HC Deb 21 July 1836 vol 35 cc398-418
Mr. Hume

rose, according to the notice which he had given, to call the attention of the House to the manner in which the building Committee for the New Houses of Parliament had conducted their proceedings, and acquitted themselves of their task. It was with some reluctance that he felt bound to stand up and arraign the conduct of that Committee, which had most negligently, and for want of due consideration, led the House and the Government into a very disagreeable predicament, there being no hope whatever, that the projected new buildings would be ready for two or three years to come, unless some different arrangement were immediately adopted. The Committee, in his opinion, had erred in many particulars, a few of which he would mention to the House. They had erred, in the first place, in not fixing the amount of expense at which the new building should be erected. He had stood alone in the Committee upon this point; he was opposed by them all, and when he found his right-hand friend, the hon. Member for Bridport, against him also, he thought it was useless to persevere. He disapproved, also, of the restriction as to the style of architecture to be adopted. He thought it quite possible that an architect might draw a very pretty picture to gratify the eyes, without attending to the more essential particulars of good accommodation and convenience in the interior arrangements. His ignorance of the different points and characteristics in the various descriptions of architecture had at the time prevented him from giving that opposition to that proposition which the information he had since obtained on the subject would induce him to do. Another error of judgment which the Committee fell into was, to name the Commissioners on whom the task of selection was to devolve before the plans were delivered in. He had no wish to make personal allusions to any gentleman whose name was in any way connected with the projected plans, though the hon. Member for Tewkesbury had taken so erroneous a view of something which had fallen from him on a former occasion, as to suppose that he had intended to make a personal attack upon the successful competitor for the new buildings. He could assure the hon. Member that nothing was ever further from his intention or his thought. He was of opinion still, however, that if the recommendation which he had given the Committee, last year, had been attended to, and that no plan had been adopted until publicly exhibited, the Government would have escaped the unpleasant predicament into which they had now fallen. The next error on the part of the Committee was, that they gave too short a time for the preparation of the plans for competition. He had been informed by several respectable artists, that three or four months was too short a time to do justice to such a work. A twelvemonth would not have been too much. He believed that the consequence of this regulation was, that several first-rate architects had abstained from preparing plans under the conviction that the time allowed was too limited to prepare them with the attention the subjects required. Well, of those who did send in designs, Mr. Barry was awarded the prize. As to the grounds on which the Commissioners made the selection, he was prepared to maintain that their judgment was erroneous. No doubt Mr. Barry's plan was a fine picture, well calculated to deceive one young and inexperienced in architecture, but it ought not to have imposed upon such old, tried, and practised artists as the Commissioners. No one, he thought, would dispute the position, that the two great requisites in any new plan were, suf- ficient internal accommodation and good ventilation. What then was the plan recommended by the Commissioners? Was it in any way conformable to the instructions given for selecting no plan which did not afford sufficient accommodation? The Commissioners, in answer to a question put by the Committee, stated, that they considered the exterior of the plan remarkable for its beauty. That no one questioned. But when they were asked—are not there other plans superior in internal arrangement? they admitted there were. Another question was then very naturally put, which was this—if there be other plans affording better internal accommodation, may it not be so arranged, that a design should be chosen combining the beauty of Mr. Barry's plan with the greater convenience and accommodation supplied by the other? The answer was, that they had no objection to such an arrangement. The result, however, was, that Mr. Barry's plan was adopted. The Report of the Committee was laid on the table of the House without any opposition from him; but he thought the hon. Members of the Committee would do him the justice to bear in mind, that on that occasion his opposition to the plan was understood by them only to be postponed. When the Commissioners came before the Committee he asked them this question, "Have you ascertained that, in the interior arrangements of Mr. Barry's plan, the instructions of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, under which, and which alone, the architects were required to give in their plans, have been complied with?" The answer was, "They have, and the internal accommodations do correspond with the instructions." He had then no opportunity of ascertaining whether such was the case or not; but since the last plan had been produced, there could not be a doubt but that the instructions published in the Gazette had been departed from, as well as the Report of the Committee and their resolutions, all of which were to have been considered by the architects as the means by which their proceedings were to be guided. It was a duty which they owed to those architects who had taken so much trouble and given so much of their time to prepare their plans, which, if carried into operation, would afford sufficient internal accommodation as well as reflect credit on the age in which we lived, to ascertain whether justice had been done to them, and whether a fair and liberal interpretation had been put upon the instructions given for the plans of the new Houses of Parliament. The hon. Member here read the advertisement which had been published in the Gazette for supplying plans of the new Houses of Parliament, and then continued. Either Mr. Barry's plan was or was not a fit one. If it were not fit, it ought not to be carried into effect. If its chief merit consisted in being a pretty picture, and that that was all required by Parliament, if they took the trouble of advertising, he had little doubt but that they would be supplied with prettier pictures. But if Mr. Barry's plan was not a proper one to be adopted, and not in accordance with the rule which was laid down for every man submitting plans, namely, that they should be practical, and that the expenses should be confined within fair and reasonable limits, in that case he thought that the other architects who acted in accordance with the rule