HC Deb 14 August 1846 vol 88 cc726-33

On the Question that 20,000l. be granted for enlarging and improving Buckingham Palace


stated, that before any buildings were commenced, the plans and estimate would be laid before the House. The report of Mr. Blore stated at length the inconveniences to which Her Majesty was subjected from the want of proper accommodation at Buckingham Palace. That palace was originally built for George IV., and was therefore planned as for a Sovereign who had no family. It was finished for William IV.; but that Sovereign did not in effect reside there; and when Her Majesty came to reside there on her accession, no additional provision was made, such as would now fit it for the occupation of the Royal Family. The domestic offices, in particular, were on a scale totally inadequate to the wants of the establishment: they were, in fact, as inconvenient as they possibly could be. During Her Majesty's occupation of the palace various minor alterations were made, which came within the ordinary departmental expenditure; but the domestic offices were still wholly inadequate, and there was a general want of accommodation throughout the palace. It was only under these circumstances that Her Majesty had been induced to allow Her Ministers to propose that the necessary additions should be made. The inconveniences occasioned by the want of accommodation were stated at length in Mr. Blore's report, which had already been made public. He would, therefore, only refer generally to a few of them. In the first place, so limited was the room, that the space immediately under Her Majesty's own apartments was necessarily appropriated to the workshops of upholsterers and cabinet-makers, who carried on their business there, accompanied by an inconvenient noise, and with much risk to health and even personal danger from the inflame mable nature of some of the materials employed by them. In the next place, there was no accommodation for Her Majesty's family. Even at present there was not enough room, but the difficulty would be still further increased when the younger members of the Royal Family grew up; and it would be necessary that those who were charged with their education should be resident close to them, and when they would require a greater number of servants. A further inconvenience was occasioned by the Lord Chamberlain's apartments not being within the palace; and there was also a total want of due accommodation for foreign Sovereigns who might come to visit Her Majesty. These were a few of the leading grounds on which the increased accommodation was sought for—the details would be found in Mr. Blore's report. With regard to the mode in which it was proposed to carry out the object, he might generally state that the plan was to complete the quadrangle by erecting a range of buildings in front of the present palace. The cost was estimated at 150,000l., but it was proposed to take 20,000l. only this year. In part to meet the expenditure, it was proposed to dispose of the Pavilion at Brighton.


felt sure there was not one of Her Majesty's subjects who would grudge any sum wanted to maintain Her Majesty in comfort and dignity. Another sentiment he believed equally universally prevailed, that the present palace was unfitting, as regarded both comfort and dignity. It was precisely on these grounds that he thought the course now proposed by Government of enlarging the present building was injudicious, and would lead only to disappointment. Ministers had no doubt been actuated by a wish to combine economy with a due regard to the dignity of the Crown; but he ventured to say that the only result would be, that a building would be erected inconsistent with the comfort of the Sovereign, and which would give displeasure to the public. This subject ought to be viewed not only in connexion with the comfort and dignity of the Sovereign, but with the interests of the metropolis. The present palace and grounds caused great inconvenience to the inhabitants of the district now called Belgravia, as was well known to those who, like himself, resided there.


thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated good grounds for his proposal, more especially as it was proposed to sell the Pavilion at Brighton. Whether a purchaser could be found was another question, unless, indeed, it could be sent off, just as it was, to Hong-Kong. He feared all the money that might be expended upon Buckingham Palace would fail in making it a decent and proper residence for the Sovereign of this country; and he believed some hon. Members of that House would live to hear a Government come down and make a formal statement to that effect. He wished that they had a Government architect and engineer, to whom the sole control of planning and erecting public edifices might be committed under the superintendence of a Government board.


hoped that when any arrangement was made for the disposal of the site of the Marine Palace at Brighton, it would be remembered that, in order to suit the convenience of George IV., when Prince of Wales, the people of Brighton had given up the principal road into that town, and that measures would be taken to restore to the town what had then been relinquished.


