HC Deb 05 March 1878 vol 238 cc759-76

in rising to call attention to the present condition of the National Portrait Gallery, and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, the time has come for the Treasury to carry out the promise made by it in March 1876, of appropriating certain specified portions of the Exhi- bition Buildings at South Kensington for the accommodation of the National Portrait Gallery, in addition to the apartments already occupied by the Gallery, said: I appear, Sir, on behalf of one of the established and recognized collections of the country—the National Portrait Gallery, which has existed for upwards of 20 years. This Gallery is one of those collections which exist directly under the Crown, and are managed by trustees appointed by the Crown. We are not in any way a branch of the South Kensington Museum; but are, like the British Museum, or the National Gallery, an institution specially founded, managed by our own Trustees, and subsidized annually by a Vote in Supply, which, in our case, is one of £2,000 a-year, to be spent in the purchase and conservation of pictures, besides certain expenses for which the Government make themselves chargeable. We were founded in 1856, consequent upon a Motion of the late Lord Stanhope. What a student of history, what a critic, and judicious appreciator of art, he was, it is unnecessary for me to state. Lord Stanhope made a Motion in the House of Lords, that it was desirable that a Collection of Portraits, illustrative of English History, should be created. That Motion met with the approbation both of the Government and of the House, and Trustees were accordingly appointed. Of this Board our present Chairman is Lord Hardinge, a most accomplished artist, and of his Colleagues are the Earl of Beaconsfield and the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), the Dean of Westminster, the President of the Royal Academy, the Earl of Derby, with Sir Coutts Lindsay, Lord Somers, Lord Ronald Gower, Lord De L'Isle, Mr. Shirley, Mr. Cochrane, the Lord President (officially), the Marquess of Bath, and I must add myself. It is on the behalf of these Trustees that I now appeal. Among those who have been Trustees in former times there are such names as Lord Stanhope, the famous Lord Lans-downe, the first Lord Ellesmere, Sidney Herbert, the present Lord Salisbury, Macaulay, Mr. Carlyle, Bishop Wilber-force, Sir George Lewis, Sir Francis Palgrave, Sir Charles Eastlake, and last, that friend, whose death everyone has so much lamented this year, Sir William Stirling-Maxwell. The Gal- lery started with a noble gift from Lord Ellesmere of the famous Chandos Shakspeare. The acquisition was made of a house in Great George Street, and it opened in January, 1859. In that year 5,305 persons came, despite the restricted collection. In 1868 the visitors to the George Street Gallery had increased to nearly 25,000. In the next year—1869—that miscellaneous collection of sheds, which had in 1862 been the scene of so much noise and confusion, and of many unpalatable meals—the Exhibition buildings—fell into the hands—partly of the Government, and partly of the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851—and in the former portion, rooms were assigned to the National Portrait Gallery. They were rooms having the advantage certainly of being able to hold pictures to a certain advantage in a fair light; but otherwise very undesirable, from the thinness of the walls, the badness of the floor, and the risk of fire in such a temporary structure. Such as they were, we moved down into them; and in 1870 the number of visitors had shot up to nearly 59,000. In the year 1871 it grew up to 63,000. The year 1876-—being the year of the Prince of Wales' India Exhibition and the Exhibition of Scientific Instruments—was an exceptional year; and then there were more than 100,000 visitors. Of course, it could not go on at so high a level; and in the year after—1877—the attendance had fallen down to about 80,000. But I put it to this House, that a public collection which has in the course of a year been visited by 80,000 persons, is no mean contribution to the education or the recreation of the people of London and the country. At present, I suppose, a great many Members are familiar with the Gallery. To those who are not, I may tell that the practical space at the disposal of the Exhibition is a long gallery, of which the extent has been eked out by cross-screens, with a staircase at each end; and that it is approached by a long temporary passage between the entrance of the Horticultural Gardens, and that magnificent pile which is at present rising to receive the Natural History Collection of the British Museum. We have in the collection some 488 pictures, and we have also 50 busts, bronze statues and casts—for the National Portrait Gallery, be it noted, is not merely a collection of pic- tures. It is emphatically a collection of portraits of distinguished English persons, or of persons connected with English history. Therefore it admits pictures, drawings, busts; and it has created lately a very interesting series of bronze casts, carried out by the Elkington electrotype process, of monuments of Sovereigns and otherpersons, which are otherwise difficult to see, and cannot otherwise be brought into one conspectus. We have Robert Curthose from Gloucester, and Henry the Seventh and Elizabeth of York from Westminster, where you can hardly see their effigies on account of the intervening metal screen. We have the historical"Sic Sedebat" statue of Bacon from St. Albans, and his Sovereign Elizabeth. We have others which I need not name. We have drawings, we have autographs. In fact, more and more is the National Portrait Gallery becoming an historical gallery. Of course, in a gallery so constituted, the merit of the artist is not the first concern; but among our painters we may reckon