HC Deb 31 May 1867 vol 187 cc1463-9

SUPPLY considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £15,000, Burlington House, agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £20,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1868, towards the Expense of erecting a Building for the use of the University of London.


said, he would appeal to the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) to postpone the execution of the present design for the new buildings for the London University in the rear of Burlington House. A pledge was given last year that the plans should be submitted to the approval of the House before any decision was arrived at. The pledge had not been fulfilled. Some progress had been made with the building, until the noble Lord, upon his suggestion, had consented to order a temporary suspension of the works. He objected to both the plans that were in the Library. They had been drawn on the supposition that Burlington House would remain untouched, and that the London University was to be an entirely separate and distinct building. But that edifice was to be altered, and to be made part of a new group of buildings, the colonnade and screen now existing being about to be removed. It was now obviously desirable that the whole buildings should be raised in a uniform style. What had been done? Three different architects had been chosen for three portions of the work—Mr. Smirke to deal with Burlington House; Messrs. Banks and Parry for the buildings in front; Mr. Pennethorne for those in the rear. Messrs. Banks and Parry had proposed plans in harmony with Burlington House. Mr. Pennethorne proposed to do his part of the work in the Italian Gothic style. It was against this intention that he desired to protest. He was certain that no man of taste and no architect of experience would sanction it. He had no wish whatever to criticize Mr. Pennethorne's designs. He was well aware of that gentleman's abilities, and that he had been the architect of some successful buildings, such as the Museum of Practical Geology, in Jermyn Street. What he objected to was the anomaly of erecting such a structure in the Gothic Italian style at the rear of Burlington House, and thus introducing a different style of architecture into the same group of buildings. Ninety-nine men out of 100, if asked what should be the style of the new buildings, would say that it ought to be the same as that of Burlington House. Under these circumstances, he wished the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Works would see the expediency of suspending further action in the matter. Mr. Pennethorne might produce another plan which might be submitted to some eminent architect as a referee, and thus a design might be furnished which would be acceptable to the House, as well as an ornament to the metropolis. The Senate of the University of London, as well as the body of that institution, had passed resolutions against the present plans. He thought, therefore, he was justified in appealing to the noble Lord to see that they were revised. He moved his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To add, at the end of the Question, the words "provided that no part of such sum shall be applied to the erection of any building according to either of the designs now exhibited." — (Mr. Layard.)


said, he should be able to show the Committee that he had already in the main adopted the suggestions which the hon. Gentleman had thrown out. He held in his hand a document signed by eminent professional gentlemen—the Building Committee of the Royal Academy. It was signed by the President of the Royal Academy, Mr. Sidney Smirke, Mr. C. Landseer, Mr. E. Barry, Mr. Gilbert Scott, and others. It stated that the building of the London University and those of the Royal Academy would be perfectly isolated and distinct from each other, and that there would not be the slightest architectural or other connection between them. No body of gentlemen in London could give a more intelligent or authoritative opinion on the question raised by the hon. Member than the distinguished artists and architects named. It was impossible therefore to contend that there was the slightest architectural or other connection with the building about to be erected on what was called the north side of Burlington Gardens. It was really a street, and could be seen by nobody who was not in that or in Cork Street. As far as architectural connection was concerned, the only house with which the building would be in any such connection was the house of General Cavendish, who made no objection to the accepted design. The building had now risen to a height of nineteen feet, the contracts for it were let, £9,000 had been expended upon it, £6,000 more had been contracted for, and the materials were on the spot. Much delay had occurred from the pledge he had given before Easter that all the works prejudging the style should be suspended. What was now asked was that the House of Commons should, on no conceivable ground, incur an extra expenditure of at least £5,000, and retard the progress of these buildings three or four months. The hon. Member had referred to the London University, Everything had been done to accommodate that body, and meet all its practical requirements. When it was intended to proceed with the design the University authorities had been requested to send some one on their behalf to see it. Dr. Carpenter saw it. He expressed himself in favour of the design afterwards adopted. After the building had been commenced, was the House to say that because the University of London was interfering at that moment the works were to be stopped? He saw with regret that a person connected with that body had declared that it would be right for it to set about canvassing the Members of the House of Commons in order to bring about that result. The House, he thought, should be chary of giving way to demands of that kind. As long as they had a Minister who was responsible for their public buildings they could deal with him. If he sanctioned a bad building it was always open to them to condemn him; but if they allowed a body external to themselves to canvass Members of Parliament, and to call for the stoppage of works in progress, increased expenditure and delay would be incurred, and what would become of the responsibility of the Minister? If the London University was to exercise a right of deciding what the style of a building ought to be, how could they refuse the same concession to the other learned bodies whom they were going to accommodate? He hoped the House would refuse to divest itself of its proper power, and would reject the Amendment of the hon. Member.


