You may not be familiar with A.W Pugin, but to antique specialists he is the genius behind the Gothic Revival movement; architect of the Big Ben clock tower and Palace of Westminster interiors. Now, a new BBC TV documentary has lifted the lid on the short but fascinating life of the man who directly inspired the Arts & Crafts Furniture movement.
March 1st 2012 marks the 200th birthday of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812 – 1852), the Victorian architect whose influence can be seen in everything from railway cottages in Cumbria, to antique desks in the House of Lords. With the benefit of HD television, Pugin’s gilded, painted and richly carved designs were brought back to life in the documentary: “Pugin: God’s Own Architect.” Using stunning visuals and an enigmatic soundtrack of mediaeval and classical English music, presenter Richard Taylor took us on a mediaeval fantasy voyage of Pugin’s most famous works.
The program had a special significance for viewers in the North West, as a large number of buildings in this area were designed by Pugin, including the railway cottages at Windermere, Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire, and several Lancastrian churches. This reflects in the furniture; it is difficult to visit an antique shop in Cumbria or Lancashire without seeing Victorian dining chairs or cabinets in the Pugin style.
As with the Victorian Arts & Crafts Furniture designers, Pugin believed in honesty of design and quality of workmanship – although he endorsed modern industrial methods. A Pugin antique oak partners desk , by Lancashire manufacturer Gillows, can be seen at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Antique dealers in Preston have Gothic Revival furniture of similar quality.
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