Whatever method can be devised for the prevention of the vanishing of England’s chief characteristics are worthy of consideration. First there must be the continued education of the English people in the appreciation of ancient buildings and other relics of antiquity. We must learn to love them, or we shall not care to preserve them. An ignorant squire or foolish landowner may destroy in a day some priceless object of antiquity which can never be replaced. Too often it is the agent who is to blame. Squires are very much in the hands of their agents, and leave much to them to decide and carry out. When consulted they do not take the trouble to inspect the threatened building, and merely confirm the suggestions of the agents. Estate agents, above all people, need education in order that the destruction of much that is precious may be averted.
The Government has done well in appointing commissions for England, Scotland, and Wales to inquire into and report on the condition of ancient monuments, but we lag behind many other countries in the task of protecting and preserving the memorials of the past.
In France national monuments of historic or artistic interest are scheduled under the direction of the Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts. In cases in which a monument is owned by a private individual, it usually may not be scheduled without the consent of the owner, but if his consent is withheld the State Minister is empowered to purchase compulsorily. No monument so scheduled may be destroyed or subjected to works of restoration, repair, or alteration without the consent of the Minister, nor may new buildings be annexed to it without permission from the same quarter. Generally speaking, the Minister is advised by a commission of historical monuments, consisting of leading officials connected with fine arts, public buildings, and museums. Such a commission has existed since 1837, and very considerable sums of public money have been set apart to enable it to carry on its work. In 1879 a classification of some 2500 national monuments was made, and this classification has been adopted in the present law. It includes megalithic remains, classical remains, and medieval, Renaissance, and modern buildings and ruins.