Pugin’s Presbytery

St Edward’s Presbytery in Ramsgate is one of the latest properties to be added to Landmark Trust’s portfolio. It’s restoration featured in the 2015 Channel4 TV series Restoring Britain’s Landmarks.  Just before my Amsterdam trip I celebrated my birthday with a stay there. My sister joined me and we spent 4 nights relaxing by the log fire in the evenings and taking walks and making very local visits during the days. The furthest we drove was 5 miles to Margate and back.

I’ve written about my encounters with Augustus Pugin here and here already. His designs and architectural style are generally what I would call Over The Top. However, the Presbytery was designed in a more restrained style as would befit the lifestyle of the Catholic priests who would live here. The house was just one part of Pugin’s vision for a perfect community in Ramsgate where he and his large family could live and which included a church and his own home next door, The Grange.

St Edward’s Presbytery was built by Augustus Welby Pugin in 1850, and formed part of this great architect’s original conception for his site on the West Cliffs in Ramsgate.

Pugin’s vision for Ramsgate was to create a perfect community here: a home for his own large family – The Grange; a magnificent new Catholic church – St Augustines; and between the two, a house for the priest who would mediate between the divine and secular worlds – St Edward’s Presbytery.

The boldness of this enterprise, when Catholicism had been illegal in England for centuries, and the process of Catholic emancipation was still underway, was remarkable. With anti-Catholic riots in Ramsgate and many other towns in the early 1850s, Pugin’s priest’s house had no ground floor windows on the street and a sturdy front door, for good reason. Building a presbytery on an English town street was brave as well as ambitious.

St Edward’s Presbytery was bound up closely in the tragedy of Pugin’s last years. From his beginnings as a stage carpenter at Covent Garden, his career had been a whirlwind. He married his third wife Jane in his mid-30s, and for the following three years was simultaneously finishing the House of Commons, designing the Gothic Court for the Great Exhibition and building St Edward’s Presbytery. The pressure bore down on him and in 1852 he was declared insane and confined in Bethlehem Hospital – Bedlam. Jane brought him back to Ramsgate, tired and troubled, and here he died, aged just 40.

Jane lived on at Ramsgate, moving into St Edward’s Presbytery herself, from where her step-son Edward Pugin continued his father’s architectural practice. When The Grange suffered a serious fire in 1904, newspaper reports reveal that Jane, by now in her late 70s, was fortuitously resident in The Presbytery. We believe the datestones 1827 and 1909 at the rear entrance record her lifespan, lived mostly at this site. Her son, Cuthbert also lived out his life here, dying in 1928.” (Landmark Trust website)

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There is always a warm welcome on arriving at a Landmark

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The Entrance to the Presbytery on St Augustine’s Road, Ramsgate

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The door into the Presbytery is on the right

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Enclosure behind the Presbytery for Quiet Contemplation … in Summer

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The huge dresser in the dining room

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The Cosy Sitting Room

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Last but not Least the Log Fire

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11 comments on “Pugin’s Presbytery

  1. Rhona says:

    Lovely post, Milady! I think there was an interesting TV documentary about the restoration of the Presbytery not long ago? And imagine – an area behind the house for ‘quiet contemplation’ – what bliss!

  2. queenbreaca says:

    What a gorgeous place! Plus they’ve still got Old Chelsea. I also recognised the postcard. 🙂 My own visit to Ramsgate, though not to the Presbytery, was ages ago when there was still a fast catamaran ferry from Ostend to Ramsgate. I stayed there for a few days and also visited nearby Broadstairs. I was lucky then, for “Bleak House” was kind of a Dickens museum and still open to the public. Very Victorian, with lace curtains, period furniture and Dickens’ original writing desk. Must have been in the nineteen-nineties. I heard later that the house is now privately owned and inaccessible to the general public.

    • The Hovercraft left Ramsgate a while ago, I believe, but I never travelled on one and couldn’t quite puzzle out how it worked. Did it take cars? Didn’t it have to ‘land’ on the beach? I guess all the answers are on Google these days. I did manage to visit Broadstairs and liked it a lot better than Ramsgate. Everywhere is closed at this time of year, anyway. There is a tea room at Bleak House so there must be some public access. Glad you got the card QB 😉

      • queenbreaca says:

        The Hovercraft went from Calais to Dover, and I’ve been on it several times. Technically it’s an airplane that “hovers” over the water but with its bulky rubber base it crawls onto the beach when landing. The big disadvantage was that it couldn’t go in rough weather with high waves. A catamaran, on the other hand, is just a boat with two hulls, therefore it can go faster than a normal boat.
        The tea room at Bleak House wasn’t there on my second visit to Broadstairs, maybe its a later addition.

  3. […] the first Friday of February after leaving St Edward’s Presbytery and dropping my sister off at Ramsgate Station I headed to the little seaside resort of […]

  4. Wow! An expert on boats/ferries! I wasn’t aware that we had catamaran ferries. Will have to investigate. Certainly catamarans are built in Ramsgate. My sister thought she had been by Hovercraft to the continent from Ramsgate once, years ago but memory can play tricks.

  5. Fran says:

    There used to be a catamaran service between Newhaven and Dieppe, now only a twice daily ferry. I love them…skim the waves, all round view. Think they still run between the Channel Islands and France.
    You’ve given me food for thought about staying in a Landmark Trust house when my sisters and I get together.

    • Ha! I have a happy memory of taking a walk, at your suggestion Fran, on the Downs (Firle Beacon?) and seeing the ferry arriving at Newhaven. I have never used that route. The arrival in Dieppe is supposed to be charming. One more question. Can/could catamarans and hovercraft take cars? Calverley Old Hall near me is very comfy 😉 .

  6. […] car park and we realised that we had Landmark Withdrawal Symptoms and drove straight back to the Presbytery to build up the fire for the […]

  7. […] castle and changes brought about by various owners and architects probably the most famous being Augustus Pugin. Yes, he’s been mentioned here by Milady several times. His Neo Gothic style is particularly […]

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