had a right to complain of the selection of a plan that had deviated from it. He did not wish it to be supposed that he was in the first instance anxious to have the expenses of building the new Houses limited to a very small sum. He did not so much care whether the expense was fixed at half a million or a million, as that something like an accurate account of them should be given; but it must, he thought, be admitted, that there was a point with respect to the expense of building the new Houses, beyond which no man on the Committee was prepared to go. If, for instance, it had been stated to the Committee, that the erection of the new Houses would cost one million or even two millions, could any doubt that they would not have been prepared to go that length? The claim of those artists, therefore, who gave in plans which they adapted to the amount which Parliament was understood to be willing to expend, ought not to be so set aside as to give an advantage to one who had kept no such limit in view. He should point out some of the differences between the instructions given for the new buildings and Mr. Barry's plan. To begin with the House of Lords. It was required that there should be a space below the bar of 480 superficial feet. In the plan there were but 220. So that in this respect there was a deficiency of 260 feet. For the body of the House the instructions were, that 864 feet should be the extent of space allotted to it. There were but 627 feet. There were apartments for private' interviews required by the in- structions, which, with some other apartments, were altogether omitted in Mr. Barry's plan. There was also a deficiency in the strangers' gallery. Now with respect to that House, it was required, that the body of it should contain 460 Members. By the plan it would, he believed, contain only 326. The instructions required that there should be two division-lobbies immediately adjoining the House, one of 1,800 feet, and the other 1,100, making together 2,900 feet; and would the House believe it, by Mr. Barry's plan the space allowed for the two was 1,028, being a deficiency of 1,872 feet. There was but one room for the clerk of Engrossments, instead of two, which the instructions required. There was a waiting-room altogether omitted, besides many other deficiencies. He had a right, then, to find fault with the Commissioners for stating, that the plan accorded with the instructions, when he had proved that it did not. Now, with respect to the expense of carrying Mr. Barry's plan into execution, he confessed he always felt strong doubts of the accuracy of the estimates of the expenses of such buildings since the period that his consent had been gained to voting a sum of 300,000l. for building Buckingham Palace, where the actual expenditure was found ultimately to amount to 780,000l. or 800,000l. His views were certainly not altered by the manner in which the Commissioners had proceeded in estimating the probable cost of erecting these new Houses of Parliament. He conceived, that on this head he had a fair complaint to make against the Commissioners. When a question was put to them as to the expense of carrying Mr. Barry's plan into effect, they said they had no reason to believe that it would exceed 500,000l., and they added to this belief, if he recollected rightly, the authority of the architect himself for the statement that it would not cost more. With that testimony he believed the Committee was satisfied. [No, no.] At all events, he did not think that a matter of such importance should be decided on such vague evidence, and he suggested that the Commissioners should be asked to go a little more into details, to justify the estimate which they had furnished. He was bound to say, that not only was no objection offered to his proposition, but that every facility was afforded to him in his endeavours to have it carried into effect. Now, what would the House say, if, in the space of four or five weeks, the opinion of the Commissioners was so changed, that their estimate of 500,000l. was raised to 724,000l.? Believing, as he did (for he had the authority of eminent artists for the statement) that the lowest estimate on which the plan could be carried into effect was 1,300,000l., and that if all those ornaments which had caught the eyes of the Commissioners were supplied, it would amount to 1,800,000l., what confidence, he asked, could be placed in the judgment of those when the cost of those buildings would be treble or rather quadruple the amount at which they originally computed it? Besides, the plan which had been selected by the Commissioners was no more like that now produced than an oblong square was like a triangle. Here the hon. Member pointed out on the plan, a copy of which was in the hands of most of the Members, the alterations which had been made, and contended, that as several most material changes had been made since the selection of Mr. Barry's plan, that gentleman had been favourably, whilst the other artists had been unfairly, dealt with by the Commissioners. It now became an important question—and he wished the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to answer it—what plan was to be carried into effect, the first which was submitted, or that now adopted? And he was desirous of being further informed, whether the plan last chosen was to be looked upon as a final one. The Government ought, in his opinion, to annul their former proceedings in reference to this subject. They ought to recollect the recommendation of the Report of the Commissioners to confine the cost of these buildings to 724,000l.; that the plan now adopted differed from that to which the prize was accorded, in almost every particular; in its exterior, in its internal arrangements, and in its situation. Would the country believe, that, by this plan of Mr. Barry's, three arches of the bridge, all but twelve feet, would be blocked up, and that in fact the building was to rise out of the water like the buildings of Amsterdam, and that those who were obliged to pay for its erection would have the satisfaction of being enabled to see it only from the opposite side of the water. Therefore, on the part of the public, and in behalf of the architects who had submitted plans which would have reflected credit on themselves as well as on the Government that should adopt them, he asked the House to give them an opportunity of again submitting those plans to consideration. The hon. Member concluded by moving, "that a humble address be presented to his Majesty, praying that in order to obtain plans for the new Houses of Parliament, in accordance with the instructions already issued by the Commissioners, his Majesty may be pleased to direct a further competition in designs, without limiting the designs to any particular style of architecture, and confining them to a certain fixed sum; and which designs may be publicly exhibited previous to the appointment of a Committee by his Majesty to examine and report thereon."

