25 February 2020
‘AWN Pugin and the
Gothic Revival in Adare’
‘AWN Pugin and the Gothic Revival in Adare’
Adare and District Historical Society,
Tuesday 25 February 2020,
8 p.m., The Dunraven Arms Hotel, Adare, Co Limerick.
Introduction: Imagine the word ‘Gothic’:
For people of a generation younger than me, the words ‘Goth’ and ‘Gothic’ conjured up images of teenagers in flowing black clothes and whitened faces. For some of you, these words may make you think of the novels of Bram Stoker or Sheridan Le Fanu.
So, if you were hoping to hear about either topic under the heading of ‘Gothic Revival’ this evening, you are in the wrong room.
The ‘Gothic Revival’ in architecture was well under way when Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin began his practice. Indeed, there architects working in the Gothic style in Co Limerick and the neighbouring counties at an early stage, including, most notably, members of the Pain and Fogerty families.
But Pugin is such a giant on the architectural landscape of Ireland that I think he is worth introducing this evening, albeit with the understanding that he left very few footprints in Co Limerick, and, even then, these are difficult to identify with certainty.
I have spent some time over the past decade travelling around Ireland, mapping and cataloguing Pugin’s contribution to Ireland’s architecture and landscape. This exercise has led to similar traipses throughout the English Midlands.
My great-grandfather, James Comerford (1817-1902), and his brothers, Richard and Robert Comerford from Newtownbarry (Bunclody), Co Wexford, worked throughout Co Wexford with Richard Pierce (1801-1854), the Wexford-born architect used by Pugin to oversee many of his building projects – most notably his work at Saint Peter’s College, Wexford, and his cathedrals in Killarney and Enniscorthy.
Michael Fisher, an authority on Pugin’s work in Staffordshire, has referred to Staffordshire as ‘Pugin-Land.’ In many ways that epithet could also be applied to Co Wexford.
Pugin’s death in 1852, followed by Pierce’s death in 1854, explain James Comerford’s decision to move to Dublin in the early 1850s. The family’s traditional links with this architectural cluster continued when James’s own children married into the Coleman and Cullen families, who also worked with Pugin and his architectural heirs.
So, my interest in Pugin is as much a tribute to my own great-grandfather and his children as it is to the greatest figure in the Gothic revival.
The Gothic and Goths
We are all aware of the Gothic revival. Ask any child to sketch a church and she is more than likely to draw a church with a tower and steeple and three pointed windows. The more creative child might even add a porch.
But no child in Limerick is going to draw a church with a classical façade, complete with columns and triangular pediment, still less is she likely to draw a white-washed Byzantine church with a blue dome.
The Gothic revival has influenced and shaped how every one of us sees and sets our standards of what a church should look like.
The Gothic Revival long-predated Pugin, the Pain brothers and the Fogerty family in Limerick, or the arrival of Philip Hardwicke at Adare Manor.
It began as an architectural movement in the late 1740s in England. Its popularity grew rapidly in the early 19th century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of neo-Gothic styles sought to revive mediaeval Gothic architecture, in contrast to the neoclassical styles that had come prevalent at the time. Gothic Revival draws features from the original Gothic style, including decorative patterns, finials, lancet windows, hood moulds and label stops.
The Gothic Revival movement that emerged in 18th-century England, gained ground in the 19th century. Its roots were intertwined with deeply philosophical movements associated with Catholicism and the Oxford Movement and a re-awakening of High Church or Anglo-Catholic tradition among Anglicans. By the third quarter of the 19th century, the Gothic revival was appealing to all Christian traditions on these islands and in many other places too.
The difference between Pugin and his predecessors in the Gothic Revival movement is the intensity of his ideology, and the way he gave expression to this in a short life span of only 40 years. Even though Newman preferred the Byzantine style for churches and dismissed Gothic as pagan, Pugin is the architectural voice and vision, the architectural visionary and ideologue, of those in the Oxford Movement who moved over to Rome in the 1840s and 1850s.
Rosemary Hill has described him as ‘God’s architect’ … and if John Ruskin could describe architecture as poetry in stone, then Pugin’s work is theology in stone.
