HC Deb 22 March 1866 vol 182 cc775-97

, in rising to move that in the opinion of this House it is not expedient that the competition for the building of the New Courts of Justice should be limited to six architects only, said, that if he wanted an excuse for taking up this question it might he found in the fact that he was a Member of the Committee which sat upon the Law Courts in 1860. He might also allege in excuse the petition which had been presented by an hon. Friend of his (Mr. Beresford Hope) in the name of that illustrious body the Institution of British Architects against the Government proposal. Now, either from the want of commanding architectural talent or from some other cause which he could not pretend to state, competitions in matters of this kind had become a necessity. For the last few years at least, whenever great works were about to be executed either in England or on the Continent, the competitions invited for designs were generally of an unlimited character. The competition for the Houses of Parliament was unlimited; so were the competitions for the Cartoons, for the Foreign Office, and for the Wellington Monument. Nor had the result of these competitions been otherwise than successful. No man could say, however he might condemn the style of the Palace of Westminster, that Sir Charles Barry was not a man of great ability. The unlimited competition for the Cartoons had brought out the talents of Mr. Herbert, of Mr. Watts, and of many other artists; while in the case of the Foreign Office the result had been equally satisfactory. Unlimited competitions could not therefore, from any of these instances, be said to have operated prejudicially to art. He would not quarrel with limited competition if the three following conditions were attached to it:—First, that the number of architects competing should he sufficient to afford to the tribunal which was to decide on their merits a full latitude of choice; secondly, that that tribunal should he thoroughly protected from any charge of favouritism; and thirdly, that its members should have such a knowledge of the subject that their decision should command the respect, not of artists only, but of the artistic world in general. The arrangement with regard to the proposed competition for the New Courts of Justice failed in every one of those particulars. First of all, there were to be only six competing artists. In the days of Sir Christopher Wren, or of the great architects of the 16th century, it would have been possible to make a choice out of four or five architects; but in the present time, he must say, without wishing to detract from the merits of existing architects, there was no such towering genius as existed in days past, and therefore it was necessary to invite a large number of architects to compete. In answer to a question he asked the other night, the names of six architects were mentioned as those who were to compete, but he had heard that four of them had vanished from the arena, [The ATTORNEY GENERAL: Four more have been added.] Still there were only six, and it was for the Government to show what advantage there was in limiting the number to so few. Among the names of the six first appointed he failed to observe architects who obtained prizes in previous Government competitions. Again, if any hon. Gentleman went to the City and walked down Lombard Street, Cornhill, Broad Street, and other great thoroughfares, he would see buildings designed by architects worthy of following Sir Christopher Wren; indeed, in Carey Street, opposite the site on which the Courts were to be built, was a new bank of considerable artistic merit, and the public had a right to demand that the gentlemen who had produced these works should, if they thought fit, be included in the list of competitors. The condition that the tribunal deciding on the merits of the competing architects should be protected from the charge of favouritism was essential; and he might mention he had heard a report, which, however, he did not credit, that it was the pre-conceived intention of the Commission to select Mr. Waterhouse, the architect of the Assize Courts in Manchester. He did not believe that there was any idea of that kind in the minds of the Commissioners, hut the fact of the competition being so limited had given rise to that very unpleasant report. A properly defined statement of the conditions of the competition would, if the number of competitors was allowed to be sufficiently large, put an end to such scandal. As to the tribunal which was to judge of the merits of the competitors, it was important that it should be a competent one. The Commission was to consist of five persons only. The First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Cowper), the Attorney General, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Lord Chief Justice of England, and the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling). He did not find fault with the nomination of the hon. Member for Perthshire, whose taste in literature and art was so well known, and he had not the slightest objection to officials being on the tribunal, provided they had some knowledge of art. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cowper), he doubted whether he possessed that architectural knowledge which would enable him unassisted to decide upon the designs of the competing architects. The right hon. Gentleman had often addressed the House on subjects of art, and had some times made remarks showing that he had not paid much attention to that matter, and leading to the conclusion that in a competitive architectural examination he would probably be plucked. He (Mr. Bentinck) was inclined to think that the learned Attorney General, under a similar test, would share a like fate. What were the qualifications of the other Members of the Commission he would not say, but he trusted that the Government would think twice before submitting this important question to the decision of a body so constituted. It had been said that the money for the building was raised from a source connected with the law, and that the public had nothing to do with the matter; but he maintained that the money to be raised was quite as much public money as any other. It was calculated that £900,000 would be raised by the sale of Three per Cent Stock at 90; and, as the funds had fallen to 87, perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer would explain how the difference was to be met. What he wished to urge was that the competition ought to be unlimited, or limited to so many as would afford a fair chance of a satisfactory selection, and that there should be constituted a tribunal for selecting the design to be adopted in which the public could have confidence.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in I the opinion of this House, it is not expedient that the competition for the building of the New Courts of Justice should be limited to six architects only,"—(Mr. Bentinck,) —instead thereof.


