham, and Liverpool; a priory at Downside, near Bath; colleges at Radcliffe and Rugby; improvements at Maynooth; and cathedrals, with schools and priests' houses attached, at St. George's (Southwark), Killarnev, and Enniscorthy. To these must be added the extensive and costly works executed for his great patron, the earl of Shrewsbury, consisting, besides the alterations made in the mansion, of a church, school-house, and monastery at Alton Towers; and a church at Cheadle, which has the most splendid interior of any of his churches. The very pretty gateway to Magdalen College, Oxford, is one of the very few works executed by him for any Protestant body; indeed, he is said to have refused to accept any commissions for Protestant places of worship. The list of works given above would in truth seem to have been more than sufficient to exhaust the time and energies of a man who ceased laboring at the age of forty; yet he was chiefly employed during his last years in designing and superintending the ornamentation of the New Palace of Westminster, which probably owes its somewhat extravagantly mediaeval and ecclesiastical character to Pugin's idiosyncrasies. But, besides the practice of his profession, he found time to add to its literature a second and revised edition of his Contrasts: — a treatise on the True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (1841): — An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture (1843): — a Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament (1844): — a treatise on Floriated Ornaments (1849): — and a treatise on Chancel Screens (1851). As he advanced in life his religious feelings took more and more entire possession of him. In 1850 he wrote and published An Address to the Inhabitants of Ramsgate:— An Earnest Appeal for the Revival of the Ancient Plain Song: — The Present State of Public Worship among the Roman Catholics; and other pamphlets of a religious character. At length, overtasked with all this excessive labor and excitement, his intellect began to give way, and in his fortieth year he was removed to a lunatic asylum. For a brief space his mental powers were so far restored that it became practicable for him to return to his home at Ramsgate; but he expired there Sept. 14, 1852, three days after his return. He was buried in a vault of his own church of St. Augustine, which he had built on his estates. Pugin was a man of extraordinary industry and energy, and he possessed a very unusual amount of knowledge and great ability. He attempted, however, too malny things, and he worked too much and too fast to produce many great works, even had he been a man of original power. In truth, his was not a creative mind, and he lacked comprehensive thought.

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