The Palace of Westminster … Pugin designed the tower we now know as Big Ben (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) was an architect, designer, artist, and critic who is principally remembered for his pioneering role in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. His work culminated in designing the interior of the Palace of Westminster and its clock tower, later renamed the Elizabeth Tower, which houses the bell we know as Big Ben. He also created Alton Castle and Alton Towers in Alton, Staffordshire.
Pugin designed many churches in England, including Saint Giles’ Church, Cheadle, and Saint Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, and many churches in Ireland and Australia.
He was born on 1 March 1812 at his parents’ home in Bloomsbury, London. His father, August Charles Pugin, was a French draughtsman who had emigrated to England at the time of the French Revolution. Like many other French émigrés at the time, he probably joined the Church of England to guarantee government commissions and tenders.
Between 1821 and 1838, he published a series of volumes of architectural drawings, Specimens of Gothic Architecture and Examples of Gothic Architecture, that became standard reference works for Gothic architecture for many decades.
His mother, Catherine Welby, was from the Welby family of Denton, Lincolnshire, and the Pugin family lived in Bloomsbury.
As a child, his mother took Pugin to the Sunday services of the fashionable Scottish Presbyterian preacher Edward Irving (1792-1834), later the founder of the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church or ‘Irvingites,’ at his chapel in Cross Street, Hatton Garden.
But the young Pugin quickly rebelled against this style of Christianity with its ‘cold and sterile forms of the Scottish church.’ He then ‘rushed into the arms of a church which, pompous by its ceremonies, was attractive to his imaginative mind.’
Pugin learned drawing from his father, and for a while went to school at Christ’s Hospital. After leaving school he worked in his father’s office, and father and son visited France together in 1825 and 1827. His first independent commissions were for designs for the royal goldsmiths Rundell and Bridge, and for designs for furniture in Windsor Castle. At this early stage, he was also designing theatrical sets and scenery.
He then established a business supplying historically accurate, carved wood and stone detailing for the increasing number of buildings being built in the Gothic Revival style, but this enterprise quickly failed.
In 1831, at the age of 19, Pugin married the first of his three wives, Anne Garnet. Anne died a few months later in childbirth, leaving him a daughter. In 1833, he married his second wife Louisa Button, and they were the parents of a further six children, including the architect Edward Welby Pugin. Louisa died in 1844, and in 1848 he married his third wife, Jane Knill, and their son was the architect Peter Paul Pugin.
After his second marriage in 1833, Pugin moved to Salisbury, and in 1835 he bought half an acre of land in Alderbury, about a mile and half outside the small cathedral city. There he built a Gothic Revival style family home for his family, which he called St Marie’s Grange. One observer noted, ‘he not yet learned the art of combining a picturesque exterior with the ordinary comforts of an English home.’
Meanwhile, Pugin had converted to Roman Catholicism, and he was received into the Roman Catholic Church that year. To put this into context, it was just six years after Catholic Emancipation or the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829.
Following the destruction by fire of the Palace of Westminster in 1834, Pugin was employed by Sir Charles Barry to supply interior designs for rebuilding a new Palace of Westminster. At this time Pugin also worked with Barry on the design of King Edward’s School, Birmingham.
Later, he would accuse Barry of stealing the best of his plans and ideas. But Pugin could always come across as arrogant when it came to criticising his contemporaries.
Taken aback by the refurbishment of Lichfield Cathedral by James Wyatt (1746-1813), Pugin declared in 1834: ‘Yes – this monster of architectural depravity, this pest of Cathedral architecture, has been here. need I say more.’ And then, referring to the Lichfield architect, Joseph Potter (1756-1842) – the architect who influenced part of his designs for Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford – he said: ‘The man I am sorry to say – who executes the repairs of the building was a pupil of the Wretch himself and has imbibed all the vicious propensities of his accursed tutor without one spark of even practical ability to atone for his misdeeds.’
To his advantage, Pugin’s new church membership also brought an introduction to John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, a Roman Catholic peer who was sympathetic to his aesthetic theory. His wife, Maria Theresa Talbot, was a daughter of William Talbot of Blackwater, Co Wexford, and she was a niece of John Hyacinth Talbot (1794-1868), MP for Wexford – in other words, Lord Shrewsbury was related by marriage to the Talbot and Redmond families, two of the most powerful political families in Co Wexford for much of the 19th and early 20th century, including John Redmond.
