HC Deb 08 June 1866 vol 184 cc51-75

on rising to put a Question as to the future site of the Royal Academy, said, he need make no apology for bringing the subject under the notice of the House. We had passed the 4th of June, formerly the traditional day for closing the Session, the sun was getting rather hot and the nights short, and the Session was already approaching its close; but still there were many important, but, withal, subsidiary questions relating to the instruction, amusement, and education of the people remaining to be dealt with. If he did not call attention to the question at that time, he would probably have to do so some night in the middle of July, when a supplementary Estimate was being smuggled through, and when, perhaps, not more than a dozen Members on his side would be present, to subject the Government proposals to an independent criticism. Fewer questions of general utility had been brought before the House this Session than at any previous period within his recollection. Therefore, he contended that he was strictly patriotic, and was advancing the public business by bringing this question forward to-night, although there was another subject of very general interest waiting to be disposed of. The future of the Royal Academy had not been much thought of hitherto, simply because public attention had not been directed to the matter. A paper on the subject had been laid before the House, and ordered to be printed on the 1st of May, on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Public Works. That contained the correspondence between the right hon. Gentleman's Department and the Royal Academy, and it appeared that on the 5th of June, 1865, the right hon. Gentleman after stating that the whole of the building in Trafalgar Square was required for the National Gallery, offered to give a site for the Royal Academy at Burlington House, either on the southern side of the court fronting Piccadilly, or on the northern side of the Gardens. The Royal Academy were willing at that time to accept the site in the line of Piccadilly. There had been a series of negotiations, with which the House had been already bored, and probably would be often bored again, respecting these two ill matched institutions, the Royal Academy and the National Gallery. They were placed in the same building in Trafalgar Square in the old pre-artistic days, when it was thought a fine stroke of public policy to hand over the second-hand columns of Carlton House to the architects for the purpose of constructing a National Gallery. No sooner were they hitched into the building than it was found to be perfectly inadequate for its double use; and for the last eighteen years there had been a series of plans and counter-plans, schemes and anti-schemes, manœuvres and antimanœuvres on the part of the governing bodies of both, and of a certain mysterious power that seemed to loom over both, and which had its habitation somewhere in the salubrious suburb of Brompton. The problem was just like one of those questions put in competitive examinations for the honorary A.S. up and down the country:—Given a Royal Academy and a National Gallery, and one plot of land at Brompton, one in Burlington Gardens, and a third in Trafalgar Square, how to place the Academy and how the National Gallery, and, finally, how to content the public. When his noble Friend the Member for Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) was Minister of Works, a scheme was prepared which might have been better than some other schemes, but which was not perfect. It was to remove the Royal Academy to Burlington Gardens, and to leave the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square; but although the scheme was propounded with an intention of meeting difficulties, it was not satisfactory in itself. Its effect would have been, that whereas there was an existing building, an existing vacuity of site, and two institutions, while the existing building was big enough for one institution and the existing vacuity was big enough for the other, it was proposed to move the smaller institution to the big vacuity, and to leave the larger institution in the small building. Another more common-sense scheme was started in opposition by the Royal Commission, which was appointed to inquire into the whole condition of the Royal Academy, and that was to construct a National Gallery in Burlington House Gardens on an oblong site of more than two acres, admirably adapted for galleries, which might have any amount of head-light and which wanted no side-light. The existing courtyard would have been the vestibule, and the present building the portal of the Gallery, which would have had more wall-space than any of the most famous existing galleries of Europe, with the one exception of Paris, and would accordingly have exhibited the national pictures to the utmost advantage. It was part of that plan to have left the Royal Academy in possession of the obnoxious and offensive building which Wilkins erected with the secondhand columns of Carlton House for its portico now standing on what Sir Robert Peel called the finest site in Europe. So that if the Royal Academy had not taken the building in hand, and improved its façade in accordance with the developed taste of the day, the blame would have rested upon the Royal Academy alone. This plan was started, but it was not taken up by the House in a manner worthy of so advantageous a proposition. Thus the question got, step by step, into straits and difficulties. At last, an effort was made to increase the accommodation in the National Gallery, and so the only thing which the building could boast—the pearl in the swine's snout—the really fine double staircase branching right and left, was sacrificed, there being substituted a little trumpery entrance like that of a minor theatre, with a similar one for the Royal Academy. Next, two years since the House came to a decision which he could not but call unfortunate, which dealt a heavy discouragement to the Commissioners proposal by reversing the proposal to construct the Gallery in Burlington House Gardens, and laying down that it was to be chained to Trafalgar Square. So the matter stood up to the time of this correspondence. This very Session the Government pledged itself by a Vote to enlarge the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, and a Bill to carry out that pledge had gone through most of its stages. That Bill authorized the purchase of a site to the rear of the present building for the new Gallery, at a price which showed that the country could be sometimes as reckless in its expenditure as a semi-insolvent joint-stock bank. Of the projected competition he could only speak well; he only wished it had been larger, or unlimited; but they dared not, he supposed, be so courageous as to