complained that a proposition of this nature, involving the outlay of 150,000l., should be brought forward at that late period of the Session. Even if they agreed to expend this large amount on the improvement of Buckingham Palace, the question occurred—was not the palace in an unhealthy situation? Of that fact, he believed there could be no doubt. The ground on which the palace was built, was below the level of the Thames at high water; and the lower apartments, he was informed, had frequently been flooded. There were also upholsterers' and other workshops in the palace, and the effluvium from the glue and other articles used in those places could not promote the health or comfort of the inhabitants. Within his recollection vast sums of money had been expended on altering and improving the palace, and yet the House was now asked to sanction a vote of 150,000l. for further improvements. He considered that if the House consented to this vote, it would lose character in the opinion of the country; and certainly such a vote ought not to be sanctioned until proper plans and estimates were laid before them. He considered that a commodious, and comfortable, and becoming residence ought to be provided for the Sovereign of this country; and if Buckingham Palace did not furnish adequate accommodation, they had plenty of sites on which to build another. He suggested that this vote should be postponed until next Session, in order that the House might be furnished with plans and estimates for the proposed alterations; for surely the postponement of the matter for six months could not occasion any inconvenience. The hon. Member moved, as an Amendment, that the vote be reduced to 5,000l., the sum necessary to repair the damage done to the palace by the recent storm.


thought it was only necessary to prove, as the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had already (in his opinion) proved, that Her Majesty was not properly accommodated at present, to show that the vote was not premature. And if those facts were satisfactorily established, he was sure that the hon. Member for Montrose would not be disposed to object to its being passed at once. He could assure the House and the hon. Gentleman, that the whole subject had occupied the attention, and had been for a long time the subject of the most careful consideration of the late Government. Some of the objections made by the hon. Gentleman had been considered by them; and they had submitted those objections, together with the plan of Mr. Blore, to three gentlemen, Mr. Barry, Sir R. Smith, and Sir James Clark, who had reported favourably on them, and had considered that no inconvenience or danger to the health of the inmates would arise from completing the quadrangle. From the care which had been bestowed upon the subject, he thought he could assure the hon. Gentleman that most ample security would be given that the building would be in good taste, and the plans such as promised adequate accommodation. With respect to the time and the necessity for an immediate grant, he should observe that it would be of the utmost importance to have the foundations for the new building laid down as soon as possible. It was not an affair of three or four months, as the hon. Gentleman had described it, but one involving an entire year's delay. And so great was the necessity for additional room in the palace, that before the birth of the last princess, about a year ago, it was almost impossible that the royal family could be accommodated, not merely with convenience or comfort, but absolutely with decency. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Motion. The unsuitableness of the present building was obvious, and if the hon. Gentleman, or any hon. Gentleman, would take the trouble of examining it, he would be at once convinced that the internal accommodation was far inferior to the expectations excited by the external appearance, and that the large quantity of brick and stone consumed in its erection, afforded as little interior accommodation as possible. As regarded the sum proposed to be expended upon its improvement, he expected a very large sum from the sale of the palace at Brighton, which would be directly applicable; but independently of that he would recommend to the notice of the hon. Member for Montrose the saving that would be effected annually by the disposal of that building—a saving which he thought would more than cover the interest of the sum for which the public was likely to be called on. But another matter was also deserving of notice. This was the first sum that Parliament had been called upon to vote for the personal accommodation of Her Majesty since her accession to the Throne. It was impossible to overrate the moderation exhibited by Her Majesty in all matters in which the public were to be called upon for money. In no one instance, during the time he had been in office, had he to request Her Majesty to withdraw a demand for expenses; but in some instances, he had, on the contrary, to suggest to Her Majesty certain expenses which he thought absolutely necessary for the support of the personal dignity of the Sovereign; and it was invariably a matter of pain to her when any demand was made which involved an expenditure, the weight of which fell upon her subjects. When the Pavilion at Brighton was found totally insufficient for the accommodation of the Royal Family, Her Majesty, instead of asking for a grant, preferred taking, at her own expense, a residence more suitable. The hon. Member for Montrose had suggested the building of a new palace, instead of repairing and extending the present one, but he seemed to have overlooked the difficulty of finding a suitable site. He trusted the hon. Member would not press his Motion.


said, that he could readily suggest a site for a new palace. Let them take Kensington Palace down, and build a new and suitable one upon its site, and there was no individual who would grudge the money for such a purpose less than he. But he objected to expending money upon a useless edifice. Let them build a new palace in Kensington-gardens, and convert the present Buckingham Palace into a great museum for the public, and preserve the gardens for the public. If that were done, he would pledge himself to take out of the British Museum that which lay there at present buried and unknown, sufficient to supply the new museum.