Shrewsbury employed Pugin to rebuild his family home at Alton Towers in Staffordshire, and to build Saint Giles Roman Catholic Church in nearby Cheadle. When Pugin’s second wife Louisa died in 1844, she was buried at Saint Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, which Pugin had designed.
Meanwhile, Pugin had found Salisbury an inconvenient base for his growing architectural practice. He sold St Marie’s Grange and bought a parcel of land at Ramsgate in Kent, where he built himself a large house and, at his own expense, a church dedicated to Saint Augustine.
In February 1852, while travelling by train with his son Edward, Pugin suffered a total breakdown and arrived in London unable to recognise anyone or speak coherently. For four months he was confined to a private asylum, Kensington House, before being moved to the Royal Bethlehem Hospital, or ‘Bedlam,’ then close to Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark, one of his major buildings and where he had married his third wife Jane in 1848.
Jane Pugin and a doctor moved Pugin from Bedlam to a house in Hammersmith where he recovered sufficiently to recognise her. In September, she took him back to the Grange in Ramsgate; there he died on 14 September 1852. He was only 40. He is buried in Saint Augustine’s, his church next to the Grange Ramsgate.
The cause of death was listed as ‘convulsions followed by coma.’ Pugin’s biographer Rosemary Hill suggests he was suffering from hyperthyroidism but points out that his medical history suggests he had syphilis from his late teens.
Pugin in Ireland:
The Talbot family connection provides the key to Pugin’s commissions throughout Ireland. This entrée was provided by John Hyacinth Talbot, MP, of Castle Talbot and Talbot Hall, Co Wexford, an uncle of Maria Theresa Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury.
Although Pugin only visited Ireland about 10 times in all and never spent longer than 12 days in Ireland, from the late 1830s until his early death in 1852, he designed a large number of Irish churches and convents, as well as the great seminary at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co Kildare.
He had a romantic and idealised view of Catholicism, so he was challenged and indeed uncomfortable with the reality of a highly politicised church in Ireland and its social context and makeup.
Circumstances meant he left the close personal supervision of his building projects in the hands of trusted Irish architects, particularly Richard Pierce, and many of his projects were not be completed in his lifetime because of lack of funds and because of the consequences of the Famine.
Yet one biographer, Phoebe Stanton, says ‘Pugin’s Irish buildings are among the best constructed and the largest he ever produced.’ In his churches at Gorey, Tagoat and Barntown in Co Wexford, the ‘emphasis on materials, the excellence of the workmanship, the lack of ornament, the dignified and heavy proportions are more than their characteristics – they are their graces.’
After Pugin’s death in 1852, work on his unfinished Irish commissions was carried on by his son Edward Welby Pugin, by John Joseph McCarthy, and, for the two years before his own death, by Richard Pierce.
Pugin was the chief designer for the Birmingham church decorators John Hardman & Co. His involvement in Irish church building and decoration gave rise to the establishment of a Dublin branch of the firm in 1853, under the direction of Thomas Earley and Henry Powell.
Pugin’s principle works in Ireland:
Samuel Lewis says in 1839 that the ‘very fine tower and spire’ was ‘lately added’ to the Roman Catholic Church, Tullow, Co Carlow. The church is attributed to Pugin by Thomas Kennedy in his History of Irish Catholicism (1970, vol 5, p 35), and this is noted in the Dictionary of Irish Architects, but not by Rosemary Hill or any of Pugin’s other authoritative biographers.
So, the following works in Ireland can be attributed to Pugin:
1, The Church of the Assumption or the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Bree, Co Wexford (1837-1840):
The Church of the Assumption, Bree (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
This church, the first of Pugin’s Irish churches, was commissioned by John Hyacinth Talbot MP. The church was built by Canon Philip Devereux, thanks to the generosity of the Talbot and Power families, on land given by Colonel Henry Alcock of nearby Wilton Castle in 1837. John Hyacinth Talbot ‘procured’ the plans from Pugin, and – if we date the church to the laying of the foundation stone in 1837 – then this is the first of Pugin’s Irish churches, although he never actually acknowledged the church as his own.
