HC Deb 17 March 1891 vol 351 cc1223-4
DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

I beg to ask the First Commissioner of Works whether his attention has been called to that portion of the Annual Report of the Director of the National Gallery for 1890, in which he calls attention to the crowded state of the Gallery, and the impossibility of maintaining a systematic classification of the pictures until further accommodation is provided, and expresses a hope that the Treasury will not long delay to carry out the promise made by the First Commissioner of Works in 1889, that, inasmuch as the ground acquired for the extension of the National Gallery had been used for the National Portrait Gallery, the Government would, if more space were required for the National Gallery, remove St. George's Barracks elsewhere; whether the crowded state of the rooms, and the impossibility of hanging more pictures, now suggests an enlargement of the Gallery; and whether he will consider the advisability of removing St. George's Barracks, and thus ensure the safety of the National collection, which is now placed in the closest proximity to buildings and warehouses filled with inflammable goods, and exposed to constant risk of fire?


I have read the Report of the Director of the National Gallery for 1890. The Government will, of course, be prepared to carry out the promise I made on their behalf in 1889—that, when they are satisfied that more space is required for the extension of the National Gallery, it should be found in the adjoining barrack-yard; and I am sure that any representation made to the Government by the Trustees of the National Gallery will receive very careful consideration. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that in 1887 a very large extension of the exhibition galleries was completed, at the cost of £50,000, by which five new rooms, a vestibule, and a staircase were added to the hanging space. No doubt it would be better if the galleries were entirely detached from the barracks, which at one point they now adjoin, but this matter has not been overlooked; and some years ago the divisional wall between the two buildings, was carried up to a considerable height above the roof of the National Gallery, and all other possible precautions will continue to be taken for protection from fire.


Is it not a fact that portions of the barracks are actually in contact with the Turner room, which contains some of the greatest Art treasures in the Gallery; and whether two fires have not already taken place in barracks in or near London?


It is true that at one point the two buildings are very close together; but the precautions I have spoken of have already been taken, and we are at present considering a scheme for providing a better supply of water in case of fire.