HC Deb 26 March 1850 vol 109 cc1419-26

, referring to the question under this head, which he had put yesterday to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury, moved for a copy of any application for permission to build walls in the Green Park, in front of Bridge Water-house; also any minutes or other documents relating to the garden attached to Bridgewater-house, which had been passed or considered by the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Woods and Forests. He was exceedingly anxious to explain, with regard to this Motion, that it was by no means a personal matter, nor was it in any way intended to reflect upon the Earl who was immediately concerned. He believed that the encroachment on the Green Park was made without the knowledge of the noble Earl, but it was made with the knowledge of his architect, who was anxious to make an Italian garden before the house. He was exceedingly sorry to hear that the architect of the Woods and Forests had not yet made his report on this subject, because it convinced him that any party might make encroachments on the Green Park, and a number of weeks would elapse before the Commissioners of Woods and Forests could take any notice of it. The lease was granted in 1795, but it was quite dear from what Mr. Fordyce, who was then the manager of the Crown lands, had stated, that the right to make this encroachment was never even contemplated by the lease, and really something ought to be done in this matter, or the opinion that Crown lands consisted of property upon which anybody was at liberty to make attacks, would gain ground. He was, therefore, anxious to know, in the first place, who had granted permission to make this encroachment, and to whom the permission had been conceded?

Motion made for— Copy of any Application for permission to build Walls in the Green Park in front of Bridge-water House; also, any Minutes or other Documents relating to the Garden attached to Bridge-water House, which have been passed or considered by the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Woods and Forests.


did not know whether the noble Lord made this Motion on the ground that the embankment would prove objectionable or injurious to the neighbours who resided near to Bridgewater House, or on public grounds only. If it were based on the former of these grounds, the Motion was perfectly justifiable; but if on the latter, he, as one of the public, must be allowed to say that, so tar from suffering any inconvenience, he felt great pleasure in seeing the rise of a palace the most splendid and most perfect in point of architecture which could be found in this metropolis, and which only wanted a suitable garden to make it a complete residence. He remembered the time when the Green Park was a receptacle for filth, and abounded in nuisances; when it seemed as if nobody owned it, and it was a disgrace to the Crown to have it called Crown property. He thought that the public were much indebted to the Earl of Ellesmere; for gardens of this description, instead of being an inconvenience, were a source of much public pleasure and enjoyment. If, therefore, it should be found necessary to modify the terms of the lease, to authorise the completion of the garden, which was all the palace wanted; he, for one, was quite ready to support any enactment for accomplishing that object.


observed that the speech they had just heard ought to be regarded as a speech in favour of the Motion, for it was just that simple want of a garden to complete the beauty of the palace which was likely to prove so injurious to the public. If they allowed this encroachment to be made on that principle, where was it to end? The palace required a small garden; well, other structures in the same neighbourhood might require gardens too; and ultimately the Green Park, which was considered to be one of the lungs of the metropolis, would be diminished to very small dimensions indeed.


said, that the hon. Member for Dorsetshire had complained that the noble Lord the Member for Bath had not based this complaint on any allegation of individual grievance. He (Sir B. Hall), as one of the metropolitan Members, had to thank the noble Lord for bringing, not only this matter, but many others connected with the public parks, before the House. Great complaints had been made to him in reference to this matter, and he had himself been requested more than once to bring the subject forward. He agreed with the hon. Member for Dorsetshire that Bridgewater-house was the greatest ornament to the metropolis that at present existed. But he believed that it would have been impossible for the public to see it, if the intention of the architect had been carried out. Even now, the wall which had been complained of was as high as the railing of the Park, or, at all events, there was a difference of a very few inches. Holes had been drilled in the coping for rails, and it had been intended to place on the top of the wall a railing, which in process of time would have been covered with boards or slates, and the public would have been entirely excluded from the view. He had heard of encroachments in Hyde Park, near Apsley-house; and there was a plot of ground near Albert-gate also, which was formerly open to the public, but which was now railed in.


