I still recall how I wandered around the war torn streets thinking that everywhere was damaged and forlorn, and covered in a thick black patina, from the smog that frequently fell. Like a stone.
That at times, made even circumnavigating the other side of the street impossible.
The first church that I attended, was attached to our school. That was St Georges, and is a Grade I listed building of 1812. St Georges is one of the earliest buildings to be constructed by metal skeleton. Leaving it light and allowing the architecture to float in in its Georgian Gothic splendour. The decoration hanging on its Rickman designed cast iron frame.
I would not know the name Pugin, it would mean nothing to me until I started to feed the thirst for knowledge that I started developing while still in short pants.
The first time I looked up at the heavenly architecture of st Georges that was heightened and was shimmering in tinted colours, like a magic lantern slide. I wandered into a world of why. As the light from the only stained glass windows that escaped the Luftwaffe, pierced the pulpit during the services that I had to endure. My mind would wander. http://www.stgeorgeseverton.com/
It was built on the site of the old Liverpool lighthouse and Beacon lane fed up to its plateau. This was the old welsh town of Liverpool.
There were numerous massive buildings that I recall, that would either fall down or be demolished and the architecture of the firm of Pugin and Pugin, I would later find out, filled the streets around my home with Gothic pearls.
Our Lady Immaculate with the ambitious foundations of the Chancel Chapel on St Domingo Road. That would never be more than that. The plans to build a Majestic Cathedral, at the top of our street had never been able to to be realized. For lack of finances.
I could feel those ambitions all around me, enveloping my senses.
Decades later I would become a specialist in the restoration of listed buildings and then move into the world of antiques.
But I will never forget the way it made me feel to live in such a place with its monumental faded Gothic glory at every turn.
So now, when I may, understand the esoteric's of design, I try to keep on furthering my knowledge by the continual feeding of that seed. That grew out of those bombed out buildings that I played in as a child.
There were three Pugin and Pugin buildings in stones throw from, our house.
I want to explore here, a little more about The Great Gothic Master of Design.
Augustus Northmore Welby Pugin (Born 1812) wrote a scathing attack on British Georgian architecture. He called it an abomination.
CONTRASTS was written by Pugin when he was 25 and he does not hold back in his thought. The Industrial revolution of the 1830's had saw huge civil unrest.
A strong moral leadership was called for. But it was not there.
The country was burdened with George IV. Who did fancy himself as a patron of the arts.
He wanted to work on Buckingham Palace and the kings favourite architect John Nash who was a master of disguise was employed.
This work showed what we call Facadism where a building is cloaked in a Stucco fronting.
Pugin was an angry young man. He thought he would cleanse the immorality of this Georgian style. In 'Gothic' he asks the questions of the reasons of the demise of architecture.
Even though we now look at Georgian as an example of style that is admired, he thought Gothic was the way forward. Believing classicism to be false to a higher ideal.
St Giles in Staffordshire was an attempt to turn the tide of immorality through architecture. In his eyes Medieval fusion would be controlled into a channel of heavenly paradise. To him, the Gothic revival was devoutly christian. This was his brave new world......of looking back.
His mother Catherine Welby and August Charles had fled the french revolution and they settled in Bloomsbury. As a direct result of Catherine's inheritance. They were wealthy. The young Pugin never really went to school. His father supplemented their income by doing architectural drawing. At five years of age his parents took him to Lincoln Cathedral. He was struck by the genius of the prizmatic light dousing the building in contrasting colour's, that was built 700 years before.
He admired the honesty, and how the building was made.
Its skeleton was on show, there for all to see.
His father ran a drawing school and he and the pupils were taken to Northern France. Rouen Cathedral entranced him.
There is a drawing in the national archives entitled My first design at 9 years old.
He learnt about the engineering. How buildings held up. How they were built.
He was shown them the bones of how they were constructed. He would feel them.
Many Cathedrals were looted during the revolution. Many with sculptures were defaced. He noted this.
He would collect and would study fragments of medieval glass.
Low church services were held in preaching boxes in small chapels and his mother supported Edward Irving who was a sort of evangelist of the day.
He began to loathe the low style of service and turned to the theatre.
The Theatre Royale Richmond, entranced him at 15 years old, he saw the scenery flying on and off the stage. As if by magic. He began to study in three dimensions and in 1831 he designed quite lavishly for Henry VIII.
He gained a sense of the dramatic, with the immorality of the theatre.
Ann was 5 months pregnant when Pugin married her. He did the right thing and they seemed happy, until Ann died, shortly after childbirth. Then his mother died. And at the age of 21 he was a single parent. He was shattered by events and buried himself in the wreckage of his life and his Gothic ideal.
Contrasts won him the friendship of John Talbot the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury and his money gave him the capital for amongst others St Giles in Cheadle.
Cheadle, my perfect Cheadle he declared in later life. Picture The west doors of St Giles
At the consecration of his Gothic masterpiece of St Giles, Archbishops were present. He had come a long way. It was a national event. He wanted to capture a spirit something he felt and it all went into his ideas for Gothic.
Talbot's stately home is now Alton Towers.
He had converted to catholicism while writing 'Contrasts'. He adored the playing out of the service with all theatrical theatrical manner, he adored.
