HC Deb 09 July 1858 vol 151 cc1172-81

House in Committee.


in the Chair.

Motion made and Question proposed,— That a sum, not exceeding £73,730, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the stun necessary to defray the expenses of the General Management of the Department of Science and Art, of the Schools throughout the United Kingdom in connection with the Department, and, of the Geological Surveys of Great Britain and Ireland, &c., to the 31st day of March, 1859.


did not rise to oppose this Vote. He was actuated by no spirit of enmity to the Science and Art Department of the Privy Council, or to its museum. He believed that that department had done much good, and he trusted that it would do still more. At the same time, he had various objections to make to the details of its museum. The site he thought unfortunate. It must be remembered that the selection of it had sprung from the scheme of building the National Gallery at Kensington Gore, which, to the satisfaction of every one, had been since abandoned. Still this museum Was left behind, and no doubt the Government would be prepared with plausible reasons to defend it, for it was easier and cheaper to do that than to propose a vote for its removal. But no one really liked the site, while the means of education which were formerly accessible to the working classes had ceased to be so since their removal to Brompton; which, for reasons not very evident to him and other persons, had been termed South Kensington. The collection at Brompton was not strictly an educational museum, although there was in it an educational department. An educational museum ought to be composed of models and drawings, and of casts of the most famous sculptors, with a few good originals. In this case, however, the casts of sculpture were chiefly modern examples, compelling the student who desired to study the great works of antiquity to go to Sydenham, where the collection was in a great measure composed of antiquities, mostly belonging to those Mediæval and Renaissance schools which had of late years assumed so important a position in the eyes of Europe, although previously neglected. These were mostly bought at the Bernal, sale. At the same time the British Museum was commencing a collection of the same schools, Against this division of strength he protested. The whole national collection of antiquities in this country should be made one organization, although the question of whether the different departments of it should be in one house might be a moot point. The belief which was current at the time of the Bernal sale, that the British Museum and the Department of Science and Art outbid each other for the same things, although unfounded, showed the popular appreciation of the absurdity of dividing the national collection of Mediæval art between two branches of the State. As to the argument, that the originals contained at South Kensington were more useful to the art-workman than they would be in the British Museum, he answered that this objection could be met by arrangements which would open the latter to periodical classes of those workmen for study. They might derive more advantage from occasionally beholding a great collection than by having their looks palled by the perpetual presence of a smaller and inferior one. A few originals might be kept in the hands of the fine arts department, but the rest should be transferred to the British Museum. Then the museum belonging to the department of science and art ought to be made strictly an educational one, and transferred to a central and more accessible locality.


said, he wished to point out the peculiar character which was aimed at by the museum at South Kensington, and which had been lost sight of by the hon. Gentleman. The primary object of it had been to improve the art education of the working classes, and not to deal with the higher branches of art. Now, the reason it was called the Kensington Museum was because it was in Kensington. There was nothing in the South Kensington Museum which ought to be in the British Museum, although, indeed, there were things in the British Museum which might advantageously be transferred to Kensington. As regarded casts of the best works of the old masters, there were such casts in the school, although not in the museum, but the object of the museum was not so much to encourage fine art as industrial art, and there was a broad line of distinction, without rivalry, between the Kensington Museum and the British Museum.


said, that if he might be permitted to revert to the subject of his Motion, he wished to stare that notwithstanding what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adderley), he had no hesitation in declaring that the self-supporting system with regard to art had entirely failed in Ireland, more particularly in Belfast and Waterford. Art instruction was not appreciated in Ireland, and the effort to make it self-supporting had deprived his country of its benefits. The result of persisting in the present system would be that there would be masters without schools, He spoke earnestly upon the subject, because he felt that there was no people that required instruction in science and art so munch as the people of Ireland; and no people which would do so much credit to that instruction; and he could not but regret seeing the system which had been established altered. He would conclude by moving, as an Amendment, that the sum of £52,380, required for the support of schools of art and science in the United Kingdom, be disallowed.

