The architects

Architect: Charles Barry

The 1835 competition to redesign the Palace was won by the Westminster-born architect Charles Barry. By then, the 40-year-old Barry was already quite a famous architect, having built several churches and won competitions for his work. However, Barry's own architectural style was more classical than Gothic.

Architect: Charles Barry

Barry and Pugin

Architect: Augustus Welby PuginArchitect: Augustus Welby Pugin

Barry turned for assistance in his drawings for the competition to Augustus Welby Pugin, a gifted 23-year-old Catholic architect and draughtsman who had devoted himself entirely to the pursuit of Gothic architecture. Pugin was in fact paid £400 by Barry for assisting him with these drawings.

During the construction of the Palace, Barry came to rely heavily on Pugin in the execution of these plans, and particularly in the matter of detail, fittings and furnishings. Indeed, it was Pugin who designed most of the Palace's sumptuous Gothic interiors, such as various carvings, gilt work, panelling and furniture in the rooms, and even the doorknobs and spill trays.

Controversy

There has in fact been much controversy, which still lingers, over the question of whether Pugin rather than Barry deserves the greater credit for the architectural triumph of the Palace of Westminster. Pugin was nevertheless known to have been displeased with the result of the work. As he famously remarked to an acquaintance, 'All Grecian, sir; Tudor details on a classic body.'

However, neither man would see their creation completed as they both worked long hours and endlessly worried about every detail of the design and building of the Palace. It was not until 10 years after Barry's death in 1860 that the new Palace was completed, with his son Edward taking over the work.

Pugin's fragile health suffered greatly from his exertions. He was committed to Bedlam (an asylum for the insane which is now the site of the Imperial War Museum) for a short period and died soon after in 1852.

Did you know?

Pugin lived on a semi-monastic regime, and yet was married three times (he had eight children in total).

Biographies

You can access biographies of

Charles Barry
Augustus Welby Pugin

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.