All encroachments upon the space set aside in the parks for the healthful recreation of the people must of course be prevented; but in the case to which the attention of the House had been directed, nothing of that kind had occurred; indeed, on the contrary, all that had been done was for the public advantage. It was true that as he was walking in the park some time ago he saw a wall being raised, as if for the purpose of making the garden of Bridgewater-house more private, which, if carried up higher, might have obstructed the view from the Park, and impeded the free circulation of air in the particular locality; but the Board of Works immediately interfered, and, upon their remonstrance, the intention of carrying the wall higher, which was not part of the original plan made by the Earl of Ellesmere, was immediately abandoned. The wall, as it now stood, being of the height of two feet in some places, and four in others, offered no impediment to the free circulation of air, nor obstruction to a view of the gardens and house. Although Lord Ellesmere's lease contained a clause prohibiting the building of a wall, there was no covenant in it which prevented the raising of a mound, and therefore, if the Government were to insist upon the stringent enforcement of the terms of the lease with respect to the wall, the Earl of Ellesmere might be driven to raise a mound, which he could carry as high as he pleased. In that case the public would be the loser by a rigid adherence to the terms of the bond. Like the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, he thought the now house was a great ornament to the metropolis; it seemed to be built in very good taste, and he never walked in the Green Park without having his admiration attracted to it. A man who bought beautiful pictures and fine statues kept them in his house, and only the few persons who were admitted to his society had the privilege of seeing them; but he who erected an admirable specimen of architecture in a public place presented an object of enjoyment to all. Far from finding fault with the Earl of Ellesmere because an attempt had been made to erect a higher wall than was desirable (which, however, was not in accordance with his Lordship's wishes), he felt that the public was indebted to that nobleman for making a handsome addition to the buildings of the metropolis. It was a matter of surprise to him that any one could complain of the enclosure between Apsley-house and Hamilton-place. It was a scrubby piece of ground in which the public never walked. The people now walked along the same paths which they had always used, and had the pleasure of seeing the once scrubby piece of ground converted into a beautiful shrubbery. The Government was desirous of consulting the convenience of the public, as regarded the parks, in every respect, and in proof of this he might refer to the well-kept footpaths which were made in them. The noble Member for Bath was justified in having called attention to the subject, but it was perfectly clear that, in the present instance, there was nothing of which the public had any reason to complain.


said, that the Government ought to deal with the rich and the poor alike. No poor man would be allowed to make such encroachments, and he did not see any reason why any should be allowed in this instance. These encroachments were illegal, and the Treasury had not the power of sanctioning them. He thought the public were much indebted to the noble Lord the Member for Bath for calling the attention of the House to those circumstances. He had no desire to reflect at all unkindly upon the Earl of Ellesmere, who had shown a great wish that the public should enjoy the utmost advantage that he could throw open to them, and who had declared that, after admitting the public to his gallery, the only injuries which had been done to it were not from the general public, but from the curiosity or carelessness of the "gents." The lease under which the property was held was granted in 1797; and in that there was a prohibition not only for the wall but for the embankment. He contended it was the duty of the Government to remove all that had been put up to the inconvenience of the public. The embankment was decidedly illegal, and he would also venture to suggest that the encroachments made by the Duke of Sutherland on the opposite side were also illegal. No Act of Parliament had been passed to enable the Duke of Sutherland to make these encroachments, and he hoped that his noble Friend the Member for Bath would follow this Motion up by calling upon the Attorney General to remove the existing nuisances.


