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A.W.N Pugin

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–1852) was a design prodigy, who at 16 years old had already created furniture for Windsor Castle. In 1844, architect Charles Barry employed Pugin to assist with the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster after the devastating 1834 fire. Pugin embraced the task, producing a vast array of items for the new Palace.

Many of his designs are still in use in the Houses of Parliament today – in ceremonial rooms, offices, libraries and dining areas. They include carved panelling, wallpaper, painted and gilded ceilings, encaustic floor tiles, and a huge range of furniture, including the grand Sovereign’s Throne in the Lords Chamber.

Use the arrows to slide through the furniture and interior details created by Pugin for the new Palace of Westminster from the 1840s onwards.

Painting of AWN Pugin, with short brown hair, wearing black robes. He is seated at a red table with an architectural drawing in front of him. He holds a measuring tool in his right hand, on the desk is a pencil and wooden ruler. The background is a green wallpaper, heavily patterned with floral and foliate motifs. In the top right is a coat of arms. The wide gilded frame is decorated with 8 quatrefoils with peacocks at their centre and bands of patterning running around the frame.

The Designs of A.W.N Pugin

A.W.N. Pugin 1812-52 Painting by John Rogers Herbert © Parliamentary Art Collection WOA 2586

Wood table with octagonal top. The supports include carved arched braces and a cross shaped base. Each foot has a carved winged griffin on it. On top of the table in its centre is a black, square letter holder with divided compartments. The table is pictured in situ on a blue carpet with pale yellow pattern.

Furniture maker John Webb made two of these octagonal tables for the Prince’s Chamber to Pugin’s design. The elaborate design of the tables includes winged griffins (mythical creatures) on each foot, and carved arched braces in the structure.

The tables were probably finished and in place before the State Opening of Parliament in 1847. They are practical as well as decorative, and are still used today in the House of Lords.

Historic Tables by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and John Webb © Historic Furniture POW 06568

Large, square wood table with dark leather top. The legs are intricately carved. There are legs on each corner with two more in between these. Between the legs are wood braces and built-in shelves. On the front are drawers. On top of the table are three silver microphones on stands. It is pictured in-situ. Behind it are the red leather benches of the House of Lords. The carpet is blue with a pale yellow pattern.

The Clerk’s table is a significant object in the House of Lords Chamber and a unique piece in the Palace. It is made of oak, with decorative, carved legs, and is divided into compartments with drawers.

The structure of the table is designed in the shape of a Portcullis – a very common symbol used throughout the Palace.

In the past the table would not have had leather on the top, only polished wood. ​This is where the despatch boxes sit and where opposing parties stand to speak in debates.

Historic Tables by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and John Webb © Historic Furniture POW 01679

Wood chair with x-shaped frame that is intricately carved. The back rest uprights are topped with lion heads. The lions’ tongues stick out. Tudor roses are carved into the wood in the middle of the x-frame. The chair is upholstered in red leather, held in place with brass, berry-shaped nails. The back rest is stamped with five gold Tudor roses.

John Webb produced sixteen of these x-frame chairs for the Prince’s Chamber to Pugin’s design. Today you will still find them in this room and in the Royal Gallery next door. ​​

We can see that these chairs are intricately carved. There are lion head details at the top of the seat back, and Tudor roses carved into the wood in the middle of the x-frame. There are also gold Tudor roses stamped into the leather upholstery, which is secured to the frame with berry-shaped brass nails. 

Another two sets of these chairs were made in 1859 by Holland and Sons to the design of John Braund, who followed Pugin’s originals closely.

Historic Chairs by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and John Webb © Historic Furniture POW 06570

Detail shot of the top of a chair. The corner of the chair features a wooden carved lion's head. The back of the chair is red leather with golden pins that are styled as small flowers.

This detail shot highlights the carving that can be found in so many of the wooden objects at the Palace of Westminster. Lions are a common motif, as they symbolise England.

Detail of Historic Chairs by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and John Webb © Historic Furniture POW 06570

Wood chair with green leather upholstery. The back rest is stamped with a gold portcullis. Gold coloured nails hold the upholstery in place.

The House of Commons portcullis chair, which is made of oak, is probably the simplest piece of furniture that Pugin designed. Today there are more than 2,500 of these chairs in use around the Palace of Westminster.

You can see that Pugin chose to make the upholstery nails visible on this chair. This decision was based on his strong belief in the ‘True Principles’ of design and architecture – that decorative elements must relate to the practical use of an object.

Historic Chairs by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin © Historic Furniture POW 00791

Wood chair with red leather upholstery. The back rest is stamped with a gold portcullis. Gold coloured nails hold the upholstery in place. The legs have simple carved details.

The House of Lords portcullis chair was originally designed by Pugin in the 1840s and has more detailed carving on the legs than the version made for the House of Commons. This reflected the grander spaces in the House of Lords areas of the Palace.

There are more than 1,200 of these chairs in use today. Most of them are made from oak, although some walnut versions were also supplied for use in Palace residences.

Historic Chairs by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin © Historic Furniture POW 04079

Throne in situ in the Lords Chamber. The throne and its surroundings are elaborately gilded and carved. Around the square back rest cushion is an alternating band of 22 quatrefoil enamels, with gilded lions and 22 oval crystals. Above the cushioned back the central backrest is triangular and topped with a gold crown. The posts on either side are carved gilded columns topped with gold lions. The back rest and the seat are upholstered in red silk velvet with elaborate embroidery. The front feet are carved lions. In front of the throne is a gilded footstool with red upholstery and elaborate embroidery.