Mr. Ewart

seconded the motion, on the grounds that the place selected was not a proper one, and that the design which had been adopted was not the best that could be chosen.

Mr. Hanbury Tracy

defended the Commissioners from the charges brought against them in the petition of the competing architects. He, for one, knew nothing of Mr. Barry up to the time he was called upon to consider the plan he sent in, and, therefore, could not with justice be accused of any partiality in his favour. The petitioners had made it a ground of complaint that they had been put to very considerable expense and labour in getting up their designs. He not only admitted that such was the fact, but, going a step farther, he was prepared to say, that the designs in question reflected on their authors the greatest credit. In the drawings sent in there was marked evidence of a great improvement in the science of Gothic architecture. Although it might be considered improper to particularize, he could not avoid remarking, that there had come from the north of the Tweed one set of drawings which, in point of beauty and knowledge of the art, never had been and never could be surpassed. But was it to be understood from this complaint of the petitioners that all the competing architects expected to have succeeded? Ninety-seven entered into the lists. Surely all did not expect to have succeeded. It was a matter of chance throughout, and the disappointed parties had no more right to complain of the expense and labour they had been put to in the preparation of their designs, than would have the unsuccessful ticket - holders in a lottery a right to seek back the sums they had paid for their admission into it. It was then complained that four only of the five Commissioners appointed had acted. There might have been something in this ground of objection if any division of opinion had occurred between those who did act, but as their decision was an unanimous one, he thought it wholly unworthy of observation. The petitioners stated that, although the expense of the buildings to be erected was not limited in the specification, they nevertheless had been induced to regard it as a most important consideration, and to frame their designs accordingly. The Commissioners having, however, come to their decision on grounds wholly independent of expense (alleging that this was a consideration of no public importance), the architects considered their merits unfairly prejudiced by the comparison of their plans with one in the preparation of which expense was not made a question. Now it was altogether a misstatement to assert that the Commissioners had regarded the consideration of expense as one of no public importance. On the contrary, it had formed one of the main elements of their decision, and it was because Mr. Barry's plan appeared to them to excel in the combination of good design and moderate estimate, that the preference had been accorded to it. The hon. Member for Middlesex seemed of opinion, that a much larger sum than 720,000l. would be eventually required to carry Mr. Barry's plan into effect. If that were proved likely to be the case, Mr. Barry's plan would certainly not be acted upon. Mr. Barry was now on his trial with regard to the expense of his design, and if the estimates exceeded 720,000l., his plan would not be adopted. The awarding of the first prize had been objected to by the petitioners, on the ground that the plan of most merit in regard to elevation had not been the selected one. That, however, was not the question. The prize was awarded to the best "design," and the interpretation of that word was not restricted to mere elevations, but was made to include the main and general plan of the building. It was asserted, that the specifications were not in conformity "with the resolutions of the Committee of the House. That was a misstatement. They were in strict accordance with the resolutions of the Committee of 1835. Mr. Barry was accused in the petition of having planned his lobbies on too small a scale; but the fact was, the lobbies in his plan exceeded, in point of size, those required by the specification by 1,848 feet. The mistake occurred in consequence of the petitioners altogether mistaking the situation of Mr. Barry's lobbies, and representing in their stead two narrow slips, intended for quite another purpose. The hon. Member for Middlesex seemed of opinion, that the Commissioners, in neglecting to compare accurately the area of each room in each of the proposed plans with that described in the specification, had failed in discharging their duty to the public, and prejudiced the interests of the competing candidates. Why two years would have been scarcely sufficient for the adequate performance of such a task, and in the end no advantage would have been derived from the investigation. In his humble judgment, it was upon the accuracy of the general plan, and not of the minute details, that the Commissioners were bound to make their decision. The hon. Member for Lambeth had objected to Mr. Barry's plan, as not being of the most approved Gothic order. He (Mr. Tracy) admitted, that it was of a more simple character than most Gothic buildings, but thought that that very circumstance was a recommendation in its favour. The estimate of the expense of the original plan could not be very far wrong, for it was 500,000l.; and the estimate of the expense of the improved plan, in which the building was lengthened a hundred feet, was 700,000l. The various competitors had for months been employed in endeavouring to discover defects in Mr. Barry's design. Perhaps they might in some trifling respects have succeeded. But he was sure, that if their designs had been scrutinised with as microscopic an eye, not an individual would have been considered entitled to the prize. He confessed, therefore, that he wished they had looked a little more into their own deficiencies, instead of so severely scrutinising the deficiencies of others. In conclusion, the hon. Gentleman observed, that the Commissioners had endeavoured to the best of their ability to discharge the duty intrusted to them, and had submitted to his Majesty, which, in their deliberately-formed opinion, was that which was freest from objection. That plan had been sanctioned by the approbation of the King, and of the Houses of Lords and Commons. It had also met with the general approval of the public; and he contended, therefore, that it was the plan which above all others ought to be adopted.

