HC Deb 26 March 1897 vol 47 cc1440-2
MR. W. F. B. MASSEY-MAINWARING (Finsbury, Central)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury when he will make his promised statement respecting the terms attached by the late Lady Wallace to her gift of the Wallace Collection to the Nation. Is the gentleman now examining the collection acting on behalf of the Government, and what are his instructions; and, will the First Lord of the Treasury undertake that if it is proposed by the Government to make a selection from the whole collection bequeathed, such selection shall not be placed in the hands of any one individual, but shall be made by a competent committee of twelve persons?


My hon. Friend has put this Question under some misconception as to the facts. The answer will be long, but perhaps it would be convenient that I should read out the terms of the bequest, which really govern the whole transaction. The bequest to the nation made by a codicil of the Will of the late Lady Wallace is in the following words:— I bequeath to the British nation my pictures, porcelain, bronzes, artistic furniture, armour, miniatures, snuff boxes, and works of art which are placed on the ground and first floors and in the galleries at Hertford House, on the express condition that the Government for the time being shall agree to give a site in a central part of London and build thereon a special museum to contain the said collection, which shall always be kept together unmixed with other objects of arts and shall be styled 'The Wallace Collection'; but this request shall not include personal and modern jewellery, trinkets, and effects, nor ordinary modern furniture or chattels, but shall include the Louis XIV. balustrade at Hertford House, which my executors shall replace by an ordinary modern balustrade, and the said Louis XIV. balustrade shall be used in the new museum to be erected for the said collection. And I hereby declare that if any doubt shall arise as to whether any object shall form part of the collection or not the question shall be determined by my executors and their decision shall be final. Thus the question whether any object at Hertford House as included in the bequest is to be decided by the executors, and Her Majesty's Government have no power of selection. By the courtesy of the executors, it has been arranged that in the case of any article as to which they themselves feel any doubt, two experts—one nominated by Her Majesty's Government, and one by the executors—shall examine the article, and report their opinion to the executors, with whom the decision rests. Mr. Woods, of the firm of Christie, Manson, and Woods, will act for Her Majesty's Government.