Motion made and Question proposed,— That a sum, not exceeding £21,350, be grant.. ed to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the expenses of the General Management of the Department of Science and Art, of the Schools throughout the United Kingdom in connection with the Department, and of the Geological Surveys of Great Britain and Ireland, &c., to the 31st day of March, 1859.


said, he agreed that the expenses of training and teaching in schools of art should be defrayed by a central body, and not left to local management. It was necessary to have a large central establishment for this purpose, and if therefore the system had failed, they ought to discontinue the whole Vote. He could, moreover, bear testimony that the subsidized schools afforded a result which was so unsatisfactory that, if such a result from the other arrangement was to be expected, he would be prepared to give his vote for that purpose. The voluntary system, however, in its result had been much more satisfactory, and from their nature that was to be expected. If the withdrawal of the small grant of £25,000 would cause the destruction of the schools in Ire- land, then the House might despair of schools which existed on so frail a tenure under any circumstances. In 1853, there were two subsidized schools of navigation in the United Kingdom, and they were not attended with any great success; but at the present day there were schools of navigation conducted on the voluntary system in every seaport town throughout the country, and he hoped that the House would not consent to revert to the old system of subsidized schools.


observed, that at present the British Museum was not in a proper position. There were three establishments in different parts of London, all bidding against each other in the fine arts—the British Museum, the South Kensington Museum, and the Institution in Jermyn Street.


said, that he would not offend his hon. Friend by speaking of the museum as the South Kensington Museum, but he would use the better known and more euphonous epithet of the Brompton boiler to characterize it. The money spent upon the schools of design, whatever might be said of their management, had not been wasted, for they were exercising a very beneficial influence upon our manufactures. With regard to the Kensington Museum, if the articles contained were sold by auction to-morrow, they would fetch double the outlay that had been incurred upon them. The proposed affiliation of the Edinburgh School of Design with the institution at Kensington had been the means of rousing the Scottish lion in the northern capital; but he was himself in favour of the scheme, if well conducted. In Edinburgh a national gallery had been built, but there were hardly any pictures in it. The affiliation, however, of the School of Design and the Edinburgh National Gallery and Museum of the Society of Antiquaries, with the Department of Science and Art, was effected by a Treasury Minute, dated the 25th of February last. That Minute had placed the whole establishment upon a new footing, and had established a system of curators at considerable expense. He objected to the appointment of curators. The Board of Manufacturers took the greatest care of the National collection, and he was at a loss to know why it should be taken out of the hands of the local authorities and vested in those who were subject to a centralizing power. It was quite evident that the absence of curators did not prevent the pub- lic supporting the institution or persons sending pictures there, for he could mention the gratifying fact that it was the intention of the Marquess of Abercorn to send to the institution, to be placed under the care of the Board a very fine collection of fifteen or sixteen pictures by old masters. The gallery was by no means well stocked, and in his (Lord Elcho's) opinion, that instead of having this large building with bare walls, they should devote the money which was to be given annually to curators to the purchase of pictures with which to cover the walls. He also objected to the manner in which these curators were to be appointed. By the scheme of the Treasury, the curators were to be appointed not by the Board of Manufacturers, but the choice was to be left virtually to the Royal Academy for Scotland, who were to send up four names, of which the Treasury should be bound to select one. His hon. Friend (Mr. Wilson) shook his head, but he (Lord Elcho) contended that such a course would virtually be to vest the appointment in the hands of the Royal Academy. Although it was true that four names were to be sent up, yet if the Royal Academy wanted to appoint a particular man, what could be more easy than for them to select three names of persons they knew to be utterly unqualified, so that the Treasury would have no choice but to appoint that gentleman. Virtually, therefore, that was to give the nomination to the Royal Academy, which, in his opinion, was not a wise mode of proceeding. If these curators were to be appointed, he did not sec that the choice of them should he confined and restricted to the Royal Academy of Scotland. Having said thus much with reference to the National Gallery and Museum of Scotland, he wished to say a few words more about the Kensington Museum of Art. A letter which had been addressed to him from some gentlemen in the neighbourhood informed him, that on the 16th ult. one of the principal officers of the institution applied for and received a license which enabled him to retail wine, spirits, and other liquors at the Museum, thus making it to all intents and purposes a public-house. The writers of the letter asked him whether he did not agree with them, that such a proceeding was most improper, and whether there were any good reasons why a Government officer, holding such an important post, should be converted into a licensed victualler. He wrote to the gentlemen, say- ing that he should like to sec them, and consequently a deputation waited upon him, and handed to him a report of the proceedings upon the application before the magistrates, which he held in his hand, and in which it was stated, that although the magistrates did not think it proper to grant licenses generally for the sale of wines and spirits in such institutions as this, yet they considered that it was an exceptional case, and therefore they should grant it. Now, he was at a loss to know how it could be considered an exceptional case. It might be said that visitors to that place required something of renaissance or revival in the shape of ginger beer, spirits, porter, or tobacco; but if they were for that reason to make a publican of Mr. Cole, they ought also to do the same for Sir William Hooker at Kew, whose visitors had a greater distance to travel, and must, therefore, be supposed to stand in greater need of those comforts. For his part he objected to their turning such places into public-houses, but other people might have different tastes. Refreshments to a certain extent might certainly be allowed to be sold, but not spirits, beer, and tobacco. If so, and such a system were persisted in, he would make a suggestion that this matter should be carried a little further, and that dancing licenses should be given, so as to make them rivals to Cremorne. They would then possess the advantage which Cremorne did not on all occasions, namely, that of non-exclusiveness.


