In putting forth their Second Annual Report, the Committee feel that while they
have undoubtedly to congratulate the Society on the progress made by its
principles, the nature of their work is little altered from what it was last year.
It must be remembered that as so much of that work is of a negative character, is
preventive rather than creative, it is not easy to show the obvious signs of
success that attend some undertakings; while on the other hand the Committee are
apt to see most of the discouraging side of the matter, because the greater part of
their work consists in protesting and advising in cases in which there is not much
hope of direct success, since such schemes have already gone far before the Society
can get to know of them. Nevertheless these protests cannot be regarded as useless;
in most cases there are some people concerned who are anxious for such support as
the Society can give them, and, even in the worst, their earnest appeal to care and
patience will often save something of value, and prevent the most sweeping changes;
in the meantime even unsuccessful protests are sure to breed doubt in some minds
that have not hitherto thought of the subject, and to make those already inclined
to treat ancient buildings with reverence, more disposed to thorough care and
forbearance in their practical dealings with them.
Taking these things into consideration therefore, the Society has, on the whole, no
cause to be disappointed with the results of its work since its foundation. It is
certain that the general tone of the public is decidedly more favorable to its
principles than when it was first started.
Further on, in dealing with the principal buildings which the Society has had
before it, examples will be found which tend to confirm this view of the matter.
Meantime the Committee may call attention to the fact that the public press which,
as noticed in the First Annual Report, has been from the first by no means
discouraging to the Society, has of late been unequivocally in its favor; most
helpful articles have appeared in the Daily News, Standard,
Echo, Atheneum, Globe, &c., which doubtless Members
will have noticed.
Before proceeding to call attention to the cases above referred to, the Committee
think it right to beg the Members of the Society to note that it is rather the
custom of its opponents, at all events of the least well informed of them, to
assume that the Society has no regard to the stability and good order of ancient
buildings, that they rather delight in decay than try to prevent it. Certainly if
there were any foundation for this view, the Society would be condemned with reason
enough. The Committee need scarcely point out however that this misrepresentation
was from the first foreseen, and met in distinct terms in the prospectus first put
forth by them, and they only call Members' attention to this, because conventional
misrepresentations are apt to stick, however far they may be from the truth;
moreover they think that no opportunity should be lost of giving such misstatements
To come to details of the work done during the past year: it was discovered that
the business of the Society was so very onerous for the one General Committee that
had been formed, that it became absolutely necessary to form Sub-Committees to
carry on the work of the Society. A Restoration Committee was formed, which has had
before it and has sifted the cases submitted to the Society throughout a great
portion of the year.
A Committee to take notice of the condition of ancient buildings abroad, called the
Foreign Committee, has also been constituted in accordance with a hope expressed in
last year's Report, and has begun its work by putting itself into communication
with archaeological Societies in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, &c.
Inquiries havebeen set on foot respecting the state of ancient buildings in India,
as also in Spain, where restoration is commencing. The prospectus of the Society
has been translated into French, German, Italian, and Dutch, and steps have been
taken to obtain Corresponding Members in each of these countries. The Committee do
not conceal from themselves the difficulties in their way in dealing with the state
of buildings in foreign countries; nor is it easy to overrate the necessity for
caution in such details, but it is hoped that the effects of the Society to prevent
the falsification of monuments and the ruin of works of art, may attract attention
abroad, and be commented upon in the public prints, and that its principles may be
Arrangements have been made for appointing local Honorary Correspondents in various
parts of the country for the purpose of obtaining quick and accurate information of
the threatened restoration or demolition of any ancient building. There are now 22
correspondents spread over 18 countries, and it is hoped that before long their
number will be considerably increased.
The Committee being desirous to bring themselves into more frequent communication
with the General Members of the Society, have determined in future to publish a
Quarterly Report of their proceedings in as much detail as is possible, which will
be sent to every Member of the Society.
Already Members of the Society will have had placed in their hands an interesting
pamphlet detailing the condition of many churches in East Anglia, which district
has been very much attacked by injudicious restoration. It is the intention of the
Committee, if funds permit, to have similar pamphlets published of other districts,
and it is to be hoped that the publication fund, which was originated by Mr.
