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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prominent American cardinal, has praised the ‘nobility and beauty’ of England’s Christian culture on a visit to Augustus Pugin’s personal church in Ramsgate, Kent. The visit took place on 9th March 2015. Pugin – famous for designing much of the Houses of Parliament – built his home and church at Ramsgate in the 1840s.
The cardinal highlighted the long history of English culture, and Anglophone cultures around the world, being shaped by Christianity brought by St Augustine of Canterbury who landed close to Ramsgate in AD 597.
Struck by Pugin’s architecture, Cardinal Burke said, “I cannot fail to note the example of the Catholic architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, architect of this beautiful church which is also the place of his burial. Augustus Pugin was attracted to the truth of the Catholic faith through its reflection in the beauty of the great Church architecture of the Middle Ages.”
Speaking of the ‘serious threat’ of ‘radical secularism’ that England faces, Cardinal Burke said, “[Pugin] sought to express and inspire by his architecture the nobility and beauty of a Christian culture during a time in which the Christian foundations of society were already under serious from the radical secularism of the thinking of the so-called Enlightenment.
“From historical accounts, we know how much Pope Saint Gregory the Great desired to bring the truth and love of Christ to the English nation [in the 6th century]. He had seen the English youth brought as slaves to Rome, and his heart was filled with compassion for them and for their fellow countrymen.
“Thus, he called upon the monks of the Roman Monastery of Saint Andrew, from which he had been called to the See of Peter and of which Saint Augustine was the Prior, to undertake the long and difficult journey to England and to preach the Gospel in a place totally unknown to them.”
Cardinal Burke was speaking at Mass celebrated in Pugin’s church, which was packed beyond capacity. Numerous people had to stand in the cloisters.
The Order of Malta, of which Cardinal Burke was made Patron last year, was in attendance. The Grand Prior of England, His Excellency Fra’ Ian Scott, was present along with eight other Knights and two Dames of the Order of Malta. Also in attendance was the Abbot of Farnborough, His Lordship Dom Cuthbert Brogan; the Prior and Superior of St Philip’s Priory, Chelmsford, the Very Reverend Fr Hugh Allan; and more than 20 other clergy.
Music was provided by The Victoria Consort, directed by Thomas Neal, who are artists-in-residence at St Augustine’s and tour across Europe.
Afterwards a 3rd-century skull was reinstated in the Digby Chantry Chapel on the site. The skull and teeth are relics of St Benignus, brought to Ramsgate by the famous Victorian writer Kenelm Digby. St Benignus was a boy-martyr in the third century; the bones come from the Cemetery of Priscilla in Rome. The relics were originally placed in this chapel on 25th June 1859.
The ancient skull has been conserved by Michael Whitebread. The skull has been damaged in the past – possibly including at the moment of death – and has previously been repaired unsuitably. The previous material had absorbed moisture which had led to damage of the bone, so this has been replaced with modern safe materials. Previously the skull rested on its base which led to pressure on fragile parts of the skull; it now has a foam support on the inside of the skull so that the exterior of the relic can be seen and the skull has a more upright position.
Cardinal Burke’s visit marked the first pilgrimage by a cardinal to the recently-reinstated shrine of St Augustine at Pugin’s church. The original shrine, in Canterbury, was destroyed in 1538 by order of Thomas Cranmer and Henry VIII, but the status was accorded to St Augustine’s in 2012 by His Grace Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, after 474 years of abeyance.
The visit was also the first known visit of a cardinal from Rome to Ramsgate. Although cardinals serving as archbishops in England and France have visited, this is the first time a cardinal serving in Rome is known to have travelled to Ramsgate.
The significance of a Roman cardinal visiting is large: just as St Augustine came to this site from Rome, so now a cardinal visits from Rome. There are numerous other parallels with the historical accounts of Augustine’s arrival: Augustine entered Canterbury singing psalms, and Monday’s Mass began with the same; Augustine preached in Thanet, as did the cardinal; Augustine celebrated Mass near the site, as did the cardinal. Thus the cardinal’s visit marked the continuation of the culture and religion that St Augustine brought to these islands over 1,400 years ago.
Augustus Pugin (1812-52) led the Gothic Revival with prodigious energy and output. His designs – of buildings, stonework, glasswork, metalwork, wallpaper, woodwork, encaustic tiles, and more – shaped cityscapes across the world. Although he died aged only 40, his legacy has embedded the idea of “pointed” architecture in the minds of millions of people.
