Survey of London: Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1975.
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CHAPTER V - 'South Kensington' and the Science and Art Department
Despite the sometimes unpredictable development of the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners' estate reviewed in the previous chapter the buildings raised on it expressed much of the creative attitude to art, science and industry formulated by Prince Albert and his helpers. Mediated especially through the men and methods of the Science and Art Department, particularly its secretary, Henry Cole, the ideas of the Prince's circle issued in a 'school' of applied design that forms an element in Victorian artwork until recent years insufficiently appreciated. In this chapter it will be more closely considered socially and aesthetically. (fn. 6)
In its Crystal Palace at the Kensington corner of Hyde Park the Great Exhibition had not only been a popular cultural triumph; it had, as we have seen, also yielded a handsome surplus. In hard cash this represented the moral proof of a generation's campaigning, latterly under the aegis of Prince Albert, by a group of businessmen and politicians, artists and civil servants, who ever since the setting up of the Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures in 1835 had been warning an often Philistine public that 'to us, a peculiarly manufacturing nation, the connexion between art and manufactures is most important'. (fn. 7) In using their surplus to buy land on the southern side of Kensington Gore, the Commissioners for the Exhibition intended, as we have also seen, to provide a permanent home for institutions which would achieve their central aim of bringing science and art to bear on industry. The nature of 'South Kensington', physically as well as academically, is inseparable from the ideas and background of the Commissioners' first, dominating, President, realized through the practical energies of the men whom Winslow Ames calls 'the Prince's team'. It was crucial to the Prince's success in combating official inertia that, ever since the experiment of his visit to Birmingham in 1843, he had enjoyed mixing with the bourgeois and the self-made, and accordingly South Kensington was able to combine advanced German theories of art and science with an agile British pragmatism in adaptation to the circumstances of administration and finance.
Throughout all the complicated changes of content and timing, South Kensington retained the fundamentally Germanic purpose of a 'culture centre'. As against the Parisian placing of individual monuments at focal points in different quartiers, partially reflected in London by the National Gallery (or, dimly, the British Museum), the Commissioners' new suburb was laid out from the start as a comprehensive centre of knowledge, including if possible the National Gallery and the learned societies, and at least part of the British Museum. Perhaps inevitably, however, the building up of such an interconnecting network of cultural institutions took precedence over any idea of establishing a live, variegated community around them. Despite the many activities at 'South Kensington' there is still a certain deadness in its streets and the 'museums' area is in some ways felt as a 'void' between Brompton and Knightsbridge to the east, and Kensington and Earl's Court to the west.
Albert's enthusiasm for the cultural centre was no doubt stimulated especially by his visit in 1838 to Munich, where Leo von Klenze's Glyptothek was about to be matched by Ziebland's picture gallery opposite, forming the monumental Künigsplatz. In fact von Klenze himself is recorded as having made a design for a 'National Museum in London', (fn. 8) no doubt prepared in connexion with the evidence he gave in London in July 1853 to the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the National Gallery. In its positioning of works of sculpture against an allembracing background of Raphaelesque decoration, the Glyptothek had set new standards of gallery design which were to be particularly appropriate for the South Kensington policy of mixing media within the same institution.
The Prince brought with him from Germany in 1840 a strong sense not only of the unity of culture, but also of the public's right to direct contact with it. In both respects, however, he had been preceded in England by the radical Members of Parliament led by William Ewart (later the pioneer of public libraries) who had set up the Select Committee of 1835. As a direct result of the Committee's recommendations, the Government School of Design had been established at Somerset House in 1837 in premises vacated by the Royal Academy. The radicals were encouraged by the public's zeal for self-improvement, hitherto satisfied only in the evening classes of the Mechanics' Institutes, but were also motivated by a fear of the extent to which Britain, as the first industrial nation, was now being outstripped by her better educated foreign competitors. In France, Bavaria and Prussia there was a long tradition of state involvement in arts and manufactures, resulting in such schools of design as the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers at Paris and the Kunstgewerbeschule at Berlin. There was a reciprocal involvement by artists in public work: Munich in particular under Ludwig I had become the centre of the socalled Nazarene school of painters who, inspired by the great religious mural painters of the Italian Renaissance, were possessed by a sense of mission to bring didactic and elevating art to the public. (fn. 9) In England the Nazarenes' interest in Italy and sense of public duty had an influential sympathizer in Sir Charles Eastlake (1793–1865).
It was the 'English Nazarene', William Dyce (1806–64), who had the direction of the School of Design in his hands from 1838 to 1843. Dyce not only rivalled the German Nazarenes at their best in his own paintings (Ford Madox Brown recalling that when the Nazarene leader Cornelius was invited to decorate the Houses of Parliament he replied that there was no need of him when Britain had Dyce (fn. 10)) but also had an intensely practical attitude towards teaching the elements of industrial design in each material. 'Dyce came to grief', as Quentin Bell says, 'not because his methods were wrong, nor even because the manufacturers did not want them, but because he was unable to manage a factious and unbusiness-like Council'. (fn. 11) Yet it was Dyce who established the aims which South Kensington was to pursue in the following decade, not only educationally in the direct sense but also in the provision of a suitably didactic environment. It was Dyce who was awarded the first commission for mural painting in the new Houses of Parliament by the Royal Commission on the buildings' decorations, which, with Albert as chairman and Eastlake as secretary, had been the Prince's first personal involvement in the public arts in Britain.
For the physical appearance of the future South Kensington the influence of the Nazarenes on the Prince in the 1840's was very important: Schnorr von Carolsfeld, for example, was visited by Albert at the Munich Academy. Besides their Renaissance belief in the nobility of public art, which through Dyce influenced the English Pre-Raphaelites, they were also pioneers in reviving the medievalist 'workshop' attitude towards truthful craftsmanship, which they brought back from their original artists' colony in Rome. Both didactic murals and meticulous craftsmanship were to be important at South Kensington. Furthermore, in an age seeking justification for its theories in the work of a supposedly pristine past, the Nazarenes were pioneers in taking a scholarly interest in the art of the so-called Primitive painters of the Italian and German trecento and quattrocento. Albert himself, following the example of the pioneer British purchaser, Warner Ottley, built up a remarkable personal collection in the 1840's, with the help of his court designer from Dresden, Ludwig Grüner. The same interest in the Primitive, in direct messages depicted with burning colour, was to be important for the collections of the South Kensington Museum and the devising of an appropriate appearance for the buildings which housed them. The Prince's own special contribution which prepared the way for the Museum was in the systematic cataloguing and recording of works of art, in 1849 those of Osborne House and then from 1853 the great corpus of the works of Raphael. As a former student of the University of Bonn, Albert was above all aware of the Nazarenes' belief, and that of many other Germans, in the virtues of systematic education in historical research as well as in technical processes.
In none of these things, however, except perhaps in the cataloguing, was Albert, or South Kensington, a complete innovator, even in Britain; and the personal predominance of Henry Cole as Albert's executive subsequently obscured the contribution made by other pioneers whom Cole chose not to employ. Part of the strong dislike of South Kensington indeed, which was aroused even among some radicals, from John Ruskin to John Bright, lay in Cole's tendency to employ those who would be adaptable members of his team rather than men of repute with settled minds of their own. (To be fair to Cole, however, artists such as Stevens and Dyce tended to be unavailable because of their overwhelming involvement in—and failure to complete—major public commissions.) On the other hand, Albert's avoidance of the famous in favour of the practically competent was in itself a radical policy, and tended to alienate the Establishment. Albert's awareness of the extent to which Britain was losing its industrial ascendency to other more carefully educated nations aroused in him a contempt for aristocratic amateurism very similar to that of the radical Members of Parliament led by Ewart. In any case, as Lord Henry Lennox put it to Cole, 'the "Swells", as a class, did not much like the P, and still less do they like Lectures and Concerts'. (fn. 12)
It was this apathy and hostility, reciprocated by a pessimistic and easily discouraged personality, that had obstructed Dyce, the real pioneer of the South Kensington system. He was never directly employed at South Kensington, even though Cole considered that he was 'the first of artists' (fn. 13) and had been the only effective head of the Government School of Design, and despite the fact that his work in the Houses of Parliament and at Osborne brought him closely in touch with the Prince. To Dyce in particular, and to his tenure at the School of Design, South Kensington owed the importation from Germany of an educational theory that linked 'design' not to the academic ideal of the human figure but to the commercial requirements of craft processes.
Albert himself took this up in promoting the annual prize competitions of the Society of Arts, founded in 1754 for 'the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce of the Country'. These competitions were the immediate precursors of the Great Exhibition, and Cole had used the Society from 1845 as a vehicle for putting pressure on the Schools of Design in their post-Dyce confusion. When Cole succeeded in 1852 to the supreme extent of having a new Government office, the Department of Practical Art, set up under himself to administer art education nationally Dyce was by then already heavily involved in his never-completed scheme of murals in the Queen's Robing Room at Westminster.
To revitalize the teaching of technical processes, Cole therefore employed instead the refugee architect from Germany, Gottfried Semper (1803–79). (fn. 14) Because of his return to the Continent in 1855, Semper also made virtually no identifiable contribution at South Kensington, although the Department tried unsuccessfully to entice him back in 1857; (fn. 15) yet it is probably to him in part that is due the adoption there of neither the Classical nor the Gothic fashions in architecture, but of the alternative middle way which was known in Germany as the rundbogenstil (round-arched style)—a vaguely Lombardic Romanesque in brick, which had also been much used by Heinrich Hübsch in Baden and Friedrich von Gärtner in Bavaria. Furthermore, at one of the many houses which he built in Hamburg, Semper had been the first to revive the Italian mural technique of sgraffito, which was to be used so prominently at South Kensington. Semper also gave a strong lead to the collections of the School of Design (the origin of the museum) in urging ceramics and textiles as the two most widely practised arts. (fn. 16)
Later, after the Prince's death, Cole and Redgrave visited and recorded in 1863 Semper's picture galleries in Dresden, which they liked second only to the new galleries in the Louvre. The recent monumental brick buildings in Berlin Cole thought less 'suggestive' than the old and new buildings in Hanover. (fn. 17) Any German stylistic influence was probably reciprocated: in the same year the Crown Prince and Princess of Prussia carried back to Berlin an admiration for the museum's recent buildings.
