On the night of October 16th 1834, the citizens of London were treated to a magnificent spectacle. The Old palace of Westminster was irrecoverably in flames. After the usual bewilderment a parliamentary committee was appointed to consider the question of rebuilding; and in the following June they announced a competition for a new design. The site was to be that of the old Palace; the style Gothic or Elizabethan. The most important building in England was to be Gothic’.
Kenneth Clarke, The Gothic Revival.
‘On the night of October 16th 1834, Mr. Charles Barry, returning to London on the Brighton Coach, saw on the horizon in font of him a great red glare. It was the introduction to an opportunity such as befalls few architects. The Palace of Westminster was being destroyed by fire’. Trappes-Lomax, Pugin.
‘To his contemporaries and immediate successors Pugin’s significance was self-evident. Burges described him as ‘that wonderful man’, and Gilbert Scott wrote: ‘I did not know Pugin, but his image in my imagination was lie my guardian angel, and I often dreamed I knew him…..I was awakened from my slumbers by the thunder of Pugin’s writings.’ Owen Jones, Christopher Dresser, William Morris, Philip Webb, Richard Norman Shaw – all the leaders of stylistic change in the half century following Pugin’s death in 1852 – publicly acknowledged his primacy. Writing in 1904 Hermann Muthesius confirmed that ‘Pugin’s work stands supreme…..he combined inexhaustible imaginative power with thorough knowledge of the medieval repertoire of forms, so that it was child’s play to him to find forms for every sort of commission’ Jeremy Cooper, Victorian and Edwardian Furniture and Interiors.
Pugin was a man of precocious talent and prodigious originality. His short life is a catalogue of astonishing achievement. As an architect he designed cathedrals, churches, colleges, convents, and a wide range of domestic buildings, revolutionary structures that established Gothic as the national style for England by linking it firmly to its medieval roots. His books made his design principles and vision of a new Gothic world accessible to a wide audience. In his Medieval Court at the Great Exhibition, held in 1851 he worked closely with leading industrialists to make Gothic a truly universal style.