The Sovereign’s Throne is one of the most important objects in our collection and the focal point of the House of Lords Chamber. It was made by John Webb in 1847. The elaborately carved woodwork is gilded, inset with rock crystals and upholstered in red velvet and intricate embroidery. The embroidery includes the three lions that represent England, the lion rampant of Scotland and the Irish harp. ​

Pugin’s design was most likely influenced by the Coronation Chair, also known as St Edward’s Chair, which sits in Westminster Abbey and was first used by Edward II in 1308.

Historic Chairs by John Webb, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and John Hardman & Co. © Historic Furniture POW 08031

Dark wood sideboard with shelf, two cupboards and drawers. The woodwork is intricately carved and includes barley carved into the panels below the shelves, and also features shamrocks, Tudor roses and thistles. It has silver coloured metal hinges, locks and handles.

This sideboard was originally designed for the Peers’ Dining Room.  It was made by John Webb to Pugin’s design, and the metalwork was produced by Hardman & Co around 1850.

Hardman & Co also provided metalwork and stained glass for interiors throughout the new Palace of Westminster.

Sideboards © Historic Furniture POW 09701

Detail close up of a ornate piece of furniture, focusing on a small door. Made of dark varnished wood and carved with floral and natural patterns. The furniture features bright silver hardware at the hinges and handles.

The woodwork includes barley carved into the panels below the shelves.

Other parts of this sideboard features shamrocks, tudor roses and thistles. The choice of foliage is symbolic of Scotland, England and Ireland.

Sideboards © Historic Furniture POW 09701

A tall wooden desk with three drawers and two cupboards. The side panels have detailed carvings of foliage. The hinges and handles are in dark metalwork. The top of the desk is slightly sloped, with a wooden lip along the front edge. Between the two cupboards in a central recess.

Pugin designed various desks for offices and other working spaces in the new Palace. This is an example of a standing desk, which may have originally been used in the House of Lords Library. The side panels have detailed carvings of foliage. We have similar standing desks in the collection which include different carved designs.

Standing desk by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin © Historic Furniture POW 04719

An oak coloured piece of furniture photographed against a grey background. The rectangular shaped piece features a door at the front, and an open flat wooden lid. The open lid reveals a white and green ceramic bowl set into the wood. The wood has some simple paneling carved into it. The hinges and handle on the door are a dark metal.

The new Palace of Westminster included a number of residences. Pugin designed domestic furniture for these spaces, including chests of drawers, wardrobes and beds. This wash stand, with a decorative Minton wash bowl, is another example. A few wash stands survive in the Palace, although most were converted in the past to be used as cupboards.

Washstands by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin © Historic Furniture POW 00184

A decorative sink set into a wooden cabinet. The sink is dome shaped. It is white with a green pattern featuring crosses, leaves and circles and dots in a repeating pattern. The design is featured around the lip of the sink, and around the plug. The plug is metal and in place, with a chain connecting it to the wooden cabinet. There is a circle cut out of the wooden surface, which looks like a cup could be placed in it.

The washbowl features a repeating design by Pugin, in a similar style to his wallpapers and tiles.

Washstands by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin © Historic Furniture POW 00184

A painted and gilded square panel, with one corner cut away in a curve. In its centre is a painted red lion, encircled by a green vine, flanked by thistle flowers.

If we look up, we can see Pugin’s designs on ceilings around the Palace. He created many stencils, to make sure that the designs were consistent in each room.

This example from the Architectural Fabric Collection, is one of the painted and gilded panels from the Royal Gallery in the House of Lords. As with many of Pugin’s designs, the ceiling panels in this space represent each part of the UK. This panel stands for Scotland – shown by its national flower, the thistle.

Ceiling by Unknown © Architectural Fabric AFC 000401

A section of a wallpaper design. The background is gold. The design features white portcullis symbols, and red tudor roses. They are entwined by green vines with thorns and leaves.

Pugin created around one hundred wallpapers, which were manufactured and flocked by William Woollams & Co of London.

To keep Pugin’s design scheme across the Palace today, exact replicas of these wallpapers are still made, using the original Victorian printing blocks. These have been passed down to various wallpaper manufacturers over the years, and are now owned by Cole and Son, who still produce the hand-printed papers in the same way that Woollams did 150 years ago.

Wallpaper © Architectural Fabric AFC 005205

25 tiles arranged in a square display. A frame one-tile-wide alternates between red-brown and golden tiles with a cross-shaped central motif in the opposite colour. In the centre of the display are nine tiles with an intricate golden pattern. The central tile is dark blue with a gold and white quatrefoil. The display is framed in black on three sides, and is pictured on a white background cloth.

Pugin’s tile floor designs for the new Palace of Westminster are important in the history of Victorian interiors, for their design and scale.

These encaustic tiles were made by Minton and Co in the same way that medieval encaustic tiles would have been made. This involved pressing clay into a mould, which when turned out, left impressions in the surface of the tile. These impressions were then filled with coloured liquid clay to complete the design, before the tile was fired.

This tile display gives us an idea of how the tiles look in-situ.

Encaustic tile by Unknown © Architectural Fabric AFC 004399

A metal weathervane. An upright pole is topped with a fleur-de-lis, with other decorative shapes along its length. Halfway down is a perpendicular square banner with ‘VR’ cut out and two small fleurs-de-lis on its corners. The weathervane is pictured on a white cloth background.

We can also see some of Pugin’s designs on the outside of the new Palace of Westminster, such as this cast iron weathervane. Like many of the Palace’s interiors, it is decorated with royal emblems such as the fleur-de-lis and ‘VR’ for Victoria Regina. You can still see weathervanes of this design around the Palace today.

Weathervanes by Unknown © Architectural Fabric AFC 000316

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