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Works, there is a vast deal yet required, both to relieve congested traffic and do away with insanitary quarters and close and pestilential courts and alleys. Very useful lines for such streets have been suggested by Mr. Bridgman, F.R.I.B.A., in the Whitgift Prize Essay (1886). It is scarcely too much to say that, had the original Board been still at Spring Gardens, the new street from Holborn to the Strand would have been an accomplished fact.
Although, undoubtedly, we have many new public buildings conveniently arranged for their several requirements without being noble architectural monuments, and conversely, perhaps, some in which these characteristics are reversed, yet much remains to be effected before the Victorian can claim equal glory with the Augustan age in this matter.
The desirability of throwing open such buildings to competition in the future has been referred to, and cer- . tainly to this system we owe the finest Gothic modern structure in the world, from the pencils of Barry and Pugin, but it failed to give us the result in stone of a yet grander design, viz., William Burges' plan for the Law Courts, which, I verily believe, as a type of fourteenth century work, has not been surpassed by any of his contemporaries or successors.
It is generally believed that “they manage these things better in France.” Certainly we have no organised system here, for furthering the erection of magnificent buildings. Anyone interested in the subject would do well to peruse a work published in 1884, by the late Secretary of the Royal Institute of British Architects, viz., “ Architecture and Public Buildings in “ Paris and London."
From long residence and practice in both capitals
few men were more competent to handle the subject than the late Mr. W. H. White. The author compares the French organisation with the office of H. M. works in his native country, and pronounces a verdict entirely in favour of the French system. In a word, in regard to producing great works of architecture, he says (fol. 2):
“On one side are conspicuous the evidences of method, “ refinement and care; on the other of inexperience, hurry " and confusion. A superabundance of knowledge per“plexes both communities, but in Paris exuberance of “ fancy is subordinated to scholarly judgment; in London “it is morally and materially uncontrolled. The autho“ rities of Paris have definite artistic views. They possess
a standard of taste and a power of initiation, of which “ Londoners are wholly devoid ; and throughout France there is an abundance of carefully prepared professional
talent, at the service of the State, for the design and “execution of national monuments and buildings.”
Pregnant words, if true; and I am not aware that they were ever traversed. Space forbids further quotations ; but the history of the office of Works, and of the larger competitions for public buildings here, the experiment of an architectural adviser or referee (whose advice was directly ignored) is most instructive reading.
Perhaps we should be thankful that chance has, in the absence of system, given us so many passable structures as London can now shew.
E. W. HUDSON, Fellow.
(B.) The words squalid and dirty are too tame to describe the condition of many parts of London. Much of this is referable to the habits of the general public—indeed the midshipman's description of the manners and customs of the South-sea Islanders might be applied to large sections of the population.
The condition of any open space of public resort where there is no restriction, after a Bank Holiday, thickly strewn with greasy paper and broken bottles, or the aspect of a railway train after the break-up of a suburban race meeting is sufficient warrant for such an opinion.
If these remarks should be deemed hypercritical, I may mention the fact that a number of American towns have adopted very stringent measures to preserve their streets from fortuitous rubbish.
It is not too much for the citizen to expect that his streets should be as clean as his parks. Decency and order are not small elements in the development of civilisation. These are, no doubt, platitudes, but we are too apt to forget them, and until more stringent measures are adopted certain districts of London will continue to be a disgrace to the times.
What are the direct results of these squalid conditions. Notably the deterioration of the public taste, what there is of it, and the practical expulsion from the suburbs of a kind of population which they can ill spare. The “genteel” person withdraws himself, and those who from old associations cling to such neighbourhoods do so with a daily increasing disgust. Moreover the rent of the larger suburban houses has materially diminished and the class which lives in them is a lower
The rateable value of the property is consequently decreased, and the local tradesmen suffer a loss of trade by the withdrawal of the former tenants.
Impulses to improved taste, sanitation, and the like, rarely originate with the people whom it most concerns. The average vestryman is of the class of shopkeeper who
would resist attempts to suppress obstructions of the public way. The ratepayer with a real knowledge of affairs and of a position which raises him above vulgar temptation, too often holds aloof from local governinent and leaves it in hands but poorly fitted for the work. “Shall men gather grapes of thorns ?” What are the remedies? The defilement of the streets might be efficiently suppressed under the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, if the local bodies were truly intent upon the work.
The general obstructions are provided for by Michael Angelo Taylor's Act, and the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839. The costermonger should be accommodated in local markets and the streets left clear for traffic, their primary purpose. They would long since have been so housed but for the countenance of the general trades
In those country towns where a weekly cattle market was held in the public street, the great opposition to its removal came from the shopkeepers, who were apprehensive of consequent injury to their trade.
The immunity of the costermonger is a phenomenon which future times will wonder at. By the Act of 57 George III. cap. 29 (1817), known commonly as Michael Angelo Taylor's Act, we see plainly to what an extent street obstructions prevailed. Section 65 of that Act deals with them in a very summary and proper manner.
The Act 30 and 31 Victoria cap. 134 (1867), further extended the powers of the authorities, but by a later Act in the same year, 31 and 32 Victoria cap. 55 (1867) the restrictions on costermongers were practically abolished, and they achieved their present commanding position. This latest legislation was probably inspired by some of the vaguely benevolent folk who bolster up with their foolish assistance any section of labourers (whatever the injustice of their case) who may chance to fall victims to the arts of the professional tradeagitator and go out on strike without counting the cost.
Lord Justice Lindley in a recent judgment said “Both costermongers and Vestries have much to com
plain of in the existing state of the Statute Law by " which they are governed, and I trust that before long
parliament will give the matter the attention which it certainly deserves."
I am one of those who refuse to be consoled for the state of the streets by any number of parks or open spaces.
John LEANING, Fellow.