entertain any notion of unlimited competition after exposing themselves as they had done in the matter of the public offices. At least, however, they might have called in twenty-four architects between the Law Courts and the National Gallery; they had, indeed, twelve names down for each, but there were duplicates on the two lists. The Royal Academy, having to be turned out of Trafalgar Square, was offered a site on the area of Burlington House, which was to be swept away. Dawdling along Piccadilly, admiring the old curiosity shops, and the new photographic productions, after lounging in the Burlington Arcade to see what new French books had been published, they might see a heavy brick wall, and, had they the curiosity to ask what the place was, they would be told it was Burlington House. With that sort of rough-and-ready and generally injudicious judgment which people formed upon things about which they knew nothing at all, the self-sufficient public had voted that Burlington House, of which they only knew the outside wall, was ugly, obstructive, and ought to be cleared off the surface of the earth. Now, what was Burlington House—which the noble family of Cavendish sold to the nation ten years ago? Those who cared not merely to study the history of England in its broad aspects of changes in dynasties and of great European wars, but in the useful and interesting history which dealt with the personal relations of different classes of society, and with those great social, literary, and artistic movements which stamped the age, must know that Boyle Earl of Burlington in the last century, the collateral ancestor of the present Earl of Cork and of the Duke of Devonshire, was no common character. In those times Supply nights in the House of Commons were very dry affairs; there were no Members for the Fine Arts; and yet the Earl of Burlington was the pioneer in the aristocratic cultivation of the fine arts, and particularly of architecture. He built Burlington House from his own designs, and also built, the well-known villa at Chiswick, while his name is enshrined in the verses of Pope and of Gay. Inside the court-yard was a semi-circular colonnade spreading on either side, then a range of buildings beyond that, and, in front, the main house, designed in a very graceful form of Italian architecture. Now, to whatever public use Burlington House might be devoted a court-yard was essentially necessary, for, whether it were National Gallery or Royal Academy, you could not expect the carriages and cabs of visitors to stand in Piccadilly. What with underground railways and railways above ground, and improvements in general, the traditions of old historic London were every day being swept away; so that when you had a building eminently adapted for the practical uses to which the rest of the ground might be devoted, it was something like a sacrilege to have offered it to the Academy as a site to be razed and then built over, instead of preserving Burlington House itself, and leaving the Royal Academy to build its galleries on the space behind. If it had been offered to the National Gallery on like terms, he should have said the same thing. He believed that Messrs. Banks and Barry, then architects to the Board of Works, had prepared an able and ingenious scheme for building a National Gallery in that place, preserving Burlington House and its court-yard, and putting the Gallery on the old garden behind, so as to fill the whole ground, with a faœade to the street called Burlington Gardens to the north. A short time ago the House passed a rapid and unwise Vote in Supply, against which he had vainly protested, towards covering part of that ground with a building for the use of the London University —an institution which, no doubt, required a public building, but which need not be planted on a site long since devoted to the arts. No doubt that subject would come before the House again, and when it did he hoped they would overhaul it thoroughly; not with any view of shutting out the University, which had a claim to be housed at the public expense, but so as to preserve a site which was fit for galleries and not examination rooms. There was a rumour that the negotiations with the Royal Academy had come to a premature end; that the Royal Academy, whether sacred by the Vandalism of pulling down Burlington House or from any other reason, had taken a rural fit, and, feeling that their pictures would be better appreciated, more visited, and would lie more in the perpetual current of the millions who visit the metropolis, meant to go out of London and locate themselves somewhere in the pleasant village of Brompton. There was a certain site on which three years ago hon. Members might have studied the marvels of green-house building—the eastern annex of the Great Exhibition, which, since that time, had been converted into a brilliant rhododendron valley—and rumour said that the Royal Academy was to be there. If so, that was their business. No doubt, a large site would be granted to them on the most liberal terms, and those who granted it would be very glad to receive such tenants. No doubt, when the great Hall of Science and Art was constructed, the shareholders in that phenomenon would not be sorry that another institution came as neighbours into the same sequestered regions. No doubt, the debenture holders of the Horticultural Gardens would be glad to welcome those who loved to drink in the pleasures of art, and would be glad to afford them access to their cool shades and purling streams. For himself he had no objection to the change, for the few curiosities he had were on loan at the Kensington Museum, and perhaps more visitors would go to look at them. The Royal Academy might be well advised—perhaps the casual foreigners who came to England and put up at the Charing Cross Hotel, hon. Mem- bers running down to the Committees, the lawyers who moved backwards and forwards between their clubs and the Inns of Court, would be much more likely to drop in at the Royal Academy in the Cromwell Road than at Charing Cross. That was their affair. He did not suppose that the question of Royal Academy or no Royal Academy would in any way affect the decision of the House when they came to consider what was to be done with that large waste of ground, which in a moment of unreasoning enthusiasm was bought for the nation, and on which Captain Fowke's brick and glass domes used to frown. But he wanted to know whether if the negotiations with the Royal Academy with respect to Burlington House were broken off, the Government would give some assurance that the question of saving this building from being pulled down would be put fairly before the House. A short time ago the Institute of Architects passed a resolution deprecating that demolition; and he was sure that any attempt to pull down Burlington House would be as unpopular as it would be unwise. With that view, and wishing to know where they stood at a period of the Session when the House might still do something, he begged to move for any further correspondence which might have taken place between the Board of Works and the Royal Academy.