PP/GC/LE/74 Letter from Sir G.C.Lewis to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, on the proposed purchase of Devonshire House, and land for government offices, 20 August 1856
Letter from Sir George Cornewall Lewis, second Baronet, [Chancellor of the Exchequer], Harpton [Court, Radnorshire, Wales], to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: Lewis is surprised to hear what Hall reports about Devonshire House, and does not know how to find out if the information is true. Paxton is likely to know. He told Lewis a similar story about Montagu House, but the Duke of Buccleugh's solicitor stated that he had no wish to part with it. "It seems to me that these proposals for large purchases in London must not be lightly entertained. Hall wishes to buy all the land between Downing Street, Great George Street and the river [Thames], at an expense of a million and a half or two millions. Trevelyan wishes to buy all the land between the Banqueting House and the river, in addition. I may mention by the way, that the strip of land behind Downing Street which was marked on the map I brought to the cabinet as acquired by the government, is not in fact acquired, as I have since ascertained." The 30,000 pounds which was voted does not go far. The majority of it still remains in the coffers; no part of the fee was bargained for. A further vote of at least 100,000 pounds will be required to obtain this limited space. It is not possible to take any step for building a Foreign Office until further land has been purchased. "Hall now proposes to buy Devonshire House, supposing it to be on sale, for the National Gallery. Now if Piccadilly is a good place for the National Gallery, there is the site of Burlington House. If the smoke argument is to prevail, then we have Kensington Gore. I cannot see that, all of a sudden, we are called upon to make this enormous expenditure for public offices, and works of art. The present accommodation is doubtless not altogether adequate, but these schemes seem to assume that we are living in the Rome of Romulus, and are in a moment to convert it into the Rome of Augustus. The fact is that we are not lodged in straw huts, and that we cannot immediately provide marble palaces for all the public departments." There has been almost uninterrupted cold rain from the northeast for several days. The harvest will be delayed, and do much harm, unless the weather recovers and there is another bout of warmth. 20 Aug 1856 The letter is docketed "20/08/1856. Sir G.C.Lewis. Regarding suggested purchase of site of Devonshire House, and of ground for public departments. Answered. v letter book 2, p. 257."
Three papers
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Sir Benjamin Hall, first Baron Hall, President of the Board of Works
Sir Joseph Paxton, gardener and architect, manager of the Duke of Devonshire's estates
Walter Francis Montagu-Douglas-Scott, fifth Duke of Buccleugh
Sir Charles Trevelyan, assistant secretary to the Treasury
Romulus, legendary co-founder of Rome
Augustus, Emperor of Rome, deceased
Agriculture; crops; harvest
Devonshire House, Piccadilly, London
Burlington House, Piccadilly, London
River Thames, London
Downing Street, Great George Street, London
Montagu House, Hampshire [?]
Kensington Gore, London
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