Mr. Estcourt

, although he did not profess himself to be a competent judge on the subject, acknowledged that Mr. Barry's plan appeared to him to be one of great architectural beauty; but he did not think that the manner in which that gentleman had been released from attention to the specification was at all calculated to produce a building fraught with all the conveniences which were so necessary to the two Houses of Parliament. Nothing ever pleased him more than the views which he had seen of the elevation of the two Houses of Parliament according to Mr. Barry's plan; but convenience seemed to him not to have been taken into consideration, either by Mr. Barry or by the Commissioners. When he saw that a plan which was originally pronounced to be excellent, was altered so extensively, because it was not considered fit for the purpose for which it was intended, he could not but think that if the other architects had been allowed a similar privilege, plans might have been furnished infinitely better calculated to produce a building answering the two necessary conditions—first, that it should be well fitted for the purpose for which it was intended; secondly, that in point of architectural beauty it should do credit to the country. The country and posterity were entitled to expect that the greatest care ought to be taken to insure the fulfilment of those two conditions. It appeared to him to be exceedingly unjust, that a design in which the specification was not attended to should be allowed to enter at all into competition with designs in which the specification was attended to. It had been said, that the plan had been greatly improved. He was glad to hear it. Perhaps if time were allowed, it might be still more improved. If the hon. Member for Middlesex should press his motion to a division, he would certainly vote with him; for the purpose of endeavouring to give the country the benefit of every precaution that the important object in view should be accomplished in the best possible manner.

