A. W. N. Pugin

Margaret Belcher (ed.), The Collected Letters of A. W. N. Pugin, Vol. 1: 1830–1842

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To LORD SHREWSBURYLondon, Tuesday, 17 August 1841

Text: MS PC Franklin [18]   Address: Right Honbl. / The Earl of Shrewsbury. / Poste Restante / Spá / Belgium   Postmark: Chelsea; 18 AU 18 1841; 20; 22 AOUT 1841 in Spa

✠ London Tuesday in the octave of the Assumption

My Dear Lord Shrewsbury

I arrive home quite safe Last week after experiencing most miserable weather. I encountered one gale of wind between Rotterdam & antwerp which was awful and to make the matter worse I was in a wretched steam boat that I found after I was on board had been condemned & after the week was to be replaced by a fine new vessell. we had both pumps going & the vessell strained as if she would go to peices. I was very thankful to get safe ashore. imedily on Leaving your Lordship I was the victim of the grossest villiany that I think was ever perpetrated in broad daylight in a Christian country.1 I sat in the coupé & immedialy before me was a black ferocious Looking rascal in a conical hat—Mustachios & beard—a compound of both infidel & republican. he brought an ennormous pipe at Least 3 feet Long. this he Laid on pg 262the seat unperceived by me. after a short drive the postilion said every body must dismount as there was a dangerous bridge to pass. it was impossible to get out of the coupé without pushing up the seat. [Sketch: cross-section of 'Coupé' and 'seat in front'] the fellow had Left his pipe behind the cushion and of course down it went & broke the bowl. on this he attacked me most furiously & declared I should pay 25 francs!! for his pipe not worth 30 sous & if it had been worth 500 francs he placed it in a possition where it was impossible even to perceive it. I refused & remonstrated & this went on till we got to the place where we join the high Road to Leige. he was going to Aix. as soon as I got out of the coach he rushed on me and declared he would have the satisfaction of a man of honour or 25 francs. he drew a knife & desired me to defend myself. this of course I refused to do for I had no idea of fighting. he then swore that if I did not pay instantlly 25 francs I should not Leave the place alive. not a soul came to help. the other passengers who saw the whole injustice of the business Left me to this horrid ruffian. I had no alternative but to pay. what could I do? my deligence was waiting. he was going to Aix, I to Leige. I had not even time to seek redress. the furious wretch would have stuck me at any rate but I never paid 25 francs with such bad grace & yet what other chance had I to free myself? from this beast. whenever I see a man with a conical hat, a beard, and a pipe I shall avoid him most Carefully.2

I have just got your Lordships note about cheadle. surely your Lordshi must recollect that so far from doing away with the chapel in the north aile I pointed out the absolute necessity of it to fill up the space under the circular window. [Sketch: circular window in wall] I consider it most important. it is included in the estimate and screens and all. the entire cost is not £100 and the church will be wretchly incompleat without it. now that the chapel of the B sacrament is carried outside there is more necessity than ever, for a small chapel screened off in a perclose has a most beautiful effect. I hope & trust your Lordship will not cut this out. it will be dreadful, spoil the whole interior, it will Look Like an aile sacked by the calvinists. see how earnest the B Critic is for the restoration of altars at the end of ailes.3 your Lordsip will perceive by this slight sketch the imense effect of the screen with the Low backed altar against the wall. [Sketch: screen with altar and circular window beyond] it is the only place in the whole church for a simple altar with a Low back and the 2 curtains. [Sketch: altar] I entreat of your Lordsip not to alter this or I shall be in despair. the alteration of the chapel of the B. Sacrament is a capital one—excellent—but we must have something to balance it on the other side. I shall very soon be able to send on a sheet of paper plans elevation & sections of Nottingham. it may be made a glorious thing on the plan arranged. I take great delight in it. I go down to Alton next week whence I will write a full account of the progress of work there.4 2 new jobs have turned up scince I returned. Mr. Knights Hospital at Chelsea—and a gate house and other buildings for Lord Middleton of Peper Harrow near Guilford.5 his estate was formerly abbey Land & on it are the ruins of a Glorious church—there is also a holy well over which I am to build a sort of chapel. it appears that there was one on the Spot in old times. for a protestant he seems to have much good feeling & pg 263great veneration for the old men. I think the repeal question is doing us much injury in England at present. see the whole Tablet is full of it and outside the chapels after mass bills are distributed on all sides. it will do more harm to the Catholic cause in England than all the combined efforts of Protestants. it seems there is more repeal agitation in England than in Ireland—I understand Mr. MDonell of Birmingham is going to publish a furious attack on me but it has not yet appeared.

the Christian remembrancer of Last month contained a Long article against me but very weak & will do no harm. the Polytecnic journal as usual is very bitter but all the other Periodicals have quite come over to my side.6 a Little opposition does good. I expect to see Mr. Phillip next week.7 there will be a reunion of Oxford men at GraceDieu in a few days.8 of course I shall be there.the Same coach on which I was nearly thrown off a bridge in cumberland a year ago—has just been upset & 4 persons killed—they drive furiously on that Road. I will never go that way again. Will your Lordship be good enough to send to the Poste Restante at Spá & ask if any Letter ever arrived for Me. I never got it at Antwerp although Mrs. Pugin sent it off directed properly to Spá the wednesday that I was with your Lordsip & I beged of Campazzi[?] to ask for it & redirect it to Amtwerp—in consquence of not getting any Letter I became dreadfully uneasy & Left Belgium in a hurry.9 when I arrived home I found the Letter had been duly sent but it never reached me. Mrs. Pugin was quite deligted with Lady Shrewsbury's kind presents & desired me to present her grateful acknowledgements—& to say how much she was gratified with her Ladyships kind remembrance of her. although in a carpet bag they arrived quite safe. I have paid Dolman & Crace & got both their receipts.10 as soon as I get to Alton I will give the cheques to Denny. I am working away as hard as possible. the Glass for the school at Alton is All finished and Looks exceedingly well. I saw Some fine churches in holland but all in the hands of the Calvinists. to see the Protestant system worked out one should go to Holland. there is not even the vestige of an ornament Left and the new catholic churches are even worse. they are Large Dutch Warwickstreets—with galleries &c. horrible.

with kindest respects to her Ladyhip belive me my dear Lord Shrewsbury

  • with great respect                               
  • your most devoted & faithful Sert
  • ✠ AWelby Pugin                           
pg 264

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Pugin notes in his diary that as he travelled from Spa to Antwerp he was 'Robbed of 25 francs[?] by a beast at Pepinstre'.
Editor’s Note
2 Ferrey, pp. 128–9, quotes this paragraph; perhaps it was he, therefore, who marked the MS with an 'X' at the beginning of the text and another at the end, linked the two, and annotated 'this in full'.
Editor’s Note
3 Pugin may be remembering a remark made by Mozley in the course of his discussion of St Mary's, Derby, in 'New churches', British Critic, 28 (October 1840): 471–522, when he expressed unqualified dislike of 'monuments placed against the eastern extremities of aisles, where altars once were' (p. 520).
Editor’s Note
4 Pugin's diary shows him at Alton from 26 August to 28 August.
Editor’s Note
5 Knight envisaged a grand and generous scheme for the benefit of the Catholics of Chelsea. He spent £5,000 buying a site of two and a half acres with a frontage on Cadogan Street where he intended to provide a residence for aged clergy, a cemetery with a mortuary chapel, a church, convent, schools, and almshouses. The residence, which may be what Pugin means by 'Hospital', was never built, the church not until 1878; other parts of the proposal were completed but it is not clear how much Pugin had to do with some of them. Wedgwood 1977, p. 60, describes Pugin's plan of the site with an indication of a building; Stanton 1971, p. 201, lists work on the school in 1841 and 1842 and on the almshouses without date. By January 1845, when Knight's wife Mary died, the chapel in the cemetery was sufficiently advanced for her to be buried in the family vault below; the schools and a convent, or a house for teachers, were also in use. There is some description of the chapel in 'Chelsea—consecration of the Catholic cemetery, &c.', Tablet, 6 (19 July 1845): 453–4, but there is no mention of Pugin's name in this report and the chapel is said to be 'very plain' (p. 453); by this time the 'fratery' (p. 453) had also been built.
Pugin's diary records that he 'Went to Lord Middleton' on 16 August. The earliest surviving letter to the viscount is that of 14 February 1842, by which time negotiations had reached the stage of estimates and prices.
Editor’s Note
6 'Professor Welby Pugin and his opinions', Polytechnic Journal, 5 (August 1841): 72–80. This astute survey of Pugin's beliefs, severe at times, certainly, but also just, even occasionally generous, and amusing, is signed 'Candidus', a recognized nom de plume of W. H. Leeds (1786–1866), who had already shown himself an able critic of Pugin in his review of Contrasts in 'A batch of architects', Fraser's Magazine, 15 (March 1837): 324–39.
Editor’s Note
7 According to his diary, Pugin stayed at Grace Dieu from 28 August to 30 August. Cutting around the seal accounts for the truncation of Phillipps's name.
Editor’s Note
8 According to Pawley, other visitors when Bloxam stayed at Grace Dieu were Wackerbarth, Gentili, and the two Rosminians, J. B. Pagani (1806–60), the provincial, who was in England from 1837 to 1847 before he returned to Italy to serve as general in succession to Rosmini, and Moses Furlong: none of these was an Oxford man. Wackerbarth had travelled from Lichfield to Grace Dieu in the company of Phillipps and his wife as they returned home on 21 August from a summer holiday in Wales, according to Laura Phillipps's diary. The same source reveals that Bloxam paid a visit to Oscott with Phillipps and Wackerbarth on 26 August. Ward was a visitor at Grace Dieu in October.
Editor’s Note
9 Perhaps Campazzi—if that was his name: proper names are the most difficult class of words to be sure of in deciphering Pugin's hand—was an Italian servant of Lord Shrewsbury's.
Editor’s Note
10 This is the first reference in Pugin's surviving correspondence to J. G. Crace, the interior decorator of Wigmore Street, London, with whom he was later to have a long and close professional relationship. The earliest letter from Pugin to Crace seems not to have been written until January 1844.
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