Coventry Patmore, will not remain a dead letter. Pamphlets like the one that has
just been published are not only interesting to Members, but useful to the Society
Among the objects the Committee have taken in hand is the preservation of the
City Churches, and in this respect they are able to a certain extent to report
favorably. Although St. Dionis Backchurch has been demolished, the interesting
Church of St. Mary-at-Hill, Eastcheap, has, in spite of strenuous opposition, been
saved. In this case much help was afforded by the "City Church and Churchyard
Society." Owing however to the Union of Benefices Act, the City Churches are being
continually threatened, and very great vigilance has to be exercised to secure
early information of any proposed demolition, and to prevent a surprise. The
Committee cannot help calling attention once more to the loss that Londoners and
the country at large would incur by the demolition of these interesting and
handsome buildings, which are such a rest both for the eye and the mind amid the
hurry of business London.
First of importance among the buildings which have been threatened with
restoration is the great Abbey Church, now Cathedral, of St. Albans. The Society
protested again and again against what it considers the rash and destructive scheme
of altering and replacing the present roof, and the Committee are very sorry to say
that these protests have not had the success which was hoped for, and that in all
probability this work will soon be begun. At the same time, however much they
regret the irreparable misfortune which is overhanging this magnificent building,
they cannot help thinking that many of the incidents that have taken place with
refrence to this restoration are to a certain extent encouraging, and do confirm
their view, expressed above, as to the spread of reasonable opinions on the subject
of the fit way of dealing with our ancient buildings. In this case at least the
Society has been by no means alone in opposing the scheme of the restorers, but can
count among those that agree with its views, outside its own body, many of the
most distinguished architects and antiquarians in England, including the Society of
Antiquaries, led by their President, the Earlof Carnarvon, Mr. Street, Mr.
Blomfield. Mr. Christian, and Mr. John Evans, who resigned his position on the
Committee for the restoration in consequence of the proposed action. In fact it may
be said that the balance of opinion among those who are usually regarded by the
public as capable of forming a responsible opinion on these matters, has been most
decidedly in favor of the views advocated by the Society. Though this cannot
console the Society for the damage about to be done to one of our grandest
monuments, it may nevertheless give some hope as to other monuments that have not
yet been tampered with.
The case of the interesting and beautiful buildings of Blundell's School, Tiverton,
Devon, which was threatened with demolition, has taken up a good deal of the time
and attention of the Committee. The architecture and fittings of the structure,
dated 1599, have been figured in Dolman's book of Domestic Architecture. They are
known to all architects, and are without doubt among the very best specimens in
existence of the School architecture of a School-founding age; it had been proposed
to remove the School from its present site and to sell the existing buildings, but
there was considerable local feeling in favor of the site of the School not being
removed; the Committee though not feeling themselves in a position to give any
opinion on the question of removal, pointed out to the Charity Commissioners and
others the great value of the buildings; they believe they can claim to have
influenced the decision which has been come to, i.e., that in any case the
buildings shall be respected and preserved.
The Carliol Tower, Newcastle-on-Tyne, the last remnant of the old fortifications of
that City, is on the point of destruction, in spite of very general local
opposition. The townspeople, at the suggestion of the Committee, sent a memorial to
the Lords of the Treasury, which was supplemented by one from the Society. The
result is still somewhat in doubt, as the members of the Town Council are very much
divided in opinion on the matter.
Grasmere Church, Westmoreland, where the poet Wordsworth constantly attended, was
threatened with restoration; but a well-timed protest, and a letter written to the
Patron, had the desired effect. The work of destruction which was just commencing
was stopped, the Patron having vetoed the whole scheme.
The Committee heard a report that the fine old tower of St. Peter Mancroft,
Norwich, was threatened to be rebuilt. They have since however heard with
satisfaction from Mr. Street, who has been appointed consulting architect to the
church, that nothing but necessary repairs will be undertaken.