That architecturally the German alternatives to the Battle of the Styles appealed to the Prince's non-sectarian temperament is apparent in the architecture of Whippingham church near Osborne (begun in 1855 by A. J. Humbert) and of the mausoleum erected by the Queen at Frogmore after his death, which was the work of the Prince's eminence grise, Ludwig Grüner, in association with Humbert. Grüner also designed furniture and carpets for Buckingham Palace in the kind of abstract patterns of mixed origin which were to be characteristic of South Kensington, and he introduced Raphaelesque mural patterning into the new Palace ballroom. In a pavilion erected in the Palace garden in 1842–3 Grüner had co-ordinated a characteristically Germanic team effort at mural decoration, prophetic of South Kensington's methods, in which Raphaelesque and Pompeian grottesche were used to frame frescoes by eight assorted artists, including Dyce and Eastlake. (fn. 19) The Department later became glad purchasers of Grüner's drawings of architecture. (fn. 20)
After having been the Prince's personal choice as secretary of the Houses of Parliament commission, Eastlake, as Keeper (and from 1855 Director) of the National Gallery, as Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, and from 1850 as President of the Royal Academy, was a potent organizer behind the scenes, sympathetic to German and Italian Primitive art.
The appearance of the South Kensington buildings owed most in origin, however, to the ideas of the three English architects who had been responsible, under Cole and the Prince, for the fitting-out of Paxton's Crystal Palace in 1851: Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820–77), secretary of the executive committee, Owen Jones (1809–74), superintendent of works, and J. W. Wild (1814–92), decorative architect. Wild, who had adopted the most radical brick rundbogenstil at Christ Church, Streatham, as early as 1842, was closely associated with Cole, and in 1852 designed the water tower at Grimsby, one of Cole's many sparetime enterprises: in the previous year he was 'retained as an expert on Arabian art' to advise the newly established museum of the Department of Practical Art at Marlborough House. (fn. 21) In 1867, as we shall see, Wild emerged, after the death of Captain Fowke, as the chief assistant to Major-General Scott as architect of the South Kensington buildings and the Bethnal Green Museum; but unfortunately his brief obituaries give little idea what he had been doing in the intervening fourteen years, except for designing a stained-glass window in the museum's Oriental Court. His experience as an Egyptian archaeologist (1842–8) and his knowledge of Mediterranean brick architecture may both have been valuable to Cole.
The Oriental Court interiors at the South Kensington Museum were designed as a whole (from 1863) by Wild's brother-in-law, Owen Jones, whose brilliant inventiveness as a pattern designer Cole had admired at Christ Church, Streatham (Plate 11c). (fn. 22) Jones had a fundamental orientalizing influence on the pattern-making of the students at South Kensington through his folios on Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Details of the Alhambra of 1842–5 and through his textbook The Grammar of Ornament published in 1856, which the Department promptly hailed as a 'great work' and distributed as prizes. (fn. 23) This was crucial in supporting Cole's diversion of the art schools away from the ideal of the human figure towards Dyce's policy of pattern-making for industry. Jones was also a fearless experimenter with new materials and methods: for example, iron and glass in architecture (as in his collaboration at Paddington Station with Brunel and Digby Wyatt from 1850 onwards) and chromolithography in printing.
Both Jones and Digby Wyatt, however, disqualified themselves from having major direct roles at South Kensington when they broke their connexion with the Prince and (less decisively) with Cole by becoming in 1852 the joint directors of decoration for the re-erected Crystal Palace opened at Sydenham in 1854. In spite of its ten magnificent architectural courts in different styles 'Sydenham' was disliked by the Prince's circle as showmanship rather than culture. All the same, the didactic had to come to terms with the pleasurable, and the influence of Sydenham upon South Kensington was soon manifest in the social promenade of the Horticultural Society's garden, with its fountains, terraces and pattern-planting: the loggias in particular recall the insistent arcading of Sydenham's courts.
The polymath Wyatt had done much in his joint report with Cole to the Society of Arts on an exhibition of French industrial products held in Paris in 1849 to justify the preparation of the Great Exhibition itself, and remained in contact with Cole and the Department. (fn. 24) His folio on Specimens of Geometrical Mosaics of the Middle Ages (1848) was another major source of influence in abstract pattern-making for South Kensington and he advised Cole in 1858 where in Italy to find suitable patterns of mosaic decoration. (fn. 25)
One other figure who was only marginally employed at South Kensington contributed vitally to its peculiar style: the sculptor Alfred Stevens (1818–75), who in 1845–7 had been employed in the School of Design at Somerset House as master of drawing and painting, ornament, geometrical drawing and modelling in the Morning School. (fn. 26) Stevens, with his lengthy training in Italy and his passion for the figurative modelling of Michaelangelo, represented initially a totally different tradition to the abstract patterning of Owen Jones; indeed he came and went at the School of Design as part of the reaction against Dyce's functionalist doctrine. Yet by the 1850's, particularly after his experience in designing stoves and other cast-iron implements for Hoole's of Sheffield, Stevens had achieved an ingenious synthesis of Michelangelesque robustness with Victorian abstract patterning. Absorbed as he was by his endless work on the Wellington Monument at St. Paul's, no integral parts of South Kensington were designed by him. But, as will be seen, in the inspiration Stevens gave to the team of designers whom Cole imported from Sheffield he was primarily responsible for the successful mingling at South Kensington of overtly Renaissance decoration with medievalist rundbogenstil architecture. Such a combination was however also characteristically German (the Johanneum at Hamburg, for example, or von Gärtner's Munich work), and Albert's own personal taste was clearly much more narrowly Italianate in architecture, as at Osborne House, than it was in painting.
In practice, of course, it was not so much the Prince as his devoted camp-follower Henry Cole who had immediate control over those major parts of the Commissioners' estate which were entrusted to him. At the Department of Practical Art as superintendent of general management (1852–3), then at the Department of Science and Art as joint secretary (1853–5), as inspector-general (1855–7) and as the sole secretary (1858–73), and at the South Kensington Museum as general superintendent (1857–73), he had a profound influence on the disposition of most parts of the estate, long before he briefly became a Commissioner himself (in 1872–3). As The Times said at his death in 1882, 'Great national movements, like that which has produced the South Kensington Museum, and all that it represents in the social life of our time, are, no doubt, due to causes deeper and more universal than the energy of any individual. But the instinct is nevertheless sound in the main which identifies South Kensington with Sir Henry Cole as its creator and chief representative.' (fn. 27) Cole was not a man of original mind in the way that the Prince was, but rather a tireless and inventive executant of other people's ideas, and withal a supreme exponent of what is nowadays called public relations. A self-confessed disciple of Carlyle, Cole's energy was summed up in his dictum 'if you want a thing done do it as well as you can but at any rate if you can't do all you wish do as much as you can'. (fn. 28) At a time when civil servants and politicians were a tightly intermeshed oligarchy, he knew better than most how to arouse a 'public mood' in favour of one of his campaigns: the establishment of the Public Record Office (he was by origin a cataloguer for the previous Records Commission), the introduction of the Penny Post, the promotion of industrial art or the improvement of sewage disposal.
As an archetypal Victorian family man with a love of amateur dramatics and musical evenings, he had a special sympathy for the predicament of the intelligent middle-class lady. He showed this not only in encouraging the Female School of Art which Dyce had started in 1843 and in helping the foundation of schools of needlework and cookery, but also in employing women in the creation of the South Kensington buildings (even if some were his own daughters). In the children's books which he wrote from the early 1840's 'he found employment for ladies in engraving his illustrations, thus making an early attempt to solve the difficult problem of woman's work'. (fn. 28) South Kensington came in fact to play an important part in female emancipation, with immediately discernible results in the part that women played in the Aesthetic Movement and in the commissioning of an artistic background to domestic life after about 1870. In particular, schools of art gave qualifications to the rapidly growing profession of schoolteachers, many of them women.