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "there be laid before this House, Copy of any further Correspondence relative to the refusal by the Royal Academy of a site at Burlington House,"—(Mr. Beresford Hope,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he regretted that the electors of Stoke had not returned the hon. Gentleman to the late Parliament, because about a year and a half ago he would have found an opportunity of making a great impression on the Benches opposite, and of diminishing the following of the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire from that part of the House by the speech which he had just delivered. If the proposition then made had been adopted, and the National Gallery had been commenced on the Gardens of Burlington House, we should at this moment have had a building very near completion, for the reception of those pictures which at present could scarcely be seen in the Gallery in Trafalgar Square, for want of space, and we should have attained that object at a moderate cost, and without interfering with Burlington House, which his hon. Friend had praised so highly. But as the House on that occasion seemed to set an exaggerated importance upon retaining the site in Trafalgar Square, it became necessary for the Government to consider what other arrangements should be made, and accordingly they offered the Royal Academy some portion of the site of Burlington House to build upon. The Government made that proposition on public grounds. The Royal Academy having always been lodged in Royal palaces or public buildings from the beginning of their existence, the Government thought it was not right to ask them to withdraw from Trafalgar Square without giving them another building or a site for one. It was suggested to the Academy on that occasion that it would perhaps be well that they should have a little Reform Bill of their own, so that the distribution of their honours might be less open to the reproach of narrowness and exclusion. The Council of the Royal Academy took the subject into consideration, and came to the same conclusion as the Government had done, that it was desirable that the Associates of that body should have the same elective franchise as the Academicians. And then upon looking into their constitution, the advantages of bit-by-bit reform became evident; and the Council were fired by the noble ambition of enlarging the sphere of their action. They had recently found that the space which could be afforded them at Burlington House was not sufficient for their purposes. Their ideas of expanding were of so extensive a character that they could not be content with less than three acres of ground at present. The Royal Academy had made no official communication to him since they had notified their intention of accepting the site at Burlington House, but the rumour to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded had reached him, and he believed it was well founded. He understood it was probable that the Council of the Academy would not accept the site at Burlington House, and if that were so the House of Commons would have no reason for entering into the affairs of the Academy. The Royal Academy received no public money whatever, they were not bound to the State, and they had the same right of managing their affairs as any other body, scientific or learned, in the country had. But he could state the grounds upon which the Academy questioned the sufficiency of the site of Burlington House. They were obliged at present to reject so many pictures of merit that they wished to double the amount of space they had for ordinary exhibition. They wished to have a more extensive sculpture-room, and to have space for the pictures of foreign artists who might have obtained the honorary title of Associates, and who might be expected in some years to send as many as fifty or sixty pictures from abroad. Then they were desirous of being no longer crippled in their teaching for want of space. At present the schools were closed during the time of the annual exhibition. At present the diploma pictures could not be exhibited for want of space, and these pictures in the course of time would probably form a most interesting collection of works of art. They had also a number of marbles locked up in their rooms, which they were desirous of showing to the public. Then they were bound by the terms of the bequest of Mr. Gibson to erect a gallery for his works; and another gallery would have to be erected by the bequest of the sculptor Chantrey. They also wished to have a library of art, and space for the exhibition of engravings and riginal drawings. Attracted by this career of extended usefulness, he had been informed that the Royal Academy, instead of accepting the space at Burlington House, were tempted to accept three acres of ground at South Kensington, which had been offered to them by the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851. That was a body who might be supposed to understand their own affairs, and whose first object was to attract as many visitors as possible to their exhibition. The Academy had probably good reason for believing that their galleries would be as crowded at South Kensington as where they now were. But that was a question for themselves, and one with which the House had no concern. He would, therefore, say in reply to the hon. Member that there was no correspondence on the subject other than had been already presented to the House, nor had he received any further notification of the intention of the Academy. The Government had offered a piece of ground at Burlington House, and the Academy had the right to accept or refuse as they pleased; but whatever decision they might come to would be arrived at without any influence or action whatever on the part of Her Majesty's Government. One result of the refusal of the Academy to accept the portion of the Burlington House site which had been offered to them would be, that it would no longer be required for any present service, and therefore that court-yard, of which his hon. Friend had spoken in such high, but he could not help thinking exaggerated terms, would be still spared. It would be desirable to retain Burlington House for its historical interest, and as a good specimen of an Italian dwelling-house, but it could not rank as a public building, and a sacrifice must be made to retain it. He should be glad that that graceful colonnade and building should be retained as long as possible.


