HL Deb 29 July 1878 vol 242 cc515-7

asked, Whether, considering the admitted importance of establishing a Historical Gallery of Casts from the Antique, according to the plan proposed by Mr. Walter Perry, the First Lord of the Treasury will take immediate steps to have a Report prepared which could be laid before Parliament, on the scope and limits of the collection, how it could be obtained, and the probable cost? The matter was one as to the desirability of which there could be no question; and he was encouraged to put forward the subject, because two additional Memorials had been presented since he had last brought forward this subject. One was from the heads of the British Museum and the National Gallery; the other was signed by the Head Masters of Public Schools, and had attached to it the names of 26 gentlemen eminent in their profession. What he wanted was in the nature of a preliminary inquiry, which he believed there would be no difficulty in making. With regard to a site, there were rooms available at South Kensington quite large enough for a beginning. A grant of £10,000 for the purpose of establishing the collection would be all that would be required. The Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851 were favourable to the design. The authorities of South Kensington were ready to perform their part, and the chief authorities of the Museums in this country and abroad were ready to give assistance. He hoped he should receive a favourable answer from the noble Earl at the head of the Government, who, it was well known, took much interest in the promotion of the arts.


supported the application of the noble Earl, and hoped the noble Earl at the head of the Government would give his consent to the preliminary inquiry—which was all that was asked at the present moment.


said, it was unnecessary to impress on Her Majesty's Government the interest and importance of the object which the noble Earl had in view. There had never been any hesitation on the part of the Government upon that head. Nor did he think there had been any difficulty on the score of expense, although he did not pledge himself on that point. He quite agreed that this was a matter in which many took a great deal of interest. The difficulty first felt by the Government arose in this way. There were at this moment many Collections and Museums urging their claims on the Government either for pecuniary assistance or for having sites conferred on them. Both these claims were difficult to deal with. The expenditure for an object such as that brought forward by the noble Earl might not be excessive; but a precedent once set would influence other bodies to put forward their claims; and, therefore, they must be considered together by the Treasury in estimating the probable increase of expenditure. The matter was not so easily settled. There was another cause of delay. He had, perhaps imprudently, personally undertaken the attention of this business, and shortly afterwards he was very unexpectedly obliged to go abroad, and so it was neglected. He could say little more, therefore, than he said at the end of March; for, although several gentleman had been applied to to form a Treasury Committee, still nothing had been brought to a head, and the question was in the same state as at the end of March. Having candidly confessed his backsliding so far, he assured his noble Friends opposite it was a question which he fully appreciated, and he hoped during the Recess they should bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.

House adjourned at half past Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter before Five o'clock.