HC Deb 18 July 1831 vol 4 cc1447-52
Col. Trench

rose to bring forward the subject of which he had given notice, which related to applying Buckingham Palace to a profitable purpose. Everyone would admit, that there had been a most injudicious and extravagant outlay at Buckingham House; and it was his object to shew how, instead of being a dead loss, it might be made convenient to the public, and profitable to the Crown. The words of his notice were as follows:—"That it be an instruction to the Committee on Buckingham Palace, to consider whether the building now erected for a Palace, may not be more advantageously applied to other purposes, and to what purposes?" The foundation of all his speculation was a decided con- viction of the utter impossibility that this Palace could ever be made a residence fit for the accommodation of a King and Queen of this country. He had stated that opinion, even in the very commencement of the building, and over and over again during its progress; he had always contemplated with the deepest regret, an expenditure so enormous, and so useless. The Palace was surrounded by nuisances of every description; and placed between two ponds of water, and a great mound of earth which masks the Mews, but impedes the circulation of air. Close to it is a steam-engine and a great brewery; and within thirty feet of the chapel, is a sort of a great Caravansera, where persons coming from the country on business put up their carriages and horses. Besides which, rows of very small houses, and lanes and alleys surround it, and must, sooner or later be cleared away, at an enormous expense. The main sewer, too, passes close to the front of the Palace. The building being decidedly unfit for a palace, he would venture to suggest how it might be disposed of to useful and profitable purposes. In the first place, a National Picture Gallery was wanted: a very splendid and beautiful one could be obtained, of no less than 526 feet in length, of which the actual picture gallery of Buckingham Palace would form a part. Towards the garden front, a statue gallery might be formed, of smaller dimensions, but of unequalled beauty and fitness, and at a very trifling expense. The building now erecting to form the east wing of Somerset House, and intended for the King's College, is peculiarly unsuited to such a purpose; and he proposed, therefore, that whatever accommodation that building was capable of affording to the King's College at a future day, should be given to that institution forthwith at Buckingham House, in exchange for this new building, which, in the hands of the Government, would afford admirable accommodation for public offices, where they ought to be placed, and would save the public a sum of 15,000l. per annum, now paid for offices and houses in different parts of the town, exclusive of the establishments in Downing-street, with which no one could think of interfering. At twenty years' purchase, this saving would produce 300,000l, of which he took 200,000l. to the credit of the King's Fund, leaving 100,000l. a saving to the public. He had then to state the accommodation which would be required in exchange for the King's College. He had made some inquiries and calculations on the subject, and found that there would be ample accommodation at Buckingham Palace, equal to the accommodation of the King's College, leaving, besides the picture gallery, the statue gallery, and the attics, a considerable portion of the building to spare, which might be appropriated to bring in a revenue, or to save expense. He would then shortly state the amount which might be recovered for the Crown out of the immense and extravagant disbursements on account of this palace. On account of the King's College, he took credit for a sum of 200,000l. The building itself might have cost about 100,000l.; but the possession of it for public offices would save the nation 15,000l. per annum—at twenty years' purchase, 300,000l. Of this he only took 200,000l., leaving 100,000l. for the benefit of the public. The picture gallery he estimated at 80,000l.—the statue gallery at 50,000l.—130,000l. The remainder of the building, including the attics, might be appropriated to the Public Records—for a Public Library—to the Heralds' College—Royal Society—Antiquarian Society—Royal Academy—Asiatic Institution, &c., 70,000l.: making on the whole, an amount of 400,000l. To this, various items of decoration, which ought to be removed, as unfit for any building but a royal palace, must, be added, which would amount to 94,081l. The cellarage, under the whole of the building, 2,000l. per annum, at twenty years' purchase, amount to 40,000l.; the garden, if laid out judiciously, would give 15,000 feet of frontage, which, at, 3l. per foot, amounts to 45,000l. per annum, of ground rent; and this, at twenty-seven years' purchase, would produce 1,215,000l.; so that the Crown would thus be possessed of a fund for building a royal palace in a proper situation, and without imposing any new burthen on the people, of 1,749,081l. Seeing the hon. member for Middlesex in his place, he would state, for his information, a short and simple fact. The property in question cost originally 32,000l. Now, after adding 600,000l., or, for the sake of round numbers, 668,000l of expenditure equally lavish and absurd, still, if appropriated as he had suggested, and producing 1,700,000l., it would have increased in value 1,000,000l. Admitting a wasteful and extravagant expenditure, that it would bring back into the Treasury of the Crown so considerable a portion, was, in his mind, a subject of congratulation for the House and for the country. There would thus be a large sum of money ready to apply for the accommodation of the Sovereign, in such manner as might hereafter be deemed advisable, and without taking one single shilling from the people. He knew how this money might be employed, so as equally to contribute to the splendor of the Crown, and conciliate the feelings of the people; but he would not abuse the kindness of the House, and would therefore abstain from entering further into detail, only observing, that after making ample allowance for a too sanguine view, there would remain a sum quite sufficient to make a suitable royal residence wherever it might be most agreeable to our gracious Sovereign. He could not refrain from lamenting over the mischief arising from the want of well-digested general plans of improvement, and of a system which should make every expenditure, however trifling, contribute its mite towards the completion of some general and well-considered designs. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by making the Motion of which he had above given notice.

Mr. Hume

begged to second the motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and was anxious the inquiry for which he moved should take place. Numerous complaints had been promulgated of the expenditure in the erection of the Palace, and the only way to stifle them, and prevent the enormous outlay lavished on this building from becoming a dead public loss, was to appropriate it to the purposes recommended by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Goulburn

had heard with much pleasure his hon. friend's plan to employ Buckingham Palace in a way likely to give the public some return for the vast sums squandered in its erection. Great abuses, he was afraid, had been committed by the persons employed on it, and very little light had yet been thrown upon the subject. He thought, however, it was not right for the House to dispose of the Crown property, unless the responsible advisers of the Crown proposed such appropriation.

Mr. Robert Gordon

saw no difficulty in the matter, as connected with any interests the Crown might be supposed to have in it.

Colonel Trench

declared, that he was most particularly anxious not to treat the Crown slightingly, but as it was impossible to occupy Buckingham Palace as a royal residence, he had made the present proposition. He had submitted it to the noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests, and he saw no difficulty in realizing a considerable revenue, by appro- priating the gardens to building, as in the Regent's Park. He had also consulted some of those who were at the head of the Committee of the King's College, and they appeared to be inclined to listen to such arrangements as he had proposed.

Motion agreed to, and the Committee instructed accordingly.