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God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain [Paperback]

Rosemary Hill
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
Price: £11.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Aug 2008

Pugin was one of Britain’s greatest architects and his short career one of the most dramatic in architectural history. Born in 1812, the son of the soi-disant Comte de Pugin, at 15 Pugin was working for King George IV at Windsor Castle. By the time he was 21 he had been shipwrecked, bankrupted and widowed. Nineteen years later he died, insane and disillusioned, having changed the face and the mind of British architecture.

God’s Architect is the first full modern biography of this extraordinary figure. It draws on thousands of unpublished letters and drawings to recreate his life and work as architect, propagandist and romantic artist as well as the turbulent story of his three marriages, the bitterness of his last years and his sudden death at 40. It is the debut of a remarkable historian and biographer.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140280995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140280999
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 195,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


a very remarkable book about a very remarkable man (A.N. Wilson)

A magnificent biography, as sumptuous and intricate as anything Pugin built (John Carey)

as the readable biography of a most protean and brilliant man, it is worthy of the best of his buildings (Colm Toibin)

An excellent and detailed biography (Peter Ackroyd)

About the Author

Rosemary Hill is a writer and historian and a trustee of the Victorian Society. She has published widely on 19th and 20th century cultural history and sits on the editorial board of the London Review of Books. From 2004-05 she was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pre-eminent Victorian 21 May 2009
Rosemary Hill's masterly life of Augustus Pugin is quite the best biography I have read for many years. Pugin was not high on my list of eminent Victorians. Thanks to her, he is now. An extraordinary creature, prodigious, amazingly precocious, wilful, cantankerous and quirky to an extreme; a figure that certainly belies the canard that men of his time were frock-coated and bewhiskered prigs.
Hill is most persuasive in her argument that Pugin was the seminal figures in the Gothic Revival and she brings to her task wide historical leaning and broad cultural interest, all presented with an easy elegance not always found in works so immaculate in scholarship and documentation. In the publishing bonanza of recent years, lucidity and precision so often is lost in the rush to get the latest volume into the current lists. Her book, in this, as in all other respects, is exceptional.
I have only one grouse, and a trifling one at that: the book needed more copious illustration. It is a comment upon the enthusiasm which Hill provokes that I longed to behold each rood screen, choir stall and chasuble she describes in something other than my mind's eye. Of course, such a book would be well beyond my and many another reader's pocket. We will have to be content with the finely chosen illustrations which economy has allowed us
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply superb 16 Sep 2008
One of the best biographies i have ever read. Beautifully written and fascinating even for someone like me who had little previous interest in either architecture or the nineteenth century.
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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE MAN WHO DESIGNED BIG BEN 26 Aug 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a superb biography. If you're interested in the history of English architecture and interior design then this book is unmissable. But Hill's vivid and rich portrait of a complex and driven man, whose ideas were highly influential but whose projects were often blighted, deserves to be read by a much wider readership. Witty, wise, often moving and always informative, GOD'S ARCHITECT is a great read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank God for Pugin 15 Sep 2009
An excellent biography - Rosemary Hill really brings Pugin alive as if he were a contemporary. I haven't been able to put this book down since I first opened it.

David Palmer
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I ordered this book I am ashamed to admit that I had only the sketchiest knowledge of Pugin - I had vague ideas about his involvement in the design of the Houses of Parliament and Victorian churches, and his association with the Oxford Movement, and imagined him in my ignorance to be some sort of consumptive intellectual. Of course, I know now that I was hopelessly wrong in my woolly assumptions! But I wanted to fill in this gap in my knowledge, and this book not only told me everything that I could want to know about Pugin and his life and career, but what is even better, made an entertaining and absorbing story of it. I really could not put the book down - I read far too late into the night several times, which is not what you would necessarily expect of a biography of an eminent Victorian, especially one who was an architect and designer. I learned that not only was Pugin a most fascinating individual, a complete maverick, and unconventional in so many ways - a real character - but also quite amazingly talented, often misunderstood, and a man who in a lot of ways led quite a sad, although pretty eventful, life. Rosemary Hill skilfully tells the tale of his personal life and relationships as well that of his professional one - they are really quite inextricable - and also puts his work in the context of what was happening in the world of design and architecture around him. His is the story of a genius manqué which really should be better known as he had such a huge and continuing influence, often unacknowledged, on his contemporaries and those who came after him.

I can highly recommend this book, and not just to those who are knowledgeable and interested in architecture and design. I certainly didn't think I was interested in the former before I read this book, but reading Pugin's story has quite changed my mind.
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By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This will surely be the definitive biography on Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin for many years to come, a marvellous accomplishment. Rosemary Hill has written a wonderfully balanced and easy to read story of Pugin’s life and work in the clearest style possible; I had no need to re-read a single sentence in the whole 500 pages.
Hill demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of her subject and a wonderful scholarship of associated movements and fashions of the early 19th century. She is thus able to clearly demonstrate the context of Pugin’s views, publications and practical achievements. Of particular note is the author’s description of the growth of ‘Romantic Catholicism’ (a new term coined by the author) lead by the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, John Talbot. This movement harked back to an imagined idyllic English form of pre-Reformation worship, simple, Catholic but retaining all the mystery and drama engendered by the rood screen, stained glass, low light and the Latin mass. This imagined past found itself in conflict with the intellectual thrust of Newman and the Oxford Movement and eventually the Church of Rome itself. Much of the published work of Pugin including his architectural and design pattern books, and his pamphlets, is centred on the forms of religious worship which were a subject of vital interest to people in the mid 1800s. Hill shows how Pugin’s ideas regarding aspects of Gothic architecture and design developed and changed as his knowledge and experience grew and that this restless and dynamic activity continued almost to the very end of his life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So many achievements !
First came across this being read on Radio 4 Extra ,and had to order it at once ! A portrait of a remarkable man ,a very special thanks to Rosemary Hill for great writing .
Published 9 days ago by Christine M
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
perfect dervice
Published 1 month ago by Su Gorman
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Purchased as a present and well liked and thoroughly read. A good historical book for design and the man behind the gothic designs.
Published 7 months ago by Buzz Read
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable biography
Having seen Rosemary Hill on a TV documentary about Pugin, I wanted to explore more thoroughly the career of this troubled and passionate man. Read more
Published 15 months ago by xiaomap
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful insight into Victorian Britain
This book gives a fantastic insight into one of the most interesting characters from the Victorian era. Written in an engaging fashion.
Published 16 months ago by samira aslam
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for academics
A well-researched and beautifully written account of Pugin and his world. A useful addition to my bookshelf. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Rayna Vincent
4.0 out of 5 stars Good companion to Pugin's Contrasts
Was recommended to read this as part of my research into Pugin's writings on contrasts. Well written and informative if you like to know about the person behind the work. Read more
Published 21 months ago by whitecords
5.0 out of 5 stars Churches have never turned my head - they will now
An extraordinarily enlightening and precious biography because it not only lets you in to Pugin's mind, life and works, but it also paints such a complete and fascinating picture... Read more
Published on 31 Aug 2012 by Ed Crutchley
5.0 out of 5 stars A.W. Pugin : A Man of Contrasts; A Man of Genius
This monumental work of Rosmary Hill must be the definitive biography of that romantic Christian visionary, Pugin. Read more
Published on 4 Jun 2012 by J. Nichols
5.0 out of 5 stars A master-work of a biography
This is rare book indeed. Most biographers paint a single picture of their subject as either saint or monster (depending on what sells books)and miss the complex multi-faceted and... Read more
Published on 21 May 2012 by Dave
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