, in the name of the architects who did him the honour to appoint him the President of their Institute, thanked the hon. Member for bringing forward the Motion, which was one rightly made by a Member who was independent in the sense of having no connection with architecture, and which, therefore, neither he nor the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite) could have made. When the competition for the Law Courts was first announced, it created an intense interest among the architectural profession. These Courts were to form a magnificent building, which would be a glory to the architect and to the metropolis if he succeeded, or a misfortune and disgrace if he failed. When the list of architects first appeared, it included six eminent names. A feeling prevailed that the list ought to have been larger; but still no question was raised, and it seemed as if the number was a foregone conclusion. But then name after name dropped off, and other names were added, until only two of the first six names remained on the list. It was clear that a screw was loose somewhere; and where that screw was it was the object of the present Motion to discover. Report said that certain unusual conditions were imposed after the architects had been invited to join in the competition. Now, whether these conditions were right or wrong, or whether it was wise or unwise to limit artistic freewill, at any rate it was not right to induce men to suppose that they were entering into competition on the usual terms, and when they had, as it were, committed themselves, to call upon them to sign unusual agreements, introduced for the first time into similar competitions, and of which they had received no previous intimation. It was no answer to say that an architect ought not to engage in more work than he could honestly exercise his intellect upon. That was very true in itself, but the Government ought to have let it be known early enough that it intended to alter the general terms of competition, so that architects might not have been placed in a false position by declining so honourable an engagement in reality on account of things which did not concern the artistic side of the matter. The imposition of such conditions would almost necessitate unlimited competition, which would allow of more stringency in the terms imposed than limited competition, A limited one assumed the honour, ability, and industry of those selected, on account of their being known to possess such qualities; while unlimited competition might admit impractical scene-painters and dreamers, and the first prize might fall to a clever scamp, or an artist totally innocent of finance. While in his opinion unlimited competition would be theoretically the best, he was bound to add that in the present condition of art-politics it was impossible, and it was not asked for. The petition of the Institute of Architects which he pre- sented, though applying technically to the competition for the National Gallery, was in spirit meant to cover this case; and as rumour said it had been effectual in the manner of the National Gallery, he hoped it would be the same in this one. The Motion of his hon. Friend afforded an opportunity for saving repentance on the Treasury Bench, and he only hoped there would be no faltering between two opinions. He did not believe that those on the Treasury Bench were altogether guilty. There was a grander and more august commission behind them, a commission whose behests they were, perhaps, only serving. He had approached a very dignified and influential quarter in the name of the Institute of Architects, and the reply was that six architects were too many. He trusted that the First Commissioner of Works thought differently, and would extricate his friends from their dilemma. The reason why unlimited competitions were not asked for was that they had been made ridiculous, and almost dragged through the dirt by the absurd mismanagement of the Foreign Office competition nine years ago. The Story was an old one, but it was worth recalling. The Government wished to build two public departments, a Foreign Office and a War Office, which might and ought to have been two wings of the same structure, and ought to have been jointly competed for with designs including both. Instead of one there were three graduated schedules of prizes. One was for a block scheme for laying out the whole space at Westminster about the public offices, which, by the consent of every one, turned out a perfect failure. The first prize in that was won by a speculative Frenchman, who came full of a scheme for improving the smoky capital of perfidious Albion off the face of the earth. He need say no more of that branch of the matter. With respect to the other two schedules, it was forgotten to be settled whether competitors were to take prizes in one only or in both. Some went in for a War Office only, others for a Foreign Office, and some for a compound building, lodging both offices under the same roof, while others stuck two distinct houses side by side. But when the judges came to consider, they were in the same difficulty as the public to understand the meaning of the terms of competition, although men of avowed accomplishments. Amongst them was that accomplished Gentleman the hon. Member for Perthshire, who, he was happy to say, was also in the present list of judges. Lord Eversley and the Duke of Buccleuch, though named, were prevented from taking part in the practical work; but the rest who acted were, Mr. Brunel, to represent the engineers; Mr. Roberts, the great pictorial dreamer of architecture; Mr. Burn, the able and common-sense architect; and Earl Stanhope, the representative of high literary refinement. Mr. Burn thought that the same man might get the prize for both designs, but the majority said otherwise, and the result was a compromise schedule of prizes, which meant nothing, and such confusion and complication that no one knew what was to be done. Mr. Coe got the first prize for a Foreign Office, which could not grow into a War Office; and Mr. Garling for a War Office, which could not grow into a Foreign Office. So the matter, as it were, lay on the floor of the House. Nobody would touch it there with a pair of tongs. Nobody knew what was to be done. At last, in 1858, he (Mr. Beresford Hope) took it up, and obtained a Select Committee. In looking into the matter, that Committee found it could make nothing of the formal award of the judges, and it fell back upon Mr. Burn's individual list, based as that was upon the non-exclusive principle. By that list it turned out that Mr. Scott, though first for neither office, was first in the general sum total of merit, being placed second for both buildings, and so he got the commission for a Gothic design. But how Mr. Scott, who thus got a prize for a Gothic building, was now engaged with Mr. Digby Wyatt in erecting an Italian design, it was not necessary to state. He had gone through this narrative to show why unlimited competition now stinks in the nostrils of the House. He was sorry it should be so. It was against the spirit of the age—it was against the idea of free trade in art; but so it was. It would