HC Deb 16 June 1862 vol 167 cc665-7

expressed a hope that the Session would not terminate without some arrangement being made to alter the government of the Museum. The Royal Commission of 1860 had made a very useful Report, but every one of its recommendations had been ignored in the Trustees' Bill. The majority by which that Bill was thrown out was an aggregate of differing elements—those who objected to the separation of the collections, those who objected to the management, and those who objected to the extravagance of the system. The proposal for the removal of the Natural History collection came from Professor Owen, he believed, almost alone; and however great that gentleman's authority, it was not, he thought, sufficient to justify the proposal, which was in direct opposition to the Report of the Royal Commission. He (Mr. Gregory) believed a satisfactory arrangement might be come to now by providing for the Natural History collection in the second floor, and the sculpture in a building upon the small piece of ground which it had been recommended should be purchased, adjoining the present building. This would involve an outlay of not more than £270,000, instead of £670,000, which was the expenditure involved in the Government proposal. The plan he proposed would admit of indefinite extension of the galleries, so as to provide for future additions to the collection.


thought the drawings had better remain where they were than be removed to the National Gallery; and that if a vast quantity of rubbish were removed that never ought to have been placed in the Museum, and by a rearrangement, room might be found for a great deal more of what was really useful than was generally supposed. He objected to the system of restoring the sculptures in the Museum which had recently been introduced, and which he thought as objectionable as the restoration of the paintings. He should certainly be sorry to see the drawings withdrawn from the British Museum.


said, he would not follow the hon. Member through his speech, which was mainly a criticism upon a defunct measure. The hon. Gentleman, with many others in the House, found no difficulty in solving the most perplexing questions, both as to the classification and mode of exhibition of objects of art and science. It was unfortunate, however, that these gentlemen were able to agree only in objections to the plans of others, and not in support of any one of their own. It would be the duty of Government to consider what further provisions ought to he made for the national collections, and to submit any proposal on the subject to the House, in such a manner and with such information as would best enable them to deliver a judgment upon it. He believed the preponderating element in the majority against the recent Bill consisted of hon. Members who hold that this was not an opportune season for incurring a heavy additional outlay. He wished, however, to repeat that the second reading of that measure would have committed the House merely as to the selection of a site, and not as to the extent of the new museum. In Committee it would have been competent for any hon. Member to have proposed to limit the extent to an acre or a couple of acres. The Government did not intend to cover the whole of the proposed site with buildings; but he thought it fair to inform the House of the dimensions to which the plan might ultimately be carried. The Government deemed that it would not be right to propose the extension of the Museum on so costly a site as Bloomsbury, when one so much cheaper could be obtained at Kensington. He could not, therefore, hold out any hope to the hon. Member that the Government would adopt his proposal; nor did they think it would be desirable to make any proposal on the subject to the House during the present Session.


said, he was glad to hear that the Government were going to give this question their careful consideration. He believed that Kensington was, on the whole, the cheapest and most desirable situation for the national collection. He could not concur with his right hon. Friend in approving the government of the British Museum by Trustees, and if he had the honour of a seat in that House next year, he should move an address to Her Majesty, praying that in future the Estimates for that institution might be moved by a responsible Minister, and that £100,000 of the public money might not be annually expended under the direction of gentlemen who held their offices merely because their grand- fathers had some years ago disposed of their property to the British Museum at the market price.

Resolution agreed to.