names like Lely, Kneller, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Opie, Lawrence, and Landseer. Therefore, even as a collection, it is very valuable; and its present worth is set down at £50,000, consigned to rooms miserably temporary and dangerous. Well, such as they are, we are in these rooms. I do not pretend—no one who is connected with the gallery does pretend—to like it; but as it is, so long as we are like the children of Israel dwelling in tabernacles, at least, let our tents be wide enough to hold us. In 1874 a negotiation that did not come to much was vaguely set on foot to give us those galleries running from north to south on the west side of the Horticultural Gardens, in which a dead-alive ghastly after-thought of an International Exhibition crawled on for a few years, until it collapsed from inanity. Well, after the unwept end of that Exhibition, those galleries were vacant; and in 1874 we heard that they might possibly be transferred to the National Portrait Gallery. The Trustees said, as they always had said, that they would be very glad indeed to change; but this insuperable difficulty—at least, if not insuperable, this very great difficulty—intervened, that under the strange and complicated arrangements which characterize all the South Kensington Art property, these galleries were not the property of the Government as the Govern- ment, but of the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851. Therefore, it fell out that the Government to which we looked, could not obtain possession of those galleries on behalf of the National Portrait Gallery except at a very high rental. So those negotiations fell through, while our wants remained the same. In 1876 the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) who was at that time First Commissioner of Works, addressed on the 29th of February a communication to the Treasury. I am now referring to a Parliamentary Paper which has been printed and distributed about a week, from which I shall be able briefly to run over the salient points. On February 29, 1876, the noble Lord writes to the Treasury acknowledging a letter, and enclosing one from the Commissioners of Patents asking for more room, in which he refers to that portion of the South Kensington Buildings now under consideration. The First Commissioner observes— The South Kensington Museum authorities have been permitted to occupy these galleries until they should be required for other purposes, and the time for their surrender has now arrived. I therefore beg to suggest to your Lordships the following arrangements. This is a most important statement. Here are certain rooms which have only been lent, and as to which two years ago it was said that the time was up, and the occupants must vacate. What are these rooms? I shall often have to refer to them. They are rooms some immediately adjacent, and others just under, those at present occupied by our gallery. They stand at the end of, and beneath it, forming part of the same block; they are space which, so long as we are to continue in our present lodgings, are the rooms which emphatically might be easily added to us, and that we beg may be added to us. We claim that they shall be added to us, as making our present temporary location, at least in the way of elbow-room, tolerable. But to return to the Paper— The South Kensington Museum authorities have been permitted to occupy these galleries until they should be required for other purposes, and the time for their surrender has now arrived. I therefore beg to suggest to your Lordships the following arrangements. First, the noble Lord proposes to assign a certain portion of the building to the Patent Museum. Of course, we had nothing to do with that. But then he goes on to say— The Portrait Gallery requires more room, and I propose to assign to them the ground floor of the space marked XXII., together with the upper floor of the part coloured blue and marked with a cross. To those who are not familiar with the place, I should explain that this space marked "XXII." is the gallery under the existing Portrait Gallery, which is now used for the valuable purpose of the Educational Exhibition, so called, of the South Kensington Museum, as to which I shall have a little to say presently. The "part coloured blue" is the first of the rooms beyond the Portrait Gallery, and one of two large rooms where was the great restaurant during the Exhibition of 1862. They have been used for miscellaneous objects ever since—sometimes for the exhibition of naval models, sometimes for one thing and sometimes for another. But, two years ago, on February 29, 1876, it was suggested that they should be surrendered to us for the Portrait Gallery. That was the suggestion of the then First Commissioner. On the 13th of March, accordingly, Mr. Lingen, the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, replies to the Chief Commissioner—"The Treasury agrees to the proposal as above, "but with two conditions. The first was about the naval models—which I will not trouble you with; and the second was— No work now nor hereafter, without further reference to this Board, be undertaken beyond what is required for immediate purposes, —that is reasonable enough— and is such as in nowise commits the Government to a definite mode of occupying these premises, the ultimate disposal of which is uncertain. Nothing, of course, could be more satisfactory to the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery than this general stipulation; for, much as we wanted additional space, we might pause—we ought to have paused—before we accepted that concession of additional space as amounting to anything like an obligation upon us to remain for evermore contented with our present unsafe and inadequate accommodation. We asked for it as temporary accommodation. Mr. Lingen says, emphatically, it shall be temporary; and nobody wants a