New research has revealed that the renowned designer of the Houses of Parliament – Augustus Pugin (1812 – 1852) – had a private holiday home in the south of France.
Pugin is well known for making rapid tours of both the United Kingdom and of parts of Europe, but it seems that he would sojourn in southern France for several weeks every year. This leisurely side of Pugin has not been appreciated until now.
In a time when travel was slow, except for the railways (which Pugin often used), his retreat some way south of the Dordogne provided seclusion unlike anywhere in England. It also allowed him the opportunity to build a complete fortified project in addition to his seminal clifftop Gothic Revival site in Ramsgate.
Pugin’s French ancestry is believed to have influenced his choice of France for his private retreat. Although he was most familiar with northern France, and his ancestors were from eastern France and Switzerland, the new research unveils his admiration for King John’s military campaigns to overthrow the Cathars and to re-establish the English crown’s dominion over parts of south-western France.
It is believed that Pugin’s generous patron, the Earl of Shrewsbury, suggested that Pugin may want to build a private residence closer to the Mediterranean as the weather would be better for Pugin’s poor health than the weather at Alton Towers in Shropshire. Pugin was a frequent visitor to Alton Towers.
Many of Pugin’s letters sent from his French retreat are dated 1st April.