Original Pugin-designed tiles from the floor of the Houses of Parliament were presented as a gift to St Augustine’s church at a Parliamentary reception for supporters of the proposed Pugin & St Augustine Education, Research and Visitor Centre for St Augustine’s church in Ramsgate.
Many supporters, volunteers, and community leaders joined MPs, Peers, the Archbishop of Southwark, and national supporters and donors. Lord (Tom) Pendry, President of Ramsgate Football Club, was present and has supported St Augustine’s in its work, having been a regular attender at the church in his youth.
Supporters were also joined by national newscaster, Alastair Stewart, who is a Patron of the Friends of St Augustine’s church and supports many of its events; he spent his secondary school years at St Augustine’s College and regularly used the church.
Described as “Pugin on wheels,” the State Rooms of the Speaker’s House at the House of Commons were the venue for reception, hosted by Laura Sandys MP. Pugin designed the interiors of the Houses of Parliament – much work being done in Ramsgate – and the spectacular venue was most appropriate for the Ramsgate gathering.
Speeches thanking Volunteers and supporters were given by Alastair Stewart, Laura Sandys MP, Robert Pugin Purcell (the great great grandson of Augustus Welby Pugin), and Fr Marcus Holden (Rector of St Augustine’s church) who has led the project. Paul Hudson, the Chair of the South East Committee of the Heritage Lottery Fund, who are supporting the proposed centre and have so far funded preparation of the final bid for delivering the project, also spoke about HLF’s support of the project.
Guests from the Ramsgate-based Pugin Society were present along with the Ramsgate Society, Friends of Kent churches, English Heritage, and the National Churches Trust, who have all supported St Augustine’s in the last three years.
Laura Sandys MP said, “Ramsgate has come to Parliament, and now Parliament has come to Ramsgate. The tiles – which come from the floors of the Houses of Parliament – will really add to the new Education, Research, and Visitor Centre at St Augustine’s. This project needs every support, and I am so pleased to have welcomed so many supporters to Parliament in aid of our Ramsgate project.”
Catriona Blaker of the Pugin Society said, “All supporters of the proposed Pugin and St Augustine Education, Research and Visitor Centre, and in particular representatives of the Pugin Society, were most impressed to be at the State Rooms of the Speaker’s House, House of Commons. What more illustrious or fitting venue could there possibly be for such an event? This was the final rallying call before the second round funding submission next March to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Pugin Society is a hundred per cent behind this exciting project, which would so greatly advance knowledge of Pugin and St Augustine, and increase awareness of the remarkable heritage of the Isle of Thanet. Particular thanks should be given to the strong support of Thanet South MP Laura Sandys and Patron of the Friends of St Augustine, Alistair Stewart.”
Fr Marcus Holden, Rector of St Augustine’s, said,“Further support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and our Friends will make St Augustine’s a great place for the community, for tourists, for the whole of Ramsgate. I thank everyone who has already supported us in so many ways, and encourage everyone to come and visit this magnificent church. I would particularly like to thank all the volunteers from Ramsgate and elsewhere in Thanet who have given their time an expertise to get us this far. It has been a tremendous effort and we are making tremendous progress.”
He added “Our project is creating an experience of Pugin and St Augustine for everyone.”
Since opening its doors every day for the first time in April this year, St Augustine’s has welcomed over 7,000 visitors and is on target to hit 10,000 visitors this year. It is currently fundraising to match-fund a grant bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to create an Education, Research, and Visitor Centre. The new Centre will be an attraction for visitors, scholars, and facility for the local community.
Donation from Parliament
The donated tiles were part of the floor of St Stephen’s Hall and were removed as part of Parliament’s encaustic tile conservation programme, a seven year project to restore the original patterns designed for the floors of the Houses of Parliament. Where possible, tiles are being restored and reinstated.
Encaustic tiles are also known as Minton tiles, named for Herbert Minton who collaborated with Pugin on the Palace of Westminster – Minton tiles are used throughout the public areas of the Houses of Parliament. The original tiles were made using a Medieval technique that was rediscovered by Herbert Minton in the early 1800s. It was a handmade process, from mixing the clay and making the moulds to pressing the tiles and adding the coloured clay – the pattern is baked into the tile, rather than added later as a glaze.