HL Deb 24 March 1884 vol 286 cc561-73

, in rising to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty that the equestrian statue of the late Duke of Wellington may not be removed from London, but replaced in the vicinity of Apsley House, on a site not less appropriate than that from which it has been taken, said: My Lords, your Lordships may have seen a Notice I have upon the Paper for this evening. It is the inevitable consequence of the Question I put in August last upon the subject. It is only to be faithful to the opinion then advanced, to the position then maintained, that I am forced on the same matter to come again before your Lordships. My Lords, after a Question from a noble Lord now present in the House, on the 8th of February, the Government amazed us by declaring their intention to remove the equestrian statue of the late Duke of Wellington to Aldershot. As it was taken from the arch without consulting Parliament, without consulting Parliament it may be suddenly removed from the Metropolis. It therefore becomes the House, if the decision is improper, at once to exercise whatever veto may belong to them. They may do so with the more effect, inasmuch as a scheme I will not characterize at present is loudly censured by the public wherever their opinions find an adequate expression. My Lords, having sufficiently explained my view in August last, although to a small number, I now only wish to speak with the greatest brevity attainable on the two propositions contained in the Address it is proposed to bring before Her Majesty. The first is—that the statue should not be removed from the Metropolis; the second, that it should be replaced in the neighbourhood of Apsley House, on as good a site as that which has been forfeited. If Her Majesty's Government were not pre-occupied by great affairs and distant combinations, if their colossal minds were more at liberty to stoop to local matters, they would never have committed themselves to the extraordinary project they have mentioned. The first objection is, that it would be a flagrant breach of faith with the original subscribers. The original subscribers gave up their money and their time, in order to erect a monument to the Duke of Wellington in London. Without their sanction you cannot move it to a Provincial quarter. You are no more at liberty to do so than to transfer it to a foreign capital. When it was handed over to the Board of Works, no such discretion was imparted. Would the Board of Works have ventured at the time to set it up at Farnborough or Colchester? Could they have legally so acted? Nothing has arisen to convey legality to that which then would have been wholly inadmissible. Again, the Government is not entitled, without consent from Parliament or some Municipal authority, to deprive the capital of statues. They are encroaching on the rights and the enjoyments of 3,000,000 persons who have not sanctioned the removal. But by depriving the Metropolis of statues, you deprive the world at large of statues also. The world at large are travellers to London, but are not travellers to Aldershot. It is the interest of all who start from a considerable distance, that the monument of the Duke of Wellington should be where they are certain to arrive when they visit the United Kingdom—namely, in its capital. Would it be no wrong to cosmopolitan society at large, if it was suddenly resolved at Berlin to transfer the statue of the Great Elector to Spandau; while that of Frederick the Second re-appeared at Brandenburg or Stettin? But it is intended to replace the vanished statue by a new one. But are you certain to obtain it? When the Government is only able to go on to indispensable Supply one night by a majority of 17, another by one of 11, is it a prudent calculation to assume that the House of Commons will vote £6,000 for an unnecessary statue, which cannot have, by any possibility, the value of the former one? But if another statue is erected, why should not Aldershot possess it? What sort of ground can be made good for the withdrawal of the present one? Besides, when you determine to remove the existing statue of the Duke of Wellington from London, it may be endlessly debated where it is to go to. My Lords, it will be endlessly debated, when money is required for the arrangement. Assuming that it ought to pass to an encampment, some may be for Aldershot, and others for Shorncliffe. Aldershot, no doubt, contains a larger military force, and, so far, has a better title to possess it. But Shorncliffe commands the neighbourhood of Hythe, of Sandgate, and of Folkestone, and it would leave the statue open to a much larger range of public observation. It is not desirable that Parliament should be employed upon these controversies; and yet, without the voice of Parliament, it is not possible to settle them. There is but one further point in that connection. If the statue is at all a treasure, London ought to guard it. If it is not, why is Aldershot to be condemned to it? It is said that we are not a military nation. As yet, however, we have not gone so far the other way as to see in camps a receptacle for lumber, or a kind of substitution for the melting-pot. Let me add now only a few words as to the site which ought to be adopted. This Address would commit the House to no pinion which might be questioned by a technical authority. Last Session, indeed, I did maintain that the best position, and the most approximate to the old one, would be found on the arches in line with Apsley House, which form a boundary of Hyde Park and Piccadilly. I do not ask the House to sanction that opinion. Many may prefer its going back to its former arch, although that arch has been displaced from its original position. Some would raise a pedestal upon the ground on which the figure is provisionally standing. None of these plans would be excluded. It is only now essential to advert to the vicinity of Apsley House, as the Address would urge it on Her Majesty. The Government have told us that the illustrious Prince who sits sometimes on the Cross Benches is anxious that the area of Hyde Park Corner may be more clearly linked and more indelibly associated than even previously it has been with the hero of Assaye, of Salamanca, and of Waterloo. I readily subscribe to that impression. It is the only one which urges me to any action on the subject. So long as on that area we concentrate memorials of the Duke of Wellington, so long his influence will; still continue to exert itself on a society which might be rapidly demoralized without it, so long a model of civil, military, and domestic virtue forcibly presented will tend to elevate the minds and households of the Kingdom, while many circumstances incident to growing luxury, to growing wealth, perpetually lower them. To execute a view the Government ascribe to such an eminent authority, you cannot wantonly diminish those memorials. They consist of Apsley House, the statue of Achilles, and the equestrian figure which the Duke of Wellington himself desired to preserve on the site where it was originally fixed, with the recorded judgment of the Prince Consort to approve it. I refer now to recent letters of the Duke of Rutland, which cannot have escaped the notice of your Lordships. No work of art, however excellent, can have so great a hold over the thoughts, the feelings, and the aspirations of posterity. It is difficult, in any part of Europe, to find a monument which had the sanction and the predilection of its object. The region now termed Hyde Park Corner, whatever name you give it, will not be commemorative of the Duke of Wellington, to the same extent if the equestrian figure is removed as if it is retained there. My Lords, there is no doubt that, in a large and influential class, the removal will be construed as a grave indignity to an exalted name; as a wanton outrage on a sacred, almost a testamentary, injunction. It does not become noble Lords on this side of the House to sanction it, on a peculiar ground which I will mention. The late Duke of Wellington, for many years, was viewed as their political opponent. At every General Election, the reproach would be hurled upon their Party that, against his known prepossession, they first deposed the statue from the arch, and then expelled it from the capital. If they have an eye to future triumphs with electors, they will refrain from such a formidable error. The Whippers in ought to prohibit it. As to noble Lords over the way, it is inconceivable that they should permit the memory of a cherished Leader to be desecrated. In about 10 years are the statues of the late Lord Derby and the late Lord Beaconsfield to be decomposed by joints, and sent on nightly waggons to the country, lest popular resentment should oppose the movement happening by daylight? My Lords, I am glad to see, by looking back to the discussion on the 8th of February, that what I urge to-night is but an echo of the protest which has already fallen from the illustrious Duke by whom the Army is commanded. I will now conclude by moving for the Address of which I have given Notice. Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty that the equestrian statue of the late Duke of Wellington may not be removed from London, but replaced in the vicinity of Aspley House on a site not less appropriate than that from which it has been take."—(The Lord Stratheden and Campbell.)