said, he regretted that this discussion must come to an end without such a clear statement of the relations between the Government and the Royal Academy as could be desired. He hoped at a later period of the Session the negotiations between the Government and the Academy might come to a conclusion, and that the House might have the result laid before it. He rejoiced greatly that the Royal Academy should have risen to a higher conception of their position as a British school of painting. He did not agree with the hon. Member for Stoke in the eulogy which he had pronounced upon Burlington House. For his own part, he had much more reliance upon our indigenous school of Gothic than upon any school of pseudo-Italian art. He did not feel surprised at finding that the Royal Academy had been elevated by a grander view of their mission to desire the more ample space which they could obtain at South Kensington. He believed he might add that a great mistake had been made in the refusal to sanction the removal of the National Gallery to Burlington House, and the country would, he felt assured, learn at some future day to regard the cry which had been raised in favour of "the noblest site in Europe" as simply a trading on a mere phrase. The past could not, however, be recalled; but if the Royal Academy were to take up a position at South Kensington, he believed it would rise in a few years to be—he did not mean technically—a great university of painting and art. Without laying himself open to the charge of being, to use an American phrase, influenced by South Kensington "proclivities," he must say that he regarded the abuse which had been heaped on that part of London as altogether undeserved. The crowds which flocked to the Museum at South Kensington proved that it could not fairly be looked upon as being situated in that isolated and remote spot which some persons supposed. If any Member of the House were to visit it that evening he would find his fellow-citizens deriving from the works of art there exhibited at once instruction and amusement, and gathered in numbers which compare very favourably with those frequenting the British Museum and the National Gallery. He could not, therefore, help regarding with some satisfaction the proposal that the Royal Academy would make South Kensington the scene of their future operations, and he had no doubt that as the number of railways increased it would be found to be year by year more accessible and better fitted to become a centre for the study of art.


said, he had never been one of those who had taken a part in condemning the conduct or management of the Royal Academy. So far as he had been able to form an opinion of their motives and course of action, he had always thought that, as a body, they had discharged their duties with fidelity, and with an honest desire and intention of promoting the improvement of art—for which object the Academy was originally established. He was glad to learn from the First Commissioner of Works that the Government were satisfied with the course which was proposed to be taken by that institution with reference to the reform of its constitution, as indicated in the correspondence to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded. If the proposals which had been made were carried into effect, either by means of the scheme in which the co-operation of the Academy was invited a year or two ago, or by means of the plan which had been shadowed out that evening, his confident belief was that, animated by the spirit which had hitherto dictated their conduct, and with a new and improved field of operations, they would be found to conciliate to a greater extent than ever the public sympathy and approbation, and would become the medium of spreading year by year more and more that knowledge of art which the House must regard as one of the most important and influential instruments for educating the minds and cultivating the tastes of the great body of the people of this country. The Royal Academy would thus, he hoped, be enabled to make a great start, the influence of which would be felt, not in England only, but in Scotland and Ireland, inducing similar societies in Dublin and Edinburgh to take steps to render themselves more efficient agents in promoting a love of the fine arts. If the House, as he believed it would, acted liberally (not in a pecuniary sense) and fairly, in allowing the Royal Academy to carry out the proposed scheme, without any attempt to fetter its free action, he felt assured it would before long occupy a higher and a more popular position with respect to art than it had hitherto done. He considered that his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke had done great service in bringing this important question before the House.


expressed his cordial concurrence in all that had fallen from the First Commissioner of Works and his noble Friend who had just spoken in reference to the position which had of late been taken up by the Royal Academy. Under the rule of Sir Charles Eastlake great improvements had been introduced into that institution, and from all he could learn he was happy to find that its new President, Sir Francis Grant, was not only disposed to tread the same path as his predecessor, but to tread it with a longer stride and greater vigour, with a view to place the Royal Academy in that position which it ought to occupy, and to render it at once a thoroughly popular and useful institution. The late Parliament had, he thought, made a mistake in rejecting the proposal which had been made by the First Commissioner of Works for removing the National Gallery to Burlington House, and leaving the Royal Academy in possession of the whole of the building in Trafalgar Square. He was of that opinion, because he had served as a Member of the Royal Commission which had been appointed to inquire into the whole constitution of the Royal Academy, and which had been led by the evidence given before it to the unanimous conclusion that the best way out of all the difficulties by which the question was beset was the transference of the pictures embraced in the national collection to a new gallery to be built in the rear of Burlington House, and the handing over of the space now occupied by the National Gal- lery to the Royal Academy. Such a plan offered, in his opinion, many advantages. A building might be erected at the back of Burlington House on the most approved plan; a wall space might have been secured more extensive than was to be found in any foreign gallery, while the place would be comparatively quiet, with the advantage of a double access from Piccadilly and from Cork Street. There would, besides, have been no necessity for incurring anything beyond a comparatively trifling expense in the formation of architectural elevations. All that would be required would be to erect a new front on the side of Cork Street. Whether they looked to convenience of access, to convenience in exhibiting the pictures, to the time which was necessary for re-lodging the pictures—everything, in fact, was in favour of Burlington House; and none of these reasons were in favour of the present site. What, then, was the alternative plan? The estimate for adapting the new buildings at Burlington House for the purposes of a picture gallery was £140,000; and they were about to give for the increased site in the rear of the present National Gallery a sum nearly equivalent to that amount. The feeling of the House of Commons would no doubt be, that if they intended to keep the pictures in Trafalgar Square, it would be unworthy of the nation to go on botching the present building, which was not fire-proof. He imagined that the plan of his right hon. Friend, which had been submitted to these architects, contemplated the sweeping away of the whole of that building and the erection of a new