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St Augustine's Abbey with perimeter wall

A Grade II Listed Building in Ramsgate, Kent

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Latitude: 51.3286 / 51°19'42"N

Longitude: 1.4097 / 1°24'34"E

OS Eastings: 637633

OS Northings: 164351

OS Grid: TR376643

Mapcode National: GBR X0L.P6X

Mapcode Global: VHMCW.DV3W

Plus Code: 9F338CH5+CV

Entry Name: St Augustine's Abbey with perimeter wall

Listing Date: 23 June 1986

Last Amended: 12 August 2011

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1281732

English Heritage Legacy ID: 172006

Location: Ramsgate, Thanet, Kent, CT11

County: Kent

District: Thanet

Civil Parish: Ramsgate

Built-Up Area: Ramsgate

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Tagged with: Monastery

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Monastery complex, 1860-1 by EW Pugin, with additions of 1904 by PP Pugin, 1926 by CH Purcell and 1934-7 by CC Winmill.


The core of the abbey complex is a cruciform building, the two-storey south and west ranges belonging to EW Pugin's original L-shaped block of 1860-1, with the three-storey east range added by PP Pugin in 1904 and the short north range by Winmill in 1937. Enclosed cloister-like corridors in each range give access to the main communal spaces: the refectory in the west range, the chapter room in the south range, and the calefactory [common room] and oratory [chapel] in the east range. A covered passageway connects the south range with a porter's lodge set into the perimeter wall. To the west is Purcell's library of 1926, joined to the west range by a link building of 1976.

The 1860 and 1904 buildings are faced in knapped flint with bands of yellow stock brick and Bath stone, and dressings of the same materials. The roofs are of plain and scalloped tiles, laid in alternating bands, with decorative cresting along the ridge; originally there were broad rectangular ridge stacks, mostly now truncated. The style is a High Victorian domestic Gothic with some idiosyncratic details such as the cogged brick heads to the ground-floor window apertures. These are mainly paired lancets with leaded glazing, while those above are rectangular sashes (some replaced in UPVC) with flat or segmental heads; the top-floor windows rise into gabled dormers with curved barge-boards and metal cresting.

EW Pugin's south and west ranges are both of two storeys. The south range terminates in a double gable with two two-light traceried windows lighting the former first-floor oratory. On the west elevation are the two plate-traceried windows of the chapter room; between them is a prominent doorway whose carved lintel, supported on angel corbels, bears the motto ille autem tacebat (from Mark 14:61, 'ille autem tacebat, et nihil respondit': 'he held his peace, and said nothing'). Another plate-traceried window lights the former library at the end of the west range. PP Pugin's east range is similarly detailed, but is one storey taller and shows a greater use of stone for dressings and carved ornament; it terminates in a slightly projecting cross-wing, with a quatrefoil panel in the gable and a tall tracery-headed niche below. A high flint wall with brick bands and buttresses encloses the abbey precinct, containing (to the south) twin gate-piers and a gabled porter's lodge, and (to the west) Winmill's vehicle entrance of 1935, with double boarded gates beneath a pyramid-roofed timber canopy.

From the porter's lodge, a low passageway with an open timber roof gives access to the south wing, where there are two parlours [rooms in which monks could meet with external visitors] set back to back; both have ornamental stone fireplaces, one with a relief apparently showing St. Benedict preaching to his fellow monks. Beyond these, an arched doorway marks the entrance to the enclosed part of the site. From here, a long axial corridor runs north, one of four radiating corridors which run the length of the main wings. These are floored with black and white quarry tiles, and are divided by pointed transverse arches into a series of square bays, each one lit by a pair of lancet windows with a moulded central column. Six-panel doors in moulded stone surrounds give access to the principal rooms. The refectory, in the west wing, has simple dado panelling, a floor of red and yellow tiles with an agnus dei tile towards the eastern end, and carved capitals to the window columns. In 1936 this room was extended westward to incorporate the former library, whose end wall displays a stained glass quatrefoil - thought to be by Geoffrey Webb - depicting the Trinity. The 1904 east wing contains the calefactory and the oratory, the latter having banks of fixed timber seating including a canopied abbot's stall. In the south wing is the chapter room, which has twin bay windows with window seats. Next to this is the principal stair, its scrolled handrail supported on slender metal uprights. The upper floors contain the monks' cells, arranged on either side of top-lit spine corridors. Each cell has a single window and a simple stone fireplace. At the end of the south range is the former oratory, a T-shaped space with a high two-light window. The adjoining cell, presumably intended for a sick monk, has a squint which would have offered a direct view of the high altar. One of the cells in the west range communicates with a small sitting room and would have been used by bishops visiting the abbey.

