HL Deb 19 May 1871 vol 206 cc1034-7

asked Her Majesty's Government to state the nature and terms of the arrangement that has been made for the completion of the Wellington Monument in St. Paul's Cathedral?


said, as their Lordships were in possession of the Correspondence which carried the history of this subject down to the month of February in the present year, he would, in answering the noble Earl, limit himself strictly to what had since been done. Their Lordships would remember that at the close of the correspondence the position of things was this — Mr. Stevens' contract had been determined, Mr. Penrose's superintendence over the work had been discontinued, and Mr. Stevens had handed over that part of it which had been completed to the officers of the Board of Works. Her Majesty's Government found themselves at that moment in a somewhat embarrassing position, being responsible for the completion of a monument, the designer of which had been separated from it, of which some portions had been completed, while some were in process of completion, and others which had scarcely been commenced were lying at Mr. Stevens' studio. Under these circumstances, the Treasury were of opinion that, instead of at once inviting tenders from other artists, it would be preferable in the first instance to obtain the advice of some competent authority, whose professional position would give weight to his opinion as to the course to be adopted for turning to the best advantage the materials which so far had been supplied. To this course Mr. Ayrton, the First Commissioner, appeared to have an objection; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had put himself into communication with Mr. Fergusson, who was so especially qualified to advise in a matter of this nature, and who, having formerly been professional adviser to the Office of Works, was already well acquainted with the details of the case. Under these circumstances, there were two courses which Her Majesty's Government might have adopted. One was to invite the services of some eminent sculptor, and intrust him with the completion of the work. The other was to invite tenders for the completion of the monument, just as the original designs had been open to competition. After careful consultation with Mr. Fergusson, and a careful consideration of the courses open to them, the conclusion the Government came to was this—that it would be impossible to secure the services of any sculptor of eminence to finish a work designed and so far executed by another sculptor; and that, even if such a person could be found, it could not be expected that he could carry on the work with the same harmony and perfection of execution as its original designer; and that in all probability considerable incongruity would be the result, and that the monument when completed would exhibit traces of the different workmanship, and prove incongruous as a whole. The course, therefore, which the Government finally decided to adopt—though the Correspondence of which their Lordships were in possession undoubtedly at first sight pointed to a different conclusion—was that Mr. Stevens himself should be allowed to complete the work. Mr. Stevens' workmanship, he believed, was of undisputed excellence. Whether his design was original or not, it was highly artistic. However, as Mr. Stevens had exhibited unpunctuality and carelessness in carrying out his business engagements, a contract was now entered into with Mr. Collmann, who had on previous occasions worked with Mr. Stevens, and who had been engaged in connection with a great number of works of art; and while Mr. Stevens was to be intrusted with the artistic portion of the monument, Mr. Collmann was charged with the general superintendence of the work, and the pecuniary responsibility would centre on him. Thus a security would be obtained against any unpunctuality on Mr. Stevens' part. It was calculated that the monument would be completed in two years and a-half, at an additional cost of £9,000—which would raise the whole cost of Mr. Stevens' work to £22,000. Mr. Stevens would be paid by Mr. Collmann, in instalments, on the joint certificate of Mr. Fergusson and Captain Galton, who would see that the progress of the work justified the payments. He thought that the additional cost, though seemingly large, was not greater than they had reason to believe was warranted by the nature and character of the work; and there seemed little reason to doubt that the work, when completed, would be neither extravagant as regards its cost nor unworthy of the object for which it is designed. The course proposed by Her Majesty's Government had this great argument in its favour—that by its means it would, in a short time, be possible to complete this great monument, which had been so long and so unfortunately delayed.


thought that the only good reason the Government could allege for allowing Mr. Stevens to complete the work was because they had failed to find anybody else to do it. On any other grounds they would have been perfectly justified in taking the completion of the work out of his hands, as could be shown by reference to a letter from Mr. Russel, of the Office of Works, dated 22nd November, 1870, in answer to remonstrances on the part of Mr. Stevens as to the way in which he had been treated by the Office of Works. With regard to the originality of Mr. Stevens' design, he would appeal to those of their Lordships who had seen the Scaliger monuments in Verona to say whether there was, if not an identity, at any rate such similarity in Mr. Stevens' design with them, as to deprive Mr. Stevens of any merit on the score of originality with regard to his monument. He was, however, glad to hear that upon any terms the completion of the monument would be proceeded with.