one. What, therefore, with the purchase of land, the expense of erecting the new building, the cost of removing the pictures, and other items of expense, he might say that while in one case their expenditure would be £140,000, and the work could be completed in two years, in the other case, taking the land, the buildings, and other items, there would probably be an expenditure of half a million, and a period of some five or six years would be required for the purpose of re-lodging their pictures, instead of two years as would have been the case if Burlington House had been adopted. There was this further advantage attending the plan proposed in the late Parliament, that the Royal Academy were anxious to obtain the remainder of the building where they had heretofore been; and there was no doubt that if the choice was between going to Brompton, and taking the whole of the building, they would prefer the latter alternative. If the building of the present National Gallery were handed over by the nation to the Royal Academy, they would have to expend a large sum of money in improving it and giving it a new façade and in otherwise embellishing and beautifying the building. Therefore the nation would be in this position, that it would not only save a large outlay in what it did for itself, but it would also benefit by the improvements effected at the expense of other people. The hon. Member for Cambridge had referred to the saying of somebody that Trafalgar Square was the finest site in Europe. That saying had been attributed, by mistake, to the late Sir Robert Peel; its real author, he believed, being the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton). That hon. Gentleman was much in favour of that site, and perhaps he would give them his reasons for thinking it the finest in Europe. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Beresford Hope) had dilated upon the merits of Burlington House, and was very anxious that it might not be destroyed. He rather shared his hon. Friend's view on that point, and thought it would be a pity that Burlington House should be swept away. About two years since, Mr. Norton, the architect, drew a finished plan of Burlington House, which was placed in the library, which proposed the piercing of the front in Piccadilly, throwing down the wall at the back of the colonnade, so as to give a clear view into the yard and gardens. That alteration was estimated might be effected at a cost of only from £2,000 to £2,500. It might, perhaps, be too much to expect the House suddenly to adopt such an idea, but he knew that a great number of hon. Members shared in that view, and he hoped they would endeavour to enforce it.


said, he wished to enter his protest against the character of the debate altogether. This question was discussed a year or two ago, when the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) said the same things that he had said that night. The House upon that occasion heard everything that could be alleged in favour of giving up a portion of Burlington House for the use of the Royal Academy. They heard elaborate accounts of the cost and convenience of the scheme from the Chief Commissioner of Works, but these irrepressible Members who were on that occasion completely beaten by a large majority, now took advantage of the empty state of the House to reproduce their opinions and endeavour to persuade the House and the country to adopt a scheme which had already been condemned. He agreed with the truism uttered some years ago by a distinguished statesman, that Trafalgar Square was an admirable site, and he believed that instead of having deteriorated, it was of greater value than ever, now that the centre of railway communication in London had been established at Charing Cross. He trusted that the House would not reopen a question which had been so completely settled and determined in accordance with the general opinion of the House and the country. Some gentlemen thought that the court-yard in front of Burlington House was equal to the area in front of St. Peter's at Rome, but for himself he never could understand why it was so much admired. It seemed that the external architecture was of a style that was thought peculiarly suited to Piccadilly. He would admit they owed to the same family two of the finest brick walls in London. First, there was Burlington House, and then Devonshire House; and then a little further on there was Cambridge House with another fine brick wall. He, for one, regretted that the Members of the Royal Academy had not accepted the site offered to them by the Government. Something had been said about the Royal Academy going to South Kensington. If they liked to go there it would be a question of finance with them, and they would soon find out by their receipts whether they had acted wisely or not. He had always condemned that site, because a site there had been offered to all the learned and scientific societies, and they all rejected it on the ground that they would lose their subscriptions, and be ruined if they were located there. It was surrounded by public parks, and it was the most inconvenient site that could be found in London. He trusted that the ground at Kensington would not be given too lavishly to the Royal Academy by the Commissioners in whom it was vested, and who held it for the benefit of the country. Although it would be a fair appropriation of the ground to devote a reasonable space for the use of the Royal Academy; it would, in his opinion, be most unwise to give the Council more ground than was necessary. He concluded by again protesting against the proceedings of a very small minority, who had in the course of the evening taken advantage of the state of the House to reproduce arguments in support of a suppositious opinion which had no real existence either in the House or the country.


said, that he had often heard it urged that the Royal Academy sought to suppress young talent. In his opinion that was not the case. He had had the pleasure of the late Sir Charles Eastlake's society and he could name no one of his acquaintance who was more liberal in his views, more desirous of aiding students, or more anxious to make the Royal Academy an efficient exposition of the art of the country. He believed that the feelings and desires of the present President of the Academy might be described in precisely the same terms. He had recently had several conversations with Sir Francis Grant, and he had found him just as anxious as his predecessor to popularize the Royal Academy. It was want of space, and that alone, which obstructed the Royal Academy in its progress and endeavours to do good. The chief charges made against the institution by the press and general society were that it was jealous of rising talent, and that it caused the pictures of young artists to be hung badly if it did not reject them altogether; that it never admitted the works of foreign artists, and that it did not give as much attention to teaching as was desirable. The whole of these charges would be met by the reply that the Academy had not sufficient space. The number of pictures rejected simply from want of space to hang them was 180 per annum. Foreign pictures would be gladly admitted if the Council had space to hang them; and teaching would be proceeded with to a much greater extent if the difficulty of want of space were removed. At present, however, teaching had to be suspended entirely during the time the exhibition remained open. Notwithstanding the protest of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets, he must say that he cordially agreed with the suggestion that it was desirable to submit a substantive Motion—that the House preferred the site of Burlington House to the present one—and was very much inclined to think that if the question were again put, the decision of 1864 would be reversed.


