HC Deb 15 March 1825 vol 12 cc1022-30

Colonel Trench moved, "That leave be given to bring in a bill for building a Quay and Terrace Carriage Road on the northern shore of the river Thames, from Craven-street, in the Strand, in the city of Westminster, or near thereunto, to Blackfriars Bridge, in the city of London."

Mr. Calcraft

expressed his unwillingness to take up the time of the House in opposing what many persons imagined to be a splendid improvement upon the banks of the Thames. A sense of duty must, however, compel him to do so, unless it was proved to him that the projected measure was not so destructive of private property as he was led to believe it was. He had been intrusted with a petition from a most respectable nobleman, whose property would he materially injured if the bill passed. This petition stated that the standing orders had not been complied with, as the prospectus detailing the number of feet which it was proposed to elevate the quay, together with the map and usual references, had not been deposited in the proper office. It further stated, that neither the petitioner nor his tenants, whose property was so materially involved in the projected scheme, had been served with the regular notices. These, if true, were strong facts; and of their truth no doubt could be entertained, when it was known that the petitioner was the duke of Norfolk. His property in Arundel-street, and other parts of the Strand, would be materially affected if this measure passed. In some parts the proposed elevation would reach to the first story of some of his tenants' houses; in others, above it. Under such circum-stances, he thought the noble duke and others concerned were entitled to a fair notice. With respect to the feasibility of the measure, he allowed that it made a very pretty figure upon paper; but, in his opinion, it was extremely improbable, if not altogether impossible, that it could be ever carried into execution. The sum said to be requisite was at first estimated at from 3 to 400,000l. Now it was stated that no less a sum than 680,000l. would be sufficient; and of this sum it was proposed to borrow 200,000l., not from individuals, but from the liberality of the chancellor of the Exchequer. He had, however, too high an opinion of the prudence of that right hon. gentleman to imagine that he would lend himself to a scheme, which was nothing but a system of delusion from beginning to end. Taking the estimate of expense at even the highest rate, he contended that the sum of 680,000l. would be totally insufficient, because they would not only have to construct buildings, but to buy up the interest of those whose habitations were to be taken down. The original plan, too, had been abandoned, because the duke of Northumberland and the earl of Liverpool had objected to it, on account of the inconvenience to which they would be subjected if it had been carried into effect. Why then, he would ask, was the duke of Norfolk to submit to an injury from which those other noble persons had contrived to be exempted? In his opinion, neither the duke of Norfolk nor the commonest beggar in the street ought to submit to injustice. This was a measure which could not be carried on without great individual injury; and he should therefore give his decided opposition to the motion.

Mr. Hobhouse

said, that, when the project of the gallant colonel was first made known to him, he had felt extremely anxious to support it, conceiving, that if carried into effect it would greatly tend to the embellishment of the metropolis. He had since, however, upon consulting with his constituents, found that it could not be, accomplished without serious injury to many of them. The mud-dock contemplated would be a great nuisance, and was quite certain to create miasmata. He was therefore bound to oppose the measure; and he did so with the less reluctance, because, upon mature investigation, he could hot but see its utter impracticability.

Colonel Trench

said, he rose with considerable embarrassment to reply, to the charges which had been brought against a measure in which he was personally con- cerned, but which he could not but consider one of great utility, of paramount importance, and, indeed, he might add, of absolute necessity to this great metropolis. He owed it as a matter of respect and courtesy to the duke of Norfolk, to say, that nothing could be further from his intention than a desire to throw any unnecessary obstructions in the way of the noble duke or his tenants. But, in the course which they had been induced to adopt, the committee had not thought fit to act upon their own responsibility; they had consulted their legal advisers, and upon their advice they had acted. The object of the proposed measure was not the improvement of streets, but that of the navigation of the river. That the latter object would be effected, they had the opinion of the lord mayor and common council, who, as conservators of the river Thames, had carefully investigated the proposed plan, and expressed their decided approbation of its details, and their conviction that it would tend materially to the improvement of property upon the banks of the river. There were two classes; however, who, from different motives, were hostile to the proposed plan. The first consisted of those who were really apprehensive of injury to their property; and the second of those who, without apprehending any essential injury, raised a hue and cry, in order to enhance the amount of compensation for which they might find it convenient to apply. In no case, however, where property was not injured, was there any necessity for the service of a notice. With respect to the proposed plan, it was the anxious desire of the committee, that every care should be taken to protect private property, Looking at it in an ornamental point of view, nobody he, believed, would deny its importance. The Thames was a noble river, but its quays were a disgrace to the city through which it flowed. What a contrast did the quays of Dublin present! His hon. friend had with justice ridiculed any project whose exclusive object was ornament. But he trusted that he should be able to prove, that this measure was not only ornamental, but eminently useful. Upon this subject he could not refer to a better authority than that of an hon. friend of his, who, lately, in speaking of the proposed plan, and referring to the great increase of population which, within the last few years, had taken place in this country, had observed, that the Strand was the main artery through which the great population of this metropolis discharged itself. This channel was, however, now nearly choked up, and another vent was requisite. Where could this vent be so well sought, as upon the banks of the Thames? With respect to the objection as to the increased expense, the original estimate was 400,000l. For this sum it was intended to construct a plain brick-built quay. Upon consideration, however, it was found that for the additional sum, one of granite might be built, which would so materially add to the beauty of the city. For the difference between the sums of 400,000l. and 688,000l., it was not intended, as the hon. gentleman had intimated, to apply to the chancellor of the Exchequer; and to shew that it was no visionary scheme, architects of the highest character were ready to undertake the work, under a penalty, for the sum proposed. With respect to the alteration which had taken place in the original plan of commencing the undertaking at Westminster, he could assure the hon. member, that it had not been abandoned from any interference upon the part of the earl of Liverpool. It had been originally intended to stop at Waterloo-bridge. The true and real reason for the abandoning of that part of the project was, that it was calculated to injure Ludgate-hill and the other great leading streets. Another reason was, that at Craven-street they would have been in a hole 27 feet in depth; but an inclined plane of a short space would obviate that objection. He hoped that the House would consider the data upon which the bill was founded, before they came to a determination to reject it; and that could only be done in a committee. Much had been said about the invasion of private property, but it had always been the intention of the committee, that the rights of individuals, whether they were those of the first duke or of the poorest person in the land, should be scrupulously respected, and that ample compensation should be made for any injury that might result from carrying the measure into effect.