said, that although great jealousy had at first existed in regard to the affiliation of the Royal Dublin School with this department, yet the experiment had worked very successfully. The late Government had had reason to believe that a similar measure would be generally acceptable to the people of Edinburgh. There was a beautiful national gallery standing empty in Edinburgh, and it was most desirable that it should be properly officered and brought into practical operation. At the same time he might remark that the number of pictures in the National Gallery of Edinburgh was not so small as the noble Lord seemed to imagine, and he certainly was mistaken as to there bring no necessity to appoint a curator. It must certainly be admitted that the National Gallery of London had been greatly improved of late in consequence of the better regulations enforced, and there was every reason to suppose that the appointment of a curator would produce an equal improve- ment in that of Edinburgh. His noble Friend had stated that the pictures in possession of the Royal Institution at Edinburgh had been well kept, and that the management of the whole had been of the most satisfactory kind. Surely his noble Friend could not be ignorant of the fact that a number of the very finest pictures in that Institution had been completely spoilt by the system of cleaning which had been adopted, and that some of them had been entirely destroyed beyond recovery. According to the best information which he had upon the subject, he thought that the only plan was to have a responsible officer placed in the institution; and, therefore, that the late Government had done right in applying the recommendation of the Select Committee with respect to the National Gallery in London to that of Edinburgh. He did not understand the noble Lord to make any decided Motion on the subject, but he sincerely hoped that the present Government would continue to carry out the recommendations in that Report, and that they would make a decided statement of their views upon the subject, in order that, as the question was so important, they should have a definite understanding upon it. His noble Friend was quite in error respecting the sending up of four names by the Royal Academy to the Treasury from which to select the curator. The choice of that gentleman was to be left entirely to the local management, in addition to which only three names were to be submitted,


said, that the bon. Gentleman had taunted him with being in error; but what did the error amount to, and how did it affect his proposition that the officer in question was to be selected by the Royal Academy of Scotland? It turned out that the Academy sent up three names, not to the Treasury, but to the Board of Manufacturers, but subsequently they were submitted to the Treasury, so that although the Royal Academy were apparently restricted in point of fact, they virtually appointed the curator.


said, that the Board was not bound to accept the name submitted to them; they might reject it altogether, which made a wide distinction. The person appointed would not be a Treasury officer.