The foundation stone of the Church of the Assumption, Bree, was laid in 1837 and the church was completed in 1840. As an early church, it is a simple building with a long nave and smaller chancel. The main feature, which is now concealed, was a very early example of open-roof timbering.
The church has been much changed in recent renovations, but it is an interesting church in the light of Pugin’s other Irish churches built in the years that followed. It also owes its existence to the Redmond family patronage.
2, Saint Peter’s College, Wexford (1838-1841):
Pierce’s Gothic Tower and Pugin’s chapel at Saint Peter’s College, Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Pugin’s first great work in Ireland is the Chapel at Saint Peter’s College, Wexford. He laid the foundation stone for the chapel on 18 June 1838, the chapel was dedicated on 15 June 1840, and the first Mass was celebrated in the chapel that year. The collegiate style of the chapel was unique in its day.
The chapel interior remained unchanged until 1950, when the rood screen was removed, changing Pugin’s original design. What survives is the fine triptych altar design and the magnificent Hardman stained glass in the rose window, which contains the Talbot family coat of arms. It is still an original and beautiful interior.
Pugin’s triptych and altar in Saint Peter’s, Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
3, Saint James’s Church, Ramsgrange, Co Wexford (1838-1843):
Saint James’s Church, Ramsgrange, Co Wexford … Pugin’s authorship has been questioned by some architectural historians (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Saint James’s in Ramsgrange was built as a new church for Father George Murphy. The plans are said to have been copied from chapel at Saint Peter’s College, Wexford.
JJ McCarthy claimed in 1856 that he had been told that Pugin was ‘very angry when he was informed that his design for Saint Peter’s College Chapel in Wexford was copied as a parish church in Ramsgrange.’ The church tower was added in 1870.
But, whatever Pugin contributed to the design of this church is largely masked by later additions and alterations.
4, The Church of Saint Michael the Archangel, Gorey, Co Wexford (1839-1842):
Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, co Wexford … Pugin’s only Romanesque church in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Pugin’s church in Gorey, Co Wexford, is unique among his Irish churches for it is built in the Norman style. It was begun in 1839, was completed in 1842, and is one of his earliest Irish commissions. The patrons were the Esmonde family, who donated the site and whose coat of arms are displayed above the front entrance.
The spire was never added, but Pugin shows it in his drawing of his churches. The interior was also decorated with highly coloured stencilling and his hand is seen in the timbering of the roof trusses.
5, Loreto Convent, Gorey, Co Wexford (1839):
This convent, next to Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford, was also designed by Pugin in 1839, but may have been built later.
6, Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, Co Dublin (1839):
Pugin’s chapel in Rathfarnham dates from March to June 1839, the same time as his plans for Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford, and Saint Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Pugin produced his designs Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, Co Dublin in 1839. His drawings for the church were prepared at the same time as his plans for Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, Co Wexford, and Saint Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham. They all date from 1839, and together they mark the end of the first phase of his career.
His drawings were completed by 28 May 1839. In parts of the chapel, Pugin’s designs were inspired by the Octagon or Lantern Tower in Ely Cathedral.
However, the building was simplified in execution by John Benjamin Keane working with Patrick Byrne. The angels on either side of altar by the sculptor John Hogan are believed to be based on Hogan’s two eldest daughters.
7, The Presentation Convent, Slievekeale Road, Waterford (1842-1878):
The rood screen in the former Presentation Convent Chapel in Waterford … a typical feature of Pugin’s work (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
This convent and school were designed by Pugin in 1842. It now serves as a health centre. Pugin was present when the foundation stone was laid on 10 June 1842. The main contractor was Richard Pierce, the Wexford architect Pugin employed for most of his work in Ireland.
However, it took over two decades to complete Pugin’s chapel, and when it was consecrated by Bishop Dominic O’Brien in 1863, it was more than ten years since both Pugin and Pierce had died.
The Presentation Order sold the building in 2006 and it is now a health centre.
8, Saint John’s Manor, Slievekeale Road, Waterford (1842-1845):
Saint John’s Manor, a manor house in Waterford, was rebuilt ca1845 for Sir Thomas Wyse, a friend of Pugin. But Pugin considered Wyse’s expectations too elaborate for a house of this side, and we are unclear what was actually designed by Pugin.
9, Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney, Co Kerry (1842-1850):
Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney … Pugin’s design was inspired by Salisbury Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Saint Mary’s Church, later Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney, Co Kerry, was designed by Pugin as miniature, two-thirds size replica of Salisbury Cathedral, and was built in 1842-1850. Here Pugin’s patron was the Earl of Kenmare, and the work was overseen by Richard Pierce, the Wexford architect who oversaw much of his Pugin’s work.
It is disappointing to notice that the plaque outside the cathedral declares it is the work of Edward Pugin and not of his father Pugin.
10, Woodford House, Killarney, Co Kerry (ca 1842):
Woodford House, Killarney, Co Kerry … Pugin added the Gothic details to an earlier house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Adrian Hilliard has helped me to identify Woodford House, Killarney, as one of the few examples of domestic architecture by AWN Pugin in Ireland.
When I visited, Mary O’Connell was very welcoming as she pointed out how an earlier house, built in the 18th century by the Fitzgerald family, had been extended to the front by Pugin, at the invitation of the Earl of Kenmare. At the time, Pugin was working on Saint Mary’s Cathedral, and his work at Woodford House includes a Gothic-style window inserted above the stairs in the original house, and a Gothic-revival, three-bay facade added to the front of the house.
11, Saint Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford (1843-1850):
The foundation stone for Saint Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, was laid in 1843. This is Pugin’s largest church in Ireland, and local people in Enniscorthy describe it as ‘Pugin’s gem.’ Once again, Richard Pierce was Pugin’s clerk of works.
The external stonework is superb work by the Irish stonemasons who were praised by Pugin.
Renovations in 1996 did much to restore the original beautiful building as envisaged by Pugin. The restored stencilling of the interior gives us some idea of what Pugin wanted for his churches.
12, Saint Mary’s Church, Tagoat, Co Wexford (1843-1846):
Saint Mary’s Church, Tagoat, is the last of Pugin’s churches in Co Wexford and many regard it as his most important parish church in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
While he was engaged in designing Saint Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Pugin also designed this Co Wexford church. Once again, this church was designed by Pugin through the patronage of John Hyacinth Talbot.
This is the last of Pugin’s churches in Co Wexford. Many regard Saint Mary’s as the most important of Pugin’s parish churches in Ireland, and it has been has been described as ‘an example of Pugin’s best work on a small church.’
Saint Mary’s contains more original Pugin features than any of his other Irish churches, including floor tiles in the large sanctuary area produced by Henry Minton (1795-1858), wooden screens to the side chapels, stained glass by Hardman, a set of four brass altar candlesticks designed by Hardman and presented by Pugin when the church was dedicated in 1846, and a marble, brass-inlaid memorial floor slab in the sanctuary commemorating Canon Rowe, presented by Sir Thomas Esmonde, Pugin’s patron in Gorey.
13, Saint Alphonsus’s Church, Barntown, Co Wexford (1844-1848):
Saint Alphonsus’s Church, Barntown, Co Wexford, is Pugin’s only complete expression in Ireland of the small village parish church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Saint Alphonsus’s Church, Barntown, near Taghmon and in the parish of Glynn, was built on 1844-1848. It was planned by Pugin as a complete Catholic parish church, so it consists of a nave and aisles with a belfry, south porch, wide passages for processions, a distinct and deep chancel, a sacristy, a Lady Chapel, and so on.
Pugin’s design for Barntown is based on Saint Michael’s, one of two mediaeval parish churches in the village of Longstanton, 10 km north-west of Cambridge.
Sadly, the church has been much altered, but the external stonework and the solid nature of the church is striking. The finest feature of the interior is the surviving Hardman high window.
Saint Michael’s ... a rare example of an English church with a thatched roof … is said to have inspired Pugin’s design of a parish church in Barntown, Co Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
14, Adare Manor, Adare, Co Limerick (1846-1848):
Adare Manor … Pugin contributed to this Gothic extravaganza at the invitation of the Earls of Dunraven (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Adare Manor was built for the 2nd Earl of Dunraven ca 1846-1847, and incorporated some of Pugin’s designs for alterations and extensions to the existing house.