more satisfactory reply. That was about two years ago. On the same day, Mr. Lingen writes to the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, giving to them, and defining the rooms so assigned by that letter of the 13th of March, 1876. Well, at that time youmight have said the sun had come out early in spring; but three days after we had the usual result, for a spring frost overtook us. Another letter came from the Board of Works, saying that they were unable to make provision in the Estimates for the extension, or for a more convenient approach, from the main road. That, of course, damped our hopes for that year; but it did not cancel the standing promise, and, on the 29th of September in that year, our secretary, Mr. Scharf, wrote a letter to the Board of Works recalling the promise of March, and proposing, in the name of the Trustees, certain suggestions as to how to lay out the space which we had every right to suppose our own, and, above all things, calling attention to the danger of fire incurred within the last few months by the introduction of gas jets. Will the House readily believe that in this building, so temporary, so combustible, so crammed with everything in the world that would blaze away like tow and pitch, the authorities, whoever they may be, had actually without telling us—the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery—Trustees, in the name of the Queen, of that magnificent collection which could not be replaced, and containing works of art worth £50,000, though the mere money value is the least thing—laid gas pipes in that place? Is not that inconceivable? And two years ago they opened a department of cookery, and put a furnace down there just under our rooms—a furnace, with everything ready for a bonfire. I have some difficulty in bringing this matter before the House, for I cannot divest myself of the idea that I am a nurse speaking to a lot of little girls in muslin frocks about not playing with lucifer matches—the cases are identical, but not the way of meeting them; for the nurse has a right to scold these naughty little girls, as it would not be respectful to scold Her Majesty's Government, for they are persons of ripe age, in full possession of their faculties; majors in the eye of the law. On November the 6th, 1877, Mr. Scharf, our secretary, again protested against the introduction of gas into the central building. Mr. Lingen, in replying, on the 20th of November, 1877, enclosed a copy of a letter from the Chief Commissioner, and stated that for these reasons— My Lords are of opinion that they would not be warranted on the statement before them in prohibiting the use of gas in the galleries needed for the Civil Service examinations. That brings me to another point. What had been done with these rooms that ought to have been ours during the last two years? I shall, before I have done, explain the condition of the lower gallery. The big room upstairs was turned over to the Civil Service Commissioners for examinations. There it still is, with tables, benches, ink-stains, ink-pots, and everything else to match; and accordingly the Civil Service Commission, which I suppose is not so very poor, has taken the ewe lamb of the National Portrait Gallery. But what is the drift of the enclosure in Mr. Lingen's letter from the first Commissioner? He says it is impossible, without having this gas, which was laid on without notice to us, for the Commissioners to examine in winter. And, therefore, because the Civil Service Commission, which might examine where it pleased, chooses to examine in these rooms, this Portrait Collection is to be subjected to this enormous and unnecessary risk. What can be so preposterous as that? Then he goes on to say that the South Kensington Museum is always to be seen by gas. Of course, that may be so. I trust it may prove safe. But it was built with the intention of being fire-proof, so that gas might be used without danger accruing. These committee rooms, however, these refreshment sheds, these temporary ebullitions of the Exhibition of 1862, were constructed—cheap, nasty, and rapidly—of the most inflammable materials possible. There is more balm in Gilead yet. At last we are told, as a great comfort, that "gas pipes also run under the gallery immediately under the National Portrait Gallery." We complain of gas being next door, and they reply—"Never mind, dear fellows, the gas below you is much more dangerous. Bless your stars you are not worse off." That was on the 1st—not the 5th—of November. The next letter was sent by Mr. Scharf, to point out that the National Portrait Gallery building was temporary and combustible, while the South Kensington Museum was the contrary; and observe that there was no gas either in the British Museum or the National Gallery. Well, but this building, which I have shown to be combustible, is also in every way unfit for pictures, except in the last resort. The floor is made of rough wood—so rough that it never can be washed down or cleaned; and the consequence is that there is a perpetual cloud of insidious dust rising from it, to the very great detriment of the pictures, which are plainly suffering from it. Not one of those arrangements which modem science has, with eager emulation, been following in the galleries of London, Vienna, Dresden, and all over the world—not one of those appliances can in the most rude, rough, rudimental way be applied to our gallery. Yet we submit for the present, and at least we contend for getting this ground-floor gallery. That, I believe, would give us a foundation on which we could plant our busts, our statues, and our casts, which, of course, are very heavy, but which could be set up there. At present they are put on brackets against one of the boundary walls, which is luckily included in our lot, and against which we are able to place them without fear of some frightful catastrophe.

