§ LORD DERWENT had the following Notice on the Paper:—To move to resolve, That in view of the grave and constant danger of the removal or damage of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century buildings in Great Britain which cannot be included in the country-house category, but which may be of permanent artistic interest, His Majesty's Government should lose no time in making steps to have a complete census made of all buildings constructed between the years 1700 and 1830, with a view to the eventual handing over to H.M. Office of Works for protection of all those that may be decided to be of sufficient importance.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I consider myself very fortunate to have been preceded by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, though I very much regret that he has considered it advisable to withdraw his Motion. Lord Hamilton has opened the battle in this struggle on which we have both decided to embark, and on which it is disgraceful that we should be obliged to embark, in order to stem the tide of careless destruction that is daily menacing the architectural beauties of our country. If there is one anomaly which is greater than that of two Liberals rising to their feet to plead for State support against the blindness or cupidity of individual owners, it is the anomaly which consists in inhabiting a century where knowledge of all sorts is widely disseminated and easy of access, and at the same time of being obliged to assume the part of someone crying in the wilderness. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, has concentrated, with a most comprehensible nationalism, on the land of his origin. Your Lordships will observe that with the impertinence which Scotsmen would doubtless consider typical of a Sassenach, but which, in view of the parlous state of Scotland as described this afternoon, I no longer consider an impertinence, I presume, in the terms of my Motion, to include Scotland in the scheme I am advocating. I am not able to quote examples for Scotland within the period I have chosen, but this gap has been extremely well filled by the noble Marquess, Lord Bute, who spoke of an Adam house which had been destroyed. The noble Marquess thus confirmed my 549 suspicion, which was already a strong one, that the hand of the vandal is as heavy on that side of the border as it is on this.
§ It is, alas! a question of quoting examples, not only recent ones, but ones which have already become classics. Before doing this, however, I should like to sketch the situation as I see it at present in regard to the houses I have singled out—houses constructed between 1700 and 1830, dates which I will explain in a moment. I am not thinking at all of the gentleman's mansion or country house, both because they are more in the public eye than the ones I am thinking of and also because the National Trust has the intention of bringing in a Bill shortly which will enable your Lordships to have that matter amplified on that occasion. I want to convince your Lordships that the danger I speak of really exists. There are, of course, various reasons underlying it. My opinion—and I find it is shared by many, including some who are concerned directly with ancient buildings—is that while anyone possessed of real knowledge and taste appreciates eighteenth-century buildings at their proper value, the man in the street in England does not instinctively think of them as being, as it were, genuine antiques. Many of them are still inhabited, and he usually considers such houses as being merely dwellings a few years older than his own.
§ The result of this is that any building enterprise or corporation or town or county council—most of which latter are in any case, as the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, has already said, not exactly renowned for their artistic knowledge; and, after all, that is not what they are chosen for—find no obstacles in their way when they come up against an eighteenth-century house in one of the so-called development schemes (though as to the result of many of these developments, probably the less said the better). They simply look at it as the general public does as being a large-windowed house of more or less recent date, and away it goes, and of ten only when it is gone, or half-gone, does the outcry begin. And that brings me to the kernel of my argument. In all these matters there is one cardinal defect. The only official body that as long as an eighteenth century building is unoccupied is entitled, without having to enter into possession, 550 legally to prevent damage to it or demolition of it, is His Majesty's Office of Works. There is no restriction imposed on them as to dates; once they have scheduled a building it is safe.
§ It will then naturally be asked: Why does this destruction continue? The answer to that question is a double one. The greater part of the Office of Works' time has been and still is taken up with examining cases of buildings or monuments that go back to earlier times, as will be seen from their list of scheduled buildings. These are very numerous, and it is therefore only fair to say that, however great the Commissioners' desire may be to occupy themselves with this question, the administrative difficulties in the way, arising from lack of time and probably also from lack of finance, are considerable. But in addition to this the three other bodies that in theory are interested in this matter, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Royal Commissions for the Preservation of Historical Monuments, and the National Trust are each prevented from playing a useful part. None of them have any official advisory capacity so that they are not consulted as a matter of course by the Office of Works. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the National Trust certainly have it in their power to recommend for scheduling buildings of any date, but the former's work ranges over a very wide area and there can be no certitude that they will select eighteenth-century buildings for special notice, while the National Trust, though it owns a few houses, is primarily concerned with land and with views over the countryside.
