"I have long had thoughts of drawing up something for London like St. Foix's
Rues de Paris, and have made some collections. I wish you would be so good in the
course of your reading to mark down any passage, to the end as where any great houses
of the nobility were situated, or in what street any memorable event happened. I fear
the subject will not furnish much till later time, as our princes kept their courts up and
down the country in such a vagrant manner."
Horace Walpole to the Rev. Mr. Cole, Strawberry-hill, April 16th, 1768.
This volume gives the result of a complete survey of the parish of Bromley, and
is published by the London County Council as the first instalment of what is hoped to
be accomplished for all London.
In 1896, 21st January, on the motion of Sir John Lubbock (now Lord Avebury),
the Council resolved—"That the following addition be made to the order of reference
of the General Purposes Committee—'To consider and report in the case of the contemplated destruction of any building of historic or architectural interest, what course
of action the Council should adopt.' "
The result of this resolution was to make the General Purposes Committee of
the Council the committee entrusted with the work of preserving, as far as the Council
could, buildings of historic interest. The Committee took active steps to carry out the
Council's wish, and on the 23rd February, 1897, reported to the Council what they
had done with a view to giving effect to the above-mentioned resolution. In the first
place the Committee deemed it essential that a list, as complete as possible, should
be obtained of all buildings of historic or architectural interest in London, and they
appointed a sub-committee to deal with the matter. With a view to obtaining the
necessary particulars for such a list, a communication was addressed to certain societies,
several of whom expressed their willingness to assist the Council. Subsequently
it was decided that the best means of arriving at a satisfactory and expeditious mode
of procedure would be to hold a conference with the various societies who had been
asked to kindly assist the Council in the matter, and accordingly a conference took place
at the County Hall on 4th December, 1896. Representatives from the following
societies attended, viz.—Architectural Association; British Archæological Association;
City Church Preservation Society; Committee for the Survey of the Memorials of
Greater London; Kent Archæological Society; Kyrle Society; London and Middlesex Archæological Society; London Topographical Society; National Trust for Places
of Historic or Natural Beauty; Royal Archæological Institute; Royal Institute of
British Architects; Society of Antiquaries; Society of Arts; Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings; and Surveyors' Institution.
In the course of an interesting discussion, during which the representatives
of the various societies expressed their gratification at the Council taking action in
the matter, and the hope that the interest shown by the Council would stimulate
greater public interest in ancient buildings, Sir Robert Hunter, representing the
National Trust for Places of Historic or Natural Beauty, stated that the members
of different societies were all of opinion that some register or list of buildings,
interesting by virtue of their antiquity or architectural beauty and associations
should be compiled. In support of this it was contended that at the present time
there was considerable ignorance as to what London possessed in the way of buildings of interest, and that frequently it was only realised that a building was of
historic interest when that building was in danger of being removed. The Trinity
Almshouses were cited as an instance. A list or register would, it was thought,
remove in a great measure the risk of losing such buildings. The Committee for the
Survey of the Memorials of Greater London having already commenced to prepare
such a register, it was thought that good purpose would be served if that committee
were to continue its work in connection with the preparation of the register. In
the end the conference passed a series of resolutions as follows—
(1.) That it is desirable that a register or list be made of buildings of historic or
architectural interest in London; and that the register be in such a form as to admit of
amplification, both as to buildings and detail of buildings, according as future information
comes to hand.
(2.) That it is desirable to form a general committee to include representatives
of the different societies interested in the matter, and that the Council be requested to
appoint representatives on such committee.
(3.) That the existing Committee for the Survey of the Memorials of Greater
London, having already made a register of buildings in the east end of London, be
requested to continue its work; and that it is desirable that similar registers be compiled
for the rest of London, it being understood that such registers are formed for the use of
the London County Council.
(4.) That the General Purposes Committee of the Council be requested to
consider the desirableness of the register being printed from time to time by the
Council with suitable drawings and illustrations.
The General Purposes Committee of the Council afterwards considered these
resolutions, and resolved that they should be adopted, and taken up to the Council.
The Committee thereupon made known to the Council that the Committee
for the Survey of the Memorials of Greater London had already taken steps to compile
a register of historic buildings in London, had collected a considerable amount of
material, and had generously offered to hand over to the Council the result of its
labours, so far as they related to London, if the Council would print the register. On
the 27th July, 1897, the Council resolved to print the register, and voted the necessary
sums for the purpose.
A still more important step was taken in 1898 by obtaining from Parliament the
statutory power to protect buildings and places of historic interest. The terms of the
statute are as follows—"It shall be lawful for the Council if they think fit to purchase
by agreement buildings and places of historical or architectural interest or works of
art, or to undertake or contribute towards the cost of preserving, maintaining and
managing any such buildings and places, and to erect and maintain or contribute
towards the provision, erection and maintenance of works of art in London" (London
County Council (General Powers) Act, 1898, section 60).
Besides this the Council has acquired statutory power in several Acts of Parliament obtained by railway companies to take possession of all objects of archæological
interest excavated by railway companies operating in London.
The Council has by these acts taken all possible steps to do what is necessary
in the preservation and recording of places of historic interest in the county. It has
been the pioneer among the local authorities of the country in the matter, and the
statutory power which it obtained in 1898, or something equivalent, is now likely to be
extended to all the county councils of the kingdom, with the result that places of beauty
and historic interest may not be swept out of existence without good cause being shown.
The report of the Committee for the Survey of the Memorials of Greater
London upon the first instalment of the register best explains the use and interest of the
work thus begun, and it is accordingly appended hereto.
G. L. Gomme,
Statistical Officer of the London County Council.
The County Hall,