HC Deb 14 July 1842 vol 65 cc143-9
Mr. Ewart

rose, in pursuance of notice, to move, That it is expedient that the Government school of design be formed into a central normal school, for the instruction of teachers of design, in communication with other schools of design throughout the country; and that the general recommendations of the committee, which reported on this subject in the year 1836, be adopted. The committee recommended the establishment of a central school, which should issue casts and books of prints for the use of other schools. This recommendation had been complied with, and casts had been issued, and one book containing the most approved patterns had been sent forth. The commission which was issued to inquire into the condition of the handloom weavers, and which sat for two years, made a similar recommendation with regard to designs and patterns. The committee of 1836 further recommended, that there should be a normal school established for the instruction of persons who should afterwards be employed as teachers at the provincial schools. It was his conviction, that it became the duty of the Government to encourage the formation of provincial schools. He did not mean to say, that the Government ought to create them; but that whenever they were established, the Government ought to afford them every facility. The great benefit which these schools were calculated to effect, by encouraging improvements in our manufactures, and enabling us to compete with foreign manufactures, entitled them to the favourable consideration of Parliament and the Government.

Dr. Bowring

seconded the motion. The superiority of France in the art of design, as applied to manufactures was traceable primarily to the encouragement given to the schools established there for teaching youth the art of design. One great house in Paris, the chief member of which had the order of the Legion of Honour conferred on him by Napoleon, paid 10 per cent, upon their capital for patterns. In another establishment 180 artists were employed to prepare designs; while in the city of Lyons,, between 500 and 600 youths were constantly under artistical instructions for improving manufactures. There was a general impression throughout this country, that Parliament ought to countenance and encourage the art of design; and he was therefore glad that his hon. Friend had brought the subject before the House.

Mr. Gladstone

observed, that the motion of the hon. Gentleman consisted of two parts; the first part referred to the general recommendations of the committee of 1836, and the second referred more particularly to the School of Design now existing in London being constituted a general normal school. With regard to the recommendations of the committee, he believed that every recommendation which Could be acted upon by the council of the School of Design had been adopted and carried into operation. There were, indeed, some important recommendations, having reference to changes of the law, which it was not competent for the council to meddle with. But all the subjects contained in those recommendations would, he hoped, be provided for. So far as the general recommendations, therefore, were concerned, he thought he might pass them by. But as to that portion of the motion which went to constitute the London School of Design into a central normal school, the only objection which he could see applicable to so formal a proceeding was, that it would be a title rather more ambitious, and one signifying more than the present experiment in this country could warrant. As regarded the substance and object of the proposition, he believed it was an accurate conception of that which the council of the School of Design entertained. They were of opinion that it was by no means the main purpose of the institution simply to establish a good drawing school, nor one at which parties might learn the habit and art of applying designs to manufactures. They conceived it rather as the foundation of a school for training teachers for the purpose of carrying out the great object of the Government in encouraging art in various parts of the country, where similar institutions were to be established. He believed that the council had decided upon five places, at which it was their intention to assist in conducting such institutions. It was the opinion of the council that there ought to be six schools of that description. These were as many as they thought advisable to contemplate. With regard to the five places on which they had fixed, they were Manchester, Birmingham, Norwich, York, and Coventry; as to the place where the sixth should be instituted, that was still under consideration. It was the intention of the council to appropriate a sum in aid of these schools. So much with regard to the foundation of a normal school. With regard to the supply of teachers, the council had felt very strongly the difficulty of finding suitable teachers for Schools of Design in London, from the circumstance that the application of art to manufactures was comparatively novel in this country. They had established a probationary class for persons of good character for the purpose of being trained as teachers of design in the provincial schools. It had been also proposed to offer six exhibitions of 30l. a year each for open competition; these to be enjoyed for three years. The council of the school now stood upon a more permanent basis than it did last year. Many members had been appointed to it who would afford valuable aid to those who originally belonged to it; and the director of it had borne testimony to the efficacy of the plan on which the school had been established.

Mr. Labouchere

considered the encouragement of this institution to be an object of the greatest national importance. This school had been instituted a very few years, and, considering how slow necessarily must be the growth of any such institution, he thought its progress, as far as it had gone, was most satisfactory. He hoped a report would be made of the actual state of the School of Design before the end of the present Session. He thought the council had acted wisely in proceeding gradually and cautiously, but he had no doubt that, as the benefit of these establishments came to be felt in the country, there would be an increasing desire, on the part of the people, to participate in the advantages they were calculated to afford. He agreed in opinion with his hon. Friend, that the establishing of a normal school was one most important duty devolving on the council; and he was glad to know that this great object had not been neglected. There was a normal class established, to which great attention would, he was perfectly assured, be paid. One master had already been perfectly qualified, and sent forth to preside over a provincial school. Females were also educated for those departments of manufacture in which their labours were engaged, and he had no doubt that all the benefit that could be expected from an establishment of this description would ultimately be realised.

Mr. Wyse

said, that one of the first objects of the council, on its formation, was to ascertain whether there was any warmth of feeling existing in the country to acquire the necessary knowledge for the application of art to manufactures. They soon found that there was a very earnest desire on the part of persons in the principal towns of the country, not only to acquire that knowledge, but that there was the greatest anxiety to obtain the advantage of the opportunity and means proposed, and placed within their reach by the Government. The art of design had not by any means been sufficiently followed out as a branch of education, and he hoped that Government would direct their attention to the subject. He had no doubt that the time would come when they would be able to compete in the art with any foreign country.

Mr. W. Williams

had heard the statement of the] right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade with much satisfaction. The Somerset-house school would not, he believed, be of much service in promoting design in connection with manufactures. It was impossible to teach persons the art, with the view of the knowledge being applied to manufactures, unless they also had some acquaintance with the species of manufacture to which it was to be applied. As yet no pains had been taken to cultivate the innate talent in the country. The feeling of the higher classes on the subject, their ideas of the want of taste of native manufacturers, had been most detrimental to the cultivation of that taste. He would give an instance of the extent to which this feeling was carried and of its consequences. A manufacturer in Coventry brought out a pattern which he expected would take; he had in fact a very high opinion of its taste, but it proved a complete failure, and he sold off at very low prices a considerable part of the goods so manufactured. It so happened that a French manufacturer obtained the pattern and introduced it as the new French style. It proved quite successful everywhere, and that part of his stock which he was still possessed of he sold at 40 per cent, higher than the price for which he had disposed of the remainder. In many cases, however, he believed that, notwithstanding the tendency of the public taste, that the English designs were superior to those of the continental manufacturers. He trusted that the Government would be liberal in establishing the proposed schools, and that they would consider the advisability of exceeding the number of six.

Mr. Gally Knight

would only trouble the House with a few words, after the full and lucid statement which had been made by his right, hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade; but, as a Member of the new council of the School of Design, he felt it right to assure his hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries, and also the House, that the new council were animated with the same spirit which had guided their predecessors, and that they were diligently employed in carrying into effect all the recommendations of the committee, of which the hon. Member for Dumfries had been Chairman. They had assumed as the basis of their operations, that the school was not to be a common school for drawing, but a school for the practical combination of the arts with manufactures. They had obtained casts from Paris, and of the most celebrated works of art, from which moulds were to be taken, and sent to the branch Schools of Design, which were to be established in the provincial towns. They had begun to issue a periodical work, prepared by Mr. Dyce, the director of the School of Design, with engraved outlines, which would be of great assistance to the scholars. They had examined into the merits of the probationary class, and found that amongst them there were already young men who were sufficiently advanced to be sent down as masters to the schools that were about to be. established in the manufacturing towns. In fact, therefore, though the School of Design did not bear the name of a normal school, it was, practically, and in reality, a school for training masters. The council were in correspondence with five towns, in which branch schools were about to be established—Manchester, Coventry, Norwich, Birmingham, and York, The local committees had engaged to bear a proportion of the necessary expenses. He hoped, therefore, that his hon. Friend, the Member for Dumfries, would see that all his wishes had been attended to. These schools, he trusted, would be of the greatest use to our manufactures; and when the hop. Member for Coventry regretted that the British public had not as much confidence as they ought to have in British produce, he would beg leave to remind him that it was but a short time since the School of Design had been established, since which time there had been a decided improvement in the taste of our manufactures; and it might be hoped that, when the public were aware of this, they would give that confidence which they had hitherto withheld. His hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries had stated, that one of the recommendations of the committee bad been the encouragement of British artists; and this, he could inform him, was in a way to be accomplished by the appointment of the commission for the decoration of the new Houses of Parliament. At the head of this commission was a Prince, (Prince Albert), who in so short a time had won the hearts of a whole nation, who took the greatest interest in the management of the arts, had regularly presided at the commission, and not only protected the arts, but understood them. Under such auspices his hon. Friend might feel sure that the recommendation of the committee would be carried into effect.

Mr. Hutt,

having been one of the committee which had originally recommended the foundation of a School of Design, had heard with satisfaction the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that Government had recognized and meant to act upon the principle recommended by that committee. In the list of towns in which schools of design were to be formed, he was sorry not to find the name of Newcastle. It deserved to be included for it had done much, by the establishment of local schools, for the encouragement of the art of design. He trusted, that Government would not allow his suggestion to pass without some consideration.

Mr. Ewart

had heard the sentiments expressed with general satisfaction, and was sure that progress had been made, and made, too, in the right direction. He would withdraw the motion.

Motion withdrawn.