had seen many strange proceedings in that House, but never any stranger than the proceeding of that day. He had as great respect for Her Majesty, and as much desire that she should be properly accommodated, as any Member in the House; but he could not forget that many years had not elapsed since George III., with his very large family, not merely a family of infants, but of grown-up men and women, had found sufficient accommodation before the erection of even the present building. Since the death of that Monarch, no less than 2,000,000l. had, as the hon. Member for Montrose had informed them, been expended on the erection of palaces. The English were said to be the richest nation in the world, and their wealth was quoted as a reason for giving further accommodation to their Sovereign. But if they were the richest nation in the world, let them recollect, in ordering their expenditure, that there were two millions and a half of their Irish fellow subjects in a state of starvation such as was unknown in any other part of the world. As to the royal palaces, there were eight supported by the public. He could not forget one which, for the use of the King of the Belgians, was kept up at the public expense; and there were two in Scotland, making eleven royal palaces in all. He mentioned those matters with a feeling of the deepest respect for his Sovereign. He maintained that those who objected to those unnecessary expenses were the real friends of the monarchy, and that those who encouraged them were its enemies. The pressure upon the taxation of the country was already such as the people could not bear, and he warned the House against laying fresh burdens upon it.


was glad to find that the hon. Member for Coventry was the only one who opposed the present vote on the ground of unnecessary and excessive expenditure. The other hon. Gentleman seemed to oppose it only on the ground that it was to be directed to improvement of the old instead of the construction of a new palace. But he thought few would be found to agree with the views of the hon. Member for Coventry. Of the eight palaces mentioned by that hon. Gentleman only two, Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, were occupied by Her Majesty. And when Her Majesty had thought it necessary to seek another and more convenient marine residence than that at Brighton, the whole expense of taking and purchasing Osborne-house and grounds in the Isle of Wight had been defrayed from the privy purse instead of any call having been made upon the public. In fact, Her Majesty could hardly be less provided for. But with regard to the suggestion of building a new palace at Kensington, that would involve the commencement of an expenditure too considerable to be incurred. Her Majesty would be quite satisfied with an expenditure which would at least allow her sufficient accommodation. He trusted that early next year the plans would be laid before the House, and that they would find they would have something handsomer to look at, and more respectable and suitable for a royal palace, than the nation possessed at present.


wished it to be distinctly understood that he objected to the vote for the reasons he had already given. It had been brought forward at the end of the Session, and the House was asked to agree to it without plans, without estimates, and without reports. All he asked for was that the vote should be suspended until Parliament should meet again; and in the interim all the requisite information could be prepared. At present he was convinced that if 150,000l. should prove to be the whole of the expenditure, the palace would never be worthy of the Sovereign. He should therefore divide the House.


said, it was obvious to the House that the present inadequate provision for the domestic accommodation of the Sovereign was admitted by all parties. The only question, therefore, that really remained for their decision was, whether that requisite accommodation was to be supplied by the alteration of the old palace, or the construction of a new one. The question was merely one of how the required accommodation could be best supplied.

The Committee divided on the Question— That a sum, not exceeding 20,000l. be granted to Her Majesty, on account of the Works for enlarging and improving Buckingham Palace, in the year 1846:"—

Ayes, 55; Noes, 6: Majority, 49.

List of the AYES.
Anson, hon. Col. Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Howard, P. H.
Humphery, Aid.
Baine, W. Jones, Capt.
Bentinck, Lord G. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Lincoln, Earl of
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.
Bridgeman, H. Mackinnon, W. A.
Brotherton, J. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Browne, hon. W. Morpeth, Visct.
Buller, C. O'Conor Don
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Parker, J.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Pechell, Capt.
Craig, W. G. Phimridge, Capt.
Cripps, W. Reid, Col.
Douglas, Sir H. Rich, H.
Dundas, Adm. Russell, Lord J.
Dundas, D. Seymour, Lord
Ebrington, Visct. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Smith, B.
Fleetwood, Sir P. H. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Fox, C. R. Spooner, R.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Stewart, P. M.
Gladstone, Capt. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Gore, hon. R. Wood, rt. hon. C.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Wood, Col. T.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Hamilton, G. A. TELLERS.
Hawes, B. Tuffnell, H.
Henley, J. W. Hill, Lord M.
List of the NOES.
Bowring, Dr. Williams, W.
Duncan, G.
Tollemache, hon. F. J. TELLERS.
Warburton, H. Hume, J.
Wawn, J. T. Protheroe, E.

Vote agreed to, as were other Votes.

House resumed.