simply be a waste of time to move that there should be unlimited competition. What they demanded was a larger limited competition, and a little more variety in the composition of the judges. He did not wish to strike out the name of one legal or financial member of that body. They were all very useful elements, but he did plead for a larger infusion of the artistic element in the shape of architects, as well as for the educated amateur element; because, after all, the painter and the engineer were amateurs, as much as the well-educated country gentleman might be, and ought to be represented on the list of judges. Above all, he asked that the competition should really be competition—not to lead afterwards to a pretty show, or exhibition in Westminster Hall, but to have just so many designs and no more, and just so roughly done as would enable competent judges to decide who was the best man; for the competition was not meant to enable them to decide on the building in all its details, but to discover the man best competent to create the final structure. It was absurd to ask for finished drawings of every particular, such the head of Edward I. peeping round the corners, or cornucopias standing out, or hall-door chairs in the style of the 14th century or the Augustan era. What was wanted was the master-mind to design the general idea, and the details might be worked out year by year, in concert between employer and architect. The abominable thing was the grand exhibition up to which everybody worked, with the art critics of the press and of the House, and the fine ladies and the fine ladies' daughters, and the constituents from the country, who came up to town ravening, like monsters of the deep, for something to see, whom hon. Members took by the hand and led to Westminster Hall. He would let them into a secret of the trade. There was an exhibition of designs; at length one was pitched upon; it seemed uncommonly fine. It was a magnificent building. There was a beautiful sky-line, plenty of trees, and an officer of the Horse Guards was prancing by—everything, in short, that made it very effective to the innocent mind of an uneducated amateur judge. Who produced it? The talented architect to whom they meant to give the prize? No; but some member of a very respectable but hybrid profession—an architect's artist; in fact, a water-colour painter, who has acquired just such an amount of architectural proficiency as may enable him to take the drawing of the architect, and out of that to concoct the pretty seductive pictures they saw at exhibitions, and to which the prizes were awarded by judges who very likely had no idea whether it indicated an elevation of 200 feet or 500 feet in length. This is what made those competitions distasteful; it showed also the incompetency of the judges, and could only lead to work which was untrue and meretricious. To prove that this was not his opinion only, he would read extracts from two letters ho had received from eminent architects— As regards the necessary drawings for a competition, it is certainly a great drawback to all architects who compete that they should be compelled to send in so many drawings, which really are unnecessary for the purpose of selecting the architect. The great point, of course, is for him to give the general scheme and style of his design. This can be very effectually done by sending the principal plans and elevations, and one main section with perspective views. These would be quite sufficient to form a correct estimate of capability of the architect to carry out the design well without putting him to the trouble and expense of needless sections and constructional detail. We know, from architects' experience, that in nine cases out of ten the latter are never even glanced at. You would be doing architects great service it you could prevail upon those who have to draw up particulars to practically consider this important question. The second communication was from a gentleman whom he had asked whether he would compete— I may say that I should certainly have accepted but for two reasons—first, the shortness of time. There will be, I understand, from sixty to seventy drawings required. These sixty or seventy drawings will have to be got up within some eight months from the present time—that is, an average of about four days to each drawing. In addition, the whole subject has to be got up, which always takes more time than the mere drawing. I therefore think that the time is far too short, and near a year, at least, should have been allowed to the other competitors. The second objection is the absence from among the judges of professional men. Rumour, with its many tongues, has given as a reason for the limited competition that the lawyers were afraid lest their courts should be beset with architects studying the judicial procedure. But surely architects had some idea of business, and had some à priori ideas to work upon, and knew what a bar meant—and that a room constructed to suit a Tower Hamlets' Vestry would not be unfitted for even the High Court of Chancery. He hoped that so groundless a panic would not palpitate under the horsehair of their wigs. Here, then, was their grievance. It was a grievance to the judges as well as to the architects. It was a grievance made up of the fewness of competitors, the shortness of time, and the unnecessary number of drawings asked for from each man. Even if the judges looked conscientiously at the sixty or seventy designs they would not derive much benefit from them, but rather confuse their own judgment. If the number of drawings asked for from each candidate were reduced, it would be as easy for the judges to look at those of twenty, as at the half-dozen more ponderous sets they now required. What they wanted was, not the tricked-out, burnished pictures of architects' artists, but clever pen-and-ink sketches, the virgin ideas of the architects themselves, the work of their own hands. The honour and credit of the country demanded that the artistic, as well as every other element should be kept up at its due level in the body politic. There was a point of honour, a high and ennobling ambition, with architects as with all other professions, and this it was right and needful that those in authority should respect and encourage. No such means for encouraging it existed as liberal competitions. The architectural character of London should be a glory, and not a disgrace, to the age; and it was stingy and selfish to grudge a little trouble to help that by opening public competition somewhat more. All had an interest in this question, in order that our metropolis, with its wealth and pomp, bustle and business, should not fall behind the pretty capitals of foreign despots. Under all the circumstances, he hoped that success would follow the Motion of his hon. Friend, and that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cowper) or the Attorney General would gracefully yield a bloodless victory, and assure the House that the matter would be considered, and justice done in this case, and that their moderate and respectful petition would meet with that favourable reception to which it was entitled.