The church in Ramsgate (the only one Pugin built without patrons’ funding) is his vision of a gothic building and therefore of immense importance. It has had £425,000 spent on urgent repairs in the last three years (largely funded by English Heritage). It has recently submitted a bid for £700,000 to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to create an Education, Research, and Visitor Centre. The result of the HLF bid will be made public in June.
St Augustine’s is open every day between 10am and 4pm for visiting. Mass is celebrated every day at 12 noon, with an additional Mass at 8.30am on Sundays.
Clive Aslet, Editor-at-Large of Country Life magazine, has recently called for the site to become a World Heritage Site. Also on the site is Pugin’s house (The Grange) and the presbytery Pugin built for the church (St Edward’s), both of which are now owned by the Landmark Trust. The Grange is available to let for holidays and is open to the public every Wednesday afternoon. St Edward’s is currently being restored. Across the road is a monastery complex built by Pugin’s son for Benedictines which, since 2014, has been run by Catholic priests of the Vincentian Congregation from India. This site encapsulates Pugin’s idea of a perfect medieval society, and is the only place where his vision – which inspired great architectural and social change in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – was achieved.
Fr Marcus Holden, Rector of the Shrine, said, “We are deeply privileged that Cardinal Burke has made a journey to Ramsgate. It is a great honour to our volunteers and supporters, many of whom were here today, that such a man should come and greet us all here. His Eminence’s visit is also a very important event in the life of the shrine – a visit from Rome to honour Augustine, the Apostle of the English, who was in his turn sent from Rome.”
John Coverdale, Centre Manager at St Augustine’s, said, “There are so many stories to be told at this site, and the coming of St Augustine – the catalyst for our written English laws, English music, English art and culture, all tied up with our strong European and worldwide links – is a major story. It enhances our cultural awareness and participation and I hope many more people will come to learn about this important living history.”
The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, London, held its Year 10 retreat at St Augustine’s on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th June 2014, bringing its pupils to Ramsgate for the first time. Half the year came on Thursday, and the other half on Friday.
The main features of the day had the pupils put into two groups. One group watched a film telling the story of St Augustine and his place in English history – the film was partly shot in St Augustine’s itself. The other group was halved again, and taken on tours of the site. One group was led by the Rector and the other by the Centre Manager. These tours gave the pupils an appreciation of Pugin and his creation, and the meanings of the many items and designs in St Augustine’s. In particular the symbolism of the designs in the windows and stonework was pointed out. They were introduced to the medieval concept of conveying beliefs, ideas, and scriptural stories through stained glass and other images.
After the tours Fr Marcus gave a short talk to the pupils. Appropriately for a Catholic school’s retreat this talk was on the nature of Catholicism in England, and its long history dating back to the Roman Empire and, later but most especially, to St Augustine’s mission in 597. Fr Marcus explained how brave St Augustine had been in his mission, and that, in whatever line of work or life we live, we must be just as courageous in living the Christian life.
The talk was followed by a period of prayer led by the lead teacher, Mr. Kelly. After this, Mass was celebrated by Fr Marcus. The relic of St Augustine was venerated by the pupils and staff following Mass. During the prayer and Mass confessions were heard, and there was a steady stream of boys throughout.
Fr Marcus said, “The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School retreat were excellent days. The boys seemed to engage with both the historical and spiritual aspects of their visit, and I hope they benefitted from their retreat. We very much look forward to welcoming them again, and expanding our provision to schools.”
The fundraising campaign for St Augustine’s to match fund a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant is ongoing and you can donate to it here. This will enable the construction of an Education, Research, and Visitor Centre which will greatly enhance school visits as well as opportunities for other groups, tourists, general public, and researchers to learn about and enjoy Pugin’s designs.
Dr Gerard Hyland launched his new book at St Augustine’s on Saturday 7th June with a lecture in Pugin’s church and reception in the Cartoon Room next door. Dr Hyland’s book is the first ever gazetteer of all of Pugin’s buildings, and is a ground-breaking publication.
Dr Hyland’s talk was very informative, exploring Pugin, his life, his influences, his patrons, and his works. Dr Hyland demonstrated Pugin’s different architectural interests and styles, and showed how the styles of his buildings evolved over his career.
Pugin was said to have done 100 years’ work in 40 years, but Dr Hyland showed that the vast majority of Pugin’s work was done in just six years. He had at least 295 designs realised, and 84 unrealised, across five countries and two continents – and Dr Hyland suspects there are more to be discovered.
It was here in Ramsgate that Pugin accomplished his only building which was not interfered with by patrons. St Augustine’s was his pride and joy – “my own child” – built next to his home, The Grange. How appropriate, then, that the first collected volume of his architectural works was launched at St Augustine’s and celebrated next door at The Grange.