Now, I must direct the attention of the House to another circumstance very briefly. Within a year after the creation of our gallery, Lord Stanhope, who was himself both Chairman of the Trustees of the Portrait Gallery and one of the Trustees of the British Museum, communicated with the British Museum, in the person of its principal librarian, Sir Antony Panizzi, under these circum-stance. There was, and is, a collection of portraits belonging to the British Museum, which had been gradually accumulated there before either the National Gallery or the National Portrait Gallery were formed. But in the British Museum it was comparatively useless, forming no proper part of its scope; and, there being no proper place in which to show them, these pictures were left in obscurity, hanging up behind the natural history casts. They are not portraits exclusively of Englishmen; but a large portion of them—probably 88, as I computed by rapidly running through the list—might come within our scope. Lord Stanhope, in making this application in February 1857 to the British Museum for a loan of their pictures, gave a pledge, on behalf of the Portrait Gallery, that, if the British Museum looked favourably on his application, the National Portrait Gallery would, of course, avoid—unless in very special cases—making purchases of portraits which might be the same, or nearly the same, as those which are now in the Museum. Sir Antony Panizzi, on behalf of the Trustees of the British Museum, very heartily answered, on the 3rd of March, that the Trustees would have great pleasure in meeting the wishes of the National Portrait Gallery Board, so far as they might have the legal power; and so the matter stood. There is no doubt—not a shadow of doubt has been thrown upon it from that day to this—that the legal power exists. Then the British Museum has lent pictures under similar circumstances to the National Gallery. The portraits are virtually assigned to the National Portrait Gallery by the British Museum; they only wait to be moved until the gallery has wall space or screen space whereon to hang them. The National Portrait Gallery has, with wise economy, followed out for 21 years the pledge then given—not to buy portraits identical with those in the Museum. And what is the result? That, interesting and full as our collection is, with its nearly 500 portraits, there is no picture of Bacon or of Oliver Cromwell; no likeness at all of Newton or Commodore Anson, or Speaker Onslow, or Cranmer, or Usher, or Baxter, or George Buchanan; or of the antiquaries Camden, Dugdale, Spelman, and Cotton. All these great men are in the British Museum, but they will be virtually part of the National Portrait Gallery, we trust and believe, as soon as the National Portrait Gallery can be a good hospitable host to them. The application was not for a present of the pictures. The Trustees cannot give away their property, though they can lend it. We only asked them to do by us what it was legally open to them to do, and what they have since done to the National Gallery, and what, if conceded, will make the National Portrait Gallery infinitely more interesting and complete than it at present is.