believed he expressed the opinion of those who voted with him in 1864 when he said that he should be glad to see another vote of the House taken upon the subject. But if the subject were revived at all, it ought to be revived in a proper manner, and if the previous decision were reversed, substantial grounds for reversing it ought to be given before that step was adopted. He endorsed the opinion expressed by the last speaker with regard to the zeal displayed by the late Sir Charles Eastlake in the interests of art; and from what he knew of Sir Francis Grant, he believed he was equally desirous to assist young artists and increase the usefulness of the Royal Academy. Burlington House was considered by architectural authorities as a building of the highest class, and such structures, he contended, ought to be preserved. He had never had great confidence in the architectural taste and qualifications of the First Commissioner of Works; and he thought it would be a very advantageous course to pursue if the right hon. Gentleman were associated with a number of gentlemen experts in architecture, and thoroughly competent to form an opinion on the various works undertaken by the Government. That course would have a very beneficial effect upon such questions as the building of the new Law Courts and the new National Gallery. The Chief Commissioner of Works had not at present done much credit to the Government in the erection of new buildings, his principal achievements hitherto having consisted of the erection of a few drinking fountains here and there, and the removal of the Duke of Wellington's funeral car from Marlborough House to St. Paul's, where hon. Members might see it for the small charge of 6d. per head.


said, he did not wish to continue this debate, but, as a trustee of the National Gallery, he begged to make one or two observations on the subject under the consideration of the House. He might say for himself, and the majority, at least, of his colleagues, that they were all desirous that the Government should reconsider the decision arrived at about two years ago. They were firmly impressed with the conviction that the difficulties of erecting a suitable building at Charing Cross were so great that it was of the utmost importance for the country that they should recur to the scheme of the First Commissioner of the Board of Works, and build a National Gallery at Burlington House, leaving the present National Gallery for the purposes of the Royal Academy. After the very conclusive speech of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, there was no need for going over the various reasons for having the National Gallery at Burlington House, instead of Charing Cross. He would, however, advert to one consideration which had not been mentioned that evening, though it was of great importance. The National Gallery comprised a collection of works of art of the greatest value, which when once destroyed could never be replaced. It was, therefore, of the greatest importance that it should be placed in a building removed from all chances of injury or attack. The present National Gallery at Charing Cross was in a building which formed a screen to the barracks in the most central part of London, and access to those barracks was partly through the building itself. Many persons believed that it was essential to the peace and security of the metropolis that these barracks should remain where they now are. He did not say whether the opinion was or was not well founded, but it was said to have been expressed by the Duke of Wellington. If the barracks at Charing Cross were essential to the peace of the metropolis; in case of an outbreak—which, he trusted, would never happen—the National Gallery might be the first building attacked. In 1848 these barracks were the first place that was placed in a state of defence from an apprehension of the peace of the metropolis being disturbed at that time. If a new National Gallery were built upon the present site there must necessarily be access through it to the barracks. Under such circumstances he thought such a site would be most insecure and inconvenient for such a building. The difficulties also to be encountered in erecting another edifice upon the site of the present building were very great, and additional ground would have to be taken in order to construct an edifice sufficiently large for a national collection. It was, however, only possible to build on the east side as the barrack-yard and building could not be obtained, and the result would be anything but satisfactory. All these considerations had weighed with the Trustees of the National Gallery, and they were most desirous, as he had before stated, that the former decision of the House should be reconsidered. Had the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works been accepted, the country would by this time have had one of the finest National Galleries in Europe. The building at the present time would have been in an advanced state, and the question of the Royal Academy would have been settled. He could not sit down without adverting to some of the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House; for he had spoken of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works in a way entirely undeserved. He believed that there was not a man in this great metropolis, whether rich or poor, who did not owe a debt of gratitude to his right hon. Friend for the wonderful improvements he had made in the metropolis. The great improvements in the parks, making them a place of public resort and an ornament to London, exceeding anything of the kind to be found in any city of the world, were due to his right hon. Friend. When the hon. Gentleman cast the slurs he had upon the First Commissioner of Works, he must have forgotten all that the right hon. Gentleman had done in beautifying the metropolis, and contributing to the comfort and enjoyment of the working classes.