said, he was not surprised to find that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had made himself the champion in that House of architecture, and was particularly zealous for one particular style of architecture, should affect to despise those who appreciated any other than the Gothic style. [Mr. BENTINCK said he did not.] At all events, he was not surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman should be anxious to express an opinion upon a matter so interesting to architects; but he certainly was surprised at the form of the present Motion, because it so happened that although it might be interesting to know the opinion of the House on the subject, yet that opinion was not called for on the question now under discussion. The House had agreed to the "Courts of Justice Building Act," by which the decision as to the plans and the modes of apportioning the building was left to the Treasury, with the advice and concurrence of such persons as Her Majesty might name for the purpose. Therefore, the House having by adopting that Act placed the responsibility on the Treasury and the Commissioners, it was hardly proper that it should now resume the power thus transferred. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. and learned Member would not think of pressing the Motion. [Mr. BENTINCK said, he certainly should.] The Courts of Justice Commission consisted of persons representing every branch of the law, as well as Members of Her Majesty's Government, and they had seriously to consider what advice they could give to the Treasury on the subject. It was very foreign to their instructions that they should endeavour to develop rising talent among architects, and to secure such an exhibition of architectural drawings as might be interesting to the public, and beneficial, possibly, to architecture, but which could have no perceptible results in regard to the building which it was the duty of the Commission to watch over. The object of the Commission was to secure the means of getting the best Palace of Justice they possibly could; and the House had authorized the expenditure of a million and a half of money for the concentration in close contiguity of all the Courts of Law and Equity, of the Probate and Divorce Courts, and of all the offices, because it believed that such an arrangement would be attended with most material and beneficial results on the administration of the law; and would prevent many of the delays which were the opprobrium of our legal procedure. Indeed, it was generally allowed that the dispersion and distribution of the Courts and offices were the means of impeding very many of those reforms which would tend to promote the fusion of law and equity, which some very learned gentlemen advocated and desired. But, whatever might be the benefits that would result, it was quite clear that the internal construction and apportionment of this building was a very important affair, and it was one to which the Courts of Justice Commission had specially directed their attention. They had to consider how they could find a man of the greatest eminence in his profession and of the greatest practical experience, and who had also minutely and carefully studied the whole subject, which was one that did not come under the ordinary cognizance of an architect. Now, if there were any architect of sufficient eminence to make it certain that he would adequately and satisfactorily discharge the task of erecting such a Palace of Justice as was required, it would have been better to select an architect than to invite competition. The most eminent architects, however, were not men who had paid special attention to this subject; there were men who had built courts of justice, but these had not that wide reputation that would justify their appointment, and therefore it was not possible to make a satisfactory choice. Under the circumstances, it was considered the wisest course to select a small number of men who might safely be intrusted with the building, and invite them to compete with one another. But then it was necessary that these architects should study for at least seven months the minute details of the required building. Arrangements had accordingly been made that the selected architects should have access to the present courts and offices when they pleased in order that they might be enabled to see how the business was trans acted, and thus by their own eyes and their own judgment ascertain what kind of building would be best adapted for the business carried on. The Courts of Justice Commission had prepared a very elaborate schedule, showing in great detail all that the Committees appointed by the Commission thought necessary to be provided. The hon. Member who last spoke, and who so worthily represented the Institute of Architects (Mr. Beresford Hope), had given good reasons against unlimited competition. It might succeed in some ordinary cases, but it would have been the worst method that could have been adopted in this case, for such a careful study of the subject was required during the busiest time of the year that scarcely any of the most eminent men would have given their time to an unlimited com-petition. The Commission had, therefore, decided that not more than six architects should be invited to compete, and those architects were to be properly remunerated for all the labour and expense incurred by them in getting up the drawings and studying the question. Now it was quite true, as his hon. and learned Friend had said, that out of the six architects originally appointed four had retired. He thought, however, that the very fact of their retirement justified the view he had taken of the great difficulty of getting architects of the highest standing to give their attention to a question of this sort. One of those who had retired stated that he had enough business on hand, and that, consequently, he could not undertake so laborious a task. Another had stated that, if more time had been allowed, he might have been enabled to compete, but in this busy time of the year he was already fully occupied, and could not undertake to give the time and attention necessary for the study of the subject. The other two objected to one of the clauses in the agreement proposed by the Treasury, to the effect that the architect finally selected should not be allowed to undertake any new work except with the consent of the Treasury. Of course, the Treasury would not have pressed that condition in any undue way; but the clause was intended to secure that an actual and personal superintendence should be given to the building by the architect employed. [Mr. Powell asked, whether any time were mentioned.] Three years was the time specified. The vacancies which had occurred had been filled up, the resolution of the Commission being that six architects should be asked to compete. He was not one of those who felt so strongly against unlimited competition as the hon. Member who had just sat down. It was true that in the present state of public opinion unlimited competition was not acceptable; but in cases it ought to be adopted. His opinion was, that if a building were required which the education and ordinary practice of an architect would enable him to design, it was advantageous to have the competition open to all the world. That was the plan adopted last year, when a new building was wanted at Kensington Gore. The result was, that an admirable design by Captain Fowke was selected—a design which probably would not have been attained if the competition had been limited. The present ease, however, differed entirely from that. The object was to get the very best Palace of Justice in the world. There must be arrangements under which witnesses might be separated from the public and the legal profession; while the public might have the opportunity of hearing, and yet not be able to attract the attention of the Judge, the jury, and the witnesses. They believed that a great number of improvements might be made in the outer halls and in the disposition of the courts. They would not be content with a design which would merely give a handsome façade: they wished that the entire building should be admirably adapted to the uses intended. Altogether, he believed that the method of competition which had been recommended was the one most calculated to attain the desired object. He could not admit that because a man gained a prize nine years ago in a particular competition he therefore had a right to have a share in the present competition. What was desirable in such a competition was not merely to get men who had succeeded in making a pretty drawing or sketch and obtaining a prize from judges who might or might not have been competent to award it, but men who had achieved celebrity by actual work, and could show their talent in stone, brick, or mortar. The hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Bentinck)had spoken of a rumour that there was a desire to show special favour to Mr. Waterhouse; but this was a groundless and unjust rumour. The Commission had abandoned the idea of appointing him architectural clerk, lest any suspicion of advantage should arise, and the schedule of dimensions would be as open to the other competitors as to that gentleman. As to the selection of the judges, they represented the different classes interested in the building, two of them being eminent Members of the legal profession, two being Members of the Government, and the fifth being the hon. Member for Perthshire, who represented the general public. This was analogous to the ordinary practice, that those who were to be the occupiers should determine the kind of building they wanted; and it was quite open to the judges to call in professional assessors in examining the drawings, as was done in the case of the Foreign Office and the War Office.


