HC Deb 02 April 1869 vol 195 cc27-9

said, he wished to ask the First Commissioner of Works to consider, Whether measures can be adopted to place the ancient monuments now existing in this Country under the protection of some authority which may prevent their destruction?


Sir, the subject of my hon. Friend's Question is one of considerable importance. Not only have many Royal and other interesting historical monuments in our cathedrals and churches been removed from their original places, injured, or suffered to fall into decay, but monuments of great national as well as archæological value have been irreparably injured and even wontonly destroyed. This state of things is not creditable to the country. In France and elsewhere measures have been taken by the Government to preserve and maintain such monuments, as forming part of the property of the nation. Since I have held the Office which I have now the honour to fill, my attention has been seriously directed to this matter. There are, as my hon. Friend well knows, great difficulties in dealing with it in this country, especially those connected with what might be considered as interference with private rights and property—for instance, as in the case of the destruction, only recently, of a highly curious and interesting ancient monument in Cornwall, an act of vandalism which, if what I have read in the newspapers be true, one would have scarcely thought possible in these days. After fully considering the subject, I have thought it advisable to turn my attention, in the first place, to Royal and other historical sepulchral monuments, some of which have been injured, removed, opened, and otherwise interfered with even of late years. The first step is to obtain a list of such monuments as it might be desirable to place under public protection. With this view I addressed a short time ago a letter to the Society of Antiquaries, requesting their assistance in preparing such a list. My request has been met in the most cordial spirit by the distinguished President of the Society, Lord Stanhope, and by its members. They have taken steps which, I trust, will enable me to obtain such a list as will permit me to submit to the House some proposal for the protection of these monuments which may meet with its approval, or, at any rate, to invite its views and opinions upon the subject. If I find it possible to effect the object I have in view with regard to sepulchral monuments in our cathedrals and churches, I would endeavour to ascertain whether some means might not be found to extend the same protection to other monuments of national and historical interests and importance.