said, the Members of the Council of the University of London who sat in that House would be wanting in their duty if they did not ask the opinion of the House on that subject. Those designs had been placed in the Library to give hon. Members an opportunity of seeing them before they were executed. Now they were told that the works could not be interfered with because a large expenditure had already been incurred upon them. It was not treating the House fairly. The Council of the University only claimed that right to express an opinion and submit it to the House which belonged to every subject of the Queen. Dr. Carpenter had too much good sense to have expressed any judgment upon those designs on behalf of the University. The execution of either of the plans exhibited in the Library would be a great disfigurement to the metropolis. It would be the worst possible economy to allow the works to proceed. As to the proposed building being situated in a narrow street, the narrower the street was, and the fewer the persons were who saw it, the better.


said, that some of the objections which had been put forward embodied grievances not of a practical character. It seemed to him to be a merely sentimental feeling, because there might have been one large building in Burlington Gardens, and instead of that there were two smaller buildings with different objects and different entrances, that therefore they should both be in one and the same style. Nobody without the wings of a dove could fly away and see the two separate fronts of two distinct buildings at one and the same time. To urge that the style of building in the vicinity should govern the style of the contemplated edifice was in effect to say that Burlington Arcade on one side and the Albany on the other should enter into the artist's calculations. As to his right hon. Friend's (the Member for the City of Oxford) observation that because the institution was novel, therefore, what was called mediæval architecture should not be adopted, he could only say that some antecedent style or other must be followed unless we invented an architecture of our own. Of this, indeed, there had recently been two examples, one at South Kensington and the other in Paris at the new Exhibition; but neither of them would, he imagined, be deemed satisfactory. As for his right hon. Friend's assertion that Gothic was not suited for a London University or College, he concluded that Classical was still less so, unless it could be shown that we had more affinity with the Pagan Greeks of the 4th century before, than with the Christian Englishmen of the 14th after Christ. Besides, to give an instance directly in point, if ever there were modern Colleges, in all senses those were the Queen's Colleges in Ireland, and yet every one of the three Queen's Colleges was built in Gothic. Mr. Pennethorne's design as it stood was not satisfactory, but it might be corrected upon the present lines. On the whole, as a compromise, he should recommend the adoption of that early form of architecture embodying traditions of the Gothic period, of which the School of San Rocco at Venice was an example. He hoped the Motion of his hon. Friend would be withdrawn on receipt of an assurance that the design would be re-cast, and that the decision would not be given with regard to that matter of correspondence of style which, as he had shown, had no foundation in fact.


said, that his original impression as to the mode of access to the buildings had been erroneous. No necessity existed for the two buildings being in the same style. The misfortune was that the design had not been exhibited at first, as was expected. If it had been it would have spared the waste of some money, and would have obviated all the difficulty which had arisen through the battle of the styles. He could not help regretting that Mr. Pennethorne had departed from the style of Somerset House and Burlington House, and taken a fancy to a new style, to which the general feeling of the House was opposed. Mr. Pennethorne, however, was an accomplished architect, and he believed that a month would enable him to finish an amended design, which might save at least £5,000 to the country.


said, he hoped the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) would not adhere to his former decision. On the part of the Senate or Convocation of the London University, there was no wish to interfere with his undoubted authority. At the same time, with an unanimity which he had rarely witnessed, every one had disapproved the design. Excellent as the internal arrangements admittedly were, they were spoilt by a façade of which everybody was inclined to be ashamed. This was no frivolous or merely sentimental matter. Ideas as to the character of University teaching associated themselves with the outlines of the building in which they were lodged. His official acquaintance with South Kensington led him to believe that the department had suffered much in public estimation from the simple fact that the public eye connected it with the Brompton Boilers.


said, he had no objection to the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Beresford Hope) that a new design for the façade should, if possible, be procured. This would of course be after consultation with Mr. Pennetborne, on the understanding that so much of the building as was already completed should be allowed to remain. He objected to the removal of any portion already erected at great expense.


said, that anything which would involve an expenditure such as that just referred to by the noble Lord had been caused by those who had charge of the building. There had been a distinct understanding with the House last year. He could not concur with the suggestion of the noble Lord, that what had been done should remain.


said, he concurred with the hon. Member for Southwark that there had been an understanding with the House. He thought that if the noble Lord consulted with his architect, be would find that the change could be made without much expense.


said, he must divide on his Amendment.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 52; Noes 46: Majority 6.

On Question, that the Vote, as amended, be agreed to,


said, he would suggest that the Vote should be postponed.


said, he did not see any object to be attained by postponing it. He was prepared to act on the opinion expressed by the Committee.


said, he thought the Vote ought to be postponed.


said, the question having been amended could not now be withdrawn. The Committee must either affirm or negative the Vote, or else report Progress.


said, the better course would be to agree to the Vote with the Resolution now, and then the Resolution could be struck out in the Report after its object had been attained.


said, that before the Vote was reported to the House, some time should intervene to allow the Government to bring some other plan before the House.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next.

Committee to sit again upon Monday next.

House adjourned at a quarter after Two o'clock, till Monday next.