§ As for the Royal Commissions, there the situation is even worse, for by an incomprehensible discrimination, out of the three that exist to deal with Great Britain only that which deals with Wales has no date limit attached to its work. The one which deals with England has no power to take note of buildings after the year 1714 and that which is concerned with Scotland goes no further than the Act of Union, as the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, has said. I think I need say no more than this to prove to your Lordships to what extent eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century buildings are left out in the cold.
§ As a result what do we find? Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to cite a 551 few details concerning the very beautiful Assembly Rooms at Bath, built by the younger Wood, which, apart from their beauty, are an integral part of our social history and a commemoration of one of its most brilliant periods. This building was only scheduled by the Office of Works in May of this year. The lateness of this date can, I am sure, be explained by the scandalous danger which no one could imagine would arise in the case of so famous an edifice. It had, incredibly enough, been allowed to pass into private hands, and had been turned by its owner partly into a cinema and partly into shops, and had, in other words, been allowed to fall into a complete state of decay. Only when it was bought as late as 1934 by an anonymous private person and handed over to the National Trust, who in their turn requested the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings to negotiate with the Bath Corporation with a view to fixing its use as a public building, did the Bath Corporation, after much haggling as to repairs, decide to do what it ought years ago to have done. My Lords, how can such things be?
§ This is the same spirit that has let three-quarters of the Adelphi disappear (and, incidentally, a resident in the remaining quarter informs me that there is no guarantee that it will be allowed to remain standing); the same spirit that desecrated Carlton House Terrace with the Pinchin Johnson Building (and what I do not hesitate to call the scandal of Carlton House Terrace—Crown Lands property, my Lords—was only prevented going further by the personal indignation and intervention of His late Majesty King George V.); the same spirit which is going to sweep away the admirable house at the corner of Abingdon Street, opposite the entrance of your Lordships' House—and I say this with all respect to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury; for I have the temerity to consider that a great mistake has been made in that matter—the same spirit that allows that charming corner of London, Soho Square and its surroundings, to lose one by one its eighteenth-century houses, including, incidentally, I think, Hazlitt's famous house, with its beautiful pine panelling and another lovely ceilinged one that was illustrated in last Sunday's Sunday Times; the same that swept away the Quadrant of Regent Street, and that is 552 engaged at the moment in turning out the tenants of Carlton Chambers in Lower Regent Street with a view to removing one of the last remaining vestiges of a noble thoroughfare; the game that has made vanish almost in a night the famous Cocoatree Club in St. James's Street, the haunt of Walpole, Fox, and Byron, with its enchanting interior decorations.
§ As for Regency architecture as a whole, which the dates in my Motion ire specially chosen to include, this seems to incur special hatred. Whole terraces have been removed at Brighton, and there is no certainty at all that the Brighton Corporation may not suddenly decide to remove the Pavilion. If the Crown Commissioners are as ruthless over their London property, why should the provinces not follow suit? And if it is a question of eighteenth-century buildings that are definitely menaced, I could tell your Lordships of the Assembly Rooms at Derby and at Epsom, of Radnor House at Twickenham, in which Her Majesty Queen Mary has taken a special interest, of charming riverside houses at Mortlake; and, as a pinnacle all these wickednesses, I could mention to your Lordships that, if rumour does not lie, there is a scheme on foot to transfer the Chelsea Pensioners to Windsor Castle and to develop the site on which their present admirable home stands together with some of the well-known gardens behind it. There need be no end to the list, but I beg your Lordships not to tremble: I am obliged to make one.
§ I cannot do more than this in the limited time allotted to me to make your Lordships blood boil or your flesh creep, whichever reaction I am lucky enough to be able to produce, though I dare not hope for either. I have no hesitation in saying that the eighteenth century and the Regency time are, in my opinion, and in the opinion of hundreds, the most glorious architectural periods in our history, in which architects and decorators flourished who were the equal in taste, in inventiveness, in largeness of view, of any that Continental history can show. And having up till now had the privilege of enjoying these beauties we are doing nothing to ensure that that privilege shall be handed on to our successors. Instead of that we are replacing these buildings with others of which it may be said that 553 for every one that is dignified, well constructed and impressive, there are ten others that are shoddy, jerry-built and an agony to the eye.