Well, you may ask, having done with the examination room—-what is the other important thing that keeps us out of the downstairs gallery which I have mentioned; what is there there at present which we should have to turn out if we went there? I have already pointed out that the occupying tenant is what is called the Educational Exhibition of the South Kensington Museum. No doubt, education is a grand thing. Nobody in the world would say a word against it. Nothing could be better, no feature more worthy of a great nation, than an Educational Exhibition. But no man can conceive what this one is. I would invite the House; you, Sir, and Her Majesty's Ministers, to go and see that Educational Exhibition which fills this gallery for which we are sueing. It would elevate all your minds. It would charm your taste. You would see there a very large assortment of globes, and all of them with their prices marked, which run up from 18d. to £18. You would see—the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am afraid, would look at them with envy—fao simile nuggets from Australia. There is also a beautiful collection of magic lantern slides. Then there is something as to which I must throw myself on the indulgence of the House, for I find it utterly impossible to explain what it is. You will find there the "Foundations of Takimetry." Then there are charming doll houses, dolls, puzzles, and a quantity of those pretty pink shells you can buy at Margate and Ramsgate. There are also painted beasts and birds; some nice water-colours, such as you may see in the national schools; a great many benches; and, finally, 14 clocks, none of them going, and fourof them made by Sir John Bennett. This, Sir, is the National Collection, which keeps Newton and Cromwell, and Cranmer and Usher, and Bacon, and other great men, out of the sight and appreciation of the people of England. I appeal to you whether such a state of things ought to continue any longer? I have put my case fairly before the House. I do not pretend to say that the galleries we are in are galleries we should like to occupy. So far as mere arrangements go, they are very inconvenient. But beyond that inconvenience, there is this risk—which really is almost too painful to dwell on—of immediate and perfectly helpless destruction. Still, as they are, and such as they are, until we have—as we have a right to claim in some future years, when there may not be such a pull on the Estimates as we have now—some proper, decent, and sufficient National Portrait Gallery, I contend that we have on all accounts every reason to claim, at all events, from Her Majesty's Government their fulfilment of their promise of two years ago. Thinking and believing I have made that plain to the House, I beg leave, Sir, to move the Resolution of which I have given Notice.


said, he desired to second the Motion as one who had no official connection with the Gallery, and simply as one of the public who valued historical works of art. It was an anomaly that works of art and portraits of distinguished Englishmen should be kept in obscurity to avoid the cost of finding the necessary accomodation. He read with humiliation and shame the Correspondence which had been placed in their hands, for it seemed almost to indicate a conspiracy to prevent the portrait collection acquiring the value which it ought to have for the nation, considering that it comprised authentic portraits of all the Sovereigns and Princes of the Realm from the time of the Plantagenets, and of many distinguished Englishmen. The words of Charles Surface might well be applied to the nation; and with justice one might exclaim—"How little this nation cares for the portraits of its ancestors!" Surely no one could pretend to be satisfied with matters as they were now? His hon. Friend the Member for the Cambridge University was entitled to demand from the Government that these works of a historical and national character should be protected from fire and flame, and from the dust and dirt place in which they were now stown from the public sight, and from that inspection which no doubt would result in the instruction and benefit of the people.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, the time has come for the Treasury to carry out the promise made by it in March 1876, of appropriating certain specified portions of the Exhibition Buildings at South Kensington for the accommodation of the National Portrait Gallery, in addition to the apartments already occupied by that Gallery."—(Mr. Beresford Hope.)


said, the question was one of real importance; it was, in fact, whether a collection of pictures which was national, and which had been considered of sufficient importance to receive an annual subsidy, should continue to be relegated to a lumber-room? His hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge had already drawn attention to the condition of the building in which these pictures were at present housed; and, from a personal inspection made since this Motion had been upon the Paper, he could corroborate all that he had said, and declare that the dangers by which the pictures were surrounded were real and not imaginary. The building was in part a wooden shed, in part lath-and-plaster, with just the amount of brickwork necessary to keep the whole structure together. Therefore, it behoved the Government to look seriously into the question. The rooms which were originally promised were promised before it was necessary to apply the space to the Civil Service examinations. It would be well for the present to suspend the proposed transfer of some of the rooms for the purposes of these examinations until some other arrangements should be made in favour of the Gallery; but, if such arrangements could not be made, then it ought to be a question whether it was desirable to transfer the Gallery elsewhere? Meanwhile, he thought it necessary to enter his protest against the action of the Treasury in the matter.