Dr Hyland has already written on Augustus Pugin’s son, Edward Pugin, and this catalogue is his latest contribution to the lively subject of Pugin studies.
As John Hardman said on Pugin’s death, “If you want to know him now, one must go to his Church-Tomb [St Augustine’s]”. Pugin’s legacy is his designs, and this volume is the first time all his buildings have been collected.
Dr Gerard Hyland’s book, The Architectural Works of A. W. N. Pugin: A Catalogue, is available at £35, published by Spire Books.
The Catholic church of St Augustine of England, Ramsgate, has received initial support* from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an £800,000 project to house The Pugin and St Augustine education, research and visitor centre. The project aims increase knowledge and accessibility for people of all ages around two themes: the Victorian architect, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, and St Augustine of England, founder of the Christian church in Southern England.
Development funding of £82,100 has also been awarded to help the Catholic church of St Augustine of England to progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date. The support from HLF was described by Fr. Marcus Holden, Parish Priest and Rector of St Augustine’s as “significant and very welcome.”
Two years ago, a local campaign was launched by the Parish to save St Augustine’s church which has resulted in grants and donations enabling the commencement of repairs and restoration work to this Gothic style mid-19th century church. It was built by AWN Pugin, who designed one of the UK’s most iconic buildings, the Westminster Clock Tower, otherwise known as ‘Big Ben’ and now renamed the Elizabeth Tower after the diamond jubilee of Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II.
Pugin and his family are buried in the church. He dedicated the church to St Augustine of England, who landed nearby in 597AD. There are many great Pugin designs on display at the church. One of the most notable is the baptismal font which was displayed at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. Before his death in 1852, Pugin donated his church to the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Southwark, who still own the church to this day.
The project aims to provide facilities for visitors, schools and the local community to learn about Pugin and Augustine with teaching, displays and physical access through the principal areas of this seminal building.
With an aim of attracting visitors to Ramsgate, the centre will bring together a wide range of users and contributors. Largely staffed by volunteers with the support of the Pugin Society and the local community, the project will explain the place of St Augustine and the influence of the designs of Pugin. The project will preserve, bring together and honour the memories and traditions of the community and open the site to the wider public with new opportunities.
Fr. Marcus Holden, Parish Priest and Rector of St Augustine’s said “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us support. Just over two and half years ago there was a danger that this famous church would have to close. Now we are seeing ever increasing numbers of visitors and schools coming to see this magnificent church and to learn about Pugin and St Augustine of England. This grant will help us to transform these facilities, providing a place of learning and research for the benefit of the local community and for those from further afield. Our aim is for Pugin’s legacy to be enjoyed by generations to come”
Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the South East, said: “We’re extremely pleased to give initial support to this project, which aims to bring alive the story of this wonderful Church and its connections to Pugin for future generations. We shall watch the developing plans with interest.”
Alastair Stewart, journalist, newscaster and a patron of Friends of Pugin’s church of St Augustine said “”It is very good news that the Heritage Lottery Fund are supporting this important work. This is a great project and I am pleased to have come down to visit Pugin’s church of St Augustine in Ramsgate and support the work that is going on in the community to restore this magnificent church to its former glory.
It is personally important to me too, as I regularly visited this wonderful church while I was at St Augustine’s Abbey School next door. Pugin’s church is an important part of England’s Heritage. The proposed education, research and visitor centre will open up the church for all so that it can be enjoyed by Schools, the local community and visitors to Ramsgate as a church of outstanding beauty and to learn more about the work of Pugin and St Augustine.”
Catriona Blaker of the Pugin Society and Ramsgate resident said
“We are thrilled that St Augustine’s Education, Research and Visitor Centre Project is going ahead. If ever there was a church from which so many people could learn so much about so many fascinating subjects, encompassing religious beliefs, architecture, design, symbolism, and general history, this is the one.
The wonderful church of St Augustine, designed by the great architect Augustus Welby Pugin, famously known for his work at the Palace of Westminster, has in the past been somewhat of a sleeping beauty. Now, this project will make a huge number of people aware of its unique quality and significance and can only enhance the already steadily rising profile of the church.”
Laura Sandys MP for South Thanet said
“I am thrilled that St Augustine’s has won backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund and was delighted to support its application. This is excellent news for Ramsgate and testament to the hard work and efforts of the local community and volunteers. I would like to warmly congratulate all those involved.”
“The proposed Education, Research and Visitor Centre at St Augustine’s will provide educational facilities for schools in the area to learn about the world famous architect Pugin, and the historic landing of Augustine who brought Christianity to Southern England.
“Ramsgate has a very vibrant heritage and St Augustine’s plays a hugely important part in this. The visitor centre will facilitate our extraordinary history being enjoyed by people for years to come and will assist in attracting more visitors to the area.
“I am delighted to give the project my full backing and will be holding a Parliamentary reception in support of the project later this year.”
And on behalf of the Pugin family, Robert Pugin Purcell, great great grandson of AWN Pugin said:
“On behalf of the Pugin family, I wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for the wonderful news that St Augustine’s application has been successful. The development of an education, research and visitor centre builds on the existing restoration work being undertaken in a unique Church. It also brings this Church, of such architectural significance, into community life and involvement – and is therefore a project which directly meets the vision Augustus Pugin had for Ramsgate and the Thanet region.”
Lord Cormack, President of the Parliamentary all-party Arts and Heritage Group said:
“Everyone who claims that there is genius in Pugin will be delighted by this news”
The Announcement was made at St Augustine’s church in Ramsgate and Rector of the church, Fr. Marcus Holden together with members of the Parish project committee and many project volunteers were joined by:
Cllr Kim Gibson, Mayor of Ramsgate
Alastair Stewart OBE, Journalist and Newscaster – and a Patron of the Friends of Pugin’s church of St Augustine, Ramsgate.
Anya Whitehead , Heritage Lottery Fund
Catriona Blaker of the Pugin Society
Sarah Wren, Kent County Council
Nick Dermott, Thanet District Council
Jocelyn McCarthy, the Ramsgate Society
Fr. Marcus Holden also introduced Paul Sharrock of Thomas Ford and Partners who has been appointed to oversee the project.
After the announcement a reception was held in Pugin’s Cartoon Room in the Grange next door and was attended by the many guests.
Notes to editors.
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.6bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk
*A first round pass means the project meets the HLF criteria for funding and HLF believes the project has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. The application was in competition with other supportable projects, so a first-round pass is an endorsement of outline proposals. Having been awarded a first-round pass, the project now has up to two years to submit a fully developed proposal to compete for a firm award. On occasion, an applicant with a first – round pass will also be awarded development funding towards the development of their scheme.
St Augustine’s church Ramsgate
The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Southwark own St Augustine’s church in Ramsgate and since 2010 it is has been run by the Parish of Ramsgate and Minster. With the church in need of major repairs, there was a fear that it would close.
The Parish, led by Fr. Marcus Holden, set up a Friends of St Augustine’s group in 2011 with its aim to restore the church to its former glory so that it can be enjoyed by future generations. The Friends of St Augustine’s has attracted support from across the Ramsgate community and much further afield including the Pugin Society, Kent County Council, Thanet District Council, schools in Thanet, the University of Kent, Members of both Houses of Parliament, historians, Arts and crafts, heritage organisations, writers and others involved in the media.
Significant support has been received from English Heritage, as well as support from the National Churches Trust, Friends of Kent Churches and many other Trusts and supporters who have either donated money, or have given their time and skills to helping the project.
While much work has been carried out to restore the exterior of the church, the Parish decided that it had to address the issue of increasing numbers of visitors and the need to ensure that there were adequate facilities. In March 2013 an appeal was launched to provide funds for a much needed education, research and visitor centre, and an application was made to HLF. The parish are looking to raise over £800,000 for this project.
In spite of inclement weather, more visitors came to Pugin’s St Augustine’s church in Ramsgate than attended last year. The week of activity now in its third year included music, a play about the landing of St Augustine performed by children from St Ethelbert’s school, readings, lectures and tours culminating with a procession to St Augustine’s cross. The week’s activity concluded with a Mass at St Augustine’s on 27th May, the feast day of St Augustine of England, followed by a reception in the Grange’s Cartoon Room. The church, where its famous architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin is buried, was open every day during the week for visitors to enjoy.
Chairman of Friends of St Augustine’s and custodian of the church, Fr. Marcus Holden, were delighted that the week went well and that visitor numbers were up. “I am very pleased by the response we had last week and very glad that while we had many visitors from outside the town, there were many residents from Ramsgate who chose to come to visit the church and /or one of the events we organised during the week. I was also particularly pleased at the numbers of young people getting involved including a play by St Ethelbert’s primary school and by students from the Ursuline College who came to study some of the architecture and design of the church.”
In summing up the week, Fr. Marcus Holden said “It was a tremendous week when hundreds of people took part in a variety of ways. The story of St Augustine and work of Pugin were better appreciated by a wider audience than ever before”.