HL Deb 15 May 1900 vol 83 cc153-6


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, I am sure that I shall not appeal in vain to the indulgence which your Lordships are always kind enough to give to anyone who addresses you for the first time. This Bill extends the provisions of the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882. The provisions of that Act are much narrower than we could have wished. During the ten years, from 1871 to 1882, in which we were pressing the question on Parliament, successive Governments all refused to incur any expense. We were therefore compelled to restrict the measure to pre-historic monuments, such as stone circles and avenues, dolmens, earthen dykes, circles and camps, which only require to be left alone and consequently involve no repairs or expenditure. So far, indeed, as its provisions extend, the Act has done much good, though Mr. Gladstone's Government refused to make the Act compulsory, but the great majority of the owners of the monuments scheduled have voluntarily placed them under the Act. In Ireland, however, the position is more satisfactory. The Irish Church Disestablishment Act placed £50,000 at the disposal of the Irish Commissioners of Public Works for the maintenance of disused churches and abbeys. These provisions were extended to the sacred places of our Pagan ancestors, and in 1892 another Act extended as regards Ireland the provisions of the Ancient Monuments Act to " any structure, erection, or monument of historic or architectural interest." This has worked well. I believe that Irish archaeologists will agree that the Irish Office of Works has done its work well, and without unnecessary interference has saved many interesting monuments from destruction. The Irish Office publishes every year an interesting account of its proceedings, and I would suggest to Government that a similar Report should be presented for England and Scotland. At any rate, we ask your Lordships in the Bill to extend to Great Britain the provisions that have been found to work well in Ireland. There is only one other proposal in the Bill with reference to which I should like to say a few words. There is a provision in the old Act under which other monuments besides those scheduled might be placed under the protection of the Act. Of this power, I regret to say, little use has been made. Archaeologists are under the impression that successive Governments have rather discouraged than encouraged any advantage being taken of the clause. It is thought that local authorities would feel more interest and pride in preserving the monuments in their own locality, and that some owners might prefer to place their monuments under the local authority than under the Government. We propose, therefore, that local authorities should be empowered to take over the charge of national monuments, and to receive voluntary contributions towards the cost of maintaining and preserving them. Some of the London open spaces have been preserved in this manner, and there seems no reason why the same principle should not be applied to these beautiful and interesting monuments. The object is not entirely secured by the wording of the Bill as it stands, but I propose to move an addition in Committee, with the consent of the First Commissioner of Works, which I trust will fully meet the case. I will only quote one authority in favour of the Bill. There is, so far as I know, only one case in which we have the expression of Shakespeare's own sentiments, and it is a strong protest against the destruction of an ancient monument. It was proposed to demolish an ancient earthwork at Welcombe, and the corporation sent an agent named Greene to oppose it. He was a relative of Shakespeare, and he records in his diary that his cousin Shakespeare told him he could not bear the enclosing of Welcome. We ask you to-day to affirm the principle that the protection of these national monuments is a duty we owe alike to our ancestors who erected them and to our children for whom they ought to be preserved. It is deeply to be regretted that so many of our national monuments have grievously suffered or even entirely perished. Many, however, are still in existence, and it is in the hope and belief that this measure will do something to preserve those that yet remain to us that I move the Second Heading of this Bill, and earnestly commend it to your Lordships' favourable consideration.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Avebury.)


My Lords, I rise not for the purpose of offering any opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill, but to protest strongly against the way in which it has been drafted. It incorporates part of an Irish Act without informing your Lordships what it is. Why in the world the draftsman should not have set out the section incorporated I do not know. Is it to save printing or paper? I can understand no other object. The first section of that Bill is as follows:— The provisions of Section I of the Ancient Monuments Protection (Ireland) Act, 1892, shall apply and be in force as well in Great Britain as in Ireland. What is the object of legislating in that form? When the Bill goes into Committee I shall move that the section be incorporated bodily, so that your Lordships may know what Act of Parliament you are asked to pass.


I have looked up the section in the Irish Act. It is a very short one, and it seems to me extraordinary that it should not have been incorporated. I join in the protest of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack against a practice which is exceedingly inconvenient.

On Question, agreed to.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday next.