HC Deb 15 June 1900 vol 84 cc157-9
LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)

I beg to ask the First Commissioner of Works if any steps are proposed in order to isolate the National Gallery in view of the grave danger from fire to which the building is now subject.

MR. MIDDLEMORE (Birmingham, N.)

I beg to ask the First Commissioner of Works whether he intends to adopt any measures to ensure greater security from fire of the buildings and contents of the National Gallery; and, if so, what measures, and when does he propose to adopt them.

DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether his attention has been directed to a fire which took place on 30th May in the corner of the block of buildings in 12, Pall Mall East, adjoining the National Gallery; and whether, seeing that Block B, the south end of St. George's Barracks, forming the canteen, and presumably containing combustible material, absolutely abuts upon the wall of the Great Gallery containing Turner's pictures; chat the gable wall of this canteen is only 18 inches thick and has a chimney flue running up it, apparently built into the walls of the National Gallery itself; also that the back windows of the gallery are at right angles to those of the canteen, and, as they are only some six or eight feet from the latter, in the case of the canteen catching fire and the wind blowing from the north, it would be almost impossible to prevent the flames being driven into the windows of the gallery; and also that no precaution could prevent damage to the national collection from flames, sparks, smoke, or heating of the party wall, he will consider the desirability of cutting off the building containing our priceless national collection from the barracks on the one hand and the group of inflammable shops on the other.


The fire which occurred on the 30th May last in premises adjacent to the National Gallery tested the arrangements hitherto made for the protection of the gallery against fire, and the result was in the main satisfactory. In the opinion of Her Majesty's Government the risk at the present time is slight, but in order to reduce it to a minimum, negotiations have been commenced with the owners of the adjacent property with a view to the isolation of the western end of the National Gallery. Should these negotiations fail, which I hope may not be the case, Parliament will be asked in the usual manner to furnish powers to the Government for the immediate acquisition of the property in question. I do not know whether after this the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire requires me to give the answer prepared to his question to the First Lord of the Treasury.


If the right hon. Gentleman has any further information I shall be glad to hear it.


The second paragraph of the question of the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire is apparently taken en bloc from the file of the Daily Graphic, of 6th June, 1895, which I have with me. This statement is out of date and consequently inaccurate. I have already on more than one occasion explained to the hon. Member in the House that Block B of St. George's Barracks is not in actual contact (save by a screen wall) with the wall of the National Gallery; and that the canteen has boon removed to the other end of the barracks. The statement with regard to the position of the chimney flue and the gallery windows is not correct — the flue being part of the National Gallery and not of the barracks, and, further, is not in use. The House will recollect that the barracks will be removed as soon as those now in course of construction at Millbank are completed, and further, that the Government last year purchased a large block of property in St. Martin's Street, which has since been cleared.