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The Exhibition Of Industry—The Building In Hyde Park

Volume 117: debated on Friday 27 June 1851

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rose to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether the Commissioners of the Exhibition considered themselves bound to remove the edifice existing in Hyde Park; and, if so, whether Her Majesty's Ministers were prepared to take any steps to maintain it in its present position? And, in order that he might have the opportunity of making a few observations, he moved that the House at its rising adjourn to Monday next. He did not bring the subject forward in any spirit of hostility to the Government, or with any wish to imply that they ought previously to this to have taken the matter into consideration. It would have been premature to bring forward the question earlier, for the public were not supposed to have before sufficient grounds on which to form an opinion relative to it. The House would recollect that when the arrangement was made with the Commissioners for the removal of the then proposed building in Hyde Park, there was no idea entertained of the materials of which it would ultimately be composed—indeed, it was understood that the edifice would be constructed of the usual building materials. There were, however, many reasons why the present structure should be retained, and the question now rested on a different ground from what it did when the arrangement for the removal of the building was made with the Commissioners. The first question which he put to the noble Lord at the head of the Government was a matter of mere form, for the House was aware that, according to the present arrangement, no choice was left with the Commissioners, if the House did not interfere, but to destroy the structure; but, whether maintained in its present state, or removed, he felt convinced that the edifice was of a national and important character, and that it would not be satisfactory to the public at large if this question were not brought forward before an advanced period of the Session, when many Members would have left town, and when the few who remained might be called on to pronounce a decision which might not be received with, satisfaction by the country. He therefore asked the First Lord of the Treasury, first as one of the Commissioners, and next as the organ of the Government, the two questions with which he had prefaced his observations. He did not wish to pronounce any opinion of his own on the point; all he would say was, that they must take the subject into consideration, and the present was the time for doing so. All the arguments brought forward publicly had been in favour of retaining the edifice, though he was well aware there were strong arguments on the other side. What he wished now, in the full period of the Session, was to elicit from the Government a statement that they were about to take the subject into consideration; and to call the attention of the public to the fact that, unless they interfered, according to the present arrangements, the destruction of the edifice must take place in October.

would answer the questions put in his two characters, as one of the Commissioners of the Exhibition, and as one of Her Majesty's Ministers. Speaking in the first character, he observed that the House would recollect that great anxiety was expressed last year lest the temporary building intended for the Exhibition in Hyde Park would be converted into a permanent structure, thereby causing a great portion of Hyde Park, usually left open to the recreation of the public, to be devoted to the purpose of a building. In the progress of the proceedings, the Commissioners of the Exhibition made a formal agreement with the Commissioners of the Woods and Forests, by which the former agreed that the Exhibition should not be kept open longer than the 1st of November, and that within six months after that period the building should be entirely taken down and removed, and the ground restored to its former state. That was the agreement which the Commissioners made, and he conceived that they had no power to act otherwise than in accordance with that agreement, and that they had no intention to ask to be permitted to depart from the terms stipulated. Now, with respect to the question as it concerned the Government, his answer must be a very short one for the present; and it was, that this subject had not hitherto been a matter of deliberation with the Government at all. He must say, for his own part, that he had not received materials at present on which, in his opinion, the Government could form any decision. Of course, much would depend on the wishes and feelings of the public, who had been accustomed to enjoy Hyde Park in its former state. Supposing the public generally to be ready to make the necessary sacrifice, other questions would arise, and they were, whether the present building was of such a nature as would enable it to be permanently maintained—what was the purpose it could be applied to tending to the public recreation, enjoyment, and health; and, finally, what would be the expense of so maintaining it? Though on all these matters he had had conversation with persons concerned in the erection of the building, and had asked particulars respecting them, yet he was still without sufficiently detailed information, and therefore his present answer to the question of the hon. Member must be, that the Government had not yet made the subject matter of deliberation.