A special plaque has been unveiled at Salisbury’s St Osmund’s Church.
It commemorates the renowned architect and Gothic revivalist Augustus
Welby Northmore Pugin (1812 to 1852) who designed St Osmund’s and the
Houses of Parliament.
Pugin was received into the Catholic Church in Salisbury in 1835 and
designed St Osmund’s in 1847 and 1848 while simultaneously working on
the Houses of Parliament.
The Mayor of Salisbury and other civic dignitaries attended a special
thanksgiving service prior to the unveiling of the plaque. Father
Andrew Goodman of St Gregory’s, Salisbury conducted the service which
was attended by representatives of other city churches. The homily was
given by Monsignor Canon Jeremy Rigden, Vicar General of the Clifton
Dean of Salisbury and St Osmund’s Parish Priest, Canon Michael
Fitzpatrick, said, “The parish community is very pleased to worship in
and enjoy St Osmund’s. We often think of, and thank Pugin for our
“It was wonderful for us to welcome Lord Congleton, President of the
Salisbury Civic Society, to unveil the plaque. It is a fitting tribute
to Pugin which will highlight his legacy in Salisbury.”
Pugin was born into a Britain that was changing rapidly as the
Industrial Revolution made its impact. Population was to double in the
first half of the nineteenth century and double again in the second
half. The focus of attention was shifting from the countryside to the
towns and cities and the factory was replacing the rural workshop. With
all this change went great wealth and a profusion of industrial
production, but also a rise in the number of poor and a supposedly less
satisfying life. Dickens railed against the life in the industrial
towns in his ‘Hard Times’, Carlyle did much the same in Past and
Present, and in time this movement against modernism and change
fuelled, what became known as, the Gothic Revival.
A W N Pugin was key to this process; lambasting the architectural
manifestations of a society he felt had lost its way, and instead
advocating a return to medieval Gothic and the ways of life that had
existed before the Reformation. For Pugin it was the Reformation that
had started the rot; the true Catholic faith had been replaced by a
debased religion; the country had lost its religious and architectural
Pugin lived in the outskirts of Salisbury for a few influential years
in his short life. Having buried his first wife in Christchurch Priory
in 1832, he married again in 1833 and bought a small plot of land at
Alderbury where he started to build a house for himself and his new
wife. It was while he was at Alderbury that he published the first
edition of his Contrasts, a volume that rejects everything modern and
espouses the wonders of things medieval. It was also while he was at
Alderbury that he converted to Roman Catholicism, and no other single
event could have had as much impact on his thinking as this. On 6 June
1835 he became a member of the Roman Catholic Church and the following
day he assisted at Mass ‘as an acolyte having no youth in our
congregation capable of serving with becoming decorum’.
However, his stay in the Salisbury area turned out to be short lived;
it was too far away from the action for an aspiring young architect.
However, while in Salisbury Pugin had made many friends within the
small Catholic community, and when, in 1847, the Catholics of Salisbury
decided to build a new church, it was to Pugin that they turned for
plans and inspiration. The result is St Osmund’s which is still one of
the Catholic churches for Salisbury’s Catholics. The small flint and
stone church stands in Exeter Street, just outside the Cathedral wall,
and was Pugin’s attempt to create an ‘inexpensive minature’, and to
‘replace the Cathedral as a home for the Mass’.
Though much altered and extended over the ensuing century and a half,
St Osmund’s is still very much a Pugin church; simple, not straining
for effect, and with some spectacular stained glass made to his design.
Though supplemented by two more modern churches, it struggles to cope
with the current 1,000 strong Catholic community of Salisbury. On high
days and holy days there is a video link to an adjacent hall, and it
pays to always come early.
The anniversary of Pugin’s conversion to Catholicism was selected by
the Salisbury Civic Society as the day for the erection of a Blue
Plaque commemorating Pugin and what he had achieved. While the sun
shone the Civic and religious leaders of Salisbury gathered for a small
service, a talk and then the unveiling of the plaque to celebrate on of