It was in fact this opportunity to train teachers in basic repetitive design skills which enabled Cole to expand vastly the art-school movement, while avoiding a difficulty which had obstructed Dyce, that many manufacturers, in part from jealousy for their patents, preferred to give technical training to their artisans in their own workshops. (fn. 29) In 1852, besides the central School of Design and the Female School, there were 20 branch schools in other parts of the country with about 5,000 pupils; in 1882, at Cole's death, there were 151 Schools of Art (30,300 pupils) and 640 art classes (26,700 pupils), while South Kensington curricula and certificates in drawing were in use at 4,700 elementary schools with total rolls of 768,661 pupils. (fn. 30) This phenomenal expansion was all directly under Cole's control, exerted through his faithful lieutenant, the pleasant minor painter of anecdote and Royal Academician, Richard Red-grave (1804–88), who was the Department's superintendent of art from 1852 and inspector-general for art in 1857–74. Redgrave had at Somerset House been in favour of teaching High Art to the students, not just patterns ('I do not see that the ornamentist is separate from the artist. . . . High design must spring from high art. It is of no use giving a small measure of knowledge to a man . . .' (fn. 31)). Yet at Marlborough House, where the School of Design had joined the new Department in 1852, and thereafter at South Kensington, Redgrave seems to have acquiesced totally in the opposing educational policy of Cole. This, in spite of the stimulating nature of the new oriental-abstract or conventionalized patterns when they were first introduced (by Owen Jones or later by Christopher Dresser), in the end concentrated narrowly on 'payment by results' and the almost total exclusion of imaginative work. The head of the National Art Training School, Joseph Sparkes, told a conference in 1884 that 'the main thing was to make children accurate. That was the moral of the whole thing. Some sentimental objections had been made [notably by Ruskin] to a hard and fast and repulsive method of teaching drawing; that was all very well, but they were hardly dealing with sentiment. It was necessary to be very matter of fact in training artisans to be accurate in understanding any drawings that might come before them.' (fn. 32)
Yet in the four years at Marlborough House which laid the foundations for South Kensington, Cole and Redgrave were able to provide the otherwise rigid art-school teaching system with a richly varied museum background—Redgrave being an historian of artists as well as an artist himself. At Somerset House there had been a ramshackle assemblage of casts of ancient sculpture, which already in 1847 Dyce's successor Heath Wilson had wanted to organize into a proper museum. Wilson had in 1844 introduced some purchases from that year's exposition of French manufactures, and there were also a few examples of British ornamental art collected by Dyce himself. To the elementary collections were added immediately after the move to Marlborough House the Board of Trade's varied and sometimes exotic purchases of exhibits from the 1851 Exhibition, which were selected by Cole, Jones and Redgrave. (fn. 33) Alongside this was placed, with Cole's bold purposefulness, a 'Chamber of Horrors' of badly designed products, (fn. 34) which had, however, to be dismantled rapidly because the manufacturers were named. Cole, a mixture of pedagogue and showman, made use of the Museum of Manufactures in two different ways: first by circulating educational exhibitions to the provincial schools of art—the origin of the Victoria and Albert Museum's still flourishing Department of Circulation—and secondly by opening Marlborough House to the public for exhibitions on special subjects. 'In forming this Collection, the Committee [of the Board of Trade] looked to its becoming the nucleus of a Museum of Manufactures, which may have its connexion throughout the whole country and help to make our Schools of Art as practical in their working as those of France and Germany.' (fn. 35)
The exhibitions soon began to attract loans from the private collections of the nobility—Cole himself in 1853 searched out Sèvres china from dusty recesses at Buckingham Palace—and this in turn led to an ever-increasing popularity amongst the fashionable public for studying art which was far removed from the training of the artisan. In 1852 the young J. C. Robinson (1824–1913) was made superintendent of the art collections; and the name of the whole soon changed from the Museum of Manufactures to the more appealing Museum of Ornamental Art. The rapid acquisition of masterpieces was at first justified by Cole on educational grounds: '. . . the first step . . . is to place before the student fine examples of what has already been accomplished in the speciality in which he seeks to be proficient. An educated designer for ceramic manufacture should at least have an adequate knowledge of what Japan, Meissen, Sèvres, and even Chelsea, have already done, and he should aim to acquire a power of execution as high as that which his predecessors have possessed.' (fn. 36) But under Robinson this soon opened the floodgates to the acquisition of works of art as such, subject only to Gladstone's insistence that the money should be spent on matters of 'public interest'; the first catalogue, written by Robinson, was published in 1855. In 1853 £1,705 was paid for over seven hundred ceramics from the Bandinel collection, and in 1854 £2,110 for the Gherardini collection of sculptors' models (after a trial exhibition, visited by the Queen and the Prince, to test public opinion). Then in 1855, after a petition by the Society of Arts to the House of Commons, £8,283 was spent on buying 725 of the 4,300 lots of the Bernal collection: glass, porcelain, Limoges enamels, armour, medals, jewellery, ivories, furniture—all on show at Marlborough House the following year. Above all, there was the superb Soulages collection at Toulouse, which included many easel paintings, such as Bellini's St. Dominic, not remotely relevant to industrial art. Lord Palmerston refused a grant for its purchase, but Cole, with his usual ingenuity, and aided by a guarantee from Prince Albert, acquired it gradually from the Committee for the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857. (fn. 37)
This expansion of the exhibits was not mere empire-building: it indicated the sincerely out-going and pleasure-giving approach to the general public that made Cole as hateful a figure to the ultra-sensitive as South Kensington itself was to the narrow-minded. That 'humbug Henry Cole C.B.', as Madox Brown called him, (fn. 38) was temperamentally suited less to transforming Victorian society than to celebrating its best efforts—aiming not at the revolution by creative artisans of which Ruskin dreamed, but at the improvement of the public taste which called the tune. Central to such alert meliorism was the encouragement of living artists. Of the three major collections of contemporary painting which had been formed by nouveaux riches, the banker Angerstein's had been bought by the Government in 1824 as the nucleus of the National Gallery, but the horsedealer Robert Vernon's donation in 1847 of 157 modern English pictures was housed instead, after 1852, by the Science and Art Department at Marlborough House. By 1855, under Redgrave's influence, negotiations had been opened for the Department likewise to house the third such collection, that of the Leeds clothier John Sheepshanks, consisting of works by almost every major British artist of c. 1820–50.
Thus, by the time that the Commissioners had finally purchased the different parts of their estate and were considering definite schemes for its layout, the 'art' side of the Department was already branching forth in diverse and venturesome directions, setting a complicated brief for any new buildings. The 'science' side, by contrast, was much slower to assert itself, in spite of Prince Albert's personal interest, partly because there was so little previous experience to build on. Dr. Lyon Playfair (1818–98), later Sir Lyon and first Lord Playfair, had the ideal Albertine mixture of Scots and German in his background: he had studied for his Doctorate of Philosophy under Liebig at Giessen and since 1845 had been chemist to the Geological Survey and then professor at the School of Mines in Jermyn Street. Although his own researches had practical value, for example in selecting the best coals for steamships, his primary role, at a time of ever-growing political insistence on practical improvement, was as a leading member of official inquiries on such subjects as the health of towns, the herring industry, cattle plague, the civil service, Scottish universities and the endowed schools. After having, like Cole, been awarded the C.B. for services on the executive committee of the Great Exhibition, he joined him in 1853 as joint secretary of the Science and Art Department, acting as sole secretary for three years (with Cole as inspector-general) until his removal to the chair of chemistry at Edinburgh University in 1858. Playfair was able to secure for scientific education of a practical kind a central place in the Commissioners' future plans, and enjoyed Prince Albert's special favour by being appointed a gentleman usher of his house-hold despite Sir Charles Phipps's objection to his 'low birth, ordinary appearance and uncouth manners'. (fn. 39)
Similarly, the inspector for science and art, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Cunliffe-Owen (1821–67), although he left Marlborough House for duty with the Royal Engineers at Sebastopol as early as January 1855, before the move to South Kensington, established a tradition crucial to South Kensington in proving what a serviceable union of Science and Art there could be in an intelligent sapper. In 1851 he had moved in a year from being 'Computer of Space' at the Great Exhibition to being Superintendent of Foreign Departments and finally General Superintendent. Cole recruited him as Inspector of Science and Art, a position filled also by his successor Captain Fowke before actual building work monopolized the latter's time. Cunliffe-Owen's younger brother (Sir) Philip was Cole's deputy general superintendent of the South Kensington Museum from 1857 and succeeded him as director in 1873. The multifarious duties carried out at the Great Exhibition by rank-and-file sappers also set a precedent amply followed in the day-to-day work of the Museum.
Even before the Commissioners were given permanence by their charter of October 1851 the Prince's team had already been bringing together their thoughts on the use of the Exhibition's surplus, and by February 1852 (a month after Henry Labouchere had offered Cole superintendence of the new Department of Practical Art) the Prince gave his support to associating the reinvigorated Schools of Design with his project. (fn. 40) As we have seen, his own plan to bring the learned societies together on the proposed site south of Kensington Gore was falling on stony ground, and although he never faltered in his own commitment to make South Kensington a place of learning his other difficulty, with vested educational interests, was an additional cause for circumspection.
Underlying this lack of rapport with the Establishment was more generally the emphasis of the Prince, Playfair and Cole, at least in public, on vocational training. In evidence to the Select Committee on the Schools of Design in 1849, Cole had gone so far as to declare: 'I apprehend that the assumption in starting these schools was, that the benefit should be strictly commercial. I do not think that these schools were created for aesthetic purposes, or for general educational purposes I apprehend that the age is so essentially commercial, that it hardly looks to promoting anything of this kind except for commercial purposes. In this case, I think it was specially commercial.' (fn. 41) It was in something of this spirit that the Commissioners' Second Report made the Prince's forceful and fully illustrated case for a great educational centre to serve 'the extended wants of industry'. As we have seen, a hallmark of the scheme, and indeed of the whole South Kensington idea, was that teaching institutions and illustrative collections should be placed next to each other, so that 'museums' could be directly utilized in specialist, as well as public, education. Cole and Redgrave in 1853 suggested that there should be covered communication between all the buildings precisely 'so as to afford the greatest facility for the use of objects in the Museums for Lectures and Illustrations in Teaching'. (fn. 42) Accor dingly in 1856–7, when the training school for art and the art museum moved from Marlborough House to South Kensington, they were housed in temporary accommodation immediately next to each other and this close relationship was maintained in the permanent buildings of the 1860's.
