God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain (Hardcover) by Rosemary Hill

"Pugin was one of Britain's greatest architects and his short career one of the most dramatic in architectural history. Born in 1812, the son of the soi-disant Comte de Pugin, at 15 Pugin was working for King George IV at Windsor Castle. By the time he was 21 he had been shipwrecked, bankrupted and widowed. Nineteen years later he died, insane and disillusioned, having changed the face and the mind of British architecture. Pugin's bohemian early career as an antique dealer and scenery designer at Covent Garden came to a sudden end with a series of devastating bereavements, including the loss of his first wife in childbirth. In the aftermath he formed a vision of Gothic architecture that was both romantic and deeply religious. He became a Catholic and in 1836 published Contrasts, the first architectural manifesto. It called on the 19th century to reform its cities if it wanted to save its soul. Once launched, Pugin's career was torrential. Before he was 30 he had designed 22 churches, three cathedrals, half a dozen extraordinary houses and a Cistercian monastery. For eight years he worked with Charles Barry on the Palace of Westminster creating its sumptuous interiors, the House of Lords and the clock 'Big Ben' that became one of Britain's most famous landmarks. He was the first architect-designer to cater for the middle-classes, producing everything from plant pots to wallpaper and early flat-pack furniture. 'God's Architect' is the first full modern biography of this extraordinary figure. It draws on thousands of unpublished letters and drawings to recreate his life and work as architect, propagandist and romantic artist as well as the turbulent story of his three marriages, the bitterness of his last years and his sudden death at 40. It is the debut of a remarkable historian and biographer."--book description at

"This book can be recommended for its disciplined but convincing championship of the most important English architect of the 19th century."--Peter Ackroyd, The Times

"Hill has a phenomenal story to tell in this, her first book.

"God's Architect is beautifully constructed, with due attention paid to every nut and bolt of its subject's 'extreme medievalism'."--Freya Johnston,

"Rosemary Hillís magnificent biography, as sumptuous and intricate as anything Pugin built, contrasts his small beginnings with his prodigious achievement."--John Carey, The Sunday Times

"Rosemary Hill has written a superb study of this true romantic and tragic original. It is scholarly, but intimate, warm and readable too, immediately becoming the standard work."--Stephen Bayley, The Observer, at

"Rosemary Hill, who is a wonderful architectural historian, also brings to life the quite extraordinary domestic life of this driven genius. She has used, for the first time, a mass of correspondence, and the letters between Pugin and his third wife are especially touching."--A. N. Wilson, Daily Mail

"One of the many pleasures of this book is Hill's facility with the religious debates (and debacles) of the period. She steers through the personal and doctrinal divisions among the English Catholics and crypto-Catholics to illustrate how Pugin worked for himself and for his own unique set of Catholic principles."--Thomas Marks, New Statesman