Descendant of Pugin sues for right to use name

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The great- great-grandson of the celebrated Victorian architect Augustus Pugin is to bring a legal challenge to have his family name recognised on his birth certificate.

The great- great-grandson of the celebrated Victorian architect Augustus Pugin is to bring a legal challenge to have his family name recognised on his birth certificate.

Robert Arnold, 70, an artist, was given up for adoption shortly after he was born and claims that he was cruelly abused by his adoptive parents, who concealed his true identity from him. He wants the law to be changed so that the names of his adoptive parents are struck from the public record.

The case could have far-reaching implications for thousands of other adopted children who want to force the courts to recognise their biological parents on their birth certificates.

Mr Arnold was the illegitimate son of Hubert Welby Pugin, the grandson of Augustus, and Dorothy Arnold.

Their affair, which began during a summer holiday in Hythe, Kent, produced two sons. But Hubert deserted the family shortly after the birth of his second son.

Dorothy appealed to the Pugin clan for help but they refused any financial assistance, leaving her no option but to surrender her children into care. Three years later Dorothy married Alfred Samuel Hamilton, a chauffeur to the Queen Mother. The couple moved to Buckingham Palace Mews and Mr Hamiltonadopted Dorothy's first son as his own.

The existence of her second son, Robert, was kept secret and in 1936 he was legally adopted by a poor family from Croydon, George and Eveline Brice.

Mr Arnold claims he suffered years of physical and sexual abuse at their hands, regularly beaten by George Brice and sexually assaulted by his wife. He said: "My bed was made of newspaper. Every night I urinated in my sleep and was forced to sleep on the maggot-infested mess. The newspaper print reprinted on my body. I was not allowed to wash."

The Brices also fostered teenage children who, according to Mr Arnold, suffered similar abuse. Mr Arnold said: "In my late teens I interrupted George Brice sexually abusing a fostered girl. He chased me out of the house with a knife, screaming, 'I will kill you, you bastard' .... I never returned because this time I sensed he really meant it."

Mr Arnold secured a grant-aided place at the Reigate Art School, Surrey, and found work at a Lyons tea shop. When he left school he took a job as a lay-out artist with a mail-order company and eventually married his landlady's daughter.

But he said that the trauma caused by the abuse he had suffered at the hands of the Brices left him psychologically scarred. He suffered two mental breakdowns. The last one in the late 1960s ended his marriage.

Recently Mr Arnold decided to discover the truth about his adoption. He contacted a south London newspaper, which agreed to run a campaign to find Mr Arnold's true parents.

Mr Arnold said: "Some weeks later I received a telephone call from my genetic mother's younger sister. She told me that my mother was willing to see me."

During a stormy meeting with his mother in a house in Salisbury, he was given a package that contained documents and photographs confirming his true identity. "When I opened the package I was shocked. I was surrounded by Pugin family trees as well as Pugin family letters and engravings and drawings. It took me a long time to come to terms with what it all meant. Eventually I made contact with the Pugin family, who have been very supportive of my claim."

Mr Arnold says the point of his legal action is to revoke his adoption order and have his father's name restored to his birth certificate. Mr Pugin's legal team is being led by Alan Levy QC, the country's leading expert in adoption law, and Amber Melville-Brown, a consultant solicitor.

Ms Melville-Brown said yesterday: "He may well have a strong moral claim to make an irrevocable change to his birth certificate but the law at present does not make any such provision. It is this that we have been asked to consider."

Mr Arnold says he does not wish to make any claim on the Pugin family estate. Instead he said: "All I ask is that the courts honour my wish not to die with the name of my abusers on my birth certificate."