said, he thought it would be well if he stated exactly how the matter stood. When this subject was before the House a few weeks ago, it would be in the remembrance of their Lordships that he stated that, during last autumn, the First Commissioner of Works found that there was a considerable feeling prevailing in various quarters, and especially in the Army, that the recommendation of the Committee of eminent gentlemen, who sat last year, in favour of the statue being broken up, ought not to be carried out, and that, rather than that the statue should be destroyed, if no suitable site could be found in the Metropolis, it should be taken to some other site, oven if it were in the country entirely out of London. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales early this year, seeing the difficulty that existed, and being anxious that nothing should hinder the completion of the great improvement at Hyde Park Corner, suggested to the Government that, if no other site could be selected in the Metropolis, Aldershot would be, as a great national training camp of the Army, a fitting site, and that he would endeavour to induce a number of gentlemen to form themselves into a Committee, to consider how the place could be fittingly adorned, and to raise funds for the purpose. The Government readily acquiesced in the proposal, and intimated that if they were not called upon to pay more than £6,000 for a new statue, they would be willing that the old one should be taken to Aldershot. They accordingly agreed to ask Parliament to vote the sum of £6,000 towards a new statue, if the Committee could see their way to sufficient funds to carry out the remainder of the scheme. The Prince of Wales at once set to work with his accustomed energy, and succeeded in getting a large number of gentlemen, representing different sections of society, to join him in considering how best such a proposal could be carried out, and also to see whether any better site than Aldershot could be found. A small Sub-Committee was formed to determine whether, on the whole, Aldershot was the best place, and the whole matter was most carefully gone into, and their Report had since received the entire approval of the General Committee. This Report being a private document, had not yet been submitted to the Government; but he (Lord Sudeley), by the courtesy of His Royal Highness, was permitted to state what the result of the investigation had boon. The Government, as he had said, had not had the Report before them, so that no final decision had been come to by them. Among the many sites suggested as alternatives where it could fittingly be erected, the Committee considered Chelsea Hospital, Wellington College, a site in Hyde Park, and one at Portsmouth. The Chelsea Hospital site was found impracticable, as, owing to the colossal size of the statue, it would have involved the destruction of a large number of trees in the old historical avenue of Queen Anne, which was intended to join Kensington, and that would have completely masked the north facade, and it would have dwarfed the buildings. In addition to that, the present Duke of Wellington very much objected to the Chelsea site. Another site near was also suggested, but it was too small. Then Hyde Park was taken into account; but it was found that it would not be a good place, as the statue of Achilles would prevent that of Wellington from being erected near Apsley House. Nor did Portsmouth, notwithstanding the great importance of the town, meet with more favour. As to Aldershot, the case was different, for none of the objections that had been raised attached to it. True, Aldershot was not a camp in the time of Wellington, but it was a great camp now; and as every soldier must, sooner or later, sometime during his life be in this great training camp, it commended itself on every ground. The Sub-Committee, therefore, arrived at the decision that, on the whole, Aldershot would be the most suitable place; and it would be satisfactory to their Lordships to know that the removal of the statue to Aldershot met with the entire approval of the present Duke of Wellington; and at the final meeting of the Committee he himself proposed a resolution embodying it. As the great object was that nothing should be done to militate in the smallest degree against the great name and fame of the Duke, this was a most important point. There had been great misconceptions respecting whether the Duke ever sat for the statue, or whether the statue was a model of the horse, Copenhagen. As a matter of fact, He believed there was no doubt that the Duke sat on several occasions early in 1839 for the drawing of the design; but he never sat for the actual statue. The sculptor, Mr. Wyatt, having to make his statue represent the Duke in the year 1815, found it easier to copy from a bust of Nollekens taken at that period. They had the authority of the present Duke and the late Lord Charles Wellesley, that the Duke never sat for the statue. As regarded the horse, what happened appeared to have been this. The horse, Copenhagen, had been dead three years, and the sculptor, finding that he was bound to take the model of a horse as near like Copenhagen as possible, selected the thoroughbred, Recovery, supposed to be very like the dead animal, and modelled it instead. For the now statue, there would be no more difficulty to the sculptor in producing a proper likeness of both horse and man than there was in producing the original. Indeed, it would be easier, for there were two pictures in the possession of Lord Penrhyn and Lord Bathurst, exact portraits of both the Duke and Copenhagen, taken in 1815; so there need be no fear of the sculptor not having equal advantages with Mr. Wyatt. The noble Lord (Lord Stratheden and Campbell) had spoken of this site, where the statue was lately placed, as having always been approved. This was very far from being the case. In 1846 the Government remonstrated most strongly, and Lord Canning wrote to the Duke of Rutland on the subject, to show what was the feeling about the statue among a great number of influential persons. The noble Lord said that it was wrong to remove the statue from London, it having been placed in the Metropolis by the subscribers. Surely, however, Parliament was the trustee for the subscribers. The subject had already been before the House, and before the statue was removed, the other House must vote £6,000 for the purpose. The noble Lord said that, to remove the statue to Aldershot, would be "to deprive the world of a great pleasure." He (Lord Sudeley) was not aware that the statue was over considered a valuable work of art, and, certainly, the eminent Committee that sat last year had a very different opinion, when they suggested it should be broken up. The noble Lord had also spoken of its being a precedent for the removal of other statues. If other statues were bad works of art, perhaps, no great loss would arise; but, at any rate, the noble Lord must allow that full investigation had been made in this case, and that this removal would not have taken place except after great care and consideration. He trusted the noble Lord would be satisfied with this explanation, and not press Ins Motion to a Division.