said, he should not have offered any observations, had it not been for the frequent opportunities he had had during the last few months of visiting the picture and sculpture galleries abroad; and on all occasions he had been forcibly impressed with the contrast presented by them with those of our own country, which were greatly inferior in the accommodation they presented for works of art. He, therefore, thought the House and the country were much indebted to the hon. Member for Cambridge University for bringing forward the question of our National Portrait Gallery, andhe(SirEardley Wilmot) should certainly cordially support him in his Resolution. They might recollect that it was one of the customs of ancient Rome that on solemn festivals and public holidays the busts and statues of its heroes and illustrious men were carried in procession through the streets, in order that the citizens, looking upon that solemn ceremony, and seeing the respect thus paid to their memory for great services done to their country, might be led to emulate their noble deeds. Although we might not follow the Roman example, yet by providing more commodious and accessible places for the portraits and historical pictures of our eminent men, and by affording the public greater facilities for seeing them, while, at the same time, we encouraged high art and culture, we might cherish the memory of illustrious actions, and lead our youth and all classes of our fellow-countrymen to admire and respect, the doers of them, and endeavour to follow their example. Of the importance of this he had been made more sensible by the want of reverence for the past, and for those who had gone before us, which was one of the characteristics of the present age. Mention had been made of gas and firing by an hon. Member; and he might observe that in no foreign gallery which he had visited was gas admitted—not only on account of the danger of conflagration, but also because it was felt that the use of gas had a gradually, but certainly deleterious, effect on the pictures or statues; and he found it was even a subject of complaint, sometimes among visitors to the Italian galleries, that in winter they were closed somewhat early, in consequence of there being no provision made for lighting them. He could not help expressing his regret that our country did not afford greater facilities to young artists to copy the great works of art abroad; and the hon. Member for Cambridge University had used an expression in which he (Sir Eardley Wilmot) fully concurred—namely, that he felt humiliated by the inferior advantages in our own country when compared with the liberal encouragement extended to genius abroad, where magnificent galleries and buildings, both public and private, contained works open to every one to admire and copy. He joined in the appeal made to the Secretary to the Treasury, not only to find more ample and suitable accommodation for the portraits now at South Kensington, in places where they could be seen—the rooms containing them were used for various other purposes—but also to provide for the reception of those numerous worthies now in the British Museum, many of whom had been enumerated by the noble Lord who seconded the Resolution, and who surely deserved a better fate than to hang there unobserved and forgotten. While on the subject of this Portrait Gallery, he (Sir Eardley Wilmot) might, perhaps, be allowed to advert to what was not strictly belonging to the question before the House—namely, the opening of public galleries, gratis, on Sundays. He had uniformly voted against that proposal; but he must say, that, after having seen the galleries abroad, and the pleasure and enjoyment they afforded to those classes which were necessarily debarred from visiting them during the working days of the week, and the orderly way in which the visits were conducted on Sundays, he could not help feeling that this privilege might safely be extended to the working classes of our own country, and he was sure they would show themselves as worthy of that privilege as the people of other nations. He should cordially support the Resolution of the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beres-ford Hope).


said, he should be happy indeed, if in the few remarks he had to address to the House, he could excite the amusement or attention which his hon. Friend's observations had caused. He confessed that if it had not been for the infectious good-nature which they always recognized in him, he should have felt that the inflammable nature of the building in which the National Portrait Gallery's collection was stored had communicated itself to the Trustees, and for some moments he almost felt like those naughty children of whom the hon. Gentleman talked as deserving a scolding. Turning in all seriousness to the points advanced, he felt bound to say that both from the perusal of the Papers which had been laid before the House, and from what he had himself seen, he was disposed, although he could not on the part of the Government accept the terms of the Motion, to go a very long way with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Beresford Hope) in the objects which he had in view. Hon. Members who had studied this question, and indeed all who had read the Papers, would bear in mind that, roughly speaking, on the south side of these buildings there was a central block which was used as the refreshment department of the Exhibition of 1862. It was that part which stood on the right or to the eastward of this central block with which they had in this instance to do. The principal portion of this was occupied by the National Portrait Gallery. He would venture to say that anyone who had ever seen these pictures could not help coming to the conclusion that the collection was worthy of the utmost development, and also that it was insufficiently housed at the present time. He understood that besides the 450 or 500 pictures now in the