said, he regretted to hear that Her Majesty's Government again contemplated the destruction of Burlington House. When this course was recommended to Lord Palmerston, a strong protest was made against it, and the noble Premier agreed that to pull down Burlington House would be simply an act of vandalism. The Government now seemed to disregard the good sense and wisdom of Lord Palmerston in this as in weightier matters. Burlington House was a building of great architectural merit, and, as few such buildings existed in the metropolis, the country could not afford to lose it. As far as his recollection went, excepting churches and the Banquetting House at Whitehall, there was no really beautiful and perfect building of the character of Burlington House. He should have no confidence as to anything the Government might erect in its place. He might point to the new Foreign Offices, in which any one acquainted with architecture would be able to point out a number of gross anomalies by no means creditable to the taste of the country. There was simply a strip of pavement in the place where the frieze ought to be; he would much prefer to have had a plain stone. Then there were the columns, which were neither Corinthian, Ionic, nor Doric; it was difficult to tell what they were. If anything could be invented better than the productions of the great masters, he would throw no obstacle in the way; but till that was achieved it would be better to stick to the old proportions and to the old rules. Architects of the present time seemed to be too much influenced by vanity, and if they could produce anything singular, although characterized by great deformity, they were pleased. The Government originally wanted to spend an enormous sum at South Kensington, but the House would not allow them to do so. He trusted it would show itself equally resolute with regard to the proposal to pull down Burlington House; for if picture galleries were to be erected in the rear of Burlington House, they must not only be buildings of a hybrid character, but defective also in the essential conditions of space and light. Trafalgar Square was said to be the finest site in the world; but he hoped the Government, if they decided to build there, would pull down the present National Gallery, and not attempt to tinker with it, If the communication with the barracks behind was so essential as was represented, there could be no real difficulty on that point. What was required was first a handsome basement story in which the collection of the Royal Academy, and possibly the overflowing of accumulations at the British Museum and elsewhere, might be accommodated; and above this should be erected a building worthy of the object to which it was to be devoted, and of commanding height, for without this the advantages of the site would be thrown away. The Under Secretary of State told them that the building at Kensington, if the Government had been allowed to carry it out, would have been a beautiful structure. He did not believe it; they had never yet erected a beautiful building. By the manner in which they had dealt with it, they had ruined the new Foreign Office. They compelled a Gothic architect to produce a palace in the Italian style. They might as well send for a blacksmith to mend a chest of drawers. Now that it approached completion, it was found to be sufficiently Italian to displease all lovers of the Gothic style, and not Italian enough to please the admirers of Italian architecture. Externally it was a hideous building, and he had little doubt that the internal arrangements would be found quite in harmony.


said, he was desirous of knowing what measures were really in contemplation to obtain the additional room that was now required for our National pictures. It seemed that many Gentlemen who had taken part in the former division by which it was settled that the site for the new building should not be at Kensington had declared their remorse for the course which they then adopted. Under such circumstances as those stated, he thought it was far better to take again the opinion of the House as to the site and mode on which the National Gallery was to be constructed. To lay out large sums of money on the site of the present National Gallery was certain to end in disappointment. The hon. Baronet the Member for Dundalk argued the question in a very contradictory way. It would be barbarism, he thought, to pull down Burlington House, but he was eager to destroy the National Gallery. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: Because it is ugly.] Well, but tastes differed as to what was beautiful; and Burlington House, whatever its merits, was enclosed by an impervious screen, and whatever beauties it might possess were entirely hidden from the public eye. Its preservation, he did not think, was to be regarded when they were considering the question of the accommodation for our pictures. Laying aside for the moment the question of architecture, he would say with respect to the remarks of the hon. Member for Whitehaven that remembering what Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens were only a few years ago, no Chief Commissioner of Works, he thought, more deserved the gratitude of the country than the right hon. Gentlemen who now filled that office. At that time Hyde Park was a dry, dusty space. Now, its perpetual verdure, graceful slopes, gay parterres, and luxuriant flowering shrubs afforded pleasure to thousands who, perhaps, would not be so well qualified to appreciate the merits of architectural designs. If a statue were to be raised in the present day to any man who had deserved well of the people, in his opinion, the right hon. Gentleman ought to be selected.


said, he thought the time had come when the members of the Royal Academy ought to be ashamed to occupy a space which was so much needed for our great National collection of pictures. If the academicians themselves would not take the initiative in the matter, and if they would not accept the sites that had been offered to them, it appeared to him that the Government ought to employ something like coercion for the purpose of obtaining their removal from the National Gallery. He agreed with hon. Members who had spoken in thinking that the National Gallery as a building was mean and quite unworthy of the position which it occupied; but it was not worse than many other public buildings in London, to inspect which, one after the other, would really be a day of humiliation to any Englishman. He had hoped at one time that the erection of the new Foreign Office might form an exception to that unfortunate display of our artistic taste; but for some reason or another the effect of the work seemed wholly frittered away, and he could not help regarding it as an entire failure in an architectural point of view. If they had adopted the Roman or the Grecian style of architecture, they would have had an opportunity of having a fine façade, but this opportunity had unfortunately been lost probably through the building having been erected upon some Gothic or similar foundation. With regard to the National pictures he would ask, as he had done before, whether there was any chance during the next seven years of the whole of the gallery being devoted to the purposes for which it was constructed? He should be glad to receive an assurance from some Member of the Government that the whole of the matter would receive the consideration to which it was entitled.