Sir J. Hobhouse

wished to make a few remarks on two or three of the observations which had fallen from the hon. Member for Middlesex. All the main points of the speech of that hon. Member had been most satisfactorily answered by the hon. Member for Tewkesbury. One of the last complaints of the architects who had petitioned the House on the subject was, that the Commissioners had come to a decision on their own judgment, and had not appealed to the opinions of professional men. Now what would have been the case if the Commissioners had appealed to the opinions of professional men? In the first place, that it was a self-acknowledgment of their own incompetence to the task; and in the second place, that it was opening the door to undue bias. If the Commissioners had been judiciously selected (and that they were so he believed no one would deny), the proper course for them to pursue was to decide upon their own judgment. They had so decided; and their judgment had been confirmed not only by his Majesty and the two Houses of Parliament, but by the unbiassed opinion of the great mass of the public. Among the other allegations on the subject, Parliament and all the parties concerned were accused of precipitancy. Now with reference to a national undertaking of so much importance, it was exceedingly desirable that they should not only not be justly subject to such an imputation, but that the matter should be put beyond all suspicion, and that the public should be perfectly satisfied that nothing had been done without proper care and deliberation. He would state, therefore, the exact course which had been pursued. On the 2nd of March, 1835, a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed for the purpose of considering the best mode of rebuilding the two Houses of Parliament. That Committee was formed as fairly and impartially as it was possible to form any committee. To show how deliberately that Committee proceeded, it would be enough to state, that it finally adopted a course entirely different from that which it originally determined upon. Its original determination was, that a gentleman whose eminence in his profession was acknowledged by every one, should be appointed the architect, to whom the rebuilding of the two Houses should be at once committed. Nevertheless, so fair, so open to conviction, so inclined to consult the public opinion, was the Committee, that after long consideration it reversed its original decision, and determined that there should be a public competition. On the 3rd of June, 1835, that Committee made its report; and about the same period a Committee of the House of Lords made a report to that House. Both Committees recommended that a Royal Commission should issue, and that the Commissioners should be empowered to offer premiums for the best plans with reference to the object in view. Addresses to the Crown from both Houses were presented in consequence; and on the 14th of July, 1835, a Commission was appointed; on the character of the members of which for talent and learning it was unnecessary for him to dilate. In the selection of that Committee he did believe that the most judicious course had been pursued; and if of that he wanted a proof, it might be found in the public approbation. On the 21st of July the Commission issued a notice to the architects of the empire, accompanied with instructions and a lithographic plan. Four other notices were subsequently issued in reply to queries from several architects who wished to know if they perfectly understood the original instructions of the Committee. What was considered sufficient time having been allowed for preparation, the Commissioners carefully examined ninety-seven plans, accompanied by illustrative designs, and ultimately made a report to his Majesty. In that report the Commissioners recommended the adoption of Mr. Barry's plan. That recommendation, however, was never held to be final. It was referred to the consideration of a Select Committee of the House of Commons, appointed on the 9th of February, in the present year. It was true that when that Committee assembled, it did not consider itself called upon to discuss the question as a matter of taste. It was allowed on all hands that the Commission having been appointed to determine which was the best plan offered, it was the duty of the Committee to consider how far, with reference to expense and other practical matters, the adoption of the Report of the Commission ought to be recommended to Parliament. That Committee was appointed from all sides of the House. After sifting the Report of the Commission, as far as it was qualified to do so, the Committee made a short report, recommending (so cautious was it not to do any thing precipitately) that during the Easter holidays a rough estimate should be formed by Mr. Barry of the expense that would attend carrying his plan into execution. Assisted by one of the architects attached to the office of Woods and Forests, Mr. Barry did accordingly frame such an estimate. When the Committee re-assembled, what did it do? On the first day, after examining the estimate of Mr. Barry and hearing the estimate of Mr. Chawner and Mr. Hunt, it came to the conclusion that the estimate was not sufficient. There was no precipitation in that. With great respect for the hon. Member for Middlesex, he (Sir J. Hobhouse) did consider that the resolution on which the Report of the Committee was founded was unanimously agreed to. The Report was drawn up with the greatest care, stating "that it did not appear to the Committee that it would be safe or expedient to engage in a work of such magnitude and importance until a due and accurate estimate, founded on detailed specifications and working drawings, should have been made, and carefully examined and approved by competent authority." It was evident, from that passage that one of the great objects of the Committee was to guard against precipitation. The Committee never thought it possible that it could be so accused. The Members of the Committee never erected themselves into judges of architectural merit. They were not so presumptuous. They knew what would have been said if they had done so. To show what had been said of them, without their having so assumed, he would read half a page of the catalogue of the architectural designs, sold at the door of the National Gallery. The author of these designs has discovered, too late, that he has committed a great error in acting upon the principle by which he has been governed in preparing his plans. It was his opinion that the Tudor style of architecture admitted of great distinction and variety in its application. A course of study, during nearly forty years, had convinced him that it enabled the professor to give different characters to buildings intended for different purposes; that all buildings for civil uses might be distinguished from ecclesiastical buildings, by appropriate characteristics, but he has since been taught, by authority proceeding from superhuman intervention, that the Tudor style is homogeneous; that is, that all buildings of the kinds above alluded to ought to assume one and the same uniform character, and to abound in buttresses, church windows, and other distinctive marks of ecclesiastical buildings. To authority such as this, the architect has only to bow in obedience. The author of these designs has been further miserably mistaken as to the means of preserving the associations which hallow the ancient site; thinking, as he did, that visible objects were necessary to excite such pleasurable sensations. In this view of the subject, he considered that the east end of St. Stephen's Chapel (a conspicuous object to all who approach London over Westminster Bridge) should still preserve its ascendancy; and the west end of the Chapel and south window of Westminster Hall regain the conspicuous part they formerly held in the view from Old Palace Yard. The Commissioners have