I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Romancing the Stone

God’s Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain, Allen Lane, 602 pp, £30, ISBN: 978-0713994995 If ever in the history of architecture there was someone who appeared in the right place at the right time with the right vision and skills, surely it was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, the man who put paid to the Georgian and Regency styles and became the premier architect of the Gothic Revival. Rosemary Hill, in her exemplary new biography, gives the background against which this son of an émigré Frenchman played a seminal role in transforming the face of architecture across these islands. His works can be seen throughout England and Scotland – in London, first of all, where he designed one of the world’s most instantly recognisable landmarks, the clock tower popularly known as Big Ben, as well as being responsible for much of the detailing and interior decoration of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, for which Sir Charles Barry got most of the credit (including a knighthood), but for which Pugin did the lion’s share of the work. In Birmingham he built St Chad’s, a large urban cathedral. His masterpiece is to be found in Staffordshire, where, given generous backing and a free hand, he built an extraordinary gem of a church, St Giles’s in Cheadle. Pugin can rightly be said to have changed the architectural face of Ireland too, both with structures he himself designed and built and through his pervasive influence on architects like JJ McCarthy and the many other builders who erected Gothic churches all over the country. In Kildare, St Patrick’s College was built according to plans he drew up; JJ McCarthy built the chapel which was added in the 1870s. In Wexford his buildings are plentiful. He designed the magnificent St Aidan’s Cathedral in Enniscorthy, as well as several others, including St Michael’s Church in Gorey and the chapel of St Peter’s College in Wexford Town. In Waterford he was responsible for the Presentation Convent and for the magnificent banqueting hall at Lismore Castle. The Gothic Revival had already announced itself in Ireland in the eighteenth century, perhaps most notably in Castle Ward, Co Down, built around 1760 with an unusual, perhaps even unique feature: one facade was built in the Palladian style, the other in the newly fashionable Gothic. John Betjeman, visiting in the 1930s, wrote: “Spent some time in Lady Ward’s boudoir” – a room…

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