Pugin and the Revival of the Gothic Tradition
An explanation of Pugin’s reasons for reviving Gothic traditions in architecture.
In the following essay I shall attempt to explain Augustus Pugin’s reasons for wanting to revive the Gothic tradition in architecture.
In order for us to form a plausible understanding of these reasons we need to understand a little about the circumstances surrounding the architects personal background and so, in the true style of a moral rationalist , I take you back to March the 1st, 1812, Bloomsbury, London, and the birth of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin.
Augustus’s father, Auguste Pugin was a member of the French aristocracy who had settled in London after (rather wisely, events were beginning to suggest) fleeing France during the Revolution. An artist and draughtsman by trade, he demonstrated a love of traditional medieval Gothic architecture and often travelled abroad while studying architectural style and design. As a young boy Pugin frequently accompanied his father on these trips and it was probably a combination of having the opportunity to tag along on these learning excursions and witnessing, first hand, his father’s unending enthusiasm that led the young Pugin to develop his own interests in Gothic design.
As well as a high regard for Gothic architecture Pugin also inherited a fine talent for art and before long he began to assist his father with the creation of several collections of precise and intricate drawings. These drawings provided detailed information on Gothic architecture and decoration and published volumes such as Specimens of Gothic Architecture (1821-3), and Examples of Gothic Architecture (1828-31) went on to trigger a renaissance that helped a great many architects of the time to develop a style that we now refer to as Victorian Gothic.
In fact, the Pugin drawings were so influential that at the tender age of just fifteen Augustus Pugin was employed to design furniture for Windsor Castle and the recognition that came from this enabled him to launch his own business carving Gothic style architectural decorations.
Unfortunately, within the space of the next twelve years Pugin was to suffer more than his fair share of bereavement. First he lost both his parents and then his first wife Ann Garnet, who died during childbirth, leaving him with a baby daughter. He had five more children with his second wife Louisa Burton before she too died leaving him a widower for the second time.
Later he would remarried for a third time, to Jane Knill, and father two more children but it was while he was still married to Louisa that Pugin received a substantial legacy from his aunt Stella. It was this windfall that provided him with the means to purchase land and do the one thing he had always dreamed of , build himself a house. For the location he decided upon Salisbury, a city that he had been particularly fond of as a boy and a place where he already had a small group of friends.