said, he thought there was little to be said on the subject, which, in his opinion, was thoroughly exhausted. The most that could be said of it was that it was really a question between taste and sentiment. As regarded the question of taste, it was well known that the Committee, which sat at an early period of last year, declared against the artistic merits of the statue as being decidely unworthy of the artist, who had otherwise executed some very good work. Further than that, neither the Duke nor Copenhagen sat for it. As a matter of sentiment, no doubt, many people did not like to part with an object with which they had been familiar for many years, and there was some notion that it was derogatory to the memory of this great General to remove his statue to Aldershot. But he would call their attention to the fact that Parliament was to be asked to vote a sum to supply another statue of suitable proportions in the place of this, to be erected in London. The noble Lord (Lord Stratheden and Campbell) had expressed a doubt as to Parliament voting the necessary money; but he (Viscount Hardinge) believed that Parliament would be found sufficiently patriotic to do so. It had also been suggested by the noble Lord that it would be a breach of faith with the subscribers to remove the statue; but when Lord Morpeth was First Commissioner of Works, in 1847, he proposed to remove it, and the noble Lord actually wrote to the late Duke of Rutland, and told him they were going to pull the statue down; and the intention was only abandoned in deference to the objection of the Duke of Wellington himself, who said that as he was up, he did not like coming down. Therefore, the Government of the day saw no breach of contract in the removal of the statue, and that incident entirely disposed of the point as to breach of faith. All the sites in London had been found unsatisfactory, and there was, he thought, nothing left for it but to remove the statue to Aldershot, which was a most appropriate site for it, being where it would be seen by every soldier. He thought they must all thank the Prince of Wales for his efforts in the matter, He hoped the noble Lord would not press his Motion.


