Augustus Welby Pugin

Though best remembered now as one of the designers of the Palace of Westminister, Pugin’s Irish buildings in County Wexford, Killarney and Maynooth, are among his best, writes PAULA REDMOND


The Palace of Westminster and its iconic clock tower ‘Big Ben’, is one of the most famous designs associated with Augustus Welby Pugin.

This visionary 19th century architect is also responsible for many landmark churches and cathedrals throughout Ireland. These include four churches and a cathedral in Co. Wexford in Gorey, Barntown, Bree, Tagoat and Enniscorthy respectively.

Pugin also designed Killarney Cathedral and many of the buildings at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin was born on March 1st 1812 in Russell Square, London. He was the only child of Augustus Charles Pugin and Catherine Welby. His father had immigrated to England from France and worked as an architectural draughtsperson. After spending some years in formal education, Welby Pugin then became apprenticed to his father. For a time he worked designing furniture, including for Windsor Castle, along with London theatre sets before focusing on architecture.

In 1833 he assisted his father in completing the second edition of his book Specimens of Gothic Architecture – Welby Pugin would in fact go on to be one of the leading figures of Gothic revival in both England and Ireland.

The Gothic Revival movement began around the mid-eighteenth century and sought to revive the style of Gothic architecture which originated in Europe and was popular in the late middle ages. Evolving from Romanesque architecture which features rounded arches, one of the Gothic style’s defining features is pointed arches.
In 1835 Welby Pugin converted to Catholicism and sought commissions to build Catholic churches.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own