National appeal for new Visitor and Education centre for Pugin’s church and Shrine of St Augustine of England in Ramsgate

A National Appeal to provide a Visitor and Education Centre for Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin’s famous St Augustine’s church in Ramsgate was launched at a reception last week in the House of Commons hosted by Laura Sandys MP for South Thanet.

In launching the appeal, Fr Marcus Holden, Chairman of the Friends of St Augustine spoke of the need for new facilities in the church to accommodate the growing number of visitors who come to St Augustine’s church in Ramsgate to learn more about Pugin, one of the most influential architects of his time and see his burial place and the new Shrine of St Augustine of England to whom the church is dedicated.

“The creation of a visitor and education centre will provide much needed facilities for the many people who visit St Augustine’s. We are appealing for help to make this exciting possibility a reality in 2013”.

The event in the House of Commons follows an earlier national appeal made in the House of Lords last November to save the church itself.

60 invited guests including the Archbishop of Canterbury and politicians from both Houses of Parliament heard speeches supporting the appeal launch from Clive Aslet, Editor at Large of Country Life and Robert Pugin Purcell, the great great grandson of Pugin

Clive Aslet has been a supporter of the church’s restoration since the campaign to save it began last year.  Mr Aslet thanked all those who had provided grants and donations and urged donors and Trusts to continue to support this great church described as “Pugin’s Masterpiece” in Ramsgate.

Robert Pugin Purcell reaffirmed the Pugin family’s support for the important restoration project.  Thanking the Friends of St Augustine for all their efforts, he appealed to guests to support the ongoing restoration work.

Also present were representatives of English Heritage, The National Churches Trust, Friends of Kent Churches and the Pugin Society who have so far supported the Restoration work.  There were many other guests from Thanet and elsewhere who have supported the campaign to save and restore the 160-year-old Catholic church.

Chairman of Friends of St Augustine, Fr Marcus Holden went on to speak  of his delight at the support given so far, not only from Trusts and donors, but from the local community without whose enthusiasm the project could not have got off the ground.

“The generous support we have received in the last year has meant that the church is now secure.  We owe much to the local community for helping us to get this far – but there is still a long way to go to complete the restoration of the church both inside and out.”

“We have seen a significant increase in visitors over the past year and this is set to rise with the ever growing interest in Pugin and the new shrine to St Augustine of England which is bringing more pilgrims to the church from around the country.”

“That is why we have launched the next important phase of this very special project”

Fr Marcus Holden also thanked the Archbishop of Canterbury for attending the launch and invited all those with shared Christian heritage in St Augustine to visit the church.

Plans for the new facilities are being drawn up and it is hoped that they will provide a small shop and an exhibition area on Pugin and St Augustine of England.  Plans for education facilities are also being drawn up to cater for the increasing number of school and university visits to the Church. The visitor centre will not interfere with the church’s daily services and events and any planned work will not alter the original fabric of the building.

At the end of the reception, many MPs, Peers and guests attended Mass to celebrate the life of Augustus Northmore Welby Pugin in the Chapel of St Mary’s Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster.  Fr Marcus Holden gave the homily and spoke about how Pugin’s architecture was driven by his faith.

Commenting after the Parliamentary event, Fr Marcus said “We were delighted with the launch and hope to be successful in securing support for the visitor centre through donations and grants. Good facilities will attract more visitors to the church and of course to Ramsgate and to Thanet as a whole.”

(If you would like to support St Augustine’s church, please write to Fr Marcus Holden, Chairman of Friends of St Augustine 72 Hereson Road, Ramsgate, Kent, CT11 7DS or email office@augustineshrine.co.uk.)

Notes for Editors. Augustus Welby Nortmore Pugin had his own church of St Augustine built next to his home, The Grange. He and his family are buried in the Church.  Pugin designed many churches across the Country and abroad.  He is most famously known for his designs for the Palace of Westminster and one of the most iconic buildings in the world, the famous clock tower commonly known as Big Ben.

The restoration campaign to save and restore Pugin’s church started in 2011.  This year it coincides with the 200th anniversary of Pugin’s birth.

For further information or comment please contact Fr. Marcus Holden on 01843 592 071

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