HL Deb 31 March 1865 vol 178 cc556-60

in presenting a petition from the Inhabitants of Kingston-upon-Thames, and of other parishes in the neighbourhood, praying that the Cartoons might be allowed to remain in Hampton Court Palace, said, he wished to draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the state of the Palace and its grounds, and the inexpediency of removing the Cartoons from the Palace. Some very beautiful iron gates had been thought worthy to be removed from Hampton Court Palace grounds to South Kensington Museum, They were made in 1695, and he understood it would be impossible to get a duplicate made of them in 1865—yet an inscription on them stated that they were the work of a "blacksmith." He thought that it would have been very much better if they had been allowed to remain at Hampton with a similar inscription, adding only the word "country" to blacksmith. What might have been the benefit to the working classes who went to Hampton Court Palace by thousands, from looking at those beautiful gates and learning that they were the work of a common blacksmith? These gates had been at Hampton Court for upwards of a century and a half, and he regarded it as almost sacrilege to remove them to South Kensington. He found that they had, since their removal, been repaired by certain processes which would preserve them whilst under cover, but would rather hasten their destruction if exposed in the open air. Under these circumstances he could not, of course, urge their restoration to the place from whence they had been taken; and he must say that he regarded them as a great ornament in the place in which they now were. Now, as to the Cartoons. It had been said that the ground for their removal was the danger of injury by fire; but in his opinion there never was a place in which so much pains had been taken to guard against fire as in the abode—if he might so call it— of the Cartoons. He trusted they would not be removed. They were originally brought to this country from Flanders by Charles I.; and after the execution of that monarch were preserved to the nation by Cromwell; and thus after many adventures found a final resting place in the Palace of Hampton Court. The gallery had been built by Sir Christopher Wren expressly for them, and it was admirably calculated for its purpose. The room was long and narrow, with ample room for them, and not more than enough. There was water laid on ready at a moment's notice, and most elaborate machinery had lately been erected by means of which, in the event of danger, the Cartoons could be lowered in their frames and could easily be taken out, folded up, and removed from the room. Nothing could be more perfect or better adapted to its purpose than this machinery. There would be much more danger from fire in a building like that at South Kensington. As their Lordships knew, the drawings were made upon paper, and this paper had been afterwards placed upon canvas. They also knew that they were drawn as designs for tapestry, and that they had been cut into pieces for the tapestry to be worked from them—he believed the tapestry was now at Berlin. He had looked at them closely, and could see in places very thin paper coming from the canvas, which seemed to show that they were in a very delicate state, and he thought that to move them without actual necessity would be one of the most dangerous things that he could conceive. Kensington Museum also abounded with beautiful things, and the danger was that there would be so many beautiful things brought together that the attention would be distracted, and the visitors would not fix their attention upon any one object so as to get a knowledge of art from its inspection. Nothing diverted attention so much as variety. Everybody who went to Hampton Court Palace went to see the Cartoons; and they were the first things that foreign visitors asked for. They had injured those interested in Hampton Court Palace by taking away the gates, and he asked Her Majesty's Government not to add insult to injury by taking away the Cartoons.

He would take this opportunity of drawing attention to the state of the gardens at Hampton Court Palace, and to express a hope that the Lord President (Earl Granville) would go down and look at them; and also that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cowper), who had done so much for the Parks by planting beautiful flowers, would go also. They could in those gardens obtain at a moderate expense everything that would delight the eye; and yet these advantages were thrown away, and no effect at all was produced. Their Lordships knew that in the Palace Gardens there were many pedestals for statuary, but nearly all of them were unoccupied by statues, those ornaments having been removed. He should be the last man to wish to interfere with Her Majesty's pleasure, if it were in accordance with Her pleasure that the statues had been taken away; but he called upon the Government to supply their places with other statues; for he believed that there was no other place in the country equal to Hampton Court Palace grounds for the display of works of art. If it was their desire to teach the humbler classes a knowledge of art, in order to the improvement of our manufactures, and place them on a level with those of France, they must do as they did in France, give the working classes the opportunity of seeing works of art.


said, that as his noble and learned Friend resided in the neighbourhood of Hampton Court it was natural that he should desire to draw attention to any deficiencies in respect to that Palace. With regard to the iron gates which had been removed from Hampton Court, their Lordships were hardly in a position to form a just opinion of the merits of the case until they had before them the papers which had been moved for by the Marquess of Salisbury, who certainly had done a most important service when he ordered these gates to be brought from the place where they had been poked into a park fence, without being in any way properly displayed, and to be restored as they had been. He had taken the opinion of several persons thoroughly qualified to judge of these matters, and, among others, Mr. Hart, of Cockspur Street, who said that it would be destructive to the gates, which were most valuable as works of reference, to place, them again in the open air. With regard to the naked pedestals, the matter should be mentioned to Mr. Cowper; but the noble Lord was mistaken in supposing that Her Majesty had anything to do with the removal of the statues. [Lord ST. LEONARDS said, that he had not said so.] It was some forty or fifty years ago, before her reign began, that they were removed to Windsor, and, of course, it was quite impossible to disfigure the terraces at Windsor by moving them back again to Hampton Court. He came now to the case of the Cartoons. His noble and learned Friend was of opinion that there were already too many works of art at South Kensington. The greater portion of the paintings and other objects of art had been lent by persons of various classes for the purpose of adding to the enjoyment and promoting the instruction of those who visited there. Her Majesty had sent pictures, objects of art, pieces of china, and, in fact, everything which could be of use or interest to the people, and particularly to the labouring classes. The noble and learned Lord thought it a pity to take away the Cartoons from Hampton Court, because they were visited there by persons of every description, and because the first thing that foreigners did upon arriving in London was to go down to see them. But of this he (Earl Granville) was quite certain, that more than double the number of persons, and above all of the labouring classes, visited South Kensington. And that brought him to another point—the danger to the pictures from lighting the galleries with gas. Upon that subject he would put in his noble and learned Friend's hands a report drawn up by Captain Fowke and some other scientific gentlemen, which showed the great advantages of the system of lighting adopted at South Kensington, and that no harm whatever was done to the pictures by the gas. And as for the lighting of the galleries in the day-time, he did not think it possible that a better system could be adopted. The noble and learned Lord himself could not think of comparing the lighting of the Hampton Court galleries with those of South Kensington. Application had been made to Her Majesty to allow the Cartoons to be exhibited in South Kensington, and she had been graciously pleased to give permission. When the public had had the advantage of viewing these great works in the superior light of the South Kensington galleries, and comparing them with their recollection of them in the inferior light at Hampton Court, it would then become a very proper subject of inquiry where they were permanently to be placed. The real question to be considered was, whether the course now proposed to be taken would not add very much to the interest felt by the public in works of art.

House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, till Monday next, Eleven o'clock.