§ But I do not wish to exaggerate. I am quite aware of the technical difficulties attendant on any remedy of this evil, and it is for that reason that all I am suggesting to-day is that His Majesty's Government should make a beginning at least and should destroy the possibility of vandalism taking place owing to official and public ignorance of its existence. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, has slightly stolen my thunder on this point, for which I forgive him amply in view of the enthusiasm and sympathy I hope I am showing for this cause. I am simply suggesting that the Government shall, as soon as possible, by whatever means it thinks fit, arrange for a complete list to be made of the eighteenth-century buildings existing in Great Britain. I am quite aware that this will be a lengthy and possibly a costly business, but it cries out to be done. Personally, I think that it could quite well be carried out on a regional basis—and here the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, has given me some encouragement—by instructing either county councils and town councils or archæological societies, or both, to send in returns of all such buildings in each county. If inquiries are made, I think His Majesty's Goverment will find that the Surrey County Council certainly adumbrated such a scheme not long ago. Whether it came to fruition or not I am not certain.
§ I am quite aware also that neither the Royal Commissions on Historical Monuments nor the Office of Works could undertake the task in both cases without a special grant from the Treasury and a considerable extension of their staffs, as suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, and in the case of the former without an extension of the date up to which they are legally entitled to deal with historical buildings. If His Majesty's Government were willing to do this in the case of either of these bodies it would be an ideal solution, although I do not dare to hope for it. It is for that reason, principally, that I make the tentative suggestion about the regional plan. But my role in this matter is certainly not to put forward a definite scheme. That is the part of His Majesty's 554 Government; and may I say that never have I so much longed for the tongues of angels, for an infinite persuasiveness, so that I might make it abundantly clear that now is the time for this to be done. In another few years it may be too late. It seems to me that any Government worthy of the name owes it to us and to those who come after us to put an end to what is going on, this wanton wickedness, this destruction that is breaking the hearts of all those who care for England's inheritance of beauty.
§ I would like to say one word more, if I may, on the conclusion of my Motion. I have suggested that such buildings as are worth preserving—and I consider naturally that whatever body is set up or entitled to make this list, or census, should equally be empowered to decide what is worth keeping, since there is rubbish in the architecture of all centuries—should eventually be handed over to the Office of Works for protection. In suggesting this I am only following up an impression which I received in making my inquiries that the Office of Works would like to have the eventual care of them. As, however, there are very definite complications already existing either in spite of or by reason of these provisions of the Ancient Monuments Act of 1931, when it is a question of the Office of Works having to deal with occupied houses, I do not in the least presume to suggest that this shall definitely be done. In view of the conspicuous success of the National Trust in dealing with occupied properties, like the West Wycombe Estate, it might possibly be arranged for the National Trust to take over occupied houses and for the unoccupied ones to be left to the Office of Works. I am sure the noble Earl who will answer for His Majesty's Government will be able to give me information on this subject. At all events, if this census is made, by whatever means, the Office of Works will no longer have any excuse for not scheduling at least the unoccupied ones. They are quite numerous enough. My personal contention would be that even in the case of occupied houses their owners should be prevented from behaving exactly as they choose about them, since the results of that are in many cases before us to-day.
All such details, however, are for His Majesty's Government to decide. What I claim this afternoon is simply that a method must be found whereby it is impossible
for fine eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century buildings to disappear before attention is drawn to them. At present, to sum up, the situation is exactly that described last week by a well-known weekly review:
The enthusiasm excited in our rulers by an eighteenth-century house or a green tree in the middle of London can be compared only to the emotion which a sportsman feels at the sight of a gaudy cock-pheasant or twelve-point stag. 'What a beauty—I'll bring him down!'
This sporting comparison will doubtless appeal to many of your Lordships unless you feel, as I do, so bitterly about this matter that even an ironic humour seems to be out of place. In any case I cannot believe that His Majesty's Government will find it amusing to have reproaches of this sort appearing in print, but it is because they are at present abundantly justified that I beg to move the Motion that stands in my name.
§ Moved to resolve, That in view of the grave and constant danger of the removal or damage of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century buildings in Great Britain which cannot be included in the country-house category, but which may be of permanent artistic interest, His Majesty's Government should lose no time in taking steps to have a complete census made of all buildings constructed between the years 1700 and 1830, with a view to the eventual handing over to H.M. Office of Works for protection of all those that may be decided to be of sufficient importance.—(Lord Derwent.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, I should like to ask a question of the noble Lord who has brought forward this matter, because at present it is to me a little difficult to understand his Motion and what he says. In the Motion on the Paper the words at the beginning are:… in view of the grave and constant danger of the removal or damage of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century buildings in Great Britain which cannot be included in the country house category,but the noble Lord told us in his speech that he did not wish to include houses of that category. The Notice on the Paper, however, goes on to say:His Majesty's Government should lose no time in taking steps to have a complete census made of all buildings.If that is the case, country houses must be included. Personally I think that 556 all buildings of interest should be included.
