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The Improvements near Charing-Cross.
The expences have been met by the revenues, and certain sales, of the Crown lands, without any Parliamentary grants.
During the last Session of Parliament, an Act was passed, enabling the Commissioners to raise 300,000l. by loan; and the terms of the Equitable Assurance Company being the lowest, the Commissioners agreed with them for the whole sum at the interest of 31. 108. per cent., to be repaid at the following periods:
301. per cent. at Midsummer 1833, 301. per cent. at Midsummer 1835, 401. per cent. at Midsummer 1837. When the Commissioners made their last report, which is dated the 8th of June 1830, they had nearly completed the purchase of all the premises required.* Since that period, the work of demolition has rapidly gone forward; and to that has now succeeded, and is proceeding with scarcely less rapidity, the more pleasing process of re-edification.
We shall now briefly notice the several features of the plan before us; merely premising that considerable changes and modifications have taken place since Mr. Nash's plan, made at the period already mentioned, was published in the Commissioners' Report for 1826.
We will first place ourselves in the Area. Its width from west to east is five hundred feet; and from the front of the old royal stables on the north to the statue of King Charles the First is the same distance. The western side is already formed by the beautiful edifice occupied as the Union Clubhouse, and the College of Physicians. On the eastern side it was proposed by Mr. Nash to erect a range of buildings of correspondent design, and in a correspondent position; but it is now under consideration whether the mag
nificent portico of St. Martin's church (which has been very properly considered as a principal object of regard in all the present arrangements,†) would not show to greater advantage if this building was to range with the west end of the church. In this case its front will at its northern angle recede somewhat further to the east, and towards the southern wing project rather further into the square than is shown in the plan. Perhaps it is not possible to arrive at a satisfactory determination on this point, until the area has been entirely cleared, and its effect on coming from Whitehall has been ascertained.
On the north of the new Area, a very long building is laid down for a "National Gallery of Painting and Sculpture;" but we believe it is by no means certain that this edifice will be erected. Mr. Arbuthnot, the First Commissioner in 1826, gave it as his opinion in addressing the House of Commons, that the paintings, statues, and works of art possessed by the nation, would be more useful to the public there than in the British Museum. But with that opinion we cannot agree. Putting out of the question the addiditional expense of a distinct building, and distinct establishment, (but which considerations will have their weight in the present æra of economy,) we must contend that the site of the British Museum is unexceptionable. It is considerably more centrical than Charing-Cross; and it is to be remembered that neither the present valuable treasures of that repository, nor those destined to adorn a National Gallery, are for the sole amusement of loungers or people of fashion, but for the study and instruction of the whole town; in all parts of which reside admirers of the arts, and joint owners of the public collections. Add to this that the
In the Report of 1829, it was mentioned that, in negociating the purchases, (then amounting to 540,) only eight cases had occurred in which it was necessary to resort to the compulsory powers of the Act for obtaining verdicts by juries, and in six of those cases verdicts were taken by mutual agreement after the juries had been impanelled. This is worthy of notice, as a remarkable contrast to the conduct of the parties coucerned in the property required for the approaches to London Bridge.
+Ralph, an architectural critic of the last century, whose suggestions on metropolitan improvements have recently been often quoted, thus expressed himself on this subject, and pointed out the excellencies of the edifice: "I could wish, too, that a view was opened to St. Martin's church: I don't know any one of the modern buildings about town which more deserves such an advantage The portico is at once elegant and august; and the steeple above it ought to be considered as one of the most tolerable in town. * * * The round columns at each angle of the church are very well conceiv'd, and have a very fine effect in the profile of the building. The east end is remarkably elegant, and very justly challenges a particular applause.”– Review of the Public Buildings, 1734.
The Improvements near Charing-Cross.
premises of the British Museum are sufficiently extensive for whatever additional buildings are likely ever to be required; but any new situation might be found too confined, when the opportunity for enlarging it with advantage no longer existed. The national pictures at present remain in PallMall, at the house of the late Mr. Angerstein; all the sculpture belonging to the nation is at the British Museum.
The building formerly the Royal Stables, although possessed of some architural merit, will not be allowed to remain. It would not stand in the midIdle of that side of the area, but in the western half of it; a more important reason for its removal, however, is that the direction it takes is diffe
rent from that which will be required; since the new street, in order to lead directly to the noble portico which is the great centre of attraction, must pass over the site of its eastern wing. These stables, part of a more extensive design never executed, were built in 1732, six years after St. Martin's church. They are now temporarily appropriated to two public objects; the ground floor to the menagerie formerly at Exeter Change, and the upper story to the "National Repository for the exhibition of specimens of new and improved productions of the artizans and manufacturers of the United Kingdom."
In the centre of the square it was designed to erect a large building, after the model of the Parthenon, to be devoted to the Royal Academy. This intention has been relinquished; and the site remains free for some national monument, which may reflect honour on the patriotism and the taste of the country. On each side stations are marked for equestrian statues of George the Third and George the Fourth.
Behind the old Royal stable on the north-west, some extensive foot barracks have been erected on what was the upper court of the Mews. The stack of building to the east of this consists principally of the Workhouse of St. Martin's parish, the back part of
which has been rebuilt by the Commissioners. The corner house marked with the letter A is appropriated to the West London Provident Institution; that marked with the letter B is for the Royal Society of Literature.
On the opposite side of St. Martin's Lane stands the new residence of the incumbent of the parish; in a line with which are a new Vestry-room and National School. The two former of these have been erected by the Commissioners, in the place of those which gave way to the improvements. From the old vestry room to the new one has been removed a bust of a parochial benefactor, under which is the following inscription:
"The effigies of Richard Miller, esq. who has given to ye Charity Schools of this parish 500., to the Library and Free School 3004, and for the building of the Vestryhouse 300l.; in memory of whose uncommon benefactions, ye Vestry in his lifetime caus'd to be made and set up this his effigies A.D. 1726-7.”
There also are placed some portraits of eminent Vicars, including Archbishops Lamplugh and Tennison, Bishops Lloyd (of Worcester), Green (Ely), and Pearce, and Archdeacon Hamilton;t as well as others of Gibbs the architect of the church, and Sir Edmundbury Godfrey, a parishioner chiefly immortalised by the tragical circumstances of his death.
The National School has been erected by subscription, on ground given by his Majesty King George IV.‡
The passage in front of these buildings leads directly to the new Lowther Arcade, the direction of which is calculated to entice a numerous concourse of passengers. A Bazaar, intended to take the place of that removed at Exeter Change, was, in Mr. Nash's oriignal plan, laid down on the ground behind the spot where Exeter Change stood. But, as this would have been no thoroughfare, its failure might reasonably have been anticipated. In the present situation, the reverse may be expected.
"The stables in the Meuse are certainly a very grand and noble building; but then they are in a very singular taste, a mixture of the rustic and the gothic together; the middle gate built after the first, and the towers over the two others in the last."--Ralph. + See Malcolm's Londinium Redivivum, vol. 1v. p. 193.
The Library School adjoining the workhouse (founded by Archbishop Tennison in 1685, which the Charing-Cross Act enabled the Commissioners to take dowu,) has not been disturbed, an alteration in the plan of the new barracks having made such encroachment unnecessary.