My Lords, I ventured to remind your Lordships, some time ago, of the good effect which the statue of the late Duke of Wellington produced when seen from the opposite side of the Park. I believe that, if appealed to, the inhabitants of Tyburnia would subscribe enough to raise it to a position as commanding as the old one, and that there might be a surplus sufficient for the completion of a new statue for Aldershot. The needless expense and danger of removal would be saved, and any defects of the statue would be imperceptible, whilst the elevation would be very suitable to the exalted character of the late Duke. No one is more bound to honour His Grace's memory than the humble individual who addresses your Lordships. When successful in restoring my Father to his rank at the Bar, by explaining the false impression conveyed by a Greek quotation, the noble Duke said—"He had never had a tougher job in his life." The noble Duke had said as to the first Reform Bill, that it would be very difficult for the King's Government to be carried on, and his opinion had been almost verified lately; but I hope for the best for the future, and believe that the people, by their Representatives, will do justice to the memory of the late Duke, so illustrious as he was, not only in India, in the Peninsula and Belgium, but also as a diplomatist.


wild, that it had been said that this was simply a matter between a question of taste and a question of sentiment, and he looked at it as a question of sentiment. It was well known that the Iron Duke himself said that as the statue had been put up where it had so long stood, he did not wish to have it taken down again. But for Constitution Hill requiring some alteration, that wish would have been respected; and he (the Earl of Galloway) did not see why, now that the pedestal had been erected in another and more appropriate position, the statue should not follow suit, so that the inhabitants of London and all who came to the Metropolis might see it there as before rather than that it should be taken away to be re-erected at a distance. If once it was determined that the statue should be removed out of London, no more appropriate place could be found for it than Aldershot; but still it would be a great satisfaction to all who cherished the memory of the great Duke to see it remain where it was before rather than permit it to be taken away for ever.


