Ref NoRC/57A
TitleVictoria and Albert Museum
DescriptionThe land occupied by the Victoria and Albert Museum forms part of the Commissioners' original estate of some 87 acres which, with a comparable grant from Parliament in 1852 and 1853, were purchased with the surplus funds of the Great Exhibition. In consequence of the Parliamentary grant the Commissioners entered into a partnership with the Government under which the legal title to the estate was vested in the Commissioners, but joint control and joint action were to be exercised in its development.

Within a few years it became clear to the Commissioners that joint management was unsatisfactory and under an Act of Parliament of 1858 the partnership was dissolved. The Commissioners thus assumed control of the estate after repaying the monies that Parliament had advanced. The exception to the arrangement was the land to the east of Exhibition Road then occupied by the Department of Science and Art on which the South Kensington Museum - the 'Brompton Boilers' - had opened in 1857 and which the Government retained for purposes connected with science and the arts. The land is now occupied by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The South Kensington Museum was the direct consequence of the 1851 Exhibition, the Treasury having agreed to the purchase of £5,000 worth of objects of applied arts on the close of the Exhibition. The Museum of Manufactures, opened at Marlborough House in 1852 including both 1851 objects and collections from the Government Schools of Design, later changed its name, first to the Art Museum and then to the Museum of Ornamental Art. In 1857 the Museum moved to South Kensington to become part of the collective museum known as the South Kensington Museum.

From 1860 onwards various permanent buildings were erected for the Museum, culminating in a design by Sir Aston Webb for completion of the buildings to cover the remaining land. The foundation stone of the new building facing Cromwell Road was laid in 1899 by Queen Victoria and the Victoria and Albert Museum was opened in 1909 by King Edward VII.

The value of £60,000 set upon the land in 1858 was never repaid by the Commissioners and gave rise to a long-standing anomaly whereby the Commissioners retained the legal title to the land on the east of Exhibition Road, but over which the Government might claim beneficial ownership. From 1981, in order to regularise the position, discussions took place between the Commissioners and the Government and in 1983 the Board of Management conveyed the freehold of the Victoria and Albert Museum site to the Secretary of State for the Environment, the transfer Deed including a covenant restricting the use of the land to purposes connected with science, technology and the arts.

See also Kensington Gore Estate, RC/48/5 and 6, for correspondence on the South Kensington Museum, 1853-76.
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