FolkestoneJack's Tracks

A glimpse into Pugin’s Ramsgate

Posted in England, Ramsgate by folkestonejack on September 13, 2014

The pain of an early morning train down to Ramsgate today was amply rewarded by a wonderful glimpse into the home of Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), a world away from his most famous creations – the stunning gothic interior of the Palace of Westminster and the clock tower better known as Big Ben.

The Grange

The Grange

The Grange was the home that Augustus Pugin built for his family in 1843-44, richly decorated with colourful wallpaper, panelling and furnishings of his own design. It was also a revolutionary building in its day, demonstrating Pugin’s rejection of popular classical architecture for a design dictated by internal function, rather than outward appearance.

The building was purchased by the Landmark Trust in 1997 and restored after careful analysis of the fragments lefts from its original decoration. The Grange re-opened after the completion of its £2.6m restoration in 2006 and is now available to let as the most astonishing of holiday accomodation. Today’s opening (as part of Heritage Open Days) offered the chance to see the entire building, though tours offered throughout the year offer a chance to see the main rooms.

The building offers many surprises and delights, including a wonderfully grand dining room and the library in which Augustus Pugin designed the interiors for the House of Lords.

Pugin's wallpaper designs included the family motto 'en avant' (forward)

Pugin’s wallpaper designs included the family motto ‘en avant’ (forward)

Pugin’s portfolio reflects his devout Catholicism, including many churches, convents and monasteries. The same influences can be seen throughout his house, which includes a private chapel, and in its positioning at the heart of a complex that includes St Augustine’s church (constructed in 1845-1852 following Pugin’s vision of Christian architecture) and St Edward’s Presbytery (constructed in 1849).

A visit to St Augustine’s Church offers as many wonderful delights as the house, including a spectacular font in the gothic style that Augustus Pugin is renowned for. It was one of the highlights in the medieval court at the Great Exhibition of 1851. After his death in 1852, Augustus Pugin, was buried in the chantry chapel.

The unfinished square tower of St Augustine’s Church

The unfinished square tower of St Augustine’s Church

The building that sits between the church and the house, St Edward’s Presbytery, was purchased by the Landmark Trust in 2010. It was a timely intervention as the the presbytery had been placed on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register after a backlog of maintenance left it in poor condition. The Trust now wants to restore Pugin’s original vision by removing the twentieth century additions, conserving the original features that remain and restoring some lost elements. Further details of their plans are available from the campaign website.

Our visit to the complex was fascinating. It is well worth keeping an eye out for the occasional full open days at The Grange as it is wonderful to be able to wander through the entire suite of rooms, including the tower from which Pugin used to gaze upon distressed vessels on the Goodwin Sands. Thankfully, today’s calm seas offered no such vision!