HC Deb 16 September 1841 vol 59 cc518-24
Sir T. Fremantle

rose to propose a bill for annexing the mansion-house, gardens, and grounds at Frogmore (part of the land revenue of the Crown) to Windsor Castle; and also to move for leave to bring in a bill to authorise the leasing the Royal kitchen gardens at Kensington, for building purposes, and to enable her Majesty's Commissioners of Woods, &c, to expend the value thereof in the formation and improvement of the Royal gardens, and to enable the said Commissioners, on behalf of her Majesty, to purchase lands of copyhold or customary tenure. The hon. Gentleman said that these measures had received the sanction of the late government, and were approved by the present Government; in fact, he was only carrying out measures which he had found in a state of great forwardness. The reason he had brought them forward this Session was, that he found delay would be a great inconvenience, and that it was desirable that no time should be lost in the formation of a kitchen garden. The first measure was to annex Frogmore to the Crown so as to make it a part of the demesne of Windsor Castle. At present it belonged to their Royal Highnesses the Princess Sophia and the Duchess of Gloucester, though their life interests had been purchased by the Crown, and had reverted to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. The use of those gardens was connected with the establishment at Windsor, and it would be a matter of great inconvenience to her Majesty if that property were let to mere casual tenants. It had been considered, therefore, that it would be advisable that those gardens should be made part of the demesne of the Crown at Windsor, and therefore it was, that the present act was introduced. With regard to the other part of the property, that would remain in the hands of the commissioners. With respect to the other bill, much inconvenience had been felt for some years in consequence of the insufficient supply of fruits and vegetables for her Majesty and the Royal household from the various kitchen gardens, of which there were six, all cultivated at great expense, and yet not yielding an adequate supply. By the present bill it was proposed to remedy this defect. By the arrangement proposed to be adopted by the present bill, no additional charge would be imposed upon the public. He believed with respect to the first of those measures it would be necessary previous to its introduction to go into a committee of the whole House. With respect to the second bill, he should propose its introduction at once; and as to the other, he should propose that the House should go into committee on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman moved for leave to bring in a bill to authorize the Commissioners of Woods to grant building leases of the Royal kitchen gardens at Kensington, &c.

Mr. Protheroe

said, he must protest at once against this bill, and would give it all the opposition in his power. That opposition had nothing of a party character, because the Government of the right hon. Baronet was not responsible for the measure, which had originated with their predecessors; and he would have opposed it as earnestly if it had been introduced by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) below him as by the right hon. Baronet. He hoped that his hon. Friend would reconsider the course which he proposed to adopt. At the moment when measures were in progress in the formation of additional Royal parks and public walks, and places of recreation for the people, it was manifestly absurd to give away a large portion of Kensington Gardens for such a purpose as was proposed. He wished his hon. Friend had taken a walk with him that morning into Kensington Gardens, and had seen the ground in question, for he was sure he would agree with him as to the convenience of adding it to the Park to which it was immediately contiguous. He thought, whether they regarded the convenience of the Sovereign, or of the inhabitants of Kensington, or of the public generally, nothing could be more injudicious than to build on that spot. Villas were not wanted, and speculations on the part of the Government were not always well managed or profitable. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens constituted no longer the commencement of the country in that direction, but they were surrounded by a dense town population, and would soon be as much in the interior of the metropolis as Lincoln's Innfields. He trusted Government would use the opportunity of throwing open this place to the public, and apply to the House for the sum of money necessary for the convenience of the Crown in consolidating the kitchen gardens. At a further stage he would offer to the measure every opposition in his power.

Mr. Williams

begged to ask if any estimate had been made of the expense of consolidating the kitchen gardens? He approved of the proposed disposal of this piece of ground, but he did not approve of the purpose to which the proceeds were to be applied. He thought that when the working classes were suffering so much distress, and when so much money was expended on palaces, and parks, the proceeds of this piece of ground ought to be applied to the repairs of the palaces, and relieve the public from so much of the expense.

Sir T. Fremantle

said, that the estimated cost of consolidating the kitchen gardens would be reduced, by the conversion of this property, which at a low estimate would let for about 1,000l. per annum.