To the west of the main building is Purcell's library of 1926. This is a tall gabled building in a Tudor-Gothic style, flint-walled with banding and dressings of red brick and stone. The side walls have stepped buttresses; to the west are three large three-light transomed windows, and to the east a tall projecting stack. The interior is a single space lined with bookshelves, surrounded on three sides by tiers of timber galleries with moulded uprights and openwork balustrades; these were altered and extended at some point before 1945. The roof structure is formed of polygonal trusses reinforced by iron tie rods.


AWN Pugin built his famous house, known as The Grange, on the cliffs above Ramsgate in 1843-4. From 1845 he built, at his own expense and under his close supervision, the neighbouring church of St Augustine, to which were added its associated cloister, sacristy, school and priest's house. Pugin had acquired land to the north of the church on which he proposed to found a monastery, thus completing his ideal Catholic community, but did not live to see this ambition realised. On his death in 1852 control of the church passed to Thomas Grant, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Southwark, who in 1856 entrusted it to a group of British Benedictine monks from the abbey of Subiaco in Italy. In 1860-61 a gift from the wealthy Catholic convert Alfred Luck, Pugin's friend and fellow Ramsgate resident, allowed permanent accommodation to be built for the monks. This comprised the present south and west ranges, designed by AWN's son Edward Welby Pugin. The monastery, which incorporated a school (demolished in 1973), was made a priory in 1881, and was raised to abbey status in 1896. In 1904 the present east wing was added, to a design by Edward's half-brother Peter Paul Pugin. In 1926 the Bergh Memorial Library was built to house the collection of books left by the bibliophile Abbot Bergh; the architect was Edward's nephew Charles Henry Purcell, who had himself been educated at the monastery school. Further additions, including the north range and the west gateway, were carried out in 1934-7 by Charles Canning Winmill. In 1976 a link block was added connecting the west range and the library.

Edward Welby Pugin (1834-75) was the eldest son of the great Gothic Revival architect AWN Pugin. He inherited his father's burgeoning practice at the age of 18, and continued to develop it with tireless energy. The focus remained firmly on the Roman Catholic Church, but Edward developed a distinctive High Victorian style that combined increased elaboration of detail with a simplified approach to church planning. His major works in England include the churches and monastic buildings at Gorton in Manchester and Belmont in Herefordshire (churches both Grade II*). He lived at the Grange from 1862, and made a number of additions to both the house and the church. On his death the practice was continued as Pugin and Pugin by a number of architects including Edward's half-brother Peter Paul Pugin (1851-1904) and, later, his nephew Charles Henry Purcell (1874-1958). Charles Canning Winmill (1865-1945) is best known for his work with the London County Council Architects' Division during the early C20; he had grown up in Ramsgate and later worked as an assistant to the Catholic church architect Leonard Stokes – connections reflected in his work for St Augustine's, which was carried out long after his retirement in 1923.

Reasons for Listing

St Augustine's Abbey is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a substantial monastic complex by the leading Roman Catholic architect EW Pugin and his successors in the Pugin firm, with characteristic High Victorian detailing, corridor plan and well-preserved interiors;
* Historic interest: an important (if posthumously realised) element of AWN Pugin's ideal Catholic community, reflecting his desire for the integration of creative work, religious devotion and domestic life;
* Group value: with the cluster of AWN and EW Pugin buildings across St Augustine's Road, including The Grange, St Augustine's Church, St Edward's and their associated walls, gates and piers - one of the most celebrated and influential groups of Gothic Revival buildings in the country.

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