Inspiration Behind Gothic Architecture and Design

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 21, 2007 | Go to article overview

Inspiration Behind Gothic Architecture and Design


Byline: By Jeffery Muse

It is reputed that when Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) ventured into the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral he burst into tears at the state of the place. He cried, 'O God, what has England done to deserve this?'

He was appalled, and rightly so, that over the years the little retreat had been filled with cheap box pews and decorated in limewash, the paint used in milking parlours.

Two Gothic design elm chamfered frame pews or benches, attributed to Hardman & Company and AWN Pugin, because of their obvious similarity to a large group of pews from Ely Cathedral, sold in Bonhams for pounds 6,000.

The same design was used for pews in the Convent of Mercy, Handsworth in Birmingham which were subsequently sold, and these are believed to be part of this set.

Pugin was 40 when he died, and quite possibly insane because of the doses of mercury he took for bouts of ill-health, now thought to have been brought on by nerves. He was in the middle of designing the interior of the new Houses of Parliament at the time, and was an energetic and prolific worker.

The son of a French refugee and gifted artist from the French Revolution, and non-conformist English mother, he was an only and greatly loved child born after 10 years of marriage. His mother was a member of a distinguished Lincolnshire family and a barrister's daughter.

Although enrolled at Christ's Hospital in the city as a day pupil, it is not known whether he attended, but he was encouraged by his father whose love of Gothic architecture found an eager ear. As a family they often went away on tours abroad to study architecture and, like his father, he wrote passionately on Gothic architecture and penned several illustrated works, the most influential being The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture, 1841. …

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