HC Deb 01 March 1824 vol 10 cc635-6

On the resolution, That 40,000l. be granted, towards defraying the expense of Buildings at the British Museum for the year 1824,"

Mr. R. Colborne

took that opportunity of bearing testimony to the liberality of sir George Beaumont, who had made a noble gift of a beautiful collection of pictures to the Museum. The collection, though small, contained some of the finest specimens of the ancient masters, and he trusted it would form the foundation of an extensive and valuable gallery. To bequeath such a collection to the nation would have been liberal in any man; but it was doubly liberal to give it during his life time. He was confident the example would have both admirers and imitators.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he had not alluded to this subject the other night, out of delicacy to the individual alluded to. He was fully sensible of the extraordinary liberality of that individual, and he trusted that it would lay the foundation of a splendid national collection.

Sir T. Baring

recommended, that instead of the British Museum, Somerset-house should be completed, and made the receptacle for a national gallery of pictures.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that sir George Beaumont had given his collection to the British Museum, and that it could not therefore be sent to any other building. There it would be in conjunction with those other collections of the sister arts which would add value to the whole. He had understood, that Somerset-house, from being so near the Thames, was not a favourable place for pictures.

Sir T. Baring

said, that sir George Beaumont had not given his pictures to a building; but to the nation. At present, the arts were in a state of unrivalled excellence in this country, and it must be desirable that they should have a suitable abode; which he thought could only be found in Somerset-house. He trusted government would complete that noble structure.

Sir C. Long

explained, that sir George Beaumont's gift had been to the British Museum, and was intended to remain in conjunction with other works of art deposited there.

Mr. W. Smith

thought, that the eastern wing of Somerset-house ought to be completed. For thirty years that part of this building had remained in a half-finished state; as if the nation had not had a single farthing to bestow on purposes of national ornament.

Mr. Croker

thought the eastern wing of Somerset-house would make, if completed, a noble picture gallery, and would be capable of receiving all the works of art we were ever likely to possess. He would suggest, that the east wing of Somerset-house would form an excellent place for the exhibition, which at present was at the very top of the house. The apartments were not large enough, and some pictures were obliged to be hung up in unfavourable places. He should therefore be very well pleased to see the recommendation of the hon. baronet carried into effect, and the east wing of Somerset house completed and appropriated to the exhibition. The apartments at present appropriated to it might be given to the Royal Society for their library, as they had a great number of books lying in cases.

The resolution was agreed to.