HC Deb 30 July 1845 vol 82 cc1252-6

On the Question that 1,020l. be granted in aid of repairing St. Margaret's Church, Westminster,

Mr. P. Borthwick

objected to the Vote, upon the ground, that the money lately expended on this building had been laid out on embellishments in the worst possible taste. He thought that the church ought to be pulled down altogether, and another constructed in a different part of the parish. He must also say that much bad taste was displayed in the monuments in the neighbouring Abbey of Westminster, which, he said, were unlike anything in the heaven above, in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. He objected strongly, too, to the mythological devices introduced into a Christian church, and the showmanlike manner in which they were exhibited.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

remarked, that architectural amateurs were quite insatiable in their demands for public money to be spent in carrying out their ideas. As to St. Margaret's Church, as the House of Commons occupied it in some sort, seats being allotted for the Speaker and Members, they ought to pay for its necessary reparations; and with respect to pulling down the church, it would cost from 40,000l. to 50,000l. were it to be removed, and another substituted in its place.

Mr. Bernal Osborne

was in favour of the demolition of the church, as a Committee of the House had already suggested. As to Members going there, that was only a parliamentary fiction. He thought that even 50,000l. would not be too much to be expended in effecting the object in view.

Mr. Hindley

thought the Vote should be postponed, and the church ultimately pulled down, as it would be in the way of the proposed Westminster improvements.

Viscount Sandon

should regret to see 40,000l. expended in the way proposed. If they intended to spend money in architectural improvements, they ought to begin by pulling down the two towers of the Abbey, erected as they were in defiance of taste and architectural propriety.

Mr. Abel Smith

agreed with the first observations of the noble Lord. He thought, however, that St. Margaret's burial-ground should be removed, and he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not overlook the matter.

Mr. Sheil

had a curiosity—he would not in the presence of the noble Lord opposite characterize the word in any way—but he really had a curiosity to know whether the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, or the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had ever attended divine service at the church in question?

Viscount Sandon

Yes, twice.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

Yes, once.

Mr. Sheil

could understand how the right hon. Gentleman had gone. The Speaker went there once a year, and the right hon. Gentleman had probably accompanied him on one of these occasions. But very few Members of the House had ever been within the walls of St. Margaret's church. They should then put out of the case the use made by the House of Commons of the church. He thought, moreover, that there should be full paro- chial accommodation for the inhabitants of the district. Now, was the Abbey turned to as much account as it might be in this way? There was a most noble building—he never could enter it without thinking of the uses to which it was once put, although he would refrain from any anticipations or speculations as to whether it might ever be put to these uses again. But did it not occur to them that, in a building of such vast size, within which he almost always found reigning a most solemn mysterious solitude, did it not occur to them that it might be turned to some useful purpose? How were matters managed at present? They took a small section, and crowded a congregation into it; a congregation only large by contrast with the place in which it was bestowed; while, by enlarging that portion of the edifice, they would be providing for parochial accommodation, and applying the church to its proper purposes as a place of worship. When he saw Mr. Barry's beautiful design from Westminster Bridge—and he never saw a more beautiful one—when that design was completed, would not St. Margaret's be an eyesore? Again, when they came down Parliament-street, would it not obstruct their view of the Abbey, and in coming from the Parks by the proposed new street, would it not be equally in the way? He was not disposed to have 40,000l. or 50,000l. voted for Westminster improvements were such obstructions to be allowed to continue. He did hope that the understanding formerly, as he understood, come to, that the church would be got rid of when the new Houses were built, would be really acted upon.

Mr. Hawes

said, that the sum alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman was not voted in supply from his pocket. The fund for metropolitan improvements came from the coal tax imposed on the port of London.

Mr. Sheil

It comes from my pocket, nevertheless. I don't burn turf.

Sir J. Graham

agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The objection taken to the church was not only that it intercepted the view, but the site itself was very objectionable. Suppose the expense of rebuilding the church not to exceed 40,000l., where was a new site to be found? He believed that it would require an expenditure of more than 60,000l. to provide the necessary accommodation. The parent church must be maintained, and he conceived that no more economical plan could be devised than the grant now proposed.

Viscount Sandon

trusted the dean and chapter of Westminster would attend to the suggestions which had been thrown out, and he believed that some alteration was intended to be made.

Mr. Protheroe

was of opinion that St. Margaret's Church was a very fair specimen of undecorated Gothic architecture. The only part of the Abbey which was concealed by the Church was the ugly portion between the north entrance and Henry the Seventh's chapel, and St. Margaret's Church was far more sightly. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvon had asked how many Members of Parliament attended that church. In former years, he (Mr. Protheroe) frequently attended St. Margaret's Church, both in the morning and evening, and often saw a considerable number there. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would turn his attention to the state of St. Margaret's churchyard. The effluvia arising from it was most disagreeable, and hon. Members, whose attendance in Parliament was compulsory, suffered more or less from the air sent into the House by Dr. Reid.

Mr. M. J. O'Connell

would not go into the discussion whether or not this church was a good specimen of Gothic architecture; for this was not a Committee of Taste but of Supply. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had over-estimated the difficulty of procuring a site. He had the honour of sitting on a Committee connected with this subject, and the result of their investigation was, that several sites could now be procured at a comparatively cheap rate, which in a few years might cost a large sum. He hoped, then, Government would lose no time in getting rid of the nuisance of the churchyard, which, in his belief, was injurious to the health of Members of that House, and he was sure was so to persons who resided in the neighbourhood. He did not think the Vote should be postponed; for they would probably have to pay next year a much larger sum if no provision was now made for the repair of the church.

Mr. Escott

felt somewhat alarmed at the tone of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Depart- ment, who evidently intended that St. Margaret's Church should remain permanently. If they consented to vote hundreds of thousands every year for the New Palace at Westminster, and could not afford 20,000l. or 30,000l. for the removal of that church, it would be better to put a stop to the improvements altogether. He considered the church to be a complete disgrace to the neighbourhood.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the Archdeacon, at his visitation, had presented the church as not being in a fit state of repair.

The Committee divided: — Ayes 44; Noes 19: Majority 25.

Vote agreed to.