determined otherwise, and, by their decree, have resolved that the charm of association may be better effected by demolition on one part, and, on the other, by immuring the Chapel in the walls of the intended buildings. Neither did the author contemplate the absolute necessity that exists for the introduction of a tower, to atone for the want of that which should have been reared above the meeting of the nave and transept of the Abbey; for although its introduction, as a portion (and a large portion) of Parliamentary buildings, appeared to be in no degree required as an object of utility, or as adding to the consistency of the character of the designs, it might possibly be necessary in some point of view unknown to all but the Commissioners. Facility of approach to the higher parts might have appeared to be another objection to the introduction of such an inaccessible building. The greater probability, however, is (for, on this occasion, we have only surmises to guide us), that the Commissioners meant that the exclusion of the south window in the Hall, and the west end of the Chapel, should be attributed by after-ages to a phenomenon of rare occurrence, and that the tower should be thought to have removed itself from its original position over the Abbey, in order to perpetuate that act of exclusion so propitious to the cause of old associations. It will be recollected that the Chapel of our Lady of Loretto, after traversing the Mediterranean Sea, quietly placed itself in its present locality; although the Tower of Pisa, in attempting the same feat, could only detach one foot, which left it standing, obliquely as it does, as a warning against future attempts of this kind. The incredulous of the present day may protest against the supposition that miracles still exist. Oh! blind to passing events! have they not heard of heaven-born amateurs of architecture, inspired with a knowledge that architects expect in vain to obtain by long practice and experience,—such as enables them to decide in all cases, however difficult, without the necessity of recourse to extraneous aid? The author was himself formerly a sceptic, but he became a convert by the accidental perusal of a scene in one of the novels of Smollett, where the denouncer of Count Fathom, as the Pretender, proves his case by irrefragable argument; "for," says the accuser, "if he be not the Pretender, who the d—I can he be?" In applying this irresistible piece of logic to the Commissioners, the author triumphantly puts the same question—if they did not obtain their knowledge from heaven, where the d—I could they get it? It was proverbially said, "do not put your hand into a wasp's nest." And this he must say, that if Mr. Barry should succeed, as he, (Sir J. Hobhouse) trusted he would, in securing the admiration of his country and of future ages—if he should succeed in producing the most magnificent building of modern times—he would have paid a penalty, and the Commissioners would have paid a penalty, too great to be counterbalanced by the personal gratification; for never since the principle of competition was first established had such unfair, such unjust, such violent, such incessant attacks been made as had been made by the unsuccessful competitors in the present case against Mr. Barry, and against the Commission. The hon. Member for Middlesex seemed to be of opinion that the Commissioners had selected the plan, not which was the most pregnant of conveniences, but which was the most replete with architectural beauty. Now, let the House look at the very first question put to the Commissioners by the Select Committee, viz. "Has the result of the opinion of the Commissioners as to the preference of one particular plan, proceeded from their conviction of the superior merit of the internal arrangements, and of the beauty of the external architecture?" What was the answer? "Unquestionably" Again—"Combining the two?"—"Combining the two." Similar questions were put, and similar answers given, over and over again. The hon. Member for Middlesex made another charge against the Committee still more extraordinary. He alleged that the present was not the plan originally selected; and that if the other architects had had the same opportunity of emendation as Mr. Barry, they might have produced plans still better than his. What was the fact? That the Committee had repeatedly asked the Commissioners, if Mr. Barry's plan was such as to admit of emendation in the interior arrangements. One of the questions put to Mr. Tracy by the Committee was, "You think that Mr. Barry's plan is capable of being made, with the improvements you have suggested, and the additional improvements that it may still receive, as good, as to interior arrangements, exclusively, as any plan which has been submitted to you?" The answer was, "Certainly; I have no hesitation in saying so." "Would it be possible to select the most convenient of the plans and apply the interior to Mr. Barry's elevation?"—"Impossible. Independent of which Mr. Barry can make all the alterations requisite, and render his plan more perfect, I should say, than any other." It would have been absurd, indeed, if the Commissioners had selected a plan incapable of improvement, or, having selected a plan that was capable of improvement, had determined that it should not be improved. For his part he trusted that while the building was going on it would still receive all the improvements of which it might be thought susceptible. He trusted that the architect would never be prohibited from adding or taking away any part which might be considered justly liable to objection. In the first paragraph of their Report, the Committee, to prevent any deception on the point of alteration, had broadly stated it, viz. "Your Committee consider themselves to be warranted in recommending for the adoption of the House the plan marked No. 64, which is the plan to which the first premium was awarded by the Commissioners appointed to consider the plans for building the new Houses of Parliament; subsequently to that award some alterations in the plan have been made, at the suggestions of the Commissioners and of the architect himself, which, in the opinion of your Committee, are calculated materially to improve the plan." It was clear from that passage that it was not intended to take the public by surprise, or to deal unfairly by the other architects. Did the hon. Member for Middlesex seriously suppose that if the greatest architect who ever lived had been revived, and had produced a plan obtaining the preference, it would not hare been as much objected to by his rivals as Mr. Barry's plan had been? Had the plan of the great man who wrote the passage which he (Sir John Hob-house) had quoted from the catalogue been adopted, would it have escaped censure? Had the plan of Mr. Wilkins been adopted, would not allusions have been made to the building which that gentleman was erecting at Charingcross, on which, however, he (Sir John Hobhouse) gave no opinion, and would not his plan have been severely criticised? Let who would be the judges, let what plan so ever be selected, did the hon. Member for Middlesex suppose that it was possible to secure general contentment? If they were to wait until they obtained a plan to which no exceptions were taken by professional rivals, they would wait for a time that would never arrive. He (Sir J. Hobhouse) was certainly not qualified to speak upon the subject, but undoubtedly he had the good fortune to concur with the Commissioners; and, moving as he did in a good deal of society, he had never but once heard a second opinion upon it. He must, therefore, give the motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex his most decided opposition; and he trusted that the House would not, by acceding to that motion, nullify the proceedings of the Commission, the Committees, and the two Houses of Parliament, and treat Mr. Barry in a manner the most unjustifiable.

