This is a Grade 1 listed building of as much historic value as The Grange next door. Despite having a private chapel in his house, Pugin built St. Augustine's for himself. It was begun in 1844, Pugin made only one plan for the building and this was where the foundations should be. From then on it grew out of a passion for the endeavour.
The construction ceased from time to time since funds frequently ran out and Pugin would only use the best materials. He had stone bought from Whitby, as well as using local flint.
The church was not finished at Pugin's death and the outside wall next to the road was only at waist height and approximately ten foot long. However this was completed by his eldest son Edward who was also an architect.
A guided tour
On entering the church you are struck by the light coming through all the stained glass windows. On the immediate left is the north cloister leading to a very ornate altar designed by Peter Paul 1884, carved by Thomas Earp. There is wooden paneling on the outside wall with brass plaques attached with the names of all the Benedictine monks that have lived at St. Augustines Abbey. Above these are the stations of the cross, originally they were in plain terracotta relief, but in the early sixties they were painted. These were sculpted by the De Beule brothers from Ghent.
On the floor is a brass of Abbot Wilfred Alcock, the first Benedictine monk to arrive in 1856. On the other side of the aisle is a small chapel designed by Peter Paul Pugin. Walking back to where you first came in, turning left you enter the Digby Chantry. The Digby family are buried beneath in the crypt; Kenelm Digby helped Edward financially, when at the age of eighteen he was left to complete his father's work on the church. The vaulted ceiling was painted by Crace. There is some delicate stonework in this chantry.
|Coming out of the chapel and going further down the steps through a wooden door to the left, you enter the Garth, this is like a small courtyard very quiet and peaceful. Surrounded on all sides by the knapped flint that the church is faced with. If you look up you will see wonderful gargoyles gazing down at you.||On one side upstairs is where the school used to be and on another side stands the tower. This was to have a spire on it, which was to be the same size as the church again, so it could be viewed from miles around. However the money ran out before it could be built. Underneath the Garth is where Pugin buried the sailors that died after being shipwrecked.|
Going back into the west cloister and turning left through the heavy doors and into the main body of the church, there is a large fifteenth century cross suspended above the nave, which Pugin brought back from one of his travels. Also in the nave on the left are two small doors in the gothic style which are the entrances to two confessionals.
The font opposite has a lovely carved wooden top with a spire and when in use, the top lifts up into the spire. It was displayed at the Great Exhibition and Queen Victoria came especially to see it.
In between are the huge supports for the tower and the spire which never got built, so the tower has a flat roof. The ceiling was never finished in the ornate style Pugin intended, only the bit above the altar is complete, with oak panels and gold leaf flowers.
Following Vatican 2 in the 1960's, the immensely intricately carved, rood screen that shut the chancel off from the nave has been moved. It now surrounds the Lady chapel on the right of the altar. The idea of removing the screen was to open up the mystery of the service to the congregation.
Despite being able to see the beautiful Pugin designed window more easily, the sanctuary lacks the grandeur and splendour of the original layout.
On the continent Vatican 2 was accomodated by placing a new altar in front of the rood screen, thus leaving the sanctuary intact. This seems a more sensitive approach.
Unfortunately the original high altar which was made of stone, has also been removed and a new style altar erected where the rood screen stood. This makes the sanctuary and the high altar area very bare, there is a feeling that something mystical is missing. However the beautifully carved pews, have remained in the sanctury area.
The tabernacle (pictured left and right) originally was made to stand on the altar but it was removed to St. George's Anglican Cathedral, Southwark in 1971. How this came about no one seems completely sure.
It was designed by Pugin in 1851, and it made a wonderful companion to the font, many people feel it is ironic that it has ended up in the Harvard chapel, at the Anglican Cathedral. Remembering Pugin was born an anglican and converted to the catholic faith.
|The font was made from one piece of stone shipped from Caen and carved in the workshop of George Myers, Pugin's builder. The pulpit was dismantled after Vatican 2 and removed, part of it has been rescued and placed in the graveyard, cemented to the back wall.|
|The floor of the church is amazing, it is almost entirely covered with Minton encaustic tiles which are very difficult to make. They are in wonderful colours, as vibrant today as when they were first laid.|
This is a beautiful church built with love and great attention to detail. The intricate carvings of bunches of grapes, lily of the valley, leaves and acorns are everywhere.
He modeled it on the medieval style with one wide aisle to the left on entrance, leading to the altar and one further smaller aisle next to it leading to the lady chapel.
Walking out into the graveyard with its yew trees and holly bushes, the view is straight out to sea. Pugin buried some of the sailors who perished as a result of being ship wrecked here. Sir John Knill, Pugin's third wife's cousin and his wife are also buried here. As are a great friend of Jane's and some of Pugin's grandchildren by Ann, his first daughter.