Augustus Pugin and the Industrial RevolutionFitness Equipment
The Industrial Revolution began in Britain, which thus became the first industrialised nation in the world. This generated a huge amount of wealth which was spent on imperial conquests.
However, industrialisation provoked diverse responses. It had many positive effects, but it also spawned evils such as pollution, slum housing and child labour. Many people reacted against the Industrial Revolution. For example, the architect Augustus Pugin had a nostalgic admiration for the Middle Ages, which he called the 'Age of Faith'. Pugin had studied medieval Gothic architecture from an early age and became convinced that Gothic was the only style fit for a Christian country.
Pugin published a series of manifestos. The first had the fabulous title Contrasts, or a parallel between the noble edifices of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and similar buildings of the present day; shewing the present decay of taste (1836). He set out the book as a series of contrasting images. Each page shows a scene from the Middle Ages and one from the present. The implication is that social change is reflected in architecture.
? Pugin’s vision of a medieval town is idyllic and picturesque, but in the 19th century town the church spires are decaying or they have been replaced with factory chimneys. Christian virtues are disappearing.
? The Gothic church in the foreground has been Classicised. Pugin felt it was blasphemous for a church to be built in the Classical style because it was invented by a pre-Christian, i.e. ‘pagan’ civilisation.
? The medieval bridge has been replaced with a cast iron one.
? The town wall has been replaced with blank warehouse façades.
? In the foreground there is a prison and a lunatic asylum, which implies that the loss of religious faith has resulted in crime and insanity.
? There are some very clever details. The bridge now has a toll bar, suggesting that this is an avaricious society dedicated to making money.
Overall, Pugin was appalled by the effects of the Industrial Revolution and wanted to retreat into the Middle Ages. He was devoted to reviving medieval architecture and medieval society. Many shared this view. The Arts and Crafts movement aimed to revive aspects of pre-industrial society. So we see that industrial was a source of power, but it provoked deep anxiety within British culture.