So wide, however, was the Prince's vision of the role of applied art that the collection of examples which he wished to place at the heart of his new foundation was, as is said in the previous chapter, none other than that of the National Gallery. Independently, governmental opinion was sympathetic to a move from Trafalgar Square to somewhere in the South Kensington neighbourhood. Postulating this removal, a new home for that collection dominated the proposed plan which in August 1853 the Prince appended to a memorandum by him on the estate's layout (fig. 19). A huge 800-foot-long National Gallery was to lie across the main north—south axis of the rectangle on a raised terrace, with secondary roads running east and west from it to Exhibition Road and Queen's Gate. North of it were the twin colleges of art and science and south of it, in two parallel blocks, set back from the central avenue behind broad gardens, the museums of art, inventions and trade. The main approach was from the southern (Cromwell) road through a 'triumphal Arch set back in a Crescent 320 feet wide and 120 deep'. It was a broad uncomplicated scheme in the German neo-classical tradition, of the type that Schinkel at Berlin and von Klenze at Munich had dressed in the simple grandeur of the Greek style or the rundbogenstil. The Prince, however, with his admiration for Cubitt and for Italy, recommended 'an Italian or Palladian style of Architecture, as admitting variety of outline and invention, with symmetrical architectural lines'. (fn. 43) In effect this meant that when he had the plan and memorandum distributed for criticism, he stimulated the older generation of English architects to respond with the elaborate academic machinery of the French Beaux-Arts tradition of their youth. (fn. 44)
T. L. Donaldson, who a generation earlier had designed the (Gothic) church of Holy Trinity, Brompton, immediately east of the Commissioners' estate, planned his National Gallery as a Prix-de-Rome tour de force of major axes, minor axes and cross-axes, culminating in a domed 'Hall of Glory'—possibly a first glimmer of the Albert Hall idea (fig. 20). To its south, along the whole Cromwell Road frontage, was a formal garden with radiating promenades, while to its north a much larger informal garden with a big central 'apse' or exedra was flanked by twin buildings presumably intended for the museums of science and art: both in the formal landscaping and more particularly in the great northern exedra seems to lie the germ of the future Horticultural Society's garden. Donaldson's buildings, however, including one probably for a college to the east of Exhibition Road (on the present Victoria and Albert Museum site), were sublimely indifferent in their perfectionist symmetry to the likely realities of piecemeal growth and change. (fn. 45)
James Pennethorne's various alternatives were also rigidly symmetrical, but were broken up more realistically into projecting pavilions and smaller courtyards. His suggested institutions were, however, to be quite as monumentally discrete as Donaldson's: in one scheme (fig. 21), what is evidently a National Gallery is set across the site at the northern end separated by a vast formal garden from what seem to be twin museums to the south, with a college on the eastern site. (fn. 46) The same theme was developed urbanistically with answering crescents of town houses to the west of Queen's Gate and east of Exhibition Road (cutting across estate boundaries). (fn. 47) Another version showed two concave quadrant blocks probably for museums forming a broad courtyard towards Cromwell Road and opening northwards to the 'National Gallery' block in a way partly foreshadowing Fowke's completion plan for the South Kensington Museum in 1860. Also interesting in this plan was the inclusion on the central axis but south of Cromwell Road of a circular hall, again seemingly suggestive of an 'Albert Hall'. (fn. 48) Pennethorne's sense of the possible is shown by yet another plan, in which the National Gallery—at the northern end again, but this time running north—south—was given an imposing entrance forecourt eastwards across the Eden Lodge property and a future extension wing westwards across the troublesome Gore Lane cottages—both purchases to be made, as the inscription made clear, by the sale of all the outlying properties west, south and east of the main rectangle. (fn. 49) Also realistic on this particular plan was Pennethorne's careful allowance for extensions to the other buildings on the site, each of them (unlike on the other plans) carefully marked with its proposed use, and thus giving an interesting commentary on what Pennethorne thought the Commissioners' 'brief' was at that moment. Towards Cromwell Road the 'Museum of Industrial Arts and Patented Inventions' had two courtyards on each side arranged in an L-shape and joined together into a 'U' by a quadruple central colonnade that gave an effect of peering through columns into a garden which was to become basic to South Kensington. Along Cromwell Road two more courtyards on either side could be added as future extensions. The central garden was flanked to the west by 'Colleges of Industrial Arts and Science' and to the east by 'Houses for Societies and Professional Men', both of these having large apses to north and south for future extensions (not a flexible shape, however). The garden was overlooked to the north, using the fall in the ground, by a 'Terrace 30 feet high with Arcade below open to the Gardens 700 feet long'—another foretaste of the Horticultural Society's garden.
C. R. Cockerell's plan (fn. 50) (fig. 22) also included a large domed hall south of Cromwell Road, in this case actually inscribed 'Music Hall', the hall shown on the Prince's own plan evidently being understood to be an essential part of the 'brief' for the site—not surprisingly in view of the Prince's love of oratorio and Cole's of massed choruses. In other respects Cockerell was perhaps too wilful, if tantalizingly so to those who today feel the framing of the main South Kensington rectangle to be over-rigid—indeed he seems to have carefully avoided squared-up alignments. His solution of the Gore Lane—Eden Lodge uncertainties was to turn the site into a triangle. Two great boulevards radiated south-east and south-west from a circular place at the park end, and Cockerell scooped out two dramatic crescent-shaped groups of buildings to face each other across the Cromwell Road base court. Beyond the western road he placed a crescent-shaped Winter Garden 700 feet long (on Lord Harrington's property). The twin buildings in the centre of the triangle, one a museum or gallery, the other apparently a college, both had pairs of oval colonnaded courts; and there was a further riot of curvature, with exedras screened by columns, in the buildings towards the park rond-point. It was a fascinating exercise in setting picturesque neo-classical compositions in echelon to the passer-by on the boulevards.
In cold-blooded contrast was the plan submitted by Cole and Redgrave from the Science and Art Department early in 1854. (fn. 51) It shunned the aestheticism of the neo-classical geometry favoured by the architects: its aim on the contrary—the first of nine 'principles suggested as necessary to be recognized in laying out a ground plan at Kensington'—was 'that the building be so laid out as to be capable of being extended or portions only erected from time to time, without disturbance to general arrangements and effect'. Certainly it carried practicality to an almost grim utilitarianism. Across the entire width of the northern end of the site, with future extension wings flanking a formal forecourt to Kensington Gore, stretched a 1,100-foot expanse of 'Galleries for Pictures, Statues, Science etc.'—a miscellany that might have been either breathtakingly comprehensive or mindlessly confused. This allpurpose super-gallery was to have its seven courtyards so planned that, if necessary, 'the centre only or the whole frontage only might be built and the divisions inserted afterwards'. These repetitive 'divisions' between the courtyards are of great interest in their design, although it is difficult to tell the extent to which the surviving drawings are merely diagrammatic. The toplit galleries, raised on a conventional ground floor, were to have their main walls sloping inwards, the skylight being curved over the apex of a barrel vault. The idea was clearly in the Crystal Palace tradition, but with much more brick than glass; already it was apparent that the careful and conservative Redgrave was concentrating on the best means of lighting and presenting pictures without architectural distractions. South of a main cross-avenue aligned on Queen's Gate Terrace, Cole placed his institutions right up to the street frontages, with numerous projecting pavilions hardly at all stressed, although arranged symmetrically. Along Queen's Gate was to be the University of London's headquarters, flanked by the Society of Arts and an examination hall; further northwards were galleries for prints and drawings, while at the southern end, with a frontage to Cromwell Road, was to be the Royal Academy of Music. Along Exhibition Road was the Science and Art Department itself, with trade collections and a lecture hall, and (fronting Cromwell Road) a block with the words 'Education Board'. Behind these two long and somewhat confused frontages, and flanking a broad north-south avenue up the centre of the rectangle, were two big undefined areas marked as 'Glass Covered Space for Occasional Exhibitions'—completely in the Crystal Palace tradition. Opposite in Exhibition Road was to stand a 'Museum of Patented Inventions', with behind it, occupying most of the present Victoria and Albert Museum site, an open stretch of land entitled 'Testing Ground for Experiments'. Even on the west of Queen's Gate Cole had an institution, a 'Normal Industrial School for Youth', while the north side of Queen's Gate Terrace was to be occupied (a far-sighted, if abortive, idea) by 'Boarding Houses for Students'.
However, largely because of the uncertainty on the main rectangle brought about by the controversy whether or not the National Gallery was to be removed to South Kensington, the first institution to build on the estate, the Science and Art Department, had to concentrate its attention on the eastern site, detached from the main rectangle by Exhibition Road and occupied by the row of pre-nineteenth-century houses formed out of Brompton Park House (see fig. 18 on page 53 and fig. 1 on plan-sheet A in end pocket). Having established under Cole, Redgrave and J. C. Robinson an irresistible momentum of growth on the Art side, the Department had in three years outgrown the quarters at Marlborough House, which in any event was required in 1855 as the adult home of the Prince of Wales. The need to act quickly yet within tight confines of wartime budgets, meant that grandiose neo-classical schemes remained mere paper. Even Cole and Redgrave's own plan was put in abeyance. Yet a 'testing ground for experiments', in the architectural sense, is indeed what the eastern site became, as Cole's team of ingenious practical men did their best to accommodate rapid and unpredictable expansion at minimum cost, while at the same time gradually establishing what they considered to be an appropriate Victorian style for South Kensington, in a synthesis of Classical and Gothic. While this hectic development of the eastern site, the present Victoria and Albert Museum, is better traced in detail in Chapter VI (and see plan-sheet A in end pocket), the assembly of the team to carry it out, and the attitudes expressed in their system of working, are significant for the Commissioners' estate as a whole and the detailed design of prominent buildings on the main rectangle.
The beginning was inauspicious, as Cole and his Department endured the buffeting of public ridicule for the appearance of the 'Brompton Boilers' built by the Commissioners, and did their best to convert the existing old houses of Brompton Park into the male and female schools of art (Plates 4, 5). These were linked to the 'Boilers' by an unpretentious single-storey stock-brick 'junction' block of offices and lecture theatre in the simplest classical style by Pennethorne, as Office of Works' architect (Plate 3b). From that point, however, building passed out of the hands of the Office of Works and into those of Cole and his Department. He had recruited into the Department's service, in succession to Cunliffe-Owen, a brilliant, youngish officer of the Royal Engineers, Captain Francis Fowke (1823–65), whose mercurial inventiveness responded with agility to every twist and turn of Cole's own energy. For the remaining nine years of his life Fowke, who came to be highly regarded by Prince Albert, enjoyed the immense opportunities offered by the Department's expansion at South Kensington and elsewhere, and by the calls made upon its personnel for help with the other great projects undertaken at South Kensington. His congeniality with Cole, his readiness to work with decorative artists, his great practical ability in the rapid contrivance of economical buildings on a large scale, and his resourcefulness in the use of unconventional techniques and materials, made him seem almost indispensable in those very active years at South Kensington. His insecure architectural sensibility brought him much criticism from architects, sharpened by professional jealousy. But he was protected by the independence and self-sufficiency of the Department at South Kensington, where his limitations as an architect were perhaps the less noticed by reason of the prevailing attitude to design. A belief in construction and proportion as the basis of architectural form was professed there in words. (fn. 52) But the effective belief, making a virtue of the necessity of piecemeal construction, was rather that beauty in architecture could be superadded by subsequent decoration and artistically designed detailing.
The relationship between Cole, Redgrave and Fowke, and between them and the other architects and artists who worked with them in their team, was entirely dissimilar to the Victorian ascendency of the individualistic prima donna architect (as even Pennethorne had succeeded in being at the Office of Works) and seems to be closer to the kind of teamwork practised in public-authority offices a century later. Fowke, as architect and engineer to the Department, clearly neither expected nor intended to design every detail of its buildings himself, but instead saw his function as the direction and co-ordination of a design-office. His own personal bent, indeed, was initially for mechanical invention. After service in the West Indies, he had made his name with the Raglan Barracks, Devonport (begun 1853), which had numerous innovations in structure and sanitation, although conventionally classical in appearance. He made many successful inventions inside and outside the field of building: for example, a collapsible canvas pontoon which could be carried by only two men, an improved swing-door hinge, a folding camera, and a military fire engine (of which a prototype was used at South Kensington). In fact Fowke's first 'science-and-art' appointment in 1854 was as an engineer, the Inspector of Machinery for the British Commission at the coming Paris Exhibition, and in January 1855 he took over from Henry Cunliffe-Owen (summoned to the Crimea) as Secretary of that Commission. From his work in Paris, closely associated with Cole, it was an easy step for him to take over also Cunliffe-Owen's permanent post in the Department as an Inspector for Science and Art; but having joined the staff of the Department in the summer of 1856, he was in November significantly given the specific duties of 'Architect and Engineer' as well.
Fowke had the great advantage of having at his disposal a detachment of sappers who were employed at first in 1856 to clear the Department's ground, but were afterwards retained ostensibly for their own training. Their commander, Lieutenant John F. D. Donnelly (1834–1902), was in 1858 saved from threatened recall by the War Office when he took Fowke's, and to a greater extent Playfair's, place, first as Inspector for Science, then Director of Science, and, finally, as Major-General Sir John Donnelly, Secretary of the whole Department in 1884–99. When the War Office queried the sappers' retention, Fowke was able to point to the educational value in a military sense of their work at the museum: there was, for example, the use of new building materials, as in the concrete guardhouse-cum-entrance lodge; there was the devising of prototypes for cheap temporary structures, as in the barrel-roofed timber drill shed for the 1st Middle-sex Volunteers; and there was the recording of all the technical experiments (as well as of objects in the art collections) by the new technique of photography—South Kensington claimed to provide the entire photographic training service of the Royal Engineers. The Department's official photographer, C. Thurston Thompson, was assisted by three sappers who were trained specifically for the purpose of recording the construction of the buildings. (fn. 53) Lance-Corporal Spackman's photographs of the 'aerial ballet of the Brompton Boilermakers' are justly famous.
In 1861 C. W. Dilke, senior, one of Cole's close associates, grumbled to him that Fowke was 'as clever as possible—but no architect or man of business'. (fn. 54) Perhaps this was not very seriously meant but in fact Fowke was subjected to intermittent attack for his lack of professional qualifialthough his failure to secure election to the (Royal) Institute of British Architects was evidently brought about by the ill-will of Robert Kerr as Fowke's unsuccessful competitor in the South Kensington museums competition of 1864—and disgusted some friendly members of the Institute (see page 206). His successor, and fellow-sapper, at South Kensington, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Y. D. Scott, was likewise not a member of the Institute, and although their chief, Cole, became an honorary member on his retirement South Kensington was notorious as an expression of Cole's disregard of the professional architect in favour of the engineer and decorative artist. If Cole had had his way no architect would have been called in at the Albert Memorial, and his distrust of the profession was reciprocated. (fn. 55) Contacts with the profession were in consequence not extensive. Cole himself admired Teulon's work. He also visited All Saints, Margaret Street, when it was building and some years later when it was completed: on both occasions, however, he called the architect Butterworth. He was on closer terms with Street, who defended Fowke against Kerr's charge that he lacked architectural qualifications, (fn. 56) and about the time of Fowke's death Cole evidently asked Street unavailingly to undertake some work for the Department in 'Romanesque or Italian moulded brickwork'—Street having written the standard work on Brick and Marble in the Middle Ages (1855). (fn. 57) As we have seen, Sir M. D. Wyatt remained in touch with the Department over a number of years—partly as adviser on purchases—and it is perhaps significant of a reciprocity between Wyatt and South Kensington that the wings of his Adden-Hospital at Cambridge (1864–5) seem reminiscent of Fowke's first characteristic essay in a recognizable South Kensington style. Later, when Henry Scott wanted a second opinion on his completion plan for the museum in 1870 he turned to James Fergusson and Sydney Smirke. (fn. 58)
That first essay of Fowke's was the gallery for the Sheepshanks Collection, which displayed South Kensington's own red-brick version of the rundbogenstil (Plates 7b, 39d). It was a style Fowke used again with variants at South Kensington in the main quadrangle of the museum, in the arcades of the Horticultural Society's garden, in the 1862 Exhibition building, and in the first designs for the Albert Hall and the Natural History Museum. Outside London he used it in the Scottish Industrial (now Royal Scottish) Museum at Edinburgh and in the Prince Consort Library at Aldershot (1860, paid for personally by the Prince). (fn. 59) But he also deployed a convenstaid classical manner in the interior of the Horticultural Society's council chamber and of the southern loggia of their garden (Plates 27c, 35c) (as in the interior of the Dublin National Gallery); while at other times he went for an abstract stick-like style of timber or iron, with patterns derived from Owen Jones, as in the interiors of the first Refreshment Room at the South Kensington Museum (1857) and of the French Hall at the 1862 Exhibition (Plates 6c, 34c).
It is doubtful, however, whether Fowke or Cole at first saw the Sheepshanks Gallery as necessarily providing a consistent vocabulary: the next three gallery ranges of the museum extending round what became its North Court were brutally utilitarian in their brick-buttressed exterior and conventionally Italianate interiors. Cole's airy remark to the Select Committee of 1860 that 'I do not think people going to the Holy Trinity Church need trouble themselves with the look of the building' (fn. 60) is enough to arouse sympathy with contemporary architects' doubts about his, and Fowke's, sensitivity.
What baffled and infuriated them—and must still puzzle the historian—was, indeed, the question of the precise level of responsibility Fowke and his successor, Scott, felt for the aesthetic impact of their works. Fowke, who in 1860 had a salary of £650 per annum (raised to £750 by 1865), plus a house, (fn. 61) employed in his office, situated in Pennethorne's 'junction' block, some nine or ten assistants. (fn. 62) Scott was also well served by assistants, and enemies of the Department were ready to assert that the reputation of its responsible architects rested upon their assistants—one critic, indeed, making the unlikely charge that care was taken 'to shift these designers from one subject to another, lest they should hereafter claim the originality of any one design'. (fn. 63)
Fowke's chief draughtsman in 1860–64 was H. Saxon Snell, who had worked for him since at least 1859 when Snell was 27. (fn. 64) A former assistant of Pennethorne, Paxton and Tite, Snell had been one of the first members of the Architectural Association, and was subsequently to have a very extensive practice as an architect of hospitals and workhouses. (fn. 65) He was succeeded from December 1864 (at £5 a week) by a 34-year-old native of Glasgow, John Liddell, who had been an assistant since 1859. (fn. 66) The son of a surveyor, he had been articled to a Scottish architect and then, probably, to Thomas Cundy II and (possibly) E. W. Pugin. (fn. 67) He was evidently competent, and able to contribute to the development of an architectural design, and a drawing of 1863 suggests that he may have had some share in the composition of Fowke's completion scheme for the south front of the South Kensington Museum. (fn. 68) But he was also a disappointed and difficult employee. Fowke's son Frank (who was also Cole's son-in-law) worked briefly under Liddell in his father's office, and later said he was 'a very capable little man up to a certain point but inordinately vain and who having been unable to attain the position which he imagined his due was dissatisfied and lived in the belief that he was unfairly treated. He imagined himself the originator of all the designs of which he was set to make drawings and laboured under a chronic sense of injustice. He was a sardonic and unpleasant chief.' (fn. 62) He was dissatisfied with the recognition he received from Fowke for the help he gave with the competition design for a natural history museum in 1864. (fn. 69) In June 1865 a drawing-office manager was appointed (at £6 a week) in C. R. Dillon, A.R.I.B.A., who had been a pupil of H. L. Elmes, (fn. 70) and later that year spheres of influence within the office were being contested. (fn. 71) At the end of 1865 Liddell left the Department's staff. He claimed in 1866 that this had been in order to join Fowke in private practice, just before the latter's death, but much later Professor Robert Kerr—no friend of 'South Kensington'—said that Liddell (whom he does not, however, name) had been 'turned out of office' for asserting his contribution to the natural history museum design, and a letter from Liddell's father in 1865 is rather suggestive of his dismissal. (fn. 72) An undated sketch by Godfrey Sykes (who died in February 1866) for the mosaic tablet in the quadrangle of the South Kensington Museum showing Cole and the Department's chief designers includes a figure said to be Liddell. (fn. 73) If the identification is correct, Liddell may be the fourth figure shown with Cole, Fowke and Sykes in Plate 2c. (fn. 74) Loss of place and favour is implied by the omission of the 'Liddell' figure from the tablet as executed. But the Department had sufficient respect for his ability or his power of mischief to employ him early in 1866 to provide, for 20 guineas, designs for a library as part of the museum's completion scheme. (fn. 75) Apart from the drawings he then produced (fn. 76) Liddell thereafter disappeared from the South Kensington scene, save for some embittered letters to the press (see also pages 183–4, 192, 205).
