HL Deb 25 March 1862 vol 166 cc1-3

ORDER of the day for Second Reading read.


moved, that the Bill be now read the second time. The object of the Bill was to enable the Trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, to send works of art to the International Exhibition, 1862. Doubt had arisen whether, under the private Act of 3 & 4. Will. IV., c. 4, by which the Museum was established, the Trustees had the power of lending their works, and the Bill enabled them to do so.


said, he was far from wishing to offer any opposition to this Bill, but he thought it was one which required consideration. Its object was to enable the Trustees of one of the public exhibitions of the metropolis to lend some of its choicest treasures to the Great International Exhibition which would be opened this year at Kensington. If the principle of the Bill was good, he did not see why it should not be extended to the other metropolitan museums; but then arose the question—ought those exhibitions to be denuded of their attractions at a time when so great a number of foreigners and of persons from all parts of the United Kingdom would resort to London? He thought that at a time when strangers from every part of the world were to be invited to London, the public museums of the metropolis, so far from being denuded of their treasures, should be kept in the highest order, with the view of having those treasures displayed in the most attractive form. Again, there was another important consideration. Subject to the restrictions that were intended to make it a place of instruction, the Soane Museum was open gratuitously. Was it, then, consistent with the objects of the founder to temporarily transfer a portion of the collection to an exhibition admission to which was only to be had by payment? A similar application had been made to the Trustees of the National Gallery; and the Trustees had, he thought wisely, come to the conclusion that the time would be peculiarly inopportune, and that it would even be contrary to their trust to allow any of the treasures of art which they possessed to be removed from their own walls. Under these circumstances he thought he was justified in saying, that the Bill before their Lordships was one which deserved very serious consideration.


said, he could quite understand the feeling that had actuated the Trustees of the National Gallery in arriving at the decision to which his noble Friend had referred. The National Gallery was a great public exhibition, to which every one had access, and which was visited by vast numbers; but, inasmuch as it was desirable that the character of British art should be illustrated at the Great Exhibition, he could not but think it advisable that those pictures of Hogarth and Gainsborough which were in the Soane Museum should be temporarily transferred in the way proposed by this Bill. If, indeed, it had been likely that any great number of persons would visit the Soane Museum in the course of the coming season, he would admit that the proposition would be objectionable; but when their Lordships reflected that the number of visitors to the Soane Museum during the last year was only 2,000, it would be impossible to institute any comparison between that number and the millions who would visit the gallery at South Kensington during the Great Exhibition.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.