Pugin’s contributions to Adare Manor are difficult to date and to quantify: Phoebe Stanton says that in 1846 he may have designed details in the great hall, the hall ceiling, the great staircase, the gallery at the end of the hall, various fireplaces and doors, and the general design of the dining hall.
15, Houses, Midleton, Co Cork:
Pugin was commissioned by the 5th Viscount Midleton to design two villas or houses on his estate in Queenstown (Cobh), Co Cork, but, as Rosemary Hill points out, they were probably never built.
16, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co Kildare (1846-1851):
Pugin designed the collegiate buildings of Saint Patrick and Saint Mary in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, but not, despite popular perceptions, the college chapel. His original plans for Maynooth included both a chapel and an aula maxima or great hall, neither of which was built because of financial constraints.
The college chapel, added later in 1875, was designed by a follower of Pugin, the Irish architect JJ McCarthy.
17, Saint John’s Convent of Mercy, Birr, Co Offaly (1846-1847):
The interior of the beautifully restored Convent Chapel in Birr, designed by Pugin and now a library (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
This convent was commissioned by Sister Anastasia Beckett, and the foundation stone for his convent in Birr was laid in 1846, although the first portions were not built until 1847. The design is a heavy, stone version of the convents he had built in Handsworth and Liverpool. But Pugin also paid tribute to Irish architectural heritage by attaching a Round Tower to the corner of the building.
The convent was still not complete when Pugin died in 1852. The main front resembles his design, but the larger part of the building was finally completed with slightly different massings by his son, EW Pugin, and his son-in-law, George Ashlin.
The Pugin-designed convent chapel was greatly revised at a later stage. When the convent closed, the altars and the furnishings were donated to neighbouring churches or auctioned off. But the convent and chapel have been converted to accommodate a modern library, council offices and a health centre, and many of the original Pugin features have been carefully preserved or restored.
Birr Convent was built by Pugin along the lines of his convent in Handsworth … with the addition of an Irish round tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
18, Lismore Castle, Co Waterford:
Pugin designed some furniture for the sixth Duke of Devonshire at Lismore Castle, Co Waterford, although he never actually visited Lismore.
19, Fitzpatrick Mortuary Chapel, Clough, Co Laois:
This is not noted by either Hill or Stanton.
20, Power family chapel, Edermine House, Co Wexford (1850s):
The Pugin Chapel and the once splendid Victorian iron conservatory at Edermine House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
The chapel at Edermine House, Co Wexford, was commissioned by Sir James Power and his wife, Jane, and was built in the 1850s. Jane Power was a daughter of Pugin’s Irish patron, John Hyacinth Talbot, and the Power family later intermarried with the Cliffe family of Bellvue.
A plaque on the door and a second inside the chapel have led many to believe that the chapel is too late to have been designed by AWN Pugin, and they have ascribed it to either his son, Edward Welby Pugin, or to JJ McCarthy. However, Pat Doyle, the present owner of Edermine House, has long believed that the chapel is an original work by Pugin and that McCarthy merely supervised its later construction.
Many contemporary writers believe the intermarriages between the Talbot and Power families underpin the supposition that the chapel was originally designed by the elder Pugin and that the project was supervised either by his son or by McCarthy.
Some works that are claimed for Pugin:
1, The College Chapel, Maynooth:
Although the College Chapel in Maynooth is often ascribed to Pugin, this is the work of JJ McCarthy, designed by him a quarter century after the death of Pugin.
2, Saint Nicholas Church, Adare, Co Limerick:
Phoebe Stanton says Pugin added a new roof and stained-glass windows ‘to the village church [in Adare], which he probably also full restored.’ But she does not say which church. Rosemary Hill does not refer to this at all.
Although Pugin’s influence can be seen everywhere in the Trinitarian Church in Adare, I would suggest this is Saint Nicholas’s Church, with its collegiate east end and the large number of Hardman windows in the church.
3, The Midleton Arms, Midleton, Co Cork:
The Midleton Arms, a public house and shop on the Midleton estate, Co Cork, has also been attributed to Pugin. But they date from 1861, and, if anything, may have been the work of his son, Edward Welby Pugin.