Mr. Croker

said, the measure was described as one tending to produce great public advantages, but it was impossible to enter on the public portion of the subject, without looking at the anomaly of its having been brought forward in the shape of a private bill. It was sought to give it the colour of a public question, in order to avoid the necessity of giving notice to private individuals, whose rights or property might be affected by it. Thus it took either shape, as it suited the convenience of the projectors. At one time it was proposed as a public measure, in order to get rid of the inconvenience that would attend the consideration of it as a private question; and again it appeared in a private form to suit other views of its founders. He did not deny that the project was, in a great measure, of a public nature; but when hon. gentlemen came to that House and appealed to its fairness, its equity, and its candour, surely the individuals whose rights would be compromised by it, were equally entitled to its attention. The project would go to deprive those individuals of every advantage they possessed, except the actual ground; but it would be better to take from them the ground itself, than to leave it a burthen upon their bands, expensive and yet unproductive. He would give an example of the evils likely to result to persons having property on the banks of the Thames. An hon. friend near him possessed property on that part of the river by which the quay was to run., which brought him in at present 400l. a year; but, since the project for a quay had been set on foot, he had received from his tenants notice of their intention to quit. Might he not, therefore, appeal to the candour and fairness of the House, and pray for the protection of his property? His hon. friend described the banks of the Thames as a disgrace to the city of London. But, did his hon. friend not know that there were differences of opinion upon most matters, and that upon that in question even poets differed from his hon. friend; one of whom, eulogizing the Thames, had said—"Whose waves are amber and whose sands are gold." His hon. friend had asked, "Are not the quays of Dublin beautiful? Certainly," they were very fine: but, was there no difference between the two cities? Did not the comparative absence of commerce from Dublin afford room for its decoration? A similar reference to the banks of the Seine, had been made by his gallant friend, to which a similar reply, or rather a stronger one, founded on the same cause, could be given. There was another consideration of extreme importance, which he wished to press upon the attention of the House. A very great work on the Thames was then in progress: he meant the re- moval of London bridge. According to the best opinions upon that subject, the effects of that removal upon the current of the river would be considerable. The opinions of the best engineers had been taken on the subject, but none of them, not even Mr. Rennie himself, although all admitted that an alteration would take place, could say what that alteration would be Therefore, as in four or five years the starlings of the bridge would betaken away, and the effects ascertained, would hon. gentlemen, to effect any object of taste or even of utility, commence such a project at the present day, rather than postpone it for four or five years? Although friendly to the scheme ultimately, be would appeal to the House and ask, would it sanction such an attempt, until the result of the one to which he referred had been ascertained; and encourage people to lay out their money in the construction of a quay, without knowing whether it could be useful? He should repeat, that although favourable to the scheme ultimately, he thought the House ought to take care that those individuals whose property might be affected by it should be indemnified; and that the project should not be commenced until the starlings of London bridge should have been removed. For these reasons, and to save expense to all parties, he thought the best mode would be to reject the motion for bringing in the bill.

Sir J. Yorke

argued against the measure, contending that it would create new nuisances rather than diminish those at present in existence.

The Hon. G. A. Ellis

thought his gallant friend had not been fairly treated. He had heard many arguments in favour of the measure, but not one against it. He hoped, therefore, that the House would allow the bill to be introduced and printed; after which it might be opposed in the committee.