said, he thought the statement made by the noble Lord (Lord Sudeley), announcing the decision of the Government, would be considered as satisfactory by the public generally, as being in accord with public feeling, and the feeling of the Duke's family. A more satisfactory course could not be pursued than that proposed of erecting a new equestrian statue of the great Duke. There were, in this question, two matters to be considered in relation to the statue. One was, the recollection of the great Duke himself and the national feeling of gratitude to him; and the other was, what foreigners might think of the way in which that feeling was expressed. With regard to the first, he was always at a loss to know how the prevalent opinion could be gathered, for the public Press, like individuals, was not unfrequently mistaken. He believed that the general opinion of foreigners coming to this country had been to condemn the statue as a work of art. Were not their Lordships, together with the nation, interested in having a memorial, of one they all looked up to, commensurate with his great qualities and great abilities? That was not a matter entirely to be ignored; and it seemed to him, from the reply of the noble Lord, that that had been sufficiently considered by the Government, because it was their intention, should the suggestion be approved in "another place," to carry out that view. There was no doubt the statue had been universally condemned a sa work of art, and, that being so, it became of comparatively little importance where it should be placed. The main question was whether or no there should be any substitution for it.


said, he must be allowed to differ from the noble Lord who had just spoken (Lord Truro). He (the Earl of Feversham) could not help feeling and giving expression to the regret he felt at the decision which had been taken by the Government. This statue belonged to the Metropolis, and was the only considerable statue of the great Duke; and before they consented to its removal he hoped they would receive a very decided assurance and guarantee from Her Majesty's Government that it was their intention to replace it by a statue of greater merit and of equal importance. He should, moreover, like to know what kind of statue it would be, and where it would be placed. He thought the present statue might very well be placed in Hyde Park, or on the mound recently made in the Green Park, nearly opposite the residence of the illustrious Duke, or near the statue of Achilles in Hyde Park, or on many other equally good sites. He hoped the Government would give some guarantee that the now statue should be worthy of the illustrious Duke.


said, he hoped that no hasty opinion would he arrived at in this matter before it had been thoroughly ventilated. It was known to him when a boy that the statue of the horse was not that of Copenhagen; and he remembered the old horse, Recovery, from which it was taken in Mr. Tattersall's paddock. He had, however, seen it in print that the Duke said he would sit for the statue whenever the artist should require. He questioned the propriety of having this subject fully discussed in the absence of the noble Dukes (the Duke of Buccleuch and the Duke of Rutland), and other influential Members of the House, whose opinion on the matter it would be most desirable to have.


said, that, as far as he could judge public opinion, as expressed upon this matter, it was almost universally in favour of the statue remaining in the neighbourhood of Apsley House, and this was the first time they had been asked to discuss the question of its rustication to a quarter where it would not be seen. The statue was placed in the neighbourhood of Apsley House, and the plan was framed and carried out entirely with the Duke's own concurrence, and no new statue could be put in its place. It was very easy to say it was to be replaced by a finer and superior statue; but he would remind their Lordships that we were not particularly happy in our equestrian statues, and he should not be surprised if it should turn out that the proposed work was not considered an improvement on the existing one. He was, therefore, extremely sorry that the purpose was to remove the statue from the Metropolis and send it into rustication.


said, he could not agree that the family of the late Duke of Wellington were very jubilant at the prospect of the removal of the statue into the country. The family, in fact, would be very glad to see the statue remain where it was originally erected, and he believed that it was the strong feeling of the present Duke of Wellington against the intention of the Government to send the statue to the melting pot that led him to give his consent to the removal to Aldershot. For his own part, while admitting that he was not a competent critic on the art of statuary, he thought that the statue looked very well on the top of the arch, and that it certainly would not look equally well on a low pedestal. It would be very satisfactory, and the family would be glad to see the statue replaced, if that were possible; but if that could not be done, they would be very grateful if another statue of the same description were erected in the same place.


My Lords, the objections to the Motion have been so conspicuously feeble, and it has had so much authority and argument to back it, that rather than detain the House by a reply, I will leave unanswered many misconceptions to which anyone is liable who urges some proceeding on your Lordships. Let me remark only as to what fell from the noble Viscount with a military name; (Viscount Hardinge), that, while he thinks the House of Commons will have the patriotism to vote the £6,000, I hold that they will have the patriotism to refuse it. I much regret the absence of; my noble Friends (Lord Lamington, the Duke of Buccleuch, the Duke of Rutland and others), whose opinions are well known upon this subject. But as the judgment of the House will not be more mature than it is at present, I shall feel bound at once to go to a Division.

On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 20; Not-Contents 26: Majority 6.

Resolved in the negative.

House adjourned at Six o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.