Page 12, 17th May 2002

17th May 2002
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Page 12, 17th May 2002 — Pugin's Gothic Paradise
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Organisations: Church of St Augustine
Locations: London

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Pugin's Gothic Paradise

Charterhouse Chronicle

Anthony Symondson

4 y ou will find lots of fires, and bread and cheese in the house; Compline at 8,

supper at 9, bed at 10 . . . I must get back to my work." Was this the greeting of a distracted guestmaster in a monastery? Not quite. It was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin welcoming in 1844 his future pupil, friend and son-inlaw, the 15-year-old John Hardman Powell, to his house, St Augustine's Grange, Ramsgate. His arrival was greeted by "the shooting back of bolts" and "the taking down of a massive bar candle in hand was seen the strongly built form of Pugin, dressed in pilot cloth, his handsome features sparkling with good humour". For the next seven years, until Pugin's death, The Grange was to be the centre of Powell's existence.

Pugin had been drawn to Ramsgate in 1833 by his aunt, Selina Welby, who was very kind to him when his mother died. She died in the following year and left him enough money to make him independent while he decided what to do with his life. In 1843, after an interval living in Salisbury and Cheyne Row, Chelsea, he settled in Ramsgate, as a recent widower for the second time, with six children and three servants.

The choice of site high on the West Cliff above the English Channel was guided by his hunger for the sea. Ramsgate was convenient1S, placed in relation

to London, and so to the greater part of his architectural practice. It is a forlorn place these days, compressed between a noisy road and the affliction of a giant ferry terminal at the base of the cliff, devastating the view that Pugin once enjoyed from the tower of The Grange. Seen through the lens of many imitations, Pugin's "substantial Catholic home, not very large but solid", built of dullcoloured brick and stone, looks simple and severe, but don't be misled by its dourness. Inside it was far from unsmiling.

The Pugin family led a happy life there. In 1848 he married his third wife, Jane Knill, who bore him two more children. "I am married and have got a first-rate Gothic woman at last," he wrote on his wedding day, "who perfectly understands and delights in spires, chancels, screens, stained windows, brasses, vestments, etc." The Grange was a modest Gothic paradise where the world could be kept at bay. Powell told his uncle, John Hardman, that it was "a sort of monastery in its way". At 6am Pugin started the day with prayers, followed at 7.30 with prayers for the family and Mass at 8. He recited Compline in a cassock and surplice.

The entrance leads to an open-timbered hall, with a heraldic floor of inlaid encaustic tiles, rising to the full height of the house, two sides of which are occupied by a staircase, the others by a wooden gallery on brackets giving access to the bedrooms. To the right of the hall are the drawing rooms, decorated with stone mantelpieces and painted, panelled mahogany ceilings. The dining room was fitted with furniture to Pugin's design, partly panelled, partly papered with rich heraldic wallpaper.

On the garden façade all the main reception rooms overlook the sea and the windows were filled with plate-glass; the rest were filled with small panes of glass in quarries. Pugin's library, where he sang as he worked, and his bedroom are marked by bay windows and a gable. In the library he produced his drawings for the Houses of Parliament and painted the names of his favourite buildings, patrons and friends on a frieze round the ceiling. The small private chapel projects at the end of the range. Under steeply pitched roofs he created huge attic rooms where he kept the bulk of his collections.

"The peeps into different coloured bedrooms," Powell remembered, "with their mullion windows, quaintly carved fireplace and furniture, all hung with old paintings, choice impressions of etchings and engravings, Durer being prominent, was a treat for artists ... The Drawing Room . . . on either side of the fireplace two large panel oil paintings by Durer which he had seen in pieces against some picture dealer's wall painted on both sides for triptych purposes . . . The Library ... A three light window on south side is filled with beautiful roundlets of ancient glass set in foliage and Martlets."

There was more to Pugin's choice of Ramsgate than family associations and a fine view. Nearby is Ebbsfleet on the Isle of Thanet where St Augustine landed in AD957 to begin the conversion of England. It had a powerful attraction and not only did he place portraits of himself and his wife and daughter beneath those of St Augustine and St Gregory (the pope who sent St Augustine) in the stained glass over the altar of his chapel, he also built the great flint and stone abbey Church of St Augustine next door. The Pugin family stayed on the West Cliff until 1928. His eldest son, Edward, made imposing alterations and for a long time the house was used as

a preparatory school.

The Landmark Trust bought The Grange in 1997. It rescues and renovates rare buildings of enchanting quality that otherwise would have fallen into ruin. Temples, mills, cottages, follies, towers, a stuccoed music room, a Palladian villa, castles, forts, country houses, even a pigsty have been saved. Once restored they are beautifully furnished and equipped and let as civilised holiday homes. An appeal for £1 million has been launched to restore The Grange carefully to bright-coloured splendour. Nowhere will it be possible to stay in a house that speaks so eloquently of the Gothic Revival and the Second Spring of English Catholicism. Make a contribution and one day you might be able to go for a lovely Gothic holiday and worship in St Augustine's where Pugin and his family are buried. Some of his descendants cannot wait to be the first to spend a family Christmas there.

Details about The Grange Appeal are available from The Landmark Trust on 01628 825920; Website www.landmarktrust.co.uk




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