said, he wished to correct, in the first instance, the statement made by the hon. Member for Montrose with respect to Sutherland-house. In the Committee which sat last Session, under the presidency of the noble Lord the Member for Bath, a most rigid inquiry had been instituted into the rights under which these alleged encroachments had been made, and it was discovered that a great many nuisances had been removed, without any prejudice to the interests of the public. With respect to the garden belonging to Bridge-water-house, a portion of it was the Earl of Ellesmere's freehold property, and a portion of it had been assigned to him by lease subsequently to the report of 1797. The hon. Member for Montrose said that the Treasury had no right to grant a lease. He (Mr. Hayter) was at issue with him there. It was proved before the Committee that they had power to grant leases, subject to certain restrictions. With respect to the wall which had been erected in the first instance, that was certainly inconsistent with the covenants of the lease, and with the intentions of the Earl of Ellesmere. Immediately upon complaint being made, the wall was reduced, and the present wall and embankment did not form any impediment to the public view, and, if removed, would injure the regularity of the architectural outline, by exposing a hollow. Notwithstanding this, he admitted that if the bond was to be enforced, the wall must be removed, to the great injury of the public; and if the public would have an injury done to them, at least it ought not to be said in that House that it was for their benefit. No doubt the public were entitled to a nuisance, if they chose to have it. It did not follow, because Mr. Fordyce had made a report, that the covenants of an existing lease were consistent with the observations and suggestions in that report. He had, however, seen the lease, and according to his interpretation of the instrument, it was extremely doubtful whether the Earl of Ellesmere had not the power to raise a large embankment, which might exclude the public view altogether. Besides, Mr. Fordyce's report did not bear the interpretation put upon it. It did not refer to the view from the Park, but merely said there should be an uninterrupted view from the adjoining houses. Had he been aware that a discussion would have taken place on this subject, upon an unopposed Motion in fact, he would have come down with the lease and other documents; but this was manifest, that it would be a great public injury if the strict letter of the covenant were insisted upon.


thought the Government was right in not resisting the Motion; but he hoped it would be understood that it was not for the interests of the public to insist upon the strict right; for if the proposed improvement should be removed, it would be a great public injury. Much had been said as to encroachments upon the Park. The fact was, that in this case there was no encroachment at all. There was really nothing in issue but the question of a breach of a covenant in a lease. Part of the garden was the freehold property of the Earl of Ellesmere; and if he was animated by the curmudgeon spirit of a desire to exclude the public, he might erect a wall there as high as he pleased, whilst, by the terms of the lease, he could plant trees upon the other part if he chose. But the Earl of Ellesmere was moved by no such sentiments. The noble Earl was admitted to have done a public service by the erection of so magnificent a building; he had, at all times, shown himself a liberal patron of art; and in the arrangements of this very building he had gone to considerable expense in providing a separate entrance for the public, to view his magnificent collection of paintings. It was quite right that the interests of the public should be jealously watched, in order that no encroachments should be permitted; but if the Woods and Forests, whether at the instance of the noble Lord or any other individual, were induced to construe the terms of the lease according to the strict letter, he was sure they would be doing an injury to the public. No private landlord, under such circumstances, would object to his tenant making improvements that were really a great embellishment.


, in reply, said it was clear the Earl of Ellesmere was not aware of any encroachment having been made. It was certainly the duty of the Woods and Forests, or their officers, who were paid high salaries, to look after these matters. But they knew nothing of them, and Mr. Pennethorne's examination before the Select Committee was most unsatisfactory in this respect. He was, for example, asked where was the boundary of the Park at this particular point; and his reply was, "That is more than I can tell." It appeared from this, that the officers of the Woods and Forests did not know the boundaries of the Park. If they had done their duty he should not have brought this matter forward; but he was very glad to hear the noble Lord at the head of the Government say, that in walking past he had discovered the wall to be higher than necessary. The question was, whether, under the lease, there was any power to build the wall at all. In his opinion the lease contained no such power.


, in explanation, said he had stated that there was no such power in the lease.


Then, were all the persons who had houses abutting upon the Park to have the same power? Was every man in the position of a Crown tenant to ride over the covenants of his lease just as he thought proper? The provisions of Crown leases should be effectually carried out, for modification was highly unconstitutional, and the sooner it was done away with the better.


said, it was quite clear there had been an intention to build a high wall that would give facilities to make mounds inside, upon which trees or shrubs might be planted, and so the public view be shut out. If this were allowed in one case, it might be extended along the whole line to Piccadilly. It appeared to him, therefore, that the Government ought to take care that no advantage be taken, so as to afford facilities for the erection of mounds.

Motion agreed to.