A more substantial figure architecturally was the theatre architect Thomas Verity (1837–91), who was already in the South Kensington office in 1864—'a very clever man [in Frank Fowke's words as he subsequently showed in his designs for the Criterion and for the Spa at Scarborough. He always gratefully admitted what he had learnt under my father whose talent he fully appreciated.' (fn. 62) Verity left the office in 1871 on winning the competition for the Criterion, where the French Empire style, his personal predilection, was decked out internally with a dazzling display of ceramic decoration in the South Kensington manner. The other draughtsmen of 1864 as recalled by Frank Fowke are shadowy if mostly raffish figures: Parkinson, Downe (who was retained by Scott after Fowke's death: see page 346), Jolly, and the Irishman Ryan. (fn. 62)
An important figure not mentioned by Frank Fowke was Richard Redgrave's son Gilbert (1844–1941), who was in the office from at least 1861 (fn. 77) and, like Verity, went on to become an important architectural assistant to Henry Scott. (fn. 78) He eventually transferred to the Department's educational service as an Inspector of Schools, becoming, like Frank Fowke himself, an Assistant Secretary in the Board of Education. But en route he was a characteristically South Kensingtonian jack-of-all-trades, being, among much else, architect of Minton's art-pottery studio and of British pavilions at the Paris Exhibition of 1878, (fn. 79) (with R. A. Briggs as his articled pupil (fn. 80)), manager of Alexandra Palace, and for a time secretary of Henry Scott's sewage company. (fn. 81)
Another name that should be mentioned is John Hungerford Pollen (1820–1902). In 1863 he became an editor of catalogues at the museum, until 1876, (fn. 82) and although he is not known to have contributed to the work of the design-office he had a practice of his own as architect and decorator: in 1855–6 he had designed the University church at Dublin (glittering with marble and mosaic) and later worked next door to the museum at Brompton Oratory. (fn. 1)
It was this team which, under Cole and Richard Redgrave, was set the task of coping with the rapid growth yet uncertain finance of the Department's museum, schools and offices—the working headquarters of its bureaucracy as well as a college and a showplace. Its first products at the museum, with the exception of the Sheepshanks Gallery, were not impressive: the galleries round the future North Court were also unpromising, and there was little sign of consistent style. In the two roofed-over courtyards, however, which Fowke created in 1859–62 between these previous galleries at the museum he at least turned to good account his observations on visits to Paris in 1855: the square pyramid-roofed lantern structure of North Court (Plate 8a, 8b) is evidently related to those at Baltard's Les Halles (begun in 1851) while the barrel-roofed sheds of South Court (Plate 9a) derive from those of the 1855 Exhibition building itself (as well as from Paddington Station, where Digby Wyatt and Owen Jones had recently partnered Brunel). Cole and Redgrave had, in fact, found the iron-work of Les Halles unsatisfactory, as also that of Boileau's St. Eugène, (fn. 84) probably because it was insufficiently expressive of the material.
North Court's detailing was nevertheless itself in most respects dully conventional, with its cylindrical Gothic engaged columns and shaft-rings, its rather more Italianate segmental cloister arches, and its large expanses of initially plain walling. Only in certain small touches, for example in the fastidiously moulded console brackets to the lantern cornice, may a more aspiring hand declare itself. In South Court, by contrast, what must surely be the same hand with dramatic effect took over total control of the detailing. A drawing evidently from Fowke's office (initialled as examined by Gilbert Redgrave) shows the basic outline as built (Plate 9c): the same conventional columns with shaft-rings as in North Court, with only the thinnest of mouldings outlining the barrel roof's trusses and the round-arched clerestory. (fn. 85) Yet the visual impact of the Court in all its detailing was like a total transfiguration of this matrix: glittering clusters of intricately cast detached shafts, twisted and embossed in medieval Cosmati style, and linked by openwork veils of pierced metalwork to the arches of the central cloister-corridor (Plates 8d, 10b, 10c). Compared with the modest eclecticism of the earlier galleries, still Early Victorian in scale and style, and thus rather old-fashioned, South Court's synthesis of Gothic and Renaissance in metal put South Kensington in the vanguard of what The Building News called 'that convergence of opposite styles which seems to be taking place at the present day'. (fn. 86) The new Italian-medieval synthesis was in the same year of 1861 made manifest externally in the first wing, the Residences, of the museum's main quadrangle, the tentative Butterfieldian polychromy of the Sheepshanks Gallery being there transformed into an almost Late Victorian connoisseur's 'aesthetic' of precise pink brickwork, elegant grey pantiles and terra-cotta window-mouldings with exquisite sculptural details (Plate 12a, 12b). By the mid 1860's the Department was openly proud of a style it declared to be 'very successful, original and appropriate'. (fn. 87)
The new hand behind this synthesis was undoubtedly that, not of an architect at all, nor of an engineer, but of a brilliant decorative artist, Godfrey Sykes (1824–66). He joined South Kensington's staff in October 1859 from a teaching post in the Sheffield School of Art, his starting salary of £5 per week rising to £12 by 1864. (fn. 88) Two of his ex-pupils soon followed him, James Gamble and Reuben Townroe (both 1835–1911).
Sykes's own master—unofficially but with profound influence—was Alfred Stevens. Like Stevens Sykes was an architect manqué, who was able to transform his commissions for superficial decoration into a three-dimentional handling of forms superior to that of all but a few architects of the time. Stevens had been attached informally to the Sheffield School of Art in 1850–2, three years after resigning from the School of Design in London, and the connexion of South Kensington with Stevens continued by virtue of the fact that Gamble and Townroe, after coming to London, also acted as his assistants. The same influence is apparent in the work of Sykes's contemporary, F. W. Moody (1824–86), another disciple of Stevens, who probably came to the Department in 1863 (fn. 89) and designed much of the decoration executed on its buildings by the artschool students. Although Stevens was asked by Cole in 1862 'to design a figure for the niches' (doubtless in the Horticultural Society's garden) he seems not himself to have designed any of the museum's fabric or integral decoration, conceivably in part because of Cole's disappointment in 1864 with his mosaics in St. Paul's. (fn. 90) (fn. 2) But he was a visitor to the Department's studios, (fn. 95) Gamble mentions him among those who 'approved' a design Gamble made for the Department, (fn. 96) and his influence gave great homogeneity to the work of its artists. The power of his name was well shown when Moody in 1877 urged that the continuation of Sykes's decorative scheme in the South Court should be given not to him but to Gamble and Townroe, who 'have had the very great advantage of the personal instruction of Alfred Stevens and have acquired from him qualities which I strive after in vain'. (fn. 97)
What characterized Stevens's work, and even more Sykes's at South Kensington, was that it combined an unusually scholarly appreciation of the Italian Renaissance with a Gothic profuseness of material texture and of naturalistic observation. G. E. Street, for instance, while expressing admiration for the totem-like columns of the museum's main quadrangle, had reservations about what he (albeit himself a Goth) considered excessive naturalism in the detailing. (fn. 98) The convincing authenticity of such work was partly the result of repeated first-hand study in Italy by the whole South Kensington team: in November 1863, for example, Fowke himself was accompanied on a two-month tour by Liddell, and also by Captain Festing (later first Director of the Science Museum). Fowke's journal of that tour (fn. 99) shows a lively eye for technical and practical details—from the relationship between fenestration and plan in a Venetian palazzo to the current output of Messers. Boni's terra-cotta factory at Milan.
His interest in the latter is not surprising as terra-cotta, carefully chosen from various suppliers, chiefly M. H. Blanchard, became the hallmark of the South Kensington style. Its use had been technically proven, like other materials used in the museum, by the experiments conducted by Fowke in his capacity as superintendent of the 'museum of construction' in the Boilers: (fn. 100) it was cheap, it kept its colour and its moulds could be re-used as a precise visual discipline whenever unpredictable expansion might demand. Its special flavour in South Kensington resulted from Sykes's mixture of fastidiousness and spontaneity in rough-textured, vivacious figure-modelling (Plates 12d, 14a, 58d). Such liveliness and sincerity were achieved significantly by methods the direct opposite of those advocated by Ruskin, who wanted each individual mason to express himself freely, and closer to those advocated, for instance, by Street, who was sceptical about the conscientiousness of the medieval workman. Cole considered that the best stone-cutters in London 'emasculated and utterly destroyed' an artist's design by the very thoroughness of their craftsmanship, whereas the precise mould of terra-cotta protected the original conception, in that 'you can have the exact work of the artist upon it'. (fn. 101) 'Touching-up' by manufacturers was prohibited. (fn. 102) (fn. 3)
The rich pink brick, specially ordered from Cawte of Fareham, despite a cost of £6 per thousand, (fn. 104) gave a glowing massiveness to the buildings which was as reminiscent of the Orient as of Italy; it is not surprising to find in the early photographic files of the museum a pair of photographs of Mughal buildings at Lucknow. Beneath it all, however, lay Fowke's disciplined structures. Although Sykes's lacy metalwork in South Court was in places technically reminiscent of Skidmore's (designed by Woodward) at the University Museum at Oxford Cole and Fowke disapproved of the forest of clustered Gothic columns there, and it is understandable that Viollet-le-Duc, as a structural rationalist, wanted in 1871 to obtain illustrations of the Department's recent buildings for publication under his editorship. (fn. 105)
When the iron museum and Sheepshanks Gallery had been opened Owen Jones showed them to Mérimée, who, Cole says, 'thought the English had an instinct for colour'. (fn. 106) The richness of colour has —inside the museum at least—been largely obliterated or concealed, but it can be seen in the drawings by many hands in the museum's collections, exemplifying Redgrave's resolve that 'tame and respectable works should find no place in our decoration'. (fn. 107) They also show the attraction for Sykes (who was long in failing health) of warm tints against a blue sky. On the museum's exteriors the polychromy of varied materials, which was there 'submitted to bold trial', (fn. 108) is still conspicuous. Cole's and Fowke's notes of their separate Continental travels in 1863 show their own delight in external colouring. (fn. 109)
This semi-Oriental brilliance of colour and ornament seems far removed from the utilitarian practicality of Cole's campaigning ten years before. Yet in using experimentally so many different decorative materials, the Department was taking seriously its role as a promoter of practical art, acting as a shop-window for the enlightened manufacturer. Sgraffito decoration in tinted cements, introduced on the Sheepshanks Gallery of the museum, was experimented with on the back of the Huxley Building. Stained or painted glass was freely used, to designs by most of the decorative artists associated with the Department (and often executed by Powell and Sons): that by W. B. Scott in the Ceramic Gallery of the museum was representative of the Department's aims. A great interest of Cole's was mosaic work, and from c. 1864 it was increasingly used in the museum, in various forms of glass, earthenware and marble, and for a variety of purposes. Its diversified modes of use externally appear in the quadrangle. Internally it was employed in pavements and in the reproduction, often by students of the Museum Mosaic Class formed in 1862, of artists' designs as wall decoration: this was especially prominent in the South Court (now concealed). Particularly from the late 1860's onwards Cole and Henry Scott were much concerned to obtain large reproductions of Italian mosaics to use in the fabric of the museum's new buildings as a visual history of that art. (Sir) Henry Layard's services in Italy were used, and detailed instructions in the precise technique of reproduction were sent by J. W. Wild to Salviati in Venice. (fn. 110) Cole was, again, personally interested in fireproof and light-weight ceiling-construction, and showed a specimen of enamelled ceiling developed for the museum's use at the Paris Exhibition of 1867: (fn. 111) the Department used ceramic ceilings under arches spanning its internal roadways. (fn. 112) It was indeed in varieties of ceramic ware that the experimental and exemplary role of the museum's buildings was most extensively expressed. Cole, who as 'Felix Summerley' had designed a notable tea-service, was an admirer and biographer of that 'very remarkable man', Herbert Minton, and cited Minton's to the Select Committee of 1860 as a firm that had benefited from the museum's collections. (fn. 113) Minton, Hollins and Company did much work in the museum in majolica and mosaic. After a 'split' in the firm Minton, Campbell and Company supervised South Kensington students in the use of a patented process of decorating the museum, and in 1870 had studio-workshops built in Gore Lane off Kensington Gore, designed by Gilbert Red-grave. They were destroyed by fire in 1875. (fn. 114)
These studios, where the Department's students worked under commercial guidance, were but one instance of the Department's connexion of its building projects with its role as a teaching institution. Studios had been attached to the museum when Sykes arrived, and the creation of the buildings had become very much atelier work: (fn. 115) F. W. Moody in particular drew upon past and present students of the National Art Training School and other students, sometimes at the cost of tentative or inexpert work but also with a boldness of technical experimentation, often in collaboration with commercial firms. On the museum's Ceramic Staircase, for example, decoration in Minton's new 'fictile vitrified patent process' was introduced in 1871 for execution gradually as competent students became available. (fn. 116)
At the same time individual artists from outside the Department were introduced. All these decorative contributions Cole was careful to have credited to their authors. (fn. 4) Cole's account in 1867 (fn. 117) of the Department's method of realizing its designs brings out both the consultative method of work and the participation of decorative artists at the early stages of a design's development. Probably in part because of the Department's employment of military engineers, much use was made of models and also of large (sometimes fullscale) prototypes (Plates 19, 26c, 39d, 39e, 48d, 49a). (fn. 118) When Cole was in Paris in 1863 he commented that a trial with a prototype arch in the Place du Trône was the only other instance he knew 'of such trouble being taken. It is wisdom.' (fn. 119) He thought architectural drawings 'only vague deceptions'. (fn. 120) At the same time the model itself was a vital means of promoting teamwork, in that the different professionals could all gather round it, and thereby the decorative artists more easily make their contributions.
Although some of the most adept of these artists were home-grown at South Kensington other choices of decorative contributors give sign of conventional values of judgment: Cole, in fact, for all his doubts about the architectural profession, was not fundamentally sceptical about the hierarchies of the Victorian fine-art world (Robert Kerr's assertion to the contrary being invalidated by bile). (fn. 121) He thought, for instance, that in choosing sculptors for the Albert Memorial preference should be given to Royal Academicians; and once it had been decided that the Memorial's overall design was to be from an architect, he suggested, as a true civil servant, that selection should be by the (Royal) Institute of British Architects or from among its gold medallists. (fn. 122) In spite of the men of Sheffield there was a concurrent belief in connecting South Kensington firmly with 'the highest art available', and South Kensington was not unfriendly to its successful practitioners. Some instances are noticed in the next chapter: others are the approaches made to a rather staid selection of British sculptors in 1863 for casts of their work to decorate the museum buildings and to Maclise in 1866 for a painting for the East staircase. (fn. 123)
In these circumstances of bustle and emulation it is perhaps not surprising that Redgrave's and the Department's profession of a belief in the virtue of simplicity as a background to the objects on display (fn. 124) tended to be forgotten. By 1874 Gamble could claim innocently that 'the public has come to regard the decorations of the Museum as part of the Exhibition'. (fn. 125)
One of the earliest instances of the 'South Kensington style' applied beyond the confines of the Department's own site and an early and spectacular example of the use of full-scale mockups was the bay-designs for the arcades of the Horticultural Society's garden discussed in Chapter VII—these also displaying Sykes's first major work for the Department. The failure of the National Gallery to materialize as the centre-piece of the Commissioners' estate had stimulated the Prince and his team to envisage a garden for the Horticultural Society as the centre of the Prince's vision of a 'vast quadrangle of public buildings'. There was something appropriately English in establishing a great garden at the heart of a suburban cultural complex, and the various architects' layouts of 1853 had, as we have seen, already proposed some formal landscaping in the grand manner. The spectacular surrounding arcades were of no horticultural significance but of considerable value to the Commissioners as fashionable promenades to attract Londoners out to the new estate.
Late in 1857 Cole, Fowke and Redgrave had prepared a preliminary design and in July 1858 Sydney Smirke was commissioned as joint consultant, but not until April 1859 did Fowke begin to think actively about the design of his southern arcades, which would relate to the restaurant front of the 1862 Exhibition building. The precise order of events here is important in pinpointing personal responsibilities for the 'South Kensington style'. During his visit to Italy in the winter of 1858–9 Cole himself commissioned photographs of a number of suggestive arcades, most of them classical: Smirke as a classicist based his northern crescents closely on those of the cinquecento garden of the Villa Albani (Plate 26d). But Cole also recorded the richly intricate cloister-decoration of St. John Lateran and it was this which Fowke, who as late as April 1859 was 'wanting "Venetian" or Romanesque', eventually took as his model. Did the choice owe anything to the fact that in the same month of April Cole had consulted with the Sheffield School of Art about transferring Godfrey Sykes to the Department in October? Whether so or not, Sykes set himself enthusiastically to the embellishment of the arcades in terra-cotta (Plate 27d). But in spite of the spontaneous romanticism of the Sheffield designer's terra-cotta, the Prince and Cole were content to settle for W. A. Nesfield, Barry's favourite Italianate gardener, to do the detailed horticultural layout—a sign of South Kensington's conventionally classicising tendency before Sykes. (fn. 5) The whole garden was at the same time a notable example of the Prince's own concern with the control of visual detail. At the northern end Fowke's great conservatory was a triumph of elegance and piquancy, with a massive arcade of bright red brick and terra-cotta penetrating through its glazed transparency (Plate 29a).
