A. W. N. Pugin

The Collected Letters of A. W. N. Pugin, Vol. 4: 1849–1850

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To LORD SHREWSBURYRamsgate, Sunday, 3 March 1850?

Text: MS PC Franklin [19]   Address: none   Postmark: none

✠ St Augustins Sunday

My dear Lord Shrewsbury

when we got to Newton we found a truck with timber had got off the Line in a tunnel & stopped all progress so we did not get in to Exeter till Late.1 next morning I went to Bicton. I found Lady Rolle a very cheerful happy sort of woman but with dreadful ideas on architecture. she actually suggested a sort of Turkish mosque with the light coming in from the top for a Mausoleum. [Sketch: mosque] however I manage so well that in half an hour she consented to call it a Mortuary chapel to have 2 painted glass windows a proper ceiling with armorial bearings a brass & tiles. she has also agreed to keep up the old walls & tower of the church—instead of demolishing them—so I got on Capittaly.2 the Park grounds & gardens are quite lovely—I was astonished to see flowers in bloom outside—& some of the houses were magnificent—The exterior Effect of the church is good but the detail pg 431execrable & the glass worse.3 her Ladyship asked me how I like the glass & I told her I could not tell a lie on an architectural matter & that I thought them very bad indeed—in fact they are an insult to the apostles. I am to make her a window of the ressurection &c—I explained to her the catholic principle regarding tombs &c that they were not to be designed as for those who have no hope—but to illustrate the Doctrine of the victory of christ over death—and that the old familly chantries were rather splendid than gloomy. I think I did some good in infusing the true principles into her mind—I told Miss Grill about the ghost story which she promised to Send.4

I think the carving about that church the worse I ever saw, she has even got oliver cromwell & a lot of hereticks & infidels who should be held in universal execration. The Bishop of Exeter will hardly consecrate it with those wretched corbels.5

The house at Bicton should be pulled down or Blown up.6 it is perfectly attrocious in such a magnificent position. what a place for a real old Thing of the true style.

  • ever dear Lord Shrewsbury        
  • with great respect                   
  • your devoted & faitful Sert
  • ✠AWPugin                     


I believe I have stolen a pair of your Lordsips warm gloves. I found 2 pair in my hat exactly of the same material so I must have taken them off the table by mistake.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Leaving Torquay on Thursday 28 February, according to his diary, Pugin made his way via Newton Abbot to Exeter for the night, and then visited Lady Rolle at Bicton on 1 March before travelling back to London the same day. He went home on Saturday 2 March.
Editor’s Note
2 The tower and a wall of the nave are all that remain of the medieval church.
Editor’s Note
3 The celebrated palm house, orangery, and other glasshouses at Bicton were for the most part the creation of Louisa Rolle and her husband.
Editor’s Note
4 Miss Grill has not been identified.
Editor’s Note
5 The Bishop of Exeter was Henry Phillpotts.
Editor’s Note
6 Building on an earlier, smaller dwelling, the enlarged house begun about 1800 by Lord Rolle was of a square red-brick character and designed by James Wyatt. Pugin saw a painting there that was worth his while for he refers to it twice in the text of Screens: a 'view' (p. 12) of the cathedral at Antwerp by Peter Neefs, which supplied matter for one of the plates in the volume too.
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