Mr. Hawes

thought, notwithstanding the many statements into which the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Hobhouse) had entered, that no satisfactory answer had as yet been given to the arguments of his hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex. Mr. Barry had not fulfilled many of the conditions imposed by the Commissioners upon the competitors furnishing designs for the new Houses of Parliament. The Lords' Commissioners, for instance, gave instructions that a certain number of rooms, of a certain size, should be incorporated in that part of the edifice which was to be devoted to their use, for the convenience of the Masters in Chancery, counsel attending the House, agents, solicitors, witnesses, &c.; but in Mr. Barry's plan not one of these rooms was provided. When injustice, therefore, was spoken of, it must be taken as applying to those competitors who had complied with all the instructions given by the Commissioners; but whose plans, from not having been taken properly into consideration, had been superseded by one which, possessing some external beauties, had captivated the eyes of those whose duty it was to judge of the merits of all; but which in fact, hardly complied at all with the instructions which had been given. After dwelling at some length upon this point, the hon. Gentleman proceeded to read extracts from the evidence given by Sir Robert Smirke, to show that the data on which Mr. Barry had calculated the cost of the building, were of a most fallacious description. In conclusion, the hon. Gentleman stated, that he had been requested to state, that the Committee of Architects knew nothing whatever of the pamphlet from which the right hon. Baronet had quoted extracts.