quite agreed that the first object of the Commission should be to select the best man, and when this had been done they should insist on his devoting to the work his best faculties and energy, at the same time supporting him with their countenance and kindly courtesy. There was great difficulty attending a work of such magnitude, on account of the details. In the case of the Houses of Parliament, the designs were under consideration for a long time, and then four architects were appointed, from which a selection was to be made. But the work now contemplated was of a much more complex character. In the case of the Houses of Parliament no estimates were required, and no one could tell their ultimate cost; and, consequently, there arose a controversy between Sir Charles Barry and the Government on the subject of commission, which must have been very painful to both parties. He thought there could not be a doubt that 5 per cent was a high commission for such a sum as £750,000; but there was a good deal to be done by the architect during the progress of a building, and much must be left to the architect's honour. It had been suggested to him that the better plan was to pay the archi- tect a salary while the work was going on. He hoped that, though the Government might not feel bound to obey a Vote of the House in this matter with the same strictness as they would obey a Vote in Committee of Supply, they would feel desirous of working with the House, and of keeping on the side of public opinion. He also trusted that before the close of the discussion the House would receive a distinct statement as to the names of the six architects admitted as competitors. Rumours were going about to the effect that a preference had been given to Mr. Waterhouse. These were to be regretted, inasmuch as he believed there was no ground for them. It would have been an injury to Mr. Waterhouse himself, as well as to the profession, if any preference had been shown him; and therefore it was desirable that there should be a distinct contradiction of the statement to that effect.