said, that he was anxious to state what course the Government had taken in reference to this important matter. Before the change of Government, the minute to which the hon. Gentleman opposite alluded was made. When they came into office they gave it their best consideration, and in the exercise of their judgment, considering all the circumstances of the case, they did consider that the adoption of that minute was calculated to confer a great advantage with reference to the promotion of art and science in Scotland. The scheme under which the national institution was formed stated that the Lords of the Treasury had entire confidence in the Department of Science and Art; that, in carrying out the change, they would consult, in every way consistent with the object, the wishes of the trustees and commissioners of the Board of Manufacturers, and the interest of the masters and others connected with the present schools. To that the present Government formally adhered. They thought it desirable that the minute should be carried out consistent with the wish of the trustees, and, confirmed in that view, they entered into communication with the Board of Manufacturers in Scotland, with a view to ascertain what their wishes were, and how far they could overcome their objections by adopting them in their integrity. Several steps had been taken by the Government with a view of effecting that object, and they had sent over Mr. Cole and Mr. Ledgrave to consult with them upon the subject. The result of that mission was extremely satisfactory, and their reply to the Treasury, dated the 19th of March last, stated that, after a lengthened interview with the Board, and full explanations had been given of the course of action of the departments, and its adaptation to the Edinburgh School of Art, they were requested by the Lord Justice General, the chairman, to put the substance of their observations into writing; that they accordingly prepared memoranda, and submitted to the Board, which they stated contained all the information they required; and that, as soon as they received them, sanctioned by the Treasury and the Committee of Council on Education, they would be prepared to communicate their decision to the Board. The instructions under which Mr. Cole proceeded to Edinburgh were, to consult, as far as possible, the wishes and feelings of the Board of Manufacturers, because it was known that a strong feeling existed in reference to this matter; and the manner in which those objections were obviated was this:—The whole management of the school, in respect of the continuance or the dismissal of the present masters, or their suspension or control, as to guiding or directing the course of study, &c., would be left to the management of the Board. That was the way in which they had approached this matter; and he was fully persuaded that they had adopted that course they had considered the best.


said, he fully concurred with other hon. Members that the old system had failed, and that they must institute a self-supporting system. He hoped that the day was past when Irishmen thought of nothing but pulling at the Exchequer. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Amendment.


said, that the whole Vote amounted to £83,000, of Which £10,000 was in round numbers the increase upon the Vote of last year for the same object. The portion which went to Kensington and Jermyn Street was about £70,000, the remaining £13,000 being applied for the benefit of the local institutions of Edinburgh, Dublin, and other places. A considerable portion of the increase this year occurred upon the item for Kensington, which was £55,000 altogether. The increase was caused by purchases, and by a rise in the salaries, granted in accordance with the Report of a Commission. The Vote was appropriated to purposes that were strictly educational, namely, for the support of the museum and of training schools, in the benefits of which Scotland and Ireland participated. As to the site of the Museum at Kensington its distance from the centre of London had not prevented an enormous concourse from attending it daily throughout the year. It was obviously a convenience to the visitors to be able to obtain refreshment without adjourning to a neighbouring public house. The refreshment department referred to by the noble Lord was no part of the institution, the accommodation required for it being rented by a private individual. It was an entire mistake to say that the Kensington Museum had not a special object which distinguished it from the British Museum and from all the other metropolitan collections. It was designed not so much for the cultivation of the higher branches of art as for the promotion of education in the principles of art applicable to manufacturing industry. This object was one that the artisans of the country could not achieve without assistance from the State, and the public money devoted to it was very usefully ex- pended. The present Vote represented the maximum amount that was likely be required for these purposes, and he trusted the Committee would now agree to it.


said, he would beg to withdraw his Motion.

Motion by leave withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.


said, he should object to the Vote unless he had an assurance from the Government that it was to be the maximum charge for this department.


said, he rose to complain of the meagreness of the hon. Member for North Staffordshire's (Mr. Adderley) statement as to the local schools in England. The moral to be drawn from the signal failure of the schools in Ireland was that, where a real demand for a commodity did not exist, it was perfectly vain for the State to seek to stimulate it by artificial means. He protested against any attempt to break up the magnificent collection at the British Museum.

House resumed.

Committee report progress; to sit again this day, at Six o'clock.