Imágenes de páginas



In taking stock of the changes witnessed during the present reign, the growth of a feeling of collective ownership in the more noteworthy features of the country, whether natural or of man's creation, cannot be overlooked. While suggestions for nationalising the land have fallen stillborn, there has been a general drift of opinion towards putting some conditions upon the use by the individual owner of land and things connected with land. The successful movement for the preservation of the commons of the country, the strong feeling in favour of footpaths and rights of way—a feeling to which parish and district councils have given emphatic expression—the development of the municipal regulations of towns, all point in the direction of limiting the power of the individual citizen to deal with his land in a manner injurious to his neighbours. This drift of opinion has been especially marked in the case both of beautiful tracts of country and of historic buildings and ancient monuments. The modern history of the New Forest is a notable instance of its action in relation to natural scenery. In the last century the forest was regarded as a nursery of navy timber. In the fifties and sixties it was treated as a mere source of revenue; and when the suggestion was first made that the country had some interest in the singular charm of its woodlands and heaths, official hands were raised in holy horror. Yet in 1877 the Legislature unanimously passed an Act which, though very defective in the machinery employed, distinctly recognised the paramount right of the nation to forbid the destruction of a beautiful and unique district. As other evidences of the same policy may be cited the introduction of Mr. Bryce's Bill to secure the access of the public to Scotch mountains, and the widespread sympathy with its aims; the defeat of repeated attempts to drive railways through the Lake district; and the insertion in the Light Railways Act of last year of a provision for the protection of natural beauties of scenery.

When we turn to buildings and memorials of early times, the strong set of opinion is equally obvious. Fifteen years ago Sir John Lubbock and Mr. Shaw-Lefevre succeeded in passing an Act for the protection of ancient monuments. The class of monument contemplated by the Act is limited, and private owners can set its provisions at defiance. But it is an undoubted declaration of the desire of Parliament that the earliest trace of man's occupation of our islands, whether written in earth or in stone, should be jealously guarded. There is, perhaps, still keener interest in buildings of the Middle Ages and of the not very old, but peculiarly English, architecture initiated by Wren. The Ancient Buildings' Protection Society, though not infallible or always able to give effect to its views, has checked the passion for restoration which (in itself a most healthy reaction from the state of mind which held the Gothic style « barbarous,' and produced 'elegant'classical temples) bid fair to wipe out the history of most public structures and to cover the country with thin modern copies of ancient work. Parliament has refused to give its sanction to the injury of such places as the Charterhouse; and though a Court of Law doomed to destruction Lady Dacre's fascinating little hospital at Westminster, the Charity Commissioners, more sensitive to public opinion, declined to abolish its counterpart, the Trinity Almshouses at Mile End. Fifty years ago no one would have thought of the effect on the Hospital of St. Cross, Winchester, of the building of a new Master's house. Within the last few months two or three proposals to that end, criticised on the ground of their interference with the beauty of the old pile, have been abandoned. And though opinions have differed, and may differ irreconcilably, upon the recent controversy between the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough and the Society of Antiquaries, the very existence of such a controversy in the forefront of the topics of the day shows the keen interest of the public in its historic buildings, and its determination to make that interest known. A society, known as the National Trust, has, indeed, been formed for the express purpose of acquiring and holding for the public places of interest and beauty. And perhaps the most remarkable symptom we have noticed—the London County Council, the creation of to-day, the terror of all good. Tories—has, with the general approval of Moderates and Progressives, applied to Parliament this Session for power to purchase buildings and places of historical or architectural interest, or to undertake the expense of their maintenance and management."

Yet strong as is the set of opinion in the direction we have indicated, the means of giving legal effect to it are slender. Not long since, the whole country rose in protest against the threatened destruction of the finest waterfall in the United Kingdom—the Falls of Foyers-a destruction deliberately designed by a private trading company for the purpose of supplying themselves with cheap waterpower. There was no question of working any product of the particular neighbourhood ; the destruction of the Falls was not an

· London County Council (Gener 1 Powers) Bill, cl. 47.

incident in the development of the surrounding country. The Falls were sought for the water-power they offered, and the engineering scheme for the use of that power deliberately contemplated the diversion of the water and the abolition of the cascade. Such a proposal aroused just and wide-spread indignation. But the indignation was as powerless as it was strong and general. The only fragment of a weapon with which the British Aluminium Company could be fought was the power resting in the Inverness County Council to forbid the diversion of certain roads. In this manner the company might have been put to inconvenience, but, even so, they could not have been prevented from destroying the Falls, if they still chose to do so. The County Council refused to aid the public,

the plans of the company were carried out in their integrity, and • the Falls of Foyers have ceased to exist. Beside this glaring instance

of the impotence of public opinion other examples pale. But the recent action of the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough furnishes, from one point of view, a parallel case. We have no desire to say a word upon the architectural problems which were presented by the condition of the West Front of the Cathedral. For our present purpose it is enough to point out that the Dean and Chapter occupied a position beyond legal control, and availed themselves without hesitation of the power they possessed. They may have been perfectly right, they may have been the saviours of the West Front against those who, with the best intentions, would have doomed it to destruction. But the power which has enabled them to take down and rebuild the north tower would have equally enabled them to take down the whole Front, and to replace it by a façade after the style of the South Kensington Museum or the Westminster Aquarium. Public opinion might have spoken in trumpet-tones, but if the Chapter chose to turn a deaf ear, it would have sounded in vain.

