Powell, Christabel

Dr. Christabel Powell is an architect and Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. She is the author of Walter Powell’s Gwent (1978), Ring out the Old, Ring in the New (1981) and The Bells and Campaniles of Campania (1988). Dr. Powell is researching the Rossettis and writing an historical novel about the building of the Houses of Parliament.

Augustus Welby Pugin, Designer of the British Houses of Parliament
2006 0-7734-5769-0
Over recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the life and work of the nineteenth-century architect, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. By far the greatest part of this interest has been focused on his architecture and design. Yet some scholars are beginning to realize that there is a great deal to this fascinating character that remains unexplored.

Pugin himself believed that his strongest influence lay, not in his architecture or design, but in his writing. While his books are initially easy to read, the reader who looks at them in more depth finds that a puzzling picture emerges due to Pugin’s many references to religious, historical and liturgical terms. Clearly his books are not solely about architecture; neither are the sources and authorities he used for these books merely architectural.

In the first half of this monograph, Christabel Powell sets out to analyse and explore the reasons behind his particular style of writing. This leads her to the conclusion that he did not see himself as simply an architect, but as a liturgical architect. Indeed, the author argues that he was exceptionally knowledgeable about liturgical matters and had thoroughly researched his subject.

In the second half of this study, the author argues that Pugin’s vision of liturgical architecture clashed violently with the ideas of a particular group of converts to the Roman Catholic Church, led by John Henry Newman. As Anglicans, they had supported Pugin’s views and enthusiastically embraced the Gothic Revival. As converts and Oratorians, they completely rejected those views. A bitter quarrel concerning liturgical architecture and the form and arrangement of churches thus broke out between Pugin and Newman and his followers. The periodicals of that time, including the Tablet and The Rambler, took up their dispute.

The author concludes that Pugin’s role in the nineteenth century religious revival was important because of his views as a liturgical architect, but also because he was a close associate of Newman and his circle while they were Tractarians, while they were moving to the Roman Catholic Church and while they were neophytes in that Church. The study brings to light the development of ideas concerning liturgy that accompanied these stages.