The noble Lord referred to the activities of the Surrey County Council and told us that a list had been prepared for them. That is so, and I do not think that it involved any great expense. The archæological society for the county, with which I have some connection, was able to render assistance, and as there are archæological societies I think in every county, I have no doubt that if their services were solicited they would be willing to help the county council without any charge, or at any rate only a very small charge if one were made at all. I do not think that the list would be expensive to prepare. The Surrey survey goes much further than that advocated by the noble Lord because it includes all buildings without any time limit. It is absolutely comprehensive. It was prepared by a committee largely composed of representatives of the archæological society and the Ancient Monuments Committee of the County. I think that is the proper body and I am sure that if the Office of Works apply to the various societies interested in the matter there will be no difficulty in enlisting their services. The more comprehensive the list, of course, the more valuable it would be.
My Lords, I should like to add one or two words from another point of view. In destroying these houses we are really destroying the capital of this country. It is not an answer to say that old houses are destroyed in order that dwellers in slums may be housed elsewhere. We are destroying these houses for no reason at all, except to put up what the noble Earl opposite called fascias. We all deplore what is going on low in Spain, where apparently both sides are destroying some of the architectural capital of that country, some of the things which most attract people to Spain. But they are doing it at a time of conflict and they are under a certain amount of pressure, I presume, which compels them to do what they are doing. In this country that is not the case. We have sufficient funds to carry on and we are not in any way forced to do what we do.
557 My own feeling is that the course of events which has led to the destruction of houses is very largely due to devolution. We have devolved great power upon local authorities who cannot be expected to have the same taste and technical knowledge as the Central Government. Thus we have lost control over, and largely lost interest in, what has been done in the provinces. I should like to see some form of control maintained at, Westminster, where I know quite well there is excellent knowledge, interest and technical staff, before any provincial building of any interest could be destroyed. I do not think that any debate of this nature ought to be closed without some word of recognition of and gratitude for the great work of the late Lord Curzon. I feel that perhaps the noble Marquess opposite, of whose good work we have heard, may be a worthy successor to him. Those of your Lordships who recollect what Lord Curzon did at Bodiam and at various other places all over the country will hope that he may have successors who will carry on the torch when the Government of the day are not able to do so.
§ LORD RENNELL
My Lords, I should be sorry that the Motion which my noble friend has brought forward should not receive a certain amount of support from this House. Such support has always been given, and I do not suppose for a moment that it is necessary, because the Motion will probably be received in a friendly spirit everywhere. In listening to the discussion to-day I learned something which I did not know before and which must militate very considerably against the preservation of old buildings in this country, and I should like to know, in the reply from the Government Benches, whether it might not be possible to give us some little hope of modification. That is that, if a building is to be pulled down and rebuilt and there would have been a Government grant in other respects, that grant cannot be given unless the façade is pulled down. I was astonished to hear this because I have lived so much of my life in other countries, where the preservation of ancient buildings is a matter of very serious interest.
For instance, I am part owner and administrator of a house in Rome in a 558 very interesting Renaissance street, and the Governorate of Rome, which has recently succeeded the old Municipality, has recently passed a resolution to the effect that people may do at the back of their houses whatever happens to suit them but that no façade in that street, in which almost every house has a history, is to be altered in any respect. In the little city of Vicenza alone, which is extraordinarily interesting as marking the transition from the old Venetian—what I may call the Byzantine-Gothic-Venetian—manner to the manner of the Palladio, they have scheduled 200 houses as never to be altered. It seems to me that to put you under a penalty here for not pulling down an old facade when you have with difficulty obtained permission to change a house is one of the most extraordinary and devastating regulations I have ever heard of. I should like to think that there might be some little gleam of hope given us that this provision may be reconsidered.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I should like to say just one word as an admirer of post-1700 architecture in this country; but I hope your Lordships will not think that the proposal of the noble Lord opposite is quite so simple as he indicated. A list of all buildings between 1700 and 1830 is really no use for architectural or æsthetic purposes. The building may be built in 1750 or in 1820 and yet have been completely stripped in front and/or completely stripped in the interior. In other words, all the character and distinction with which that period is associated may have gone. We are all familiar with terraces of houses which we know to have been built in 1720, 1740 or 1760 which are no more interesting than houses that were built in 1930. A list, therefore, is no good; it must be a survey. A survey is the only thing that really counts in describing architecture. A bare list is what you find in the Post Office Guide: that is no use at all.
