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National Gallery—Observations

Volume 203: debated on Monday 25 July 1870

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said, that as the First Commissioner of Works was precluded, by the forms of the House, from speaking twice, he begged to call attention to the Question which stood in his name upon the Notice Paper before that right hon. Gentleman rose to reply. Last year he (Mr. B. Hope) moved for and obtained copies of certain correspondence that had passed between Her Majesty's Office of Works and the architect of the new National Gallery. This year he moved for other correspondence in continuance of that of the previous year; but, when he obtained it, he found to his surprise that one-half of the documents he had a right to expect did not appear, and that much of what was printed had nothing whatever to do with the subject to which the correspondence referred. The Government had made him a present of documents for which he did not ask, and which were calculated to confuse the question. His Motion was for a continuation of a correspondence between the Office of Works and the architect of the new National Gallery, who was appointed on the 16th of June, 1868, by the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners). During the previous year, while the same noble Lord was at the head of the Department, a competition, originated by the right hon. Member for South Hampshire, took place between architects with regard to the National Gallery, and the Judges reported that, while none of the designs as they stood "were such as would be recommended for adoption," the one for a new gallery by Mr. E. M. Barry, and the one for an adaptation of the present one by Mr. Murray, "respectively exhibited the greatest amount of architectural merit." In consequence of this recommendation, and considering that the partial failure was due to the incompleteness of the instructions given to the competitors, Mr. Barry was appointed in 1868 as architect of the new National Gallery—not to carry out his competition design, but to make a new one. This was the beginning of a new era; and yet the First Commissioner had appended to the Return copies not of Mr. Barry's competition plan, but merely of its façade, and also of that of Mr. Murray's adaptation, while on the face of each was printed the passage he had quoted from the Judges' Report, which, standing as it thus did alone, carried on its face a perfectly unwarranted appearance of depreciation, both of Mr. Barry and of his fellow-competitors. A pamphlet with illustrations by Mr. Layard, incidentally referred to in the correspondence, was also given; but of that he did not complain. He was bound, however, to make a protest, when he only obtained half of the Papers he moved for, and was put off with documents which only tended to complicate a question already sufficiently entangled. It was clear that a stranger who knew nothing of the progress of the whole affair, and of Mr. Barry's present position, but who came unprepared upon Mr. Barry's and Mr. Murray's designs and the accompanying Report, would think that the whole matter was still in uncertainty, and not — as was the fact—settled, and only waiting for the word of order to proceed. He complained of the colour which the unusual procedure of the First Commissioner was calculated to give to the affair. Having thus established his complaint, he wished to ask what was the present state of the case in relation to the National Gallery, and whether it was likely that one or two blocks would be built on the ground already purchased at the back, so that our pictures might be housed safely and in a creditable manner, leaving the building in front to be dealt with at some future time?

said, reverting to the subject of the Roehampton Gate, he must repeat the complaints of the hon. Alderman (Alderman Lawrence). Access to Richmond Park by way of Roehampton Gate would be a great convenience to the inhabitants of the metropolis. He regretted that the subject had been re-opened; but the difficulty would be solved if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ayrton) would bring in a Bill to buy up the private roads and land in question.

said, the wall of Richmond Park abutted upon the estate of a lady owning considerable property in the locality. Two private roads had been made through the estate, and they converged at one point on the wall of the Park. The administration of the Park had made a gate at the point of convergence, and by an interchange of courtesies, the lady was allowed to enter the Park from these roads, and members of the Royal Family passed over them from the Park to the public highway. This permission was extended from time to time to persons occupying lodges in Richmond Park, or residing in the immediate neighbourhood, and whose names were registered in a book kept for that purpose. Some time ago a desire was ex pressed to convert these private roads into public thoroughfares, and, negotiations being entered into, the Treasury sanctioned the payment of £2,000. In doing so they made a great concession, inasmuch as it did not necessarily come within their functions to make public roads for the convenience of the inhabitants of the metropolis; and it was only the circumstance of its being connected with the Royal access to the Park that made it reasonable to comply even with so small a request. A demand, however, was made for a larger sum, and it then became the duty of his predecessor (Mr. Layard) to consider whether the Government should make public roads while the local authorities stood by with folded hands. No offer having been made to contribute towards the undertaking, either out of the local funds or out of the general metropolitan funds, the matter was allowed to drop. As had been mentioned, some personal questions were raised, and he stated that he was prepared on the part of his Office to tender an apology. A dispute afterwards occurred as to whether he had offered an apology, and he then stated that if requisite he would make an apology again in any reasonable terms. Therefore there could not be any doubt as to his willingness to remove anything which was disagreeable to the feelings of the lady in question. He had heard nothing more since that time, and he was not aware of their being any prospect of successful negotiations. The hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Alderman Lawrence) proposed that the Crown should buy the whole property; but his Department could not engage in speculations of that kind. Probably, if the hon. Member could satisfy the Commissioners of Woods and Forests that this estate, which was now in the market, would be a profitable investment for any funds they might have in hand, they would be ready to consider the scheme. For his own part, all he could say was that if any proposition was made to his Department, coming within the terms previously sanctioned by the Treasury, it would be his duty to consider it; and, in fact, he should be happy to do all in his power to aid in the formation of a public carriage road into the Park. But it was not for him to bring in a Private Bill; the local authorities could pursue that course if they thought fit. He had done all he could in the matter so far by making arrangements, with the approval of the Government, for providing a footpath to give uninterrupted access to the Park to the million, who could not go to the Park in carriages. He would now proceed to the question raised by the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope). He could assure the hon. Member that there had been an entire misunderstanding as to his wishes. The Department had been under the impression that he wished for a continuation of the Papers relating to the construction of the building, and not of the correspondence with regard to the remuneration of the architect. But there would be no objection to the production of the additional Papers which he desired to have. The hon. Member had taken advantage of certain omissions to comment upon the explanatory Papers he had received, and to the publication of which he objected. It was only right, however, that Papers should be laid on the Table in such a form as would enable the House to understand the question to which they bore reference. The first of these Papers was Mr. Barry's Report, in which allusion was made to Mr. Layard's document. As he could not comprehend the Report without that explanatory document, he thought he was justified in assuming that no hon. Member could understand the one without the other, and therefore Mr. Layard's pamphlet was added to the Return. The drawings, and Mr. Murray's elevation were also added for similar reasons. His desire had been to afford such information as that the plan might be intelligible to hon. Members who had not sat in a former Parliament as well as in this.

said, that, as a question had been raised by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope), I with respect to the National Gallery, he had to say that the Government, owing to recent changes, and the practical advice they had received from the Board of Works, had come to the conclusion that it would be possible this Session to take a step in the direction indicated, and a Supplementary Estimate for that purpose would be laid on the Table in a few days. He hoped that, with a moderate sum, they would be able to accomplish all that might be required for a considerable time. He was glad to find they could now take a step which at one period of the Session he had stated, in answer to a Question of the hon. Member, he despaired of.

said, that when he had the direction of this matter he considered that the question was between the erection of an entirely new building and the patching up of the old one. What he had instructed Mr. Barry to do was to prepare a plan for a new Gallery in the ordinary sense of the term.