Something no doubt has been done, even before the law. Under Sir John Lubbock's Act of 1882 the owner of an ancient monument, of a certain limited class, may, by deed, constitute the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Works and Public Buildings its guardians. In such a case the Commissioners are directed to maintain the monument; they are to protect it from decay or injury, and may, if necessary, fence it round and cover it in. While the monument is in their custody not even the owner is at liberty to injure or deface it. For the purposes of the Act, the word 'owner' includes persons entitled for life, corporate bodies, trustees of charities or for ecclesiastical or collegiate purposes, corporations sole (such as rectors and vicars of benefices), and in certain cases persons entitled to long leases. A

person entitled to an estate for life, who has also powers of sale (e.g. under the Settled Land Act, 1882), can bind not only himself but all succeeding owners, so that he can, by placing a monument in the care of the Commissioners, put it out of the power of his successors to destroy it. These are very important provisions; for the majority of landowners possessed of ancient monuments are the last persons to desire their destruction. It is the exception to find a landowner of the mind of the late Mr. Drax, who first tried to build upon Cæsar's Camp at Wimbledon, and then, being prevented in this endeavour, deliberately levelled foss and vallum. The Act enables the well-disposed owner of a monument to prevent such freaks on the part of his successors, and also to guard against the less remote possibility that the monument may some day be sacrificed to a building scheme, or to a ruthless farmer and a careless agent. It is satisfactory to learn that many landowners have welcomed the power of putting their priceless possessions out of danger. There are in all seventy-four earthworks and stone monuments scheduled to the Act of 1882 and to the Orders in Council which supplement the Act, and of these no fewer than forty-one have been placed under the guardianship of the Commissioners during the fifteen years of the operation of the Act.

There are other provisions of service to the public. The Commissioners may purchase monuments by agreement with the owners, and owners may give monuments to the Commission by deed or will.2 There is a power to appoint inspectors of ancient monuments, and the public have a most learned inspector in the person of General Pitt-Rivers. Further, all persons, other than the owner, are forbidden, under pain of fine and imprisonment, to injure or deface any monument to which the Act applies, whether placed under the guardianship of the Commissioners or not. Thus, a farmer holding, as is usual, on a yearly agricultural tenancy is summarily punishable before a magistrate if he digs down a tumulus to make way for his plough, or breaks up a stone circle to metal his roads ; 3 and the yet more wanton aggression of the squatter or the mere • 'Arry' may be similarly visited.

A nominal grant (for last year, and for the current financial years, 1001.) is made by Parliament for the maintenance and protection of ancient monuments; and the Treasury has fixed the annual remuneration of the inspector at 2501. General Pitt Rivers has recently, however, with perhaps a misplaced generosity, forborne to draw his salary.

On the other hand, this useful Act extends only to what are known generally as megalithic remains-dolmens, stone circles and avenues, tumuli, and similar works. Not even the Roman Wall in Northumberland, or the Wall of Antoninus, which, running from the Clyde to the Forth, marks the northernmost limit of Roman occupation, is within the protection of the Act; still less any mediæval building, however rare, beautiful, or replete with historic associations. Curiously enough, in Ireland, legislation has gone considerably farther. Under the Act for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, provision was made for churches and other ecclesiastical buildings which, having been vested by the Act in the Church Commissioners, appeared to that body to be ruinous, or wholly disused as places of public worship and not suitable for restoration for that purpose,' and yet'to be deserving of being maintained as national monuments by reason of their architectural character or antiquity. These buildings the Church Commissioners were directed to transfer to the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, “to be preserved as national monuments,' with a suitable endowment for such maintenance.

2 Neither of these powers has at present been exercised.

• We are speaking of monuments scheduled to the Act or Orders in Council, or (being of a like character) placed under the guardianship of the Commissioners (see Sections 6 and 11 of the Act). It would seem possible to place a monument under the care of the Commissioners though it is not scheduled, but probably in practice any monument so treated would be scheduled.

Again, not only does the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882 give to the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland the same powers as those possessed by the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Works in Great Britain, but Ireland possesses a more recent Ancient Monuments Act of her own. By an Act of 1892,- the Irish Commissioners of Works may, at the request of the owner, accept the guardianship of 'any ancient or mediæval structure, erection, or monument,' if they are of opinion that its preservation is a matter of public interest by reason of the historic, traditional or artistic interest attaching thereto.'

There is only one exception to the large class of buildings which may be thus placed in the care of the Commissioners. They may not take charge of a building which is used as a residence, except where the occupation is merely for the purpose of caretaking. Thus, if the Act were in force in England, Warwick Castle and Battle Abbey would be outside its scope, but Tintern Abbey, Raglan Castle, and Cowdray would be subject to its provisions, whereas, as legislation now stands, no English monument save megalithic remains can be placed in the guardianship of the State.

The Irish Acts have not been allowed to remain a dead letter. As soon as the Act of 1892 was passed, the Commissioners of Public Works obtained reports from the Society of Antiquaries and other learned bodies, and with this assistance compiled a classified list (not pretending to be exhaustive) of ancient buildings and ruins; this list, with a sketch map, accompanies their published report for the year 1892–3. They have actually assumed the care of more than two hundred national monuments, which may be thus classi


· Irish Church Act, 1869 (32 & 33 Vict. c. 42), sect. 25.
5 Ancient Monuments' Protection Act, 1892 (55 & 56 Vict. c. 46).
* Public Works, Ireland, 61st Report, 1893 (C 7092).

« AnteriorContinuar »