What I want to point out is that a survey is a very technical thing. I speak with knowledge of the staff which is surveying all the old buildings considered worthy of preservation before the year 1700, and I can assure your Lordships—I have watched those people at work ever since that Commission was formed, which I suppose is well over thirty years ago—that it is a highly technical and a 559 highly professional job, and it is no good saying off-hand: "Oh, well, let the town councils make the returns." It really will not do. You would get very misleading documents. Very valuable houses would be left out and houses which are of no mortal interest would be put in. I do not know what line the First Commissioner of Works is likely to take, but I would at least make this suggestion to him: that if he is prepared largely to increase the personnel and the machinery of those who are now engaged in making these schedules of old and historic buildings, would it not be well to strengthen them so that they can keep a little more abreast of their work before 1700 rather than give to them a whole new class and type of work of post-1700?
So far as England is concerned we are dreadfully behindhand with the work of surveying ancient monuments before the Act of Union. A county may take three or even four volumes. It may take two or three years or longer for one single county to complete. The schedule of Westminster Abbey is a great, thick volume which took fifteen months to prepare. The scale of this obligation is therefore tremendous, and if the First Commissioner is feeling in a sympathetic humour, it is worth considering whether it would not be more helpful to expedite the work on the earlier period, in which old monuments are much more scarce and probably much more valuable in consequence, than to throw upon these bodies later on duties in dealing with buildings which are certainly not of the same historic importance.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, I need hardly say that no one who holds the position of First Commissioner of Works can have listened to the two debates on these Motions this afternoon without certainly being moved. I hope that my noble friend the Earl of Crawford, who was once my predecessor in that office, will not be too alarmed at that statement. I must agree with him that this Motion covers an extraordinarily wide field, perhaps one a good deal wider than the noble Lord who moved it quite realised. The noble Lord suggested that we should make a list of all buildings of the eighteenth century. He will realise that that means dwelling-houses of every character, including back-to-back houses 560 in some parts of England which I am quite certain that every one of us will desire to have destroyed at the earliest possible moment. But it would also include places such as business premises, public and municipal buildings, courts of justice, market halls, grammar schools, almshouses and ecclesiastical buildings of all sorts and kinds, in addition to farms and farm buildings in country districts.
My noble friend Lord Crawford said quite truly that the Royal Commissions on historical monuments have already gat their hands more than full in making schedules of historic buildings. I agree with him that a simple list of buildings of any date is of practically no value at all. I must admit that I have not seen the list which has been prepared by the Surrey County Council, and therefore I do not know how far a value could be put on the list of houses and buildings which they have made. As a general rule, however, a survey is really necessary in deciding whether a building should be scheduled, not only as regards its external architecture but also, very often, as regards its internal fittings. That is, of course, a very lengthy proceeding and, as Lord Crawford has pointed out, one that requires skill and knowledge. The result of it is that the Royal Commissions on historic buildings, of which there are three, as Lord Amulree has pointed out, have so far only produced reports of seven counties in England. That is to say, they have two volumes for Buckinghamshire, four for Essex, and varying numbers for the others. There is one volume each for seven counties in Wales, and volumes for ten counties in Scotland. You will see that the work is going on, but, as I think, all too slowly, and if we are going to cover even Great Britain with schedules of value in regard to buildings prior to 1700, then we shall really have to go ahead a good deal faster than in the past.
My difficulty is the difficulty which Lord Bute quoted in another connection. He said it was extraordinarily difficult in these days of high taxation to raise money for such purposes. I wonder what he and others would say if I suggested that taxation should be put up in order to do these and other things. We all have our special desires, on which we would like to see money spent, but let us realise 561 that the public purse is not like the widow's cruse, unfailing. Money has to be produced from somewhere, and that somewhere is the taxpayer's pocket, and the more we spend money on doing this and other things the less money will my noble friend Lord Bute be able to collect for the things which are so near his own heart's desire. There is a further difficulty in regard to the Motion on the Paper which I think the noble Lord does not quite realise. Under the Act, if my Department takes over any building for preservation, the public, except in a few cases where it is otherwise specially provided, have always been given the right of access. If that is done on a wholesale scale in the case of occupied houses a good many occupiers are likely to object, and in some cases demand compensation, and so we should be getting ourselves into great difficulties if the Office of Works began to take over buildings in that way.