Ormskirk Church has been twice threatened, and each time the Committee has
interfered successfully. It is again threatened, and every effort is being used to
prevent any injury being down to it. York Water-Gate, at the foot of Buckingham
Street, Strand, the Metropolitan Board of Works proposed to remove to the entrance
to the Gardens. The Committee memorialized the Board on that subject, and that
scheme seems to have been abandoned; but it is now proposed to raise the Gate to a
level with Buckingham Street, and make it a thoroughfare to the Gardens. As this
would be tantamount to its destruction, such a proposal is obviously objectionable;
the Board has therefore been again memorialized and other steps taken in order, if
possible, to prevent this from being done.
It would make this report too long were the Committee to enter into details of all
the buildings which have come under their notice; suffice it to say the foregoing
instances are good specimens of the work which the Society has been able to
The following is a list of the cases which have been brought under the notice of
the Committee during the past year:-
Priestbury Ch., Cheshire.
Lambeth Palace Chapel.
Buckland Church, Kent.
St. Catherine Cere, City.
Heacham Ch., Norfolk.
Filey Church, Yorkshire.
Cley next the Sea, Norfolk.
St. Helen's Bishopgate.
Charing Church, Kent.
Rye Church, Sussex.
St. George's Ch., Windsor.
Old Chapter House, St. Paul's.
Machar Cathdrl., Aberdeen.
Haworth Ch., Yorkshire.
St. Mary le-Bow, Cheapside, City.
Aldborough Ch., Suffolk.
Skirclaugh Chapel, near Hull, Yorkshire.
St. Mary-at-Hill, Eastcheap, City.
Higham Gobion, Bedfordshire.
Christ's Hospital, City.
Adel Church, Yorkshire.
Mells Church, near Frome, Somerset.
York Water Gate, Buckingham Street.
St. Germain's Cathedral, Isle of Man.
St. Mary's Church, Bungay, Suffolk.
Upper Noble Church.
St. George's Tombland, Norwich.
Nantwich Ch., Cheshire.
St. Lawrence, Norwich.
St. Giles, Ch., Edinburgh.
Hawton Ch., Lincolnshire.
St. Mary's, Ely.
Old Town Hall, Leicester.
Thetford Grammar School.
Old House, 165, Aldergate Street, E.C.
S.S. Simon & Jude, Norwich.
Jesus Chapel, Chesterton Church,
St. Mary, Norwich.
S. Augustine's, Norwich.
St. Peter-in-the-East, Oxford.
Street Front and Gate House, St. John's College,
St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich.
Several cases of dilapidation and neglect of old Castles and other buildings have
come under the notice of the Committee. In each case representations have been made
to the owners, general eliciting satisfactory replies.
Instances also have occurred where clergymen and patrons have written to the
Society, asking that a Report might be furnished them as to the condition of their
churches, and to suggest what repairs were absolutely necessary. In every instance
the Committee have sent down responsible Members to view and report upon the
buildings in question.
There are many Churches which the Committee are at the present moment making
efforts to preserve, to one of which more particularly they would desire to call
the attention of Members of the Society. Penton Mewsey Church is a most valuable
example of fourteenth century architecture, and is threatened with absolute
demolition. Members will no doubt have see that the Committee have advertised for
subscriptions to the amount of £330, in order to pay that sum to the builder
in lieu of the use of the materials of the old Church. Members and all others
interested in the preservation of old buildings are invited to help in raising the
As regards the greater number of the cases dealt with by the Committee during the
past year, although they have no certainty of their protests having been successful
in preventing their restoration or demolition, yet they believe the action taken by
the Society in respect of them has been conducive of much good in arousing public
opinion on the subject, as they think will be apparent from the general tenor of
In conclusion, the Committee beg to remind the Members that as the work of the
Society increases (and it is already very large) it cannot possibly be carried on
withoutincreased funds. They would also be very grateful for additional assistance,
both upon Committees and as local Honorary Correspondents in different countries,
from those who have leisure, and who wish to forward the objects which the Society
has in view. They would also recommend unceasing activity on the part of those who
are already Members in increasing the number of the Society's subscribers.
Annual Report of the SPAB - II (1879).
1. 28 June 1879: Before SPAB at the Annual Meeting held at the Willis
Rooms, King Street, St. James's, London. The Hon Percy Wyndham, M.P., was the
1. The Architect, 5 July 1879, p. 7.
1. As `The Report' in Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. The
Second Annual Meeting of the Society, (London 1879), pp. 8-17.