Pugin’s church of St Augustine in Ramsgate wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

heritage lottery fund logoThe 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.

Mayor of Ramsgate, Councillor Kim Gibson_ Alastair Stewart_ and the Mayor’s escort, Kelly Roberts. Credits: Marie Muscat-King

Anya Whitehead of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Rev Marcus Holden of St Augustine’s church and Alastair Stewart on 11th November 2013. Credits: Marie Muscat-King

Alastair Stewart OBE at St Augustine's on 11th November 2013

Alastair Stewart OBE at St Augustine’s on 11th November 2013. Credits: Marie Muscat-King

St Augustine’s week 2013 hailed as great success as Pugin’s church of St Augustine’s in Ramsgate attracts more visitors

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”.