For almost a century, members of the Pugin family of architects and designers were engaged by Ushaw’s Presidents to produce
work for the College. Through their endeavours, Ushaw’s range of buildings was expanded and interior spaces were transformed.
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) was one of the leading exponents of neo-Gothic architecture in the first half of the nineteenth century. A hugely productive architect, designer and writer, in an architectural career of little more than a decade, Pugin designed over 40 churches, a similar number of domestic houses and countless fittings, fixtures and objects for these buildings.
In addition to his transformative design work, Augustus was the father of a dynasty of notable architects and designers. His sons Edward (1834-1875), Peter Paul (1851-1904) – who also studied at Ushaw from 1865 to 1866 - and Cuthbert (1840-1928) became architects as did his grandson Sebastian Pugin Powell (1866-1949); Sebastian’s brother Dunstan John Powell (1861-1932) was a designer of metalwork and stained glass. The work of all these members of the Pugin family can be seen at Ushaw.
Ushaw is the only place in the world where it is possible to see the work of all six members of the Pugin family of architects and designers in a single location.
Augustus Pugin’s original St Cuthbert’s Chapel was a jewel of Gothic splendour. Consecrated in 1848, it was universally admired, even by those to whom the design had appeared unpalatable just a few years earlier. It was, noted by one visitor, ‘…the most perfect thing conceivable.’
In addition to the Chapel, Augustus designed the Cloister, St Joseph’s Chapel and the Oratory of the Holy Family. He was also responsible for enlarging the Refectory in 1846.
At the time of Augustus’s death in 1852, there was still much work to be completed within the initial phase of Ushaw’s expansion. His eldest son Edward completed St Joseph’s Chapel and the Oratory, was solely responsible for the Chapel of St Charles Borromeo and the Mortuary Chapel. In addition to his work in the Chapel Quarter, Edward Pugin designed Junior House and the Chapel of St Aloysius.
The work of the Pugins at Ushaw extended beyond the ecclesiastical and educational to the more prosaic – if no less vital – buildings that serviced and supported the daily life of a busy seminary and school. These buildings include Augustus Pugin’s lavatory block of 1843; E W Pugin’s enlarged kitchen block (1854-56), Infirmary (1858-59) and Museum (also dating from the second half of the 1850s and today known as the William Allen Gallery); P P Pugin’s dormitory above the Refectory (1901-02) and Sebastian Pugin Powell’s Bede’s Wing extension comprising domestic staff accommodation and additional classrooms (1931-32).
‘Perfect’ as Augustus’s St Cuthbert’s Chapel had appeared in the mid-nineteenth century, it was, sadly, not of a capacity to fulfil the demands of the still-growing College. As Nikolaus Pevsner commented, ‘By the 1880s the community had outgrown it. Dunn and Hansom’s new chapel, finished in 1884 and consecrated in 1885, is ‘in most respects a reproduction of the old’ but twice the size.’
Augustus Pugin’s original chapel may no longer be extant but the majority of the fittings, architectural details and stained glass he designed for it are still here, although not always in the situation for which they were originally designed. The great west window that sits above the entrance to Sebastian Pugin Powell’s Memorial Chapels in the Antechapel, for example, was previously sited at the east end of the original chapel. Similarly, Augustus’s original altar is now in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart at the south end of the Antechapel.
Of particular note are the Paschal Candlestick (on display in the Ante-chapel) and the Eagle Lectern (in St Cuthbert’s Chapel) both designed by Augustus for St Cuthbert’s Chapel and both displayed in the Medieval Court of the Great Exhibition held in Paxton’s Crystal Palace in 1851.
Augustus also designed an incense boat, chalice and other silver objects associated with the Blessed Sacrament together with a High Mass vestment set of woven silk with silk braids and embroidery. Secular items designed by Augustus include a suite of dining and serving plates incorporating his typical trefoil pattern and the magnificent frame for John Rogers Herbert’s Portrait of President Charles Newsham, on display in the Refectory. Secular works by other members of the family include the Parlour furniture designed by Cuthbert Pugin.
In 1935, Augustus Pugin’s original wooden panelling that lined the North Cloister he had designed in the early 1840s was removed and installed in the Study Room. The panelling’s relocation was necessitated by the installation of a set of Stations of the Cross produced in lime wood to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the birth of William Allen, the founder of Douai, Ushaw’s predecessor College in Flanders. The framing for the fourteen Stations was designed by Sebastian Pugin Powell, Augustus’s grandson and the last member of the family to produce designs for Ushaw.