HC Deb 29 July 1851 vol 118 cc1680-3

wished to ask the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, whether Ann Hicks held a house in Hyde Park by the gift of George II., or by what tenure she occupied the house from which she had been evicted; and also whether the noble Lord had per- mitted any other house to be erected in the Park?


said, that in answer to the first question of the hon. Gentleman, he had to state, that Ann Hicks did not hold any house by the gift of George II., or of any other. Royal personage at all. The first time he (Lord Seymour) ever heard of her claim to a house as the gift of any Royal personage was a few weeks ago. In 1843, Ann Hicks, like several other persons, had a little stall where she sold apples and gingerbread in the park. Previous to that she had occupied one of the old conduits there. She subsequently wrote to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and requested leave to build a place to lock up her ginger-beer bottles in; and, after some correspondence with the Commissioners, they told her she might have a wooden stand, the same as some persons had near where the cows are kept in St. James's Park. Shortly afterwards she wrote to the Commissioners again, saying she was very much obliged by their reply, but that she should like to build her stall of brick instead of wood, as a wooden one was insecure, and liable to be broken open; but in all those applications she never made any allusion to any Royal gift, but always rested her claim on her having fifteen children to support. After some time the Commissioners allowed her to make her stand of brick instead of wood. Having got that leave, she wrote to the Commissioners, and said that her stand was not quite large enough, and she wished to make it larger, as she had so many ginger-beer bottles she did not know where to put them. The Commissioners gave way to her, and said she might make her stand five feet high, but no higher. She then wrote again in the following year, and said that she was very much obliged for the little but she had got, and that it was a great accommodation to her, and that she had not the least wish to make a residence of it; but that if the Commissioners would allow her to have a little fireplace in it, it would he of great use to her to make a cup of tea. The Commissioners resisted that, and told her they could not allow her to have a fireplace; that her but was a place merely allowed her to put by her bottles in, and that she must not use it as a residence. She again wrote to the Commissioners, saying that the roof of her shed wanted repair, that the rain came in, and might she be allowed to repair it and keep the rain out? The Board told her she might repair it so as to keep the rain out, but that she must make no alteration in it. However, shortly afterwards the Commisioners found that the but had a roof and a chimney. When he (Lord Seymour) came into office, in 1850, the but not only had got a roof and chimney, but there was a little garden to it, with hurdles round. Ann Hicks said, the hurdles were put up because it was so disagreeable to have people looking in at her window. His attention was called to the matter from the frequent disputes between the authorities of the park and Ann Hicks. The hurdles were continually advancing and encroaching on the park. She was told to put them back; but she made so much noise and abuse about it, that none of the park authorities cared to meddle with her. They all gave him very bad accounts of her. He also asked a gentleman who was connected with the management of the park, though not with his (Lord Seymour's) department, and he gave him an account equally unfavourable of Ann Hicks. Upon that he thought it time that some proceedings should be taken against her, because it was quite unusual to allow any residence in the park. The law was decidedly against it; and he was also told that if they sanctioned this for a few years, there would be great difficulty, eventually, in removing her. Before he took any step, however, he wrote to the Duke of Wellington, as ranger of the park; and his Grace, with that consideration which he gave to the minutest details, wrote him word that he was coming to town and would inquire into the whole case. Accordingly, when his Grace came to town, he wrote to him (Lord Seymour), and said he ought to apply for legal advice, and remove Ann Hicks from the park at once. He then referred all the correspondence to the solicitors of the office, and Ann Hicks was served with a notice to remove; but he told her, that if she would go from the park and not give them any trouble, he would take care that some allowance should be made to her. But she would not go; she said it was her ground, and that nothing could remove her. He then gave directions that proceedings should he taken to remove her, and she would not move until those proceedings were actually taken. She then wrote again to the Commissioners, and said that she owed a small debt of 6l. or 7l. for the repairs of her cottage, but she said nothing of a Royal gift. He thereupon told her that if she went, she should have 5s. a week for the next year, and that would secure her a house in lieu of the one to which she had no legal right. He also gave her some money at once to pay for the repairs; but a builder afterwards called upon him and said that she owed him his debt for the repairs of the cottage still. In fact, instead of paying the debt with the money he (Lord Seymour) had given her, she spent it in getting some placards printed and placing them about the park, charging the Commissioners of Woods and Forests with hardship and oppression towards her. As to any other cottage being erected in the park, the only one be was aware of was the cottage proposed to be built by Prince Albert as a model cottage. When it was built, he, (Lord Seymour) said it could not be allowed to remain, and his Royal Highness promised that it should be taken down next November.


Will the noble Lord state how many years this cottage of Anne Hicks was built?


In 1843 she commenced building her place of brick instead pf wood.


Would she have been ejected if the Crystal Palace had not been erected?


Her ejection had nothing whatever to do with the erection of the Crystal Palace.

Subject dropped.

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