George Myers was his prefered builder, a Yorkshire man. They struck a chord, he had a understanding what Pugin wanted. Though on one project he was not involved in, the Bellfry fell down.
He would design wallpapers and Mintons took the decision to reinstate the practice of making encaustic tiles around his designs.
His friend John Hardman would make his metalwork and stained glass.
'The True Principle Of Pointed Architecture' was his second book. Published in 1841 it laid down six principles for building in the Gothic style.
Pugin believed good architecture is good society and it lays down all the principles of how to achieve this. A vision. Detail must have meaning. If it is constructed it can be decorated.
In his work he puts the hinge in full view showing exactly how the door is opening. A hidden hinge was imoral he thought.
He declared classicism was wrong and truth and honesty was Gods work.
'God will see if you skimp on hidden parts of the building' he would declare. This inspired a new generation of architects such a s George Gilbert Scott.
Who would say after reading Pugin.
'I felt as if I had awoken from my slumbers'.
The whole landscape of Britain would subsequently change through the thoughts and writings of the man'.
Though some people claim that modern buildings such as the Pompidou or Lloyds of London hold true. This is stupid thinking. They may hold the twisted principles dear but these have been, shall we say, stretched by the architects for good PR.
The Palace of Westminster burnt down and the rebuilding of the corrupt place would be replaced by Pugins moral ideal. Charles Barry had classic training, but Pugin overshadowed him. The towers were definatly Pugin which led but the heraldic interior, combining the work of John Hardman, that showed an ideal to an almost heavenly enlightenment of the mind.
We take for granted today the interiors of the chamber because we see it almost every day on TV. But it was made to overawe everyone who came in contact. And from his thousand drawings, he aimed for perfection. He was a man posessed. Working tirelessly.
The Soveriegns Throne is an example encompassed. The medieval view in revival form, evoked history and with a linear heritage from days gone by.
Though Barry was the architect, Pugin, in 1834 had designed an imaginary college and by co-incidence the year the Houses of Parliment burnt down.
It is almost the same building.
He was subsequently, unfairly written out of the final finished scheme. Barry claiming it all. While Pugin was working, he had no idea of the PR that was playing out around him.
Pugin worked because he wanted to. Barry got £25,000 while Pugin got £800.
Pugin had entered the debate surrounding wallpaper which was now entering into more mainstream consciousness after the Great Exhibition by designing a series of two dimensional papers. These were mostly heradic motifs for The Palace of Westminister. He would design a hundred different styles. There is a wonderful book showing his pattern designs from 1851-1859 in the V&A. Of course the best place to see them would be in place, on the walls. Of those hundred different wallpaper designs that were commissioned many were lost but his inspiration would seep into the public. I picked hand blocked Pugin wallpaper for my hall that is still available today if you know where to look. Though most of his designs would be too bold for most domestic settings. This debate be continued by Morris and Co.
His work then strangely dried up. This was his time, and he wasn't there.
Louisa his second wife of 5 children then died and at 32 he would struggle to cope with his paranoair.
An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England. He explains as best he can under the pressure of his developing illness and proclaims Gothic should be on every detail as what was in The Grange, that he designed for himself. It is.....Gothic to the core. Designed from the inside out and not the other way round, as of most architects of the day seemed to do. Rooms were arranged in the need for movement he was absorbed in theatrical vibrancy of its interiors.
Trefoiled escutcheons and Gothic handles with inscriptions declaring his love of patrons, family and places. It's as if he wanted to surround himself in a cocoon.
He married a third time.
He would stay at the Grange for the rest of his life.
He would exhibit at the 1851 Exhibition, a medieval court. It was acclaimed at all levels. Though he never won a prize for manufacture as a designer.
He then built a church next to the Grange. St Augustin's. Of napped flint, sandwiched between horizontal lines and courses of stone. This was a new departure in architecture for him. This building has recently been restored. His finances suffered.
It encapsulated his faith. £14,000 of his own money and he couldnt afford the spire.
The Westminister clock tower hadn't been built and Barry turned to Pugin who was ill with piles, worms and strange visions.
The finished article is said to be a masterpiece in delicacy reaching for the heavens.
He never made the opening of his design after a mental breakdown.
Consigned to Bedlam and in 1852 at the age of 40 he died. His tomb in St Augustin's decorated with carvings of his family.
He died at the same time as The Duke of Wellington and his death was relegated to the back pages of the periodicals. This maybe a metaphor or a symbol of his whole life. His son E.W Pugin would continue his work.
It took a hundred years for his recognition to come to the fore.
Half French, as was Brunel. They both were largely forgotten.
They, in time would both become greats.
In working on his book Gothic revival published 1928 Kenneth Clarke found it hard to believe that a man so little known was actually so important.
But still Pugin needs to be explored because what he created was more than buildings it was an ideal, a movement.
There are not many who could do that. And Pugin is one of the greats.
I will always remember the lightness of the cast iron framed architecture of St Georges. I visited there recently. The side entrance to the back of the church still has the same atmosphere and smell from decades past.
Looking at old photographs, I also remember the stolid Victorian remnants of the Victorian buildings of the era I grew up in. Most of it is heavy, over adorned, over engineered and self apposing.
I think this is why I love the lightness of the Georgians at their best..... and the freshness and the feel of the best of French Art Deco.
Though I do declare I love the work and appreciate the ideals of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin.