ITV’s Alastair Stewart Hosts Fundraising Dinner

St Augustine’s held a Fundraising Dinner for Friends, donors and their guests, which was hosted by Alastair Stewart. The high-profile broadcaster, who went to school at the St Augustine’s Abbey School, has been a long supporter of the restoration of St Augustine’s and the proposed Education, Research, and Visitor Centre.

 

At the Dinner he gave an entertaining and passionate speech in which he called upon people to “preserve history”.

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Alastair Stewart gives his speech

 

Citing the world-famous Houses of Parliament, Alastair Stewart said that we must always think of Pugin when we see them, and so think of Ramsgate. It was from his home is Ramsgate, next to St Augustine’s, that Pugin designed much of the Houses of Parliament.

 

Alastair Stewart said, “Pugin gave us a real treasure, something that represents a huge amount to the nation and the world. It is St Augustine’s in Ramsgate: the church Pugin built as the model that embodies his unique and valuable ideas. Look at the Houses of Parliament and you will see Pugin’s work everywhere. A symbol of our nation, the tower often known as Big Ben, is Pugin’s work, yet he pointed people not there but to St Augustine’s.

 

“We need just sixty thousand pounds to save history. St Augustine’s needs your support to open a dedicated education, research, and visitor centre, and to complete its restoration. This building is too important to lose. Please help if you can.”

 

Alastair Stewart also spoke about his time at the School which used to be run by Benedictine monks on the St Augustine’s site. “I remember the peace, the quiet, and the consolation that I could find in that church.”

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Alastair Stewart chats with guests

 

Speaking after the dinner, the Rector of St Augustine’s, Fr Marcus Holden, said, “I am very grateful to Alastair Stewart for hosting this fundraising dinner for us. The visitor centre will enable us to tell the stories of St Augustine and Augustus Pugin, and to attract many more visitors, pilgrims, and tourists to Ramsgate. By restoring the interior, the church will once again be Pugin’s complete vision of the Gothic arts revived.

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Fr Marcus Holden, Rector

 

“We need to raise the money to match-fund our Heritage Lottery Fund bid. Please help us to achieve this project, to re-present Pugin to the world, and to secure this most important site for the future.”

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Fr Marcus Holden (Rector), John Coverdale (Centre Manager), Alastair Stewart, Andrew Sharp (Project Management Board)

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Donors, Friends, and their guests enjoy the Fundraising Dinner

 

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Donors and guests from London

 

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Alastair with fellow Old Augustinians

 

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Oonagh Robertson (long-standing volunteer) with Fr Marcus Holden

 

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Alastair Stewart jokes with a guest

Rescuing Pugin: PAUL ATTERBURY

BBC Antiques Roadshow expert gave a lecture at St Augustine’s on 12th September to mark the 20th anniversary of the V&A’s exhibition Pugin: A Gothic Passion. The lecture was a joint event between St Augustine’s and the Pugin Society.

Paul Atterbury was the curator of the exhibition, which included numerous items from St Augustine’s.

The audience – which substantially filled St Augustine’s – were led on two journeys: one seeing Pugin’s development of his ideas, and another about the process of creating an exhibition. The legacy of the exhibition is substantial, going from the restoration of The Grange, to the revival of Pugin’s reputation and fame, and to the saving of St Augustine’s itself.

With great humour Paul described the display of screens at the exhibition. The idea was to create a Gothic interior using original Pugin artefacts – as Pugin’s great phrase has it, “the real thing” is what matters. A rood screen from the disused church in West Tofts, Norfolk, was chosen, and the church authorities were incredibly relaxed about its removal – not an attitude one would expect today! Screens were such an integral part of Pugin’s designs, and St Augustine’s has particularly fine examples.

An exhibition must have an agenda, and Paul Atterbury explained his: that Pugin had been treated very badly and needed to be rehabilitated. People had forgotten almost everything pre-Morris, but, as every architect of note at the time said, “I owe it all to Pugin.” Pugin needed to be rescued. There was a more immediate agenda, too, in taking The Grange out of the huge risk it was in. Paul Atterbury described the process by which it ended up in danger of being entirely lost – a sad situation for Pugin’s own house. It was three years after this exhibition, in 1997, that the Landmark Trust bought it and began the process of restoring it. St Augustine’s, Pugin’s own church, is now undergoing the same saving process.

Designing an exhibition at the V&A is a very freeing and wonderful experience, the audience was told. With fond memories, Paul told of his being able to properly research Pugin and his works, with great freedom and great support. For two or three years Paul lived and breathed Pugin, visiting every Pugin site that he could find, making notes, and taking photographs. It culminated in the three-month exhibition, the title of which caused some consternation. Who would visit something called “Pugin” – who knew of Pugin? “A Gothic Passion,” on the other hand, sounded more exciting, and so the title was born.

The V&A were very pleased with the popularity of the exhibition.

Pugin worked out how to float a spire over a crossing – as he designed as St Augustine’s. This marked a new period in Pugin’s designs, and led him to even greater Gothic creations. He travelled astonishingly, visiting his projects, and even today such travel would be difficult. No other architect designed six cathedrals and forty churches. Yet he did not shirk from using modern technology, so long as the effect was the same. In many ways, he was the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement. He was the first great industrial designer: Pugin and Brunel can rightly be compared. This was the complexity and astonishing achievement of the man that Paul showed in his exhibition 20 years ago.

The exhibition spawned books, saving of buildings, and the Pugin Society itself. The Pugin Society – who helped to put on this lecture – was formed in 1994 after the Gothic Passion exhibition.

There were two follow-up exhibitions: one in New York and one in Ramsgate. Now Pugin’s great site on Ramsgate’s Westcliff is being saved in its entirety, and St Augustine’s will be permanently open to the public with a full restoration, and an Education, Research, and Visitor Centre. As Paul Atterbury said at the end of his lecture, “This is Pugin’s town … Ramsgate has come to life … Art is the great rescuer.”

 

St Augustine’s and the Pugin Society are very pleased to have been able to host this commemorative lecture, and to celebrate twenty years of a true revival of Pugin and growth in appreciation of his legacy.

En avant!

PUGIN WEEK 2014 – CELEBRATING AUGUSTUS PUGIN

Come and celebrate one of Thanet’s most notable residents this week!

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Alastair Stewart (of ITN broadcasting)

Paul Atterbury (of BBC Antiques Roadshow) in association with The Pugin Society

 

Victoria Consort (performing Terribilis Est – “It is Awesome”)

Sung Traditional Latin Mass on the date of Pugin’s death

Fr Marcus Holden, Rector, on Pugin’s life in Ramsgate

 

PLUS special tours of the tower (pre-booking essential)