apprehended, that although Parliament might delegate to certain parties to perform certain duties, it was always open to the House to interpose, and express its opinion if those duties were not performed in a manner consistent with the public interests, and that was especially the case with regard to the expenditure of public money. With respect to the question of competition, his own opinion was favourable to unlimited competition, for which so many precedents could be found in this country, for it gave an opportunity to unknown men of showing their capabilities, gave a general stimulus to talent, and was advantageous to the cultivation of taste in the nation. Considering the great number of able architects in the metropolis he thought the number of competitors ought not to be limited to six. He thought the practice of requiring or accepting very elaborate plans of buildings was a bad one. The production of such plans required a great deal of time, and the Government had to compensate unsuccessful candidates for their labour. A ground plan showing the distribution of the different parts of the building, and plans showing the distribution of the different chambers and stories, with sections and elevations, ought to be quite sufficient. If they asked more they did mischief. There were instances of architects who had withdrawn from competition because they had not time to finish drawings of an elaborate character. It was most desirable that some practical man should define the exact nature of the drawings to be sent in; and they ought to be as simple as possible. From them a selection could be made just as well as from the most finished drawings. In one of the drawings for the Houses of Parliament the Queen's state coach with the eight cream-coloured horses were introduced. Such a thing would be scouted at the present time. Everything beyond a simple plan was productive of expense, and did more harm than good. It appeared to him that the public would not and ought not to be satisfied if the choice for the new buildings was to he among six architects, who were invited to compete at the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman the Firs Commissioner of Works. The Government, instead of adopting a plan that would bring upon them a great deal of odium and discredit, ought to open the doors as wide as possible. And first, it would be necessary to decide whether the building was to be of Gothic or Italian architecture. To do fair justice to what Lord Palmerston used to call the great Italian question it would be necessary to employ more than six architects, What magic was there in the number six? Twelve with Englishmen was supposed to be a much more sacred number. The right hon. Gentleman apparently thought that a man who had gained a prize nine years ago would no longer be the same man, and should not be allowed to compete. But it was much more natural to suppose that in the meantime he would have gone on improving. A distinction was sought to be established between a building intended for a court of justice and buildings not of a special character; but in reality there was no such distinction Whatever the building, either there must be open competition with regard to it, or else none at all. Had we a man like Inigo Jones, Sir Christopher Wren, or Palladio in this country, he should not desire competition. But we had not; and competition, being indispensable, ought not to be a mockery, but a fair stand-up fight, open to all the best men.