Mr. Wakley

said, that it appeared that, for the paltry sum of one thousand pounds a year the only open space which existed beteen the Palace towards the east and the church in Kensington towards the west was to be entirely lost to the public. The hon. Gentleman stated, that the measure was one which would have been brought forward by the late Administration. It was, indeed, one of the great measures upon which the two Administrations concurred in opinion. It was a bad beginning. He hoped the hon. Gentleman himself would go down to Kensington and see this place; and as he remembered a good deal of what the right hon. Baronet had said of late years with respect to the working classes, their recreations and amusements, he entreated the right hon. Gentleman to visit the ground which it was proposed to sacrifice. The people in the neighbourhood complained loudly on the subject. They looked upon it as a deplorable evil that they should be deprived of such an open space of ground, at a time when the Government were spending thousands for the comfort of the inhabitants of other parts of the metropolis. The ground in question was excluded, in a great measure, from public view, but it lay adjacent to a densely-peopled neighbourhood, the inhabitants of which would be greatly benefited by having the space thrown open. It was an advantage which they would greatly prize. He was astonished to find that the late Administration, which professed to be so friendly to the people, should have entertained for a moment the project of building upon the space alluded to; and he would again entreat the Members of the new Government to visit the spot before they came to a definitive resolution on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman himself had commenced their proceedings that night with a motion relating to the health of hon. Members. Now, let them think of the health of the poor as well as of their own. The noble Lord had spoken in the highest terms of Dr. Reid's Administration. Now, he approved of that Ad- ministration also in a sanatory sense, and he would entreat the present Government to re-consider the subject under discussion. He might next be permitted to allude, for one moment, to the statement, of the right hon. Baronet with reference to the Poor-law. He thought the time which the right hon. Baronet asked for considering that subject was not unreasonable. The right hon. Baronet asked that the Poor-law should be continued in its present form until the month of July nest year. He was bold to say, that the time was not too long. The subject was one of enormous magnitude—it was one which should be approached with so much judgment and consideration that he felt it would not be unreasonable to allow the existing law to be prolonged for six months from the present time. He did trust that in the mean time the most sober judgment would be applied to the question, for it was one of such importance and involving so many great interests that it was impossible for that House or the other House of Parliament to obtain the slightest respect or confidence from the public, unless it was treated with the consideration it deserved. He thought the time asked was not too long, for he had not heard any individual whatever say what he considered in the present state of things, ought to be done with regard to that law—and therefore no one could consider that the time asked by the right hon. Baronet was too protracted. He hoped that the interval would be employed in a calm consideration of the subject, so as to bring about such an arrangement of this most important question as might be satisfactory to the community at large.

Sir R. Peel

I rise to say a few words with reference to what fell from the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Protheroe), who has stated that he hopes for some success in the opposition he intends to offer to this bill, because the measure was not originally brought forward on the responsibility of the present Government. Now, Sir, I consider that, by now bringing forward this bill, the present Government is assuming to itself the responsibility of the measure, because it is one which we might have abstained from bring forward if we had thought proper. The noble Lord (John Russell) opposite, has confined his confidence to the Administration of Dr. Reid, and has appeared unwilling to extend it to those who have succeeded him in the Government of the country. I, Sir, am disposed to admit that there was one of the colleagues of the noble Lord whose share of the Administration has entitled him to great confidence, and I must say, that by his exertions in connection with the office of woods, guarding myself, of course, against any expression of approbation as to any more extended measures, Lord Duncannon has rendered himself worthy of great praise. When I heard, therefore, that the present Bill had received the approbation of Lord Duncannon, I must confess that it brought with it an additional recommendation, coming as it did with the sanction of an authority whose improvements in the Parks, and other places, it is impossible to see without approving of his taste and judgment. I think, moreover, that where there are six kitchen gardens there cannot be a question as to the propriety of consolidating them. Such a course is surely desirable in the light of a mere question of economy. To defray the expense of consolidation, a portion of ground is to be let for building. This is ground, it is to be observed to which the public now have not access. It is not subject to the Administration of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. It is ground that has been in private occupation of the Crown—devoted to horticultural purposes, and from which the public has hitherto been excluded. I admit that it is a different thing retaining the grounds as gardens, and applying them to building purposes; but then the public never have had access to them, and the applying the ground to building, is for the purpose of meeting the expenses of the consolidation. It is on the whole, an arrangement that is desirable, and will prevent the necessity of applying to the public to defray the expense necessary, in consequence of the projected change.

Mr. Ewart

understood that the persons in the neighbourhood were exceedingly anxious that the ground should be opened to the public, instead of being devoted to building [hear, hear]. He was glad to hear that the opening of the Regent's-park was consummated. He wished to take advantage of the opportunity to call attention to the fact that there was a large park at Kew that was only open two days in the week; and as to Richmond-park, he asked why persons in gigs and carriages should not have the right of driving through it. It would be most desirable to the middle classes of society if this were done. He also wished to call attention to Bushey-park, where there was a handsome fountain, that he thought it would be well to have restored to the former purpose for which it was intended.

Sir T. Fremantle

said, he would give his attention to the subject referred to by the hon. Member.

Leave given, bill brought in and read a first time.