As regards some of the remarks made in the earlier debate, some of which were more of an archæological interest than of building interest, which my noble friend dealt with more particularly, it is not only a question of money—I am sure the noble Marquess will agree with sue in this—but there is a case that he and I know of in Edinburgh, where an offer was made to the City Council to restore Tailors Hall Buildings. They are buildings of great attraction, which I myself went to see when I was in Edinburgh this autumn, but in spite of the offer made to them that these buildings should be restored, I undertand that the authorities have decided to abolish them for a street widening. Personally, I regret it, and I considered whether I should not schedule those buildings and make a preservation order. That, however, means that you have to come to Parliament and obtain a confirmation of your Order, and I am one of those who believe that persuasion is better than compulsion, particularly when you want to get other things as well. So I had to leave it alone.
On the other hand, where you can rouse public interest enormous things can be done. Stirling was quoted by Lord Crawford as a case in point. Stirling put up a new building and rehousing scheme, and submitted it to my Department. We did not like it, and we made suggestions as to what should be done. 562 The result was that we managed to persuade them to appoint an architect highly skilled in the preservation of buildings and town planning, and I think everyone will agree who has seen the scheme that Stirling has not only preserved buildings of great architectural and historic interest, but has made herself a place which many will visit with pleasure and with great profit for many years to come.
It is quite true that when you destroy ancient buildings you also, as Lord Mersey said, destroy the capital of the country. But the real way, I suggest, of getting that capital preserved is to educate the public and also the local authorities. This work can be done extremely well by local authorities, who know where to look for these buildings far better than my Office does, and I am one of those who prefer that there should be decentralisation rather than the reverse, which I think tends to bureaucracy and to a lesser interest, perhaps, being paid by those who live in the locality. I admit that probably the experts are mostly centred in London, but that is not to say that there are not experts throughout the country, and I am one of those who are anxious to enlist their sympathies and assistance. I am bound to admit that destruction is going on, and is going on very rapidly; but the answer I think is not more Government control, more bureaucracy and more centralisation; it is to get the local authorities to realise the treasures which lie in their hands, and to see that they are preserved, so that when they make their schemes for rehousing and the like those treasures shall remain and be more easily and better seen than in ancient days.
Lord Rennell raised a point as to the preservation of ancient buildings rather than their reconstruction. That I admit is, perhaps, a gap in the last Housing Act—that there was no actual grant made for reconditioning a house instead of rebuilding it. But there is this to be said on the other side, that the actual grant per capita comes to more under the present grant than under the old. Therefore it is quite true, as Lord Strathcona pointed out, that the local authorities have really more money now for reconditioning than in old days. In the country districts they are even better off, because, as several noble Lords pointed out, 563 the Report issued by the Central Housing Advisory Committee in England shows what can be done with old houses in the country districts. Sometimes I think difficulties have occurred—I have had occasion to prove it on my own property where I have wanted to make improvements and have been prevented by the by-laws from doing what was really good—owing to the views taken by local officials. I think there are cases where local authorities have got to learn more than they know now, so that if they are going to preserve ancient buildings they must not be too severe in the housing conditions that they impose. I am not going to suggest that people should be asked to live in houses which are unhealthy, but I think you have only to look at this Report to see how things can be done.
I am afraid I am somewhat wandering away from the terms of the Motion, but I hope I have indicated that the Office of Works are just as keen in preserving ancient buildings as anybody else. All we feel is that the better method of doing it is by arousing local interest, and I feel certain that, with the great knowledge which the noble Lord showed on this subject in the speech which he made in your Lordships' House to-day, he has done a great deal to arouse that local interest and to see that the buildings which both he and I value should be preserved in the future.
My Lords, may I say in answer to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that if my Motion admits a possibility of country-houses being included, although I was not primarily thinking of them, this may have seemed carelessness on my part, but it was in fact done on purpose, seeing that if by any chance the National Trust Bill does not go through, they would need all the protection they could get, and therefore might be scheduled by the Office of Works in the meantime. I am gratified at the reception that His Majesty's Government have given to my Motion, because whatever I may have said in the course of my speech about the action and assistance of local bodies, I am of the firm opinion that that would be an admirable way to set about increasing the interest taken in, and the care taken of, these ancient buildings. Although the noble Viscount below me was good enough to support me in bringing this matter forward, 564 I regret I do not agree with him on that particular point. I think that whatever ignorance these local bodies may show, they are certainly capable of doing a great deal of good in this direction. I hope that the Office of Works will act promptly and with the greatest rapidity, and will introduce some measure which will enable them to undertake this work which I have so much at heart. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.