Sir Robert Peel

had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Middlesex, and he confessed it had not left upon his mind the same impression that it appeared to have done upon that of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. Notwithstanding the liberal and extended view which the hon. Member for Middlesex had taken of the subject, he certainly had failed to convince him (Sir Robert Peel) that the House ought now to set aside all that had been done with respect to these plans, and to commence the whole matter anew. In the course of his speech, indeed, the hon. Member himself stated that which would alone be a conclusive reason against his proposition, for the hon. Member declared that he still contemplated a change of the site of the Houses of Parliament. If that were so, surely it would be absurd to appoint a new commission, and to have a preparation of new plans, on the assumption that the site of the building was not to be changed. Then there was another point; supposing the hon. Member's motion to be acceded to, and a fresh inquiry to be instituted, he did not know where the House would now find Commissioners to undertake the task of deciding upon the merits of the plans submitted to their consideration. There certainly was one point upon which he (Sir Robert Peel) had firmly made up his mind—never again to act as a Commissioner upon any subject of this kind, where a preference was to be given to the skill of one man as compared with that of others who had entered into competition upon the same work. Because, if Gentlemen who acted as Commissioners gratuitously, and at the expense of a great deal of personal convenience, were afterwards to be assailed in a manner that the Commissioners in this instance had been, and, moreover, were to see the whole of their labours quashed in a way so unceremonious as that proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex, he knew not where for the future any gentleman would be found hardy enough to undertake the office. But putting aside the Commissionership, the next thing that he should deprecate if it were a thing personal to himself, would be to be the successful competitor. Nay, he would rather be a Commissioner than the successful competitor, to be hunted and pursued with every species of invective in the way that Mr. Barry had been. If the consequence of successful competition were to be exposed to such a series of attacks as those which had been directed against that gentleman, he (Sir Robert Peel) would infinitely rather remain in privacy and oblivion. He thought at first that the Crown should be left at liberty to choose its own architect in the same way as every private gentleman was at liberty to select whom he pleased when he wanted plans for the erection of a house of his own. He thought that if the most eminent architect of the day were directed to undertake the task, there would be a much greater likelihood of obtaining a plan which would secure accommodation, and do credit to the architectural taste of the country, than if an open competition of all artists were in- vited. This was his original opinion, and he confessed that the circumstances which had since transpired had not much tended to induce him to alter it. Acting upon the opinion which he originally entertained, the Crown did in the first place invite one of the most eminent architects to prepare plans for the new houses, and that distinguished gentleman in consequence devoted several months to the task; and at last he produced a plan which was not adopted, because from what afterwards took place, it was never examined. The reason why he objected to open competition in the first instance, was, because he thought it would discourage the most eminent architects from entering the field, and giving the country the advantage of their designs. After alluding to the point of expense, and defending the estimates made by Mr. Barry, the right hon. Baronet proceeded to observe, that the alterations subsequently made in the plan selected, by no means indicated any original inferiority as some hon. Gentlemen would wish the House to infer. The question to be considered was, comparing Mr. Barry's original plan with the other plans submitted to the consideration of the Commissioners, whether Mr. Barry was fairly entitled to preference? If the Commissioners thought that, combining exterior, beauty with internal accommodation, it was upon the whole the best, and that it afforded the vastest elements for obtaining a building convenient for the Parliament, and creditable to the national taste, then he thought they were justified in giving preference to that plan. Having given it that preference were they to exclude it from all improvement? Could anything be more absurd than to say, that a plan adopted as the best of all that were offered to the consideration of the Commissioners was to be debarred from alteration? Whoever built a house and adhered so rigidly to the original plan? It would be matter for subsequent consideration whether, if they adopted the interior arrangements of the plan of another architect, it would not be consonant to the liberality of Parliament to assign him a reward. The question now before the House was not whether they should finally resolve to adopt Mr. Barry's plan, but simply whether they should declare the whole proceedings that had yet been taken null, Perhaps some hon. Gentlemen might think that they were acting under an implied engagement with Mr. Barry. To put an end to any doubt on this point, he would read a communication addressed to that gentleman by the Committee, explicitly stating their views of the matter. The letter intimated, that the Committee were not satisfied on the head of expense, and before any part of the building could be commenced, or any vole proposed to Parliament, the most minute and correct estimate possible must be furnished, on the understanding, at the same time, that this estimate would not, in the slightest degree, bind the Committee to the ultimate adoption of the plan. The Committee wished to know what Mr. Barry would consider an adequate remuneration for preparing the necessary specifications, but stated, at the same time, that this must be kept perfectly distinct from the consideration whether the plans were to be ultimately adopted or not, and what should be the rate of remuneration to be allowed. No engagement could have been entered into with Mr. Barry; there was only a prima facie presumption that his plan was entitled to the preference. If the estimate drawn up on more accurate consideration, should be found greatly to exceed the original amount, it would be perfectly open for them to consider whether they would adopt it. The question was, whether they would extinguish all former proceedings in this matter, and invite a new competition, or allow Mr. Barry to proceed with his detailed estimate. If they should consent to annul all former proceedings, his belief was, that they would strike a fatal blow at the principle of competition. They would postpone the execution of a great national work for an indefinite period, and they would teach the most eminent of living architects to me the day when in compliance with their invitation, they sent in plans which had the misfortune to be entitled to the preference.

Mr. Wyse

, though generally favourable to the principle of competition, was decidedly opposed to the motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex. It would, in his opinion, be most unjust, for the sake of gratifying the spleen of some few disappointed people, to reverse the whole of the proceedings which had taken place.

Mr. Hume

, in reply, contended, that the arguments advanced by him in support of his motion had been left wholly unanswered, and were, in fact, in his opinion, totally unanswerable. However, as the general opinion of the House appeared to be against him, he should not press his motion to a division.

Motion negatived.

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