Lord Palmerston

thought the House ought not at any rate, to reject the proposition of his gallant friend in its present stage. The only question was, whether they should entertain the proposition. The propriety of carrying it into effect, and the particular mode of doing so, would he matter for future consideration. The bill was, in fact, of a public nature, and his gallant friend had been anxious to make it a public measure; but the forms of the House rendered it necessary for him to bring it forward as a private bill. The construction of quays on the River Thames would, in his opinion, be highly advantageous to the public. His hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, had urged rather a whimsical objection to the measure. He had argued, that it would be dangerous to construct a quay on the river, because the building of the new bridge would have the effect of contracting the bed of the river. If it were said, that, after the removal of London Bridge, the river would be increased in its volume, and that its banks would require to be extended, he could understand such anticipation as an argument against the bill; but he could neither understand nor admit the validity of an objection founded upon the contraction of the bed of the river. With respect to the necessity for the measure, he thought no question could arise, for he would call upon any hon. gentleman who should proceed from that House to the eastern extremity of the metropolis, through the great leading avenues, to say, was not the measure called for? If such hon. member were to go in his carriage, he would be obliged to proceed as if in a funeral procession; for any attempt to quit the line would be attended with imminent danger. He had heard of the confusion which followed the battle of Leipsic, where men, horses, and carriages were mingled together; but he could not conceive it possible that that scene could have equalled the confusion daily to be witnessed in the city. He thought any plan, therefore, which had for its object to establish an open channel of communication through the metropolis, was worthy of attention.—Having said thus much respecting the utility of the measure, he trusted he might be allowed to offer a few observations on its claims to support on another ground; namely, the ornament which the proposed quay would be to the city. There was no hon. member who heard him, and who engaged in periodical voyages to the out-ports of the metropolis, to indulge in white bait for example, who did not, in his progress on those little excursions, lament the appearance which the banks of the river presented. Every man who had been in Dublin and Paris spoke in praise of their quays, and drew comparisons to the disadvantage of London. Foreigners said—"Well, we have seen your town, but where is the Thames?" For all these reasons he trusted the House would agree to the, introduction of the bill, and thereby afford full opportunity to the examination of all alleged grievances, and the investigation of all claims to compensation. He hoped his gallant friend's plan would be carried into effect, and that it might be said of him, not, indeed, as was said of a Roman Emperor, that what he found brick, he left marble, but that he found the banks of the Thames covered with mud, and left them protected and embellished with granite.

Sir R. Wilson

supported the motion, in the hope that, if the measure was found practicable, something might hereafter be done for the improvement of the suburbs; but, in giving it his support in the present stage, he begged to be understood, that if in its progress he found it likely to be injurious to individual interests, he would oppose it. As to what his hon. friend had said about the quays on the Seine and the Liffey, and of those rivers being but small compared with the Thames, he begged to remark that, if his hon. friend had been in St. Petersburgh, he would have seen one of the noblest rivers in the world adorned with quays which would be an ornament to any metropolis.

Mr. Secretary Peel

fully concurred with his hon. friend that, until the removal of London bridge, the project then under discussion ought not to be attempted. His noble friend had said, that, if the effect of building the new Bridge were to contract the stream of the Thames, this could be no objection to the construction of a quay. But it was impossible to say on which hank this effect might be produced. He had himself seen a man standing on dry ground, under the fifth arch of Waterloo Bridge; and he believed that the tendency of the stream was, to recede from the Southwark side. The likelihood that the removal of London Bridge would tend to increase that inclination, was therefore deserving of attention. His noble friend said, look to Dublin—look to Paris; but the quays in those cities were built upon the natural banks of the rivers. That could not be the case here; and he should object to building into the Thames. If, as his noble friend had said, a foreigner at present asked, "where is your Thames?" where could it be found if the proposed plan were carried into execution? After going down towards the river from the Strand he would find an enormous granite wall, 30 feet high and 30 feet wide. Much had been said of the convenient approach to the city which the projected line of quays would open; but he doubted very much whether a person, having to go from Pall-mall to St. Paul's, would descend Craven-street, and proceed by that routed particularly as he would have to pay two turnpikes. He should request that the measure might be deferred until the effects of the removal of London Bridge were ascertained.

Mr. Baring

considered the building of a quay on the banks of the Thames not merely a question of ornament, but a measure which was absolutely necessary for the purpose of facilitating the communication between the extreme parts of the metropolis. It must strike every man who had visited foreign countries, that the communication between the different parts of this metropolis was worse than it was in almost any city of Europe; and that the convenience of the inhabitants was less consulted in the greatest commercial capital of Europe than in many of the insignificant towns on the Rhine. He should give his support to the plan of the gallant member, not only because it was useful and ornamental, but because it was absolutely indispensable for the convenience of the metropolis.

The House then divided; For the motion 85; Against it 45: Majority 40.