HL Deb 11 August 1885 vol 300 cc1718-20

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he will make arrangements for the opening of the National Gallery to the public on three evenings in every week? The noble Marquess said, the matter was one of great public interest; and, therefore, he thought it right to put this Question before the Prorogation, in order that during the Recess the National Gallery might be opened as he suggested. It had been frequently before their Lordships, in the form of a proposal for opening these Galleries on Sundays; but they had hitherto refused, rightly he thought in accordance with the preponderance of the opinion of the working classes throughout the country, to sanction the suggestion. These Galleries were as much the property of the working classes as of their Lordships or any other class in the community; but, under existing circumstances, it was exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for the working classes to take advantage of the Collections which they contained. This they would be able to do, if the Galleries were open in the evening; and he hoped that the noble Earl would give some indication that the suggestion he proposed would be carried out. Though he (the Marquess of Lothian) was not one of those who placed great reliance on the educational influences of Art, he thought it very desirable that the public should have increased means of participating in an innocent and refined, pleasure. From 1860 downwards, the House of Commons had repeatedly passed Resolutions in favour of this proposal. There had certainly been very strong reasons against opening Galleries of this kind, because of the detriment to the pictures by the use of gas; but these reasons were now removed by the use of electricity. The South Kensington Museum had been opened in the evening with most satisfactory results; and now that they had the electric light, there was no objection on the score of damage to the pictures from artificial light. Fifty-seven out of the 73 members of the Royal Academy were in favour of opening the Gallery in the evening; and, as they might be considered experts on the subject, he trusted that the noble Earl would see his way to having the proposal carried into effect.


in reply, said, that the question was, no doubt, one on which there had been a good deal of feeling, and, speaking for himself and, he believed, for many of his Colleagues, they were warmly interested in giving every possible facility to the public for visiting the Gallery, if it could be so arranged. The noble Marquess had asked him (the Earl of Iddesleigh) if he would take steps to that end. But he must point out to the noble Marquess that the matter did not lie with the Treasury, or any Department of the Government, but with the Trustees of the Gallery. They had made some difficulty on the score of expense; but that difficulty was not insuperable. He had not received the noble Marquess's Question till that morning, and, therefore, had not been able to communicate with any of the Trustees. He was not, therefore, able to say more than that the subject was one in which he felt a great interest, and that he would do all he could to promote the object which the noble Marquess had in view. He would certainly communicate with the Trustees of the Gallery. He had obtained an estimate of the cost of lighting the Gallery by electricity, and he did not see anything in it to prevent this proposal from being carried out. If it could be, there was no doubtit would be a great boon to the people of London.