said, he thought the discussion of such matters in that House appeared to have a most depressing effect on every one who was not initiated in the mysteries of the subject; and were calculated to produce in the mind a general and a deplorable scepticism. Such discussions, indeed, reminded him of the opinion expressed by the late Sir George Lewis, who stated that it was always possible when a scientific man was brought forward to prove anything to produce another scientific man of equal celebrity to prove under the same conditions the exact reverse. He himself, though a humble learner, and always desirous of sitting at the feet of those who were capable of teaching, had been unable to make up his mind owing to the conflict of opinion as to whether Burlington House was beautiful or not. There was the Member for the Tower Hamlets—a great authority upon such a question—whose imagination seemed peculiarly impressed with that high wall which separated the building from Piccadilly, and which, perhaps, might be regarded emblematical of that dead level of equality to which the leading Members of the great House of Cavendish were at present prepared to reduce the political Constitution of this country. But his hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Dundalk was positively enthusiastic in his admiration of Burlington House, and in language apparently affected by the late debate he entreated the House to stand by the ancient path, and not to abandon what was old and good unless they could devise something better in its place. He trusted that his hon. and learned Friend would, in the future discussion of political questions, entertain views as sound and as just as those he had thus expressed on the subject of architecture. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets censured the discussion of such subjects in the House as being useless, but in such an opinion he could not concur when he remembered the large amount expended by the country in connection with this subject. The subject of art expenditure, too, had been denounced in strong and felicitous terms by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, after employing a series of epithets too copious and numerous to repeat, said that nothing short of a revolutionary reform was needed. Five years certainly constituted a long period in the consistency of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose opinions, like certain electro-plated goods, appeared to be made more for the purpose of shining brightly than of lasting for any length of time. Those opinions, however, were recorded, and the fact remained that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had apparently made no effectual attempt to bring into rule that expenditure which he described as so irregular, or to carry out that revolutionary reform which he had designated as so necessary. He did not intend to enter into a consideration of the site which it was desirable to adopt for our art treasures; but he felt bound to protest against the opinion expressed by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who founded this predilection for Piccadilly on the ground that owing to the presence of the barracks in the rear of the Royal Academy the pictures, if kept in the latter building, might be subject in times of danger to injury from cannon balls. That appeared to be a very remote contingency, but it was, of course, desirable to be prepared for every accident that might arise. It seemed, however, that there would be no great difficulty in taking ample precautions against the danger to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded. He would remind the hon. Gentleman that one of the first collections in Europe—he referred to that at Dresden—was kept in a place which, though undoubtedly dan- gerous, was extremely convenient for purposes of inspection. Visitors to that collection were shown the places where cannon balls had formerly fallen, and on the slightest anticipation of danger the pictures were always removed to places of safety. If, therefore, the Royal Academy was open to no other objection than its exposed situation in cases of riot and insurrection, he thought they might reasonably ignore such considerations, and trust to Providence and the care of the guardians of these treasures, who would, he believed, see that they were in such an emergency removed to a place of safety. He rose, however, to observe that the National Gallery did not constitute the only collection of pictures which they had to take into their consideration. He had heard something from one hon. Gentleman about removing all the National collections to Kensington. As a trustee of the National Historical Portrait Collection, which, though small, was prosperous, and increasing in size and popularity every year, he desired to say that the guardians of that collection were continually in apprehension lest the treasures consigned to their care should be banished to the dreadful wilderness at South Kensington, lest their pictures should be drawn to the so-called centre by the gravitation which appeared to have had so much influence in other directions. He was anxious not to let that opportunity pass of protesting on behalf of the managers of the National Gallery against a removal to that quarter. It was not the collection at South Kensington, but the collectors, to whom they objected; it was not the things which people went to see there, but the self-assertion, the self-aggrandisement, and the spirit of intrigue which appeared to animate the managers at South Kensington, and which filled with terror the guardians of other collections. It was easy to say that that was the best centre for artistic objects; but a centre must have a radius; it must be the middle of something; and it was well known that South Kensington was placed at one extremity of the metropolis, and could not in any just sense be regarded as a central position. It was useless to cite the number of visitors to South Kensington as an argument in its favour, because, before such an argument could be accepted as worth anything, it must be shown that the visitors belonged to that class for whom these collections were intended. If these collections were to be merely the luxurious resort of the rich, of those who from their wealth and position were able, if they pleased, to set up galleries and create collections for themselves, they gave to the people no adequate return for the taxation which was imposed upon them. He knew that such a doctrine was not popular in that House. They had constantly witnessed the most extravagant expenditure on objects of art which could afford pleasure and gratification to none but those who from their circumstances and position might easily obtain such gratification and pleasure at their own expense. The only thing resembling an octroi in our taxation was the coal tax. It was raised from one of the necessaries of life, and yet it had been selected as a source out of which payments were to be made for objects which, practically, were enjoyed by the wealthy classes only. It appeared to him that there was great injustice in such a system; and he thought the House ought to take into consideration the question whether it was right to expend in mere luxuries money much of which was raised from a class which did not participate in the enjoyment of those luxuries. The principle which he was advocating applied very cogently to South Kensington. If these collections were for the people at large, they ought to be placed among the people, where the people could see, enjoy, and study them; because if such collections were to be only for the benefit of the wealthier and more educated classes, and if they were removed with that view, the Government would not be able to defend them long in the face of the public who were taxed for them. He especially protested against the removal under such circumstances of the National Portrait Gallery, and he could not conclude without expressing a hope that the House would hear a satisfactory statement from the Government as to what their policy was likely to be. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had favoured the House with his views, but as that hon. Gentleman had spoken rather as the representative of art, they were no doubt anxious to hear some observation from the leader of the House as to what was intended to be done in the matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.