Gallery there were 60 to 80 more ready to come in as soon as wall space could be found for them. Then the question was, in what manner could the relief be given? In 1876 there was a proposal to increase the space of the National Portrait Gallery by two additional rooms, one of which was on the ground-floor immediately under the present Gallery, and the other the easternmost division of the central block. The central block was now occupied by the Civil Service Commissioners, and he was bound to admit the truthfulness of the description given of it; and, indeed, it might well bear to some of the candidates the idea of a chamber of torture. The portion proposed to be given up, however, was only about one-third of the upper storey of that building; and his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works informed him that the structural details would render it extremely difficult to screen off such a portion in a manner which would make efficient provision against fire. It would be very difficult to give up that portion of the centre block, though he was willing to confess that it was intended, in the first instance, that they should be allotted to the National Portrait Gallery. The Civil Service Commission occupied the central block for 60 days in the year, and it would cost some £1,200 a-year to provide the same accommodation elsewhere. He would now state what, with the concurrence of his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works, might be conceded to the Trustees—namely, the portion of the building which was under the present Gallery. To this his hon. Friend (Mr. Beresford Hope) offered two objections—one on the ground of insufficiency, the other on the ground of danger from fire. So far as the first objection was concerned, he thought it would be met by an offer which, if accepted, would double the accommodation the Trustees now possessed. It would be only necessary to construct two doorways—one right and one left—a small covered way, and also a staircase at each end, leading to the gallery above, which would enable visitors, when there was a large attendance, to circulate without inconvenience. It would, of course, be necessary to remove the objects which were now exhibited there. Large cases of pencils and remnants of school desks were, no doubt, of great value to those who were interested in education; but they had been in their present position for some years, and the time had arrived when it might be said that they had served their purpose. It was, therefore, his intention, and he believed that of his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner, to press upon the Science and Art Depart-that, without doing away with a collection to which they attached value, they might select the objects of undoubted interest which it possessed for exhibition elsewhere and allow the rooms he alluded to to be given up forthwith to the Trustees. A more formidable question had been raised, however, in the course of the discussion—namely, whether anything that could be done on the present ground would meet all future requirements. That was a very large question, one which involved several Departments of Art and of Science, and affected those who were interested in historical collections, antiquities, and other matters of that kind; and he trusted he might be allowed not to say anything with respect to it at present, lest some hasty expression might, perhaps, hereafter ripen into a crop of disappointments. In these matters they were obliged, to a certain extent, to live from hand-to-mouth; and he hoped that, pending the settlement of the larger question, his hon. Friend would accept the extra accommodation of which the trustees were in want and which he hoped they would at once obtain. He was, he confessed, somewhat frightened at the long list of English worthies to which his hon. Friend had alluded. What they should look to now was the practical question whether, without prejudice to anything that might be proposed in the future, the additional accommodation he had spoken of should not be accepted as an instalment. It would, at least, be an encouragement to those who might be willing to offer their pictures for the enjoyment of the public. In one of his letters the Secretary to the Trustees had spoken of the necessity of erecting pedestals on the ground-floor. He trusted that when they were erected, and when the friends of the hon. Member for Cambridge University presented him with a statue of himself, it would be placed on one of the pedestals, so that his hon. Friend might gaze over the work he had accomplished. What he had proposed had at least this merit—namely, that it could be proceeded with, probably, at once; but the House would allow him to make this reservation, that in the absence of his noble Friend the Vice President of the Council—through illness, he regretted to say, but who, he had no doubt, would assent to his proposal—he could not, the responsible Minister not being present, give a positive promise on the subject.


in reply, thanked his hon. and gallant Friend for the candid, satisfactory, and straightforward answer he had just given. He joined in the regret expressed as to the cause of the absence of his noble Friend the Vice President of the Council, but he willingly accepted a limited promise which was accompanied by such words as "forthwith" and "at once." He wished to supply an omission in his speech and record a very valuable gift which had been added to the Gallery by the wisdom and generosity of the Serjeants of the late Serjeants' Inn, consisting of their series of eminent lawyers and judges in 26 pictures, some by artists of fame, besides engravings, and state that that collection was already in the Gallery.


regretted that the time of the House should have been taken up by a discussion of this kind, when the matter might have easily been settled by the authorities at the Treasury.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.