HL Deb 27 July 1910 vol 6 cc484-5

LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH, on behalf of Lord A VEBURY, rose to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether it is the case that alterations are proposed to be made. on St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall; and, if so, what is the nature and extent of the alterations contemplated; in whom is the Cathedral vested, and who are responsible for its up-keep; what is the present condition of the fabric; what is the amount of money proposed to be expended on the alterations, how is it being provided, arid under what architect's advice is action being taken; further, to ask, in view of the great architectural and historical interest which attaches to the Cathedral, what are the powers of the Government in regard to it, and what are they willing to do in the matter. The noble Lord said: I have received a request from Lord Avebury, who is not able to be here to-day, to put this Question on his behalf, which I am glad to do. I think it is probably for the convenience of everybody concerned that the Question should he put and answered now, rather than postponed. I understand that the Secretary for Scotland agrees with that, and prefers to answer the Question now.


I am obliged to my noble friend for putting the Question. The answer to the first paragraph is in the affirmative. The nature and extent of the alterations contemplated cannot he stated, as those who are responsible for the plans have not communicated them to His Majesty's Government. The Cathedral is vested in the town council, and they and the heritors are responsible for its upkeep. So far as I am aware the present condition of the fabric is good, and while the removal of certain galleries, screens, &c., which have been erected in modern times, would be an improvement, I am advised that it is considered that there is no need for restoration. The amount of money proposed to he expended now on the alterations is, so far as His Majesty's Government can learn, £30,000, or possibly more, of a sum of £60,000 bequeathed for the purpose by the late Sheriff Thom. I am informed that the architect under whose advice action is proposed to be taken is Mr. George Mackie Watson. I ought to soy that I am indebted for this information largely to the town clerk and the town council of Kirkwall. Under existing legislation the Government possess no powers in regard to the Cathedral. Therefore they are unable to take such steps as might, in their opinion, be necessary for the preservation of the. building. When I say they possess no powers I ought to make one exception. They have power under the Ancient Monuments Act to take over the guardian ship of the building as an ancient monument at the request of the owners. The First. Commissioner of Works has arranged for the Inspector of Ancient Monuments to visit Kirkwall in August.