said, he had been appealed to once or twice in the course of the debate, and more out of the House than in it, in consequence, he supposed, of having once occupied some position in the profession, and of having filled the office of President of the Institute of British Architects, in which his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Beresford Hope) had followed him. He supposed he was the only man in that House who had gone through a public competition of a somewhat similar character to that which they were now discussing, and he felt bound to say that much of his success in life was due to the fact of having been brought forward as a young man by public competition. In the very House in which they were assembled, though he did not agree with its style of architecture and much of its decoration, they had in its wonderful arrangement, and in the fact that so little alteration had since been necessary, another signal instance of the good results of public competition in the person of Sir Charles Barry. It was not through the desire of that eminent artist that the building was covered all over with sprawling dragoons and apocryphal lions; the style was dictated to him, and, ductus utriusque tinguœ, he had shown himself as great a master of one style of architecture as the other. The merits of any design consisted not in a mere decorative drawing, but in the arrangement of plans, rooms, and courts; and he could conceive nothing more difficult than the details which had to he carried out in the distribution of both Houses, the Committee-rooms, and all that belonged to them, preserving at the same time the central features of the great hall and approaches, all of which had been so happily managed. As regarded the present competition, he did not at all wonder that suspicion had been excited by the small number of competitors. Of course, with the six gentlemen who had been selected for the Committee of adjudication all idea of jobbery was out of the question; but the number of six architects was so extremely limited that it certainly created in the minds of the architectural profession an impression that, to a great extent, a foregone conclusion had been arrived at. There was obviously no difficulty in increasing the number, for four of those who were originally named having withdrawn, four others were nominated in their places. Had ten or twelve gentlemen of the highest eminence been nominated in the first instance, he ventured to think that the time of the House would never have been troubled with this discussion at all. The same observations might apply to another competition now under consideration—that relating to the National Gallery—and the observation of two or three practical rules would tend very much to set such questions I at rest. In competitions wisely conducted there should be no ornamental drawing, or, at most, but one, consisting of a single colour, Indian ink, or sepia, or something of that kind, so as to prevent the ornamentation and frippery and misleading details so often brought forward to influence the decision of the judges. As to what had been said with regard to expense, he did not think it worth talking about. £800, he understood, was to be paid to each of these six gentlemen, and if that number were to be increased to ten, there would be a trifling increase of expenditure; but was that amount to be thought of when they were going to spend upon courts of law, a work of the greatest possible importance, a sum exceeding £800,000? It was a question for his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Bentinck) whether he would divide or not, but he ventured to ask him to leave the matter in the hands of the Government; if, however, the matter were pressed to a division he must affirm the principle that the number of competitors ought to be greater than that which had been selected, and to vote with his hon. and learned Friend. He wished the Government had courage sufficient to choose one man, and place the matter in his hands. At St. Thomas' Hospital, across the water, they were perfectly satisfied with their architect, and everything connected with the building would be done without competition, and done, he believed, ably and well. One gentleman had written to him saying, "Ought not I to have a chance?" He would not mention the name of that gentleman, but the list of his attainments was very striking. He had obtained three silver medals of the Royal Academy in 1850, the gold medal and life studentship of the Royal Academy in 1851, he was elected an associate of the Institute in 1852, obtained the medal of merit and an humble prize that he himself (Mr. Tite) gave the same year, passed the first examination in the next year, and obtained the Travelling Fellowship of the Royal Academy, with the Soane medallion of the Royal Institute of British Architects the same year: had since travelled, and was one of the best draughtsmen of the day; and yet, owing to the youthful position of that gentleman, unless he distinguished himself through some such opening as the present competition, he was likely to end his days as a mere surveyor or builder of ordinary dwellings. He felt bound by a sense of duty to the profession to which he once belonged to offer these remarks, and he hoped the Government would not refuse to increase the number of architects who were to compete.


