HC Deb 16 February 1899 vol 66 cc1117-8
MR. WILLIAM AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether there is adequate fireproof strong-room accommodation at Somerset House for the valuable public books and documents therein; what is the nature of the books and documents preserved in such strong-rooms; up to what period are they so preserved, and whether the books and documents not kept in such strong-rooms are of any or no value; whether some of the rooms in Somerset House in which valuable registers are kept are divided by wooden partitions and lath-and-plaster walls, and whether naked lights are permitted in the galleries and passages of the building; and whether, having regard to the importance of safely preserving such public books and documents, he can give an assurance that all possible precautions are taken against fire and other dangers?


All applications made by the departments occupying Somerset House for strong-room accommodation have been met by my Office; and I cannot find, from inquiries which so far I have been able to make from the authorities at Somerset House, that more is considered necessary. I am informed that the strong-rooms contain the original wills and papers relating thereto, going back to the 15th century—together with the bound volumes of certified copies of Birth, Death and Marriage Registers. With regard to the third paragraph of my honourable and learned Friend's question, I am informed that no such valuable papers are stored in rooms of the description stated. Naked lights are used in some of the galleries and passages, but safety lamps or electric fights alone in the strong-rooms, and electric light is gradually being substituted for gas throughout. The building is very carefully guarded, and is fully equipped with fire appliances, and there are caretakers and night patrols, whilst a special fireman is employed in the Probate Registry during the night.