The red brick here, and elsewhere at South Kensington, owed its startlingly homogeneous texture to the extreme thinness of its mortar courses; and these in turn owed their precision partly to the Department's enterprising use from c. 1858 of a patent building material, Scott's selenitic lime (Plates 2c, 13c, 58c). (fn. 126) Henry Young Darracott Scott (1822–83), whom we have encountered before, was yet another sapper, instructor in field works at Woolwich (1851–5) and then instructor in surveying at Chatham, where he also had charge of the chemical laboratory and was thus able to invent his specially strong lime for mortar. Photographs in the museum's files show samples of it being tested to destruction in the lintel of a doorway in South Court. (fn. 127) In 1864 he was seconded from his corps as a lieutenant-colonel to help Cole run the Horticultural Society's garden, and thus was at hand when in December 1865 Fowke died suddenly. The Department held that the advanced state of his 'numerous and varied' plans for the museum's completion and Sykes's experience and 'rare artistic ability' as their decorative interpreter removed the need for any architect to succeed Fowke. Instead, Scott was appointed to supervise the execution of Fowke's designs, at £60 a month. (fn. 128) On Sykes's death, within three months of Fowke's, in February 1866, the execution of his stockpile of designs was given jointly to his pupils, Gamble and Townroe (at 6 guineas a week each), and, in accordance with the Department's policy, they continued to use his established motifs. (fn. 129)
At that time 'South Kensington' was about to enter on a period of great building activity. Scott's capability under this challenge was to lead to the strengthening of his position as Director of New Buildings and his emergence as responsible architect: ultimately he became another of South Kensington's non-military major-generals. But continuity with Fowke's work was not completely broken, although the elements of Fowke's design in the works executed by Scott are not easy to isolate—the less so because Fowke's working drawings seem not to have survived their transference to Scott's custody. The atelier system continued at least until Cole's resignation in 1873. Scott, whose architectural work was only one of the numerous activities that he undertook to support a wife and fifteen children, was himself inclined to seek the help of others, and under Cole's aegis Gamble and Townroe augmented Scott's limited experience of architectural design, particularly in decoration, where Cole came to think him defective. (fn. 130) Many years later D. S. MacColl jotted down dicta of Townroe's about Scott: 'Knew nothing of architecture. Sir H. Cole said "These gentlemen" (Gamble and Townroe) "will teach you".' (fn. 131)
From at least the late 1860's Scott's chief draughtsman, at £7 per week, was Fowke's former manager, C. R. Dillon. (fn. 132) He was succeeded on his death in 1878 by Gilbert Red-grave, who shared Scott's willingness to take on a mixture of jobs. (fn. 133)
More clearly than Fowke, Scott delegated work, and it may be significant that on one occasion the general forgot which of his staff 'did the Architecture' of an important museum building (see page 115). His capability in bold construction need not be doubted but it is difficult to be sure whether the common architectural elements in the buildings for which he was responsible, and their tendency to giantism, are personal to him. At the Huxley Building, where he was helped by Wild among others, the high proportions, with prominent terra-cotta attic over soaring brick walls, are similar to those of the Cast Courts, where Wild was the assistant and actual designer (Plates 20b, 21, 58a). Wild seems to have been Scott's right-hand man in matters of design immediately after Fowke's death, and in 1867 accompanied Cole and Scott on a visit to the Paris Exhibition, where the Department's contribution was superintended by Philip CunliffeOwen. Wild evidently had sole responsibility under Scott for both the Eastern and Western Galleries (where the endless bazaar-like interiors seem to reflect his love of the Middle East, Plate 56b), and also for the museum's 'outstation' at Bethnal Green (1871). A hint that Scott's buildings' bigness and massiveness may be Wild's rather than his own is given by the design of the Chancery buildings of the British legation at Teheran in the 1870's, apparently a personal commission to Wild. (Another complexity of personnel, however, is that the supervising assistant in Teheran was one of the South Kensington architectural staff, (Sir) Caspar Purdon Clarke (1846–1911) who had joined in 1867 and in 1872 had gone out to Alexandria to supervise the mural decorations which Wild was adding to his English Church there. Purdon Clarke ulti mately succeeded Wild as the museum's principal orientalist, and in 1883, switching from architecture to curatorship, was the natural choice as director of the Indian section in the Eastern Gallery: eventually he became director of the main museum from 1896 to 1905.) (fn. 134)
Inside the Albert Hall, however, where a motif similar to the 'pronounced attic' is apparent in the extravagant promenade-gallery, Wild does not figure prominently in the records. There Townroe was active, and Thomas Verity may also have had a large design responsibility: in November 1870 Cole recorded in regard to the museum that 'Scott proposed that Verity should be the teacher of Arch: Drawing in New Class for New buildings'. (fn. 135)
It should be said, however, that comments on Scott often originate from the Cole-Fowke families, which became related by the marriage of Fowke's son Frank to Cole's daughter Isabella, and may reflect both the estrangement between Cole and Scott after the former's retirement and the sense that grew up in Cole's circle, partly for reasons of family piety, of Scott's inferiority to Fowke. In Frank Fowke this amounted to a belief that Scott had 'stolen' the credit for his father's designs.
From this rather confusing milieu there emerged monumental buildings in a recognizable South Kensington style. But their piecemeal growth to meet the insistent demands of rapidly expanding collections and activities under the eye of a Gladstonian Treasury meant that much of what was built showed strange inconsistencies and incompatibilities. There is, for example, the curious obscurity of the art-training-school building of 1863 in relation to the museum: brown stock-brick ranges with minimal detailing, confined to the 'backland' between Princes Gate Mews and the equally gaunt rear of the lecture-theatre range of the museum's main quadrangle. The adjoining Huxley Building is a striking contrast: as the product of a successful campaign for the establishment of a School of Naval Architecture it was built with due deliberation and elaboration, the constricted site ensuring that it was given even greater prominence by its height (Plate 14c). More surprising is the fine residential accommodation provided for the Department's staff on the west side of the museum's quadrangle in the same years (1862–3) as the modest art-training school. Yet the offices of the Department, erected in 1864–5 as a long thin block down the eastern boundary of the site, are almost completely utilitarian. Then in 1867 the museum's Cast Courts were built on a vast scale in a disruptive position, off-centre, at a different floor-level, and with an uncompromisingly utilitarian exterior (Plates 12a, 12b, 20c). Perhaps the conclusion is that, however modern-minded in their research and presentation, the Department's staff still concentrated aesthetic effect on those parts of the building which faced the fashionable public on entering: Fowke's completion plans of 1860–5, with their array of loggias, are essentially façades (Plate 18, fig. 2 on plan-sheet A in end pocket).
In fact, just as the art collections were becoming dominant, so was the presentation of an acceptable front to the fashionable suburban public that flocked to them—an emphasis very plain in the Royal Horticultural Society's elaborate garden and loggias. In the 1870's, indeed, a balanced prosperous-seeming appearance was achieved on the main part of the estate, even if the apse-ended conservatory contrasted strangely in its geometry with the Albert Hall rotunda immediately behind (Plates 19d, 72b). In his long-delayed Natural History Museum (1873–83) on the 1862 Exhibition site fronting Cromwell Road Alfred Waterhouse admirably related his Romanesque design to the major buildings further north. But by the time the Natural History Museum was open, recently erected buildings had been affected by great financial difficulties; and although both the Albert Hall and the Eastern and Western Galleries survived, the Royal Horticultural Society's garden had to be replaced by something more remunerative or more purposeful. Hence its supersession by a new group of educational institutions and the building of houses and flats on the north and west sides of the mainrectangle.
Until Scott's death in 1883, however, there was still some aesthetic consistency—all the greater when the Commissioners insisted, to their own financial detriment, on the red-brick manner of Norman Shaw for their domestic street-fronts, rather than the prolongation of the surrounding stucco terraces. But the coming to power of Playfair as honorary secretary of the Commissioners in 1883—the year after Cole's death too—was followed by the disruption of the distinctive 'South Kensington' environment. Playfair was, understandably, preoccupied with the Commissioners' finances. Yet given the Commissioners' concern with architectural values, and their retention as consultant of the masterful Waterhouse, whose City and Guilds College had already quite adequately maintained a South Kensington character, it is hard to say why Imperial Institute and Prince Consort Roads should in c. 1888–92 have been laid out and developed so unimaginatively. Collcutt's Imperial Institute (1887–92) was a deviation in style, but at least it was sufficiently dominant to have acted as a monumental centrepiece, rather as the National Gallery did in the plans of 1853. It was Sir Arthur Blomfield's Royal College of Music of 1890 which damaged the layout irreparably by severing the axis between the Albert Hall and Collcutt's tower (Plate I; plan c between pages 54 and 55). Then followed Sir Aston Webb, who in his youth had designed dynamically (with his then partner Ingress Bell) in the Waterhouse style, most notably at the Birmingham Assize Courts (designed 1887). There is a good deal of Birmingham quality in his competition-winning design of 1891 for the big extension of the South Kensington Museum (Plate 23a). But Webb had little of the practical and functional skill which Waterhouse had deployed in the Natural History Museum and the City and Guilds College: his museum design was amended and whittled away by the authorities, while at the same time (after Ingress Bell's departure) his own creative powers declined. The Victoria and Albert Museum as finally erected in 1899–1909 does still possess, despite its uneasy elevations and disjointed layout, some echoes of older South Kensington in its red brickwork and sculptured windows. But the same architect's Royal College of Science and Royal School of Mines (Plates 73c, 74a) are (or were) little better than routine stiff-shirted stone or stone-and-brick façades of the kind aspired to by ambitious borough surveyors. Fairfax Wade's Royal School of Needlework (Plate 73a, 73b) at least demonstrated how a free classicism could be given individuality. The Science Museum and the Geological Museum, both by architects from the Office of Works, are competent drawing-board exercises in Beaux-Arts taste without local character, even though Fowke would have appreciated their clear layout and the spacious and imaginative use of reinforced-concrete framing inside (Plate 75).
By the time of its demise in 1900 the Science and Art Department had fallen into disrepute, and increasing specialization within the sciences and arts, as well as a genuine improvement in scholarship, had led to the splitting up of its collections. The comprehensiveness of Albertine culture had evaporated. The schools of art had become largely stultified, and when the Royal College of Art was revivified around 1900 under Walter Crane its ethos was that of the rustic anti-scientific Arts and Crafts, which in turn had lost vitality by 1914. Conversely, the scientific institutions gathered into Imperial College in 1907 were pre-eminent in specialist expertise and nationalist utility rather than in Albertine breadth and humanity.
For three quarters of a century the various activities of the separate institutions of the area have been carried on amidst a clutter of provisional or 'accidental' structures, officialdom rarely recognizing that buildings are not invisible because they cut a meagre figure in a file. Victories of the Coleian argument that no persons pursuing their own concerns 'need trouble themselves about the look of the building'—except at its front—are still painfully evident on the ground. Moreover the recent monumental buildings have been generally lacking in distinctive character—there has been little sense of a special South Kensington culture to be expressed. Only in the new Royal College of Art building next to the Albert Hall does a potential local style seem to emerge. This is fitting, as under Sir Robin Darwin from 1948 to 1971 the College re-established the kind of common ground between the technical, commercial and artistic which the Prince would have relished.