4, Saint Michael’s Church, Portarlington, Co Offaly (1842 or 1845):
Saint Michael’s Church, in the Co Offaly side of Portarlington is also attributed to Pugin, and dates from 1842 or 1845. Although it may have been built according to Pugin’s plans for another church, I am still wondering whether it can be ascribed to Pugin.
Local historians are more inclined to date it to 1839-1842 and to attribute it to the Carlow-based architect Thomas Alfred Cobden (1794-1842), perhaps on stylistic grounds but mainly because Father Terence O’Connell, the parish priest of Portarlington at the time Saint Michael’s Church was built had the administrator of Carlow Cathedral when it was built.
5, The Cliffe Chapel, Bellvue, Co Wexford (1858-1860):
The Cliffe chapel in Bellvue … built ‘from the designs of A. Welby Pugin’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
The Cliffe family stirred controversy in Co Wexford when they changed their membership from the Church of Ireland, becoming Roman Catholics in 1856. They built a new chapel adjacent to their home at Bellvue in 1858-1860, and although the chapel was designed by JJ McCarthy, he used earlier plans by Pugin.
The Building News reported in 1859: ‘A new church has lately been erected by A. Cliffe … from the designs of A. Welby Pugin; it is designed in the Early Decorated period and it is well executed by a local builder.’
Some claims for Pugin:
At another time, I might like to argue that two other structures in Ireland can ascribed to Pugin:
1, The Talbot and Redmond vault, Wexford:
2, Saint Catherine’s Church, Dublin:
After a fire in 2012, this church has been beautifully restored, and reopened in 2015. Although it is ascribed to JJ McCarthy, I have argued in the past that McCarthy used Pugin’s plans for this church, and I have described it as ‘the poor man’s Cheadle.’
Pugin church restoration in Adare
So, which Church in Adare did Pugin work on?
Pugin’s biographer Phoebe Stanton says Pugin ‘added a new roof and stained-glass windows to the village church [in Adare], which he probably also totally restored.’ On the other hand, the architectural historian, Roderick O’Donnell, says Pugin did this work in for Roman Catholic Church in Adare, the former Trinitarian Abbey.
Although there is extensive evidence of Pugin’s influence throughout the Trinitarian Abbey, the involvement of Powell and the Hardman studios in windows throughout Saint Nicholas’s Church seems to me to confirm Phoebe Stanton’s choice of this church, too.
Saint Nicholas’s has a splendid collection of windows by the studios of Mayer & Co in Munich, by Heaton, Butler and Bayne, and by the Birmingham studios of John Hardman. All three companies were closely identified with the Gothic Revival, and to find works from all three studios in one church in an Irish town is a real delight.
Four sets of windows in Saint Nicholas’s, Adare, are the work of Joseph Hardman’s studios in Birmingham and their principal designer, John Hardman Powell: the East Window in the Chancel; the window on the south wall of the chancel, above the altar rails; the main window at the East end of the South Aisle; and the window at the back of the church at the west end of the Nave.
These four windows, taken together, are a unique collection and provide a direct link between Adare and the work of Pugin.
The Hardman studio was founded in 1838, began manufacturing stained glass in 1844, and was one of the leading manufacturers of stained glass and ecclesiastical fittings until it was wound up in 2008.
The three key figures in the business were John Hardman snr (1766-1844), of Handsworth, then in Staffordshire, who was the head of a family business designing and manufacturing metalwork, his son John Hardman jnr (1812-1867), and his nephew John Hardman Powell (1827-1895).
The Hardman family and studio were closely associated with AWN Pugin from the 1830s, when he was commissioned by the Bishop Thomas Walsh to design Birmingham Cathedral as a suitable church to house the relics of Saint Chad, which had been rescued from destruction at Lichfield Cathedral during the Reformation.
When Pugin’s building was consecrated in 1841 as Saint Chad’s Cathedral, it was the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in England since the Reformation. Pugin contracted Hardmans to provide metalwork for Saint Chad’s Cathedral, and the Hardmans were enthusiastic donors, giving the rood screen to the cathedral and providing the Hardman Chantry in which John Hardman sr was buried in 1844, followed by later family members.
