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  • Louie Young

I Dream in Pugin - Louie Young

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

It was the excitement and exhilaration of the roller coasters that first called me to Alton Towers, but it was the history and architecture of the house that stole my heart. Exploring the Towers for the first time, I soon fell under its spell. I wanted to learn all I could about the house and understand what fate had befallen it. Fortunately, in the gift shop, I found a book: A Gothic Wonderland by Michael Fisher. With every page I became increasingly captivated and, by the end, the seed of a story had formed.


I was in my early twenties when I began to write this story but, due to the demands of everyday life, the idea was put on hold for several years. There were many times I feared it may never happen but, in hindsight, I am glad the first incarnation was not completed. Over the years the story has evolved from a single children’s book into a young adult series of novels which tell the story of the Towers, incorporating local legends and elements of fantasy.


The series begins in 1851 and follows the tale of fifteen-year-old Charlotte Talbot, the fictional niece of the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury. Recently orphaned, Charlotte is sent to live at Alton Towers, and await the return of her uncle and family from their residence in Italy. Left to her own devices, with only a few members of staff for company, it’s not long before she begins to discover the mysterious enchantments of her new home. Along the way, she forms an unlikely friendship with her uncle’s architect, Augustus Pugin. Bonding over their shared experiences of loss, Augustus takes her under his wing and shows her the true wonder of Gothic architecture. But, when a local boy goes missing, Charlotte overhears the villagers’ hushed whispers of a curse and soon comes to learn there is a dark side to her family history….


I am a first-time writer who has always had a love of stories, especially those concerning local legends and tales of the unexplained. While still at school, my friends and I often exchanged such stories and, more often than not, they involved a haunted grave or a spooky forest. I delighted in retelling such tales, sometimes even adding my own. Inspired by these stories I could often be found exploring local churchyards, and so began an early appreciation of Gothic architecture. I was struck by the beauty of these old churches, with ivy growing over crumbling gravestones.


These childhood experiences enabled me to see the magic in places that others might overlook. The Towers, for example, may appear somewhat barren but it has many clues that reveal its grand past. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Great Dining Hall - you can almost hear the merriment radiating to the rafters. For this is where Pugin had once envisaged the Earl and his family entertaining their guests, on a scale only rivalled by their medieval ancestors.

During my last visit to the Towers, I spent some time making notes in the chapel. Sitting on the step where the altar had once been, I observed the regular stream of people drifting in from the ride exit nearby. On passing under the arches they would instinctively look up in awe at the pattern of gold stars in a sea of forget-me-not blue. Witnessing the delight and surprise on their faces made me smile, and left me in no doubt that Pugin’s work can still capture the imagination of both adults and children. Whilst it was a joy to see, it also made me ponder how many people walk by and do not venture inside, not knowing what they are missing. I feel, therefore, that it is so important to tell this story and engage younger generations to invest in the legacy of both the Towers and Pugin.


In writing these novels I aim to encourage curiosity and inspire future generations to treasure the legacies that will one day be in their charge. I hope they will feel as impassioned as we do, and for them to hear the story of the Towers over the roar of the roller coasters. For without Pugin, this remarkable man who left his mark on this great house, so much would never have come to be.

For more information and updates on this project,

please visit www.louieyoung.com


Article first published in the Pugin Society's annual newsletter, Present State in 2020
















In writing these novels I aim to encourage curiosity and inspire future generations to treasure the legacies that will one day be in their charge. I hope they will feel as impassioned as we do, and for them to hear the story of the Towers over the roar of the roller coasters. For without Pugin, this remarkable man who left his mark on this great house, so much would never have come to be.





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