St Augustine’s church in Ramsgate has received a confirmed grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to create the Pugin and St Augustine Education, Research, and Visitor Centre, it was announced at an event at the site on Tuesday. The project aims to open up Pugin’s own St Augustine’s church in Ramsgate to tell the intertwined stories of the famous architect and designer Augustus Pugin and of St Augustine of Canterbury. The HLF will fund 74% of the project which will cost £810,000. With additional works also envisaged, the total cost will be almost £1millon.
The project creates an Education, Research, and Visitor centre, opening up for all, as never before, the two intertwined heritage stories of AWN Pugin, the architect who designed much of Parliament, and Saint Augustine, who brought Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England. Uncovering these often hidden histories of the famous Architect, who lived and is buried in Ramsgate, and the Saint, who landed there, this project brings heritage alive.
It also allows Pugin’s ‘ideal’ church to be open every day for everyone, providing new activities, and spaces with new facilities and displays to interpret Pugin’s work and St Augustine’s landing. It will restore key elements of the building to Pugin’s original vision and will open up a research area for students and scholars.
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It aims to inspire a vast number of partners and supporters including Parliament, the Victoria and Albert Museum, local authorities, the Pugin Society, schools, Friends, and thousands of individual supporters and visitors. Its growing team of committed, skilled volunteers works to involve more local people from diverse backgrounds. This locally driven initiative aims to contribute to Thanet’s economic regeneration by attracting more visitors locally, nationally and internationally.
The church was built by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1 March 1812 – 14 September 1852). He was Britain’s foremost architect and designer of the nineteenth century. A family man whose faith, ideas and designs, changed the face of Victorian Britain and inﬂuenced the world, his legacy continues to create waves today. His most famous Gothic Revival work is the interior design of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, and the design of its clock tower, commonly referred to as ‘Big Ben’, is by Pugin. Pugin designed over 200 buildings or parts of buildings, including many churches, in England, Ireland, and Australia; his inﬂuence can be seen across America, Europe and throughout the English-speaking world.
Pugin’s designs include furniture and wallpaper – all in the Gothic style and principles that he advocated. His revolutionary reinvention of manufacturing and design techniques, along with his collaborators and friends, include progress in stonework, metalwork, stained glass, encaustic tiles, and more. All of this will be on display – in original items – at St Augustine’s.
St Augustine’s church is the ‘ideal church’ of Pugin, who constructed it with his own money and delighted in being “my own paymaster” where he could fully obey his ‘true principles of Christian architecture’. He built it between 1845 and 1852 next to his home ‘The Grange’ on the clifftop at Ramsgate. He described the church as ‘my own child’ and it was to be ‘a revival of the old Kentish churches stone & flint’, with a chantry chapel ‘that may be the burial place of my family’. The church stands as symbol of the Catholic revival of the 19th century, epitomised by Pugin’s own life and conversion to Catholicism in 1835. St Augustine’s is also an integral part of Pugin’s own medieval Gothic revival which inspired the nation at large. It was being constructed at the same time that Pugin was designing the new interiors for the Houses of Parliament and the famous clock tower ‘Big Ben’.
Pugin envisaged social reform alongside his design reforms. He contrasted the harsh nineteenth century living with the seemingly more charitable and social life of the middle ages. He aimed at constructing a better society through constructing better buildings.
Pugin moved to St Augustine’s, as he called his site in Ramsgate, in 1843 specifically because it was ‘close to the spot where blessed Austin landed’. His building of the church therefore stands as a monument to the arrival of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England recalling the landing of St Augustine in AD597. This is a seminal part of English culture as St Augustine not only brought the faith that would shape English culture, but he also brought music, art, architecture, the idea of written laws, books, and learning to England for the first time since the Romans. In many elements, English culture is rooted in St Augustine and his arrival near this site in AD597.
There is no one other place in the country where one can learn so much about Pugin than from his own church and resting place in Ramsgate. The grant will ensure that the story of Pugin, his life and works, can be seen and explored; it will allow visitors to interpret St Augustine, the saint Pugin dedicated his church to so near to where he landed in 597. The life and work of both Pugin and of St Augustine is an important part (and, in recent years, a forgotten one too) of Ramsgate’s, Kent’s, and England’s heritage which the Education, Research and Visitor Centre, with Heritage Lottery funding, will make come alive for the benefit of all.
Fr Marcus Holden, Rector of St Augustine’s church said: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this grant, not only for ourselves but for Ramsgate as a whole. The Pugin and St Augustine Education, Research and Visitor Centre will allow us to bring alive the intertwined stories of Pugin and St Augustine, opening up the church to everyone, attracting community involvement, and visitors from across the UK and beyond. It is wonderful news that we are now a step closer to providing new facilities in St Augustine’s to view, learn and study about this great architect and the saint to whom he dedicated the site.
John Coverdale, Centre Manager at St Augustine’s, said, “People are so interested in the hidden histories we have here, and how good it will be to open it all up to the public. It is great to see so many people – from across the world – show such enthusiasm and support for this excellent project. We have developed links with so many people and institutions, and, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund grant that we are announcing today, St Augustine’s has a great and fascinating future.”
Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “Pugin is widely known around the world for his pioneering role in the Gothic Revival and the Palace of Westminster’s impressive interiors but his important links with Ramsgate are generally less appreciated. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this project will help to redress that balance. Through the new Education, Research and Visitor centre, the stories of this important local church and that of Pugin himself can be told properly to visitors for the first time.