From 1845, at Pugin’s urging, his close friend John Hardman jr entered the fast-developing stained-glass industry. He was joined by his nephew, John Hardman Powell, who became Pugin’s son-in-law and claimed to have been Pugin’s only pupil.
As a young man, John Hardman Powell stayed at The Grange in Ramsgate to assist Pugin with his many orders for stained glass, church plate, and other artefacts. Through Pugin, the firm became very successful throughout the 19th century and set high standards of design and craftsmanship, initiated by Pugin and then developed by Powell, who married Pugin’s first child, his daughter Anne, in 1850. Pugin supplied the first designs for Hardmans, and in his later years relied increasingly on his talented son-in-law Powell to provide the designs for stained glass.
Powell became the chief designer for Hardman’s after 1849 and before Pugin’s death in 1852. The company also took part in the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, exhibiting the great chandelier designed for Alton Towers in Staffordshire.
A year later, Hardman and Powell collaborated with AWN Pugin’s son, Edward Welby Pugin, in designing the funeral arrangements of John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, in November 1852.
Pugin’s involvement in Irish church building and decoration gave rise to the establishment of an Irish branch of the firm in Grafton Street, Dublin, in 1853, under the direction of Thomas Earley and JH Powell’s brother, Henry Powell (1835-1882), who lived at 25 Elm Grove, Ranelagh.
Under JH Powell’s direction, the firm produced enormous amounts of stained glass for Anglican and Roman Catholic churches throughout Britain and Ireland, and beyond, in the second half of the 19th century.
Powell never forgot his debt to Pugin, saying he had learned everything from him. But he gradually evolved a personal style, involving rather more elongated figures and a more exaggerated sense of movement than his master. He also wrote a vivid and affectionate memoir of his great teacher, Pugin in his Home (1889).
The collaboration between the Hardmans and the Pugins continued after Edward Welby Pugin’s death in 1875 with the later firm of Pugin & Pugin. This collaboration lasted for three generations and was a major influence on church architecture and decoration and the Gothic Revival.
Under JH Powell, the metalwork design department split from the stained-glass department in 1883 and traded under the name Hardman, Powell and Co. Powell died in 1895, and the leadership of the firm passed to John Bernard Hardman, a grandson of John Hardman snr.
A large proportion of the Hardman archive was damaged and destroyed in a fire in 1970. Some of the earliest cartoons are now held in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The business closed in 2008.
Powell’s designs are original innovations in the Gothic style. His stained glass recreates the elegance, the refinement, the brevity that is seen in some of the finest examples of glass, sculpture and illumination of the 13th and 14th centuries. He utilises the flowing, curving lines, the flourish of drapery, the calligraphic brush-strokes and pure colour.
One of his best works is the large Immaculate Conception window in the north transept of Pugin’s Saint Chad’s Cathedral, in Birmingham, designed in 1868 in memory of John Hardman jnr. This is an elaborate and uplifting design, with a beautiful ethereal quality, pure colours, and a silvery overall light.
This connection between Powell, Hardman and Pugin leads me to conclude that Saint Nicholas’s is the church in Adare that Phoebe Stanton identified as probably being restored by Pugin.
Apart from some, unidentified work at Adare Manor, and some unspecified work at Saint Nicholas Church, Adare, there are no other works by Pugin in Co Limerick.
However, Pugin’s influence on Gothic revival architecture in Adare can be seen in Hardwick’s work on the Abbey Convent in Adare, which has many similarities with Pugin’s convents in Birr, Co Offaly, and Handsworth, near Birmingham, and in the interior decorations in the Trinitarian Church.
Pugin’s influence in Co Limerick
Pugin’s sons Edward Welby Pugin and Peter Paul Pugin continued his architectural firm as Pugin & Pugin. His son-in-law, George Coppinger Ashlin, continued this tradition in the practice of Ashlin and Coleman.
The influence of the Gothic Revival can be seen in Co Limerick not only in the works of the Pain brothers and the Fogerty family, but in churches and church buildings throughout this city and county.
JJ McCarthy, who claimed Pugin’s mantle, was the architect of many of these churches, including Foynes, Kilmallock and Rathkeale. But his work might be a topic for another evening.
(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is priest-in-charge of the Rathkeale Group of Parishes, Precentor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and a former theology professor in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and Trinity College Dublin.