remarked, that the whole discussion showed how necessary it was that some one authority should be left to decide these things. He trusted that hon. Gentlemen who took that view would support him in a Motion he proposed to bring before the House with reference to the subject.


said, the arguments of his hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Tite) led only to the conclusion that the competition should be altogether open. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen said "No, no!" That, however, was his opinion, and he was about giving his reasons for it. His hon. Friend had highly commended the Houses of Parliament; but would Sir Charles Barry have been one of the six or ten chosen out of the host of known and unknown architects if the course adopted then had been the same as the course it was proposed to adopt in the case under consideration? Most certainly not, because he was then unknown. It was reasonable to suppose that some unknown man might send in a design far superior to those of any of the six or ten it was proposed to nominate. The corporation of London had acted wisely in having open competition among would be designers for their dead-meat market. If an open competition were thought necessary in so unimportant a case as that, how much more necessary must it be in a case where Courts of Justice were to be designed; for no court ever yet built had pleased all who had business to transact within it. The competition for the Houses of Parliament was sufficiently open to please all. The whole British nation had an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it, and the choice was unanimous. He recommended that it should be as open in the case under consideration it was reasonable to hope that the result would be equally satisfactory.


said, it would be extremely gratifying if the Commission should be able to meet the wishes of everybody on such a subject as this, and more especially if they could meet the wishes of a profession in which they all took so much interest as the very honourable profession of architects. He could also say for his own part that it would be a matter of deep disappointment to him if the building which would result from the Act of last Session should not be an ornament and an honour to the metropolis. It must not, however, be forgotten that with respect to such a building as this especially, use came before ornament, and that was so considered by this House in discussing the Act last year. They then bore particularly in mind the wants and requirements of the administration of justice, which were the whole cause of the Bill and the whole justification for it. In the matter of expense the Houses of Parliament ought to act as a warning. He felt bound to say that he had not always heard such general commendation bestowed upon them as had been the case that evening. He had often heard as much abuse as praise. Most of them thought the internal arrangements might have been better than they were; but even supposing that they had attained a high degree of perfection, it was only obtained by means of continual alteration, which involved a large expenditure. It was the duty of the Government to avoid repeating that process on the present occasion; and when the Bill was passed through the House last year a pledge was asked for and was given by the Government that it would insert a clause taking the matter in some degree out of the hands of the Government, by means of a Commission in conjunction with which it was to act, that Commission being composed of those persons who might be supposed to be best acquainted with the requirements necessary to be fulfilled in erecting courts of law and the necessary offices. The Commission met frequently, and occupied a considerable amount of time and labour in settling the arrangements, and they had, after much consideration, and with great care, drawn up voluminous instructions for the architects, describing in detail every accommodation which the Commissioners thought the building should contain. No building could be more special in its requirements, and he was glad to hear that all were agreed that design, showing completeness of internal arrangement were more to be desired than pretty drawings which would catch the eye. He did not think that there was any danger of their falling into the error of being taken with a few pretty trees in a drawing, and a carriage passing by, be it the Queen's or that of any one else, but he rather believed that they would look to the adaptation of the building to the purposes for which it was intended. Of course, it was desirable that the building should be characterized by as much beauty as possible; but in any ease the work would be one of difficulty, and those who were intended to compete would find it necessary to visit the various offices where the business of the law was being conducted, in order that they might become practically acquainted with the wants for which they proposed to provide. But if the open competition desired by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) were adopted, what would be the result? At the lowest computation 200 or 300 architects, the number who competed for the building of the Foreign and War Offices, would desire to make themselves acquainted with the courts of law and the various offices connected with them. It would be impossible that so large a number could have access to the various offices without interrupting the business. Disappointment and delay would necessarily have followed; for it would have been impossible to give access to some, without giving it to all; and the only course open to the Commissioners was to restrict the competition within very narrow limits. Accordingly, a numerously attended meeting of the Commissioners resolved, on the 21st of December, that the competitors must be limited. Shortly afterwards the Treasury proposed that the question as to whether the competition should be unlimited or restricted should be left to the judges, The Commissioners, on hearing this, recorded their unanimous opinion that the competition should be limited, and that the maximum number of competitors should be six. Whatever, therefore, had been done in the way of restricting the competition had been done by the Commissioners appointed by Parliament, independently of the Government. The Commissioners were partly guided to this conclusion by the feeling that the building should be erected as quickly as possible; because the longer the delay the greater the expense and the more prolonged the inconvenience attending the present state of things. As at present arranged, the plans would be given in by the 15th of October; and, considering that fifty courts and offices in various parts of the metropolis had to be inspected by the designers, that time would have to be extended if the list of competitors were added to, Virtually, however, ten of the very best men in the profession had been selected, but four of them had from their other engagements declined to enter upon the contest; and as they declined the number was made up to six. He did not say anything to the £800 that was to be awarded to each of the competitors. Of course, if the competition were quite open this sum could not be given; but the addition of one or two more competitors would not be a material consideration. [Mr. BENTINCK: What are their names?] Those who had consented to compete were Mr. Street, Mr. Waterhouse, Mr. Darling, Mr. Deane, and Mr. Raphael Brandon. Mr. Somers Clarke had not yet given a reply; and the names of the gentlemen who had declined were Messrs. Barry, Scott, Hardwick, and Wyatt. It had been said some gentlemen had declined on account of a condition imposed—namely, that the successful competitor should not, in the three years during which he was engaged on the building, accept any other work without the consent of the Treasury: but seeing he was to be paid 5 per cent on the cost, and that his percentage would amount at that rate to £37,000, he did not think this so unreasonable a stipulation. The only other point he had to refer to was the allusion to some proposed preference given to Mr. Waterhouse, and it was suggested that he had been regarded with undue favour. But that was without foundation. That gentleman having built in Manchester some excellent buildings of a similar kind, his name naturally suggested itself; but he ventured to say no preference had been, or would be given, to that gentleman, and he did not believe Mr. Waterhouse was known otherwise than professionally to any Member of the Commission; he was only known by his work. As to the judges of the designs, he was not prepared to defend his own appointment; but the Treasury having agreed that (he Commissioners should appoint two of the judges, that Commission had appointed the Lord Chief Justice of England and himself, assuming them to be able to form an opinion as to the requirements of a building intended for the law courts and offices. He could not but think that confidence might be placed in those who were associated with him—he said nothing of himself—in the performance of that duty. Of course, they would have due professional assistance whenever they required it; and they would earnestly endeavour to obtain the most beautiful building they could, while they would at the same time not be prepared to sacrifice utility to beauty.


said, that having been on the Committee for the erection of the Assize Court at Manchester, he wished to say a few words. The competition for the design of that Court was open to all the world, and the result was that they had one of the best courts of justice that had ever been erected in this country. The Manchester Court was successful because those who were to use the court were consulted, and their views with regard to accommodation were carried out, and he thought that the same course should be adopted with regard to the new courts to be erected in London. He thought that with regard to the proposed court competitors should not be limited to six. For the Manchester Court 230 designs were sent in, but of these only about twenty were worth looking into, and of the twenty only twelve whose interior designs were worth looking into. He thought that if Government got ten or twelve of the best architects to compete, and told them what they wanted, they would get a building that would not only be beautiful, but would give all the accommodation that was required.


said, he could not help fearing that in spite of what had been said by the Attorney General, the Government had just taken the very worst possible course in this matter. There were two courses open to them. The first and possibly the best course was to have taken the whole responsibility upon their own shoulders, and to have appointed a fit and proper man to design the building according to their requirements; and the second was to have thrown the competition open to the whole profession. Neither of these courses had been adopted, and the result would be that the responsibility would rest nowhere. Of one thing they might be quite certain—namely, that do what they would, there was sure to be plenty of dissatisfaction with the courts when they were built. But what was wanted was, that in case there should be good ground for that dissatisfaction, Parliament should know who were responsible for the failure.


remarked, that by the course the Government had taken they had excluded the architect who took a prize for the Foreign Office.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 70; Noes 101: Majority 31.

Words added:—Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is not expedient that the competition for the building of the New Courts of Justice should be limited to six architects only.—(Mr. Bentinck.)

Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.

Motion made, and Question, "That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.