HC Deb 30 March 1855 vol 137 cc1423-8

in rising to call the attention of the Government to the construction of the huts at Aldershot, said he was perfectly aware that the present was an inconvenient time to bring on a question of this description; but the suggestions he was about to make would be of very little use if reserved until after the Easter recess. At present only about 400 of these huts were completed, leaving 800 more to be constructed, and these, he thought, might be much improved, and a large sum of money saved. About double the quantity of boards that were necessary were put upon these huts; and the roofing was badly designed, because it was flat, and the water would certainly penetrate through. The boards were what were called feather-edged, and, consequently, as soon as the dry weather set in and the sun's power was felt, they would all start, and in two months, he would venture to say every hut now made would require another covering, besides the boards. He would suggest, therefore, that the roofing should be altered; indeed, if the Government had consulted any village sawyer, he would have shown them how to make a roof better adapted to keep out the wet. Another defective part of the hut was the provision for lighting and ventilation. The windows were placed in such a position that any man above 4 feet 6 inches high would be breathing an impure atmosphere. Now it would cost but a small sum, perhaps 15s. a hut, to place these windows at the top of the roof, and the windows of the 800 not yet made might be put in their proper places without costing the country a sixpence. He considered the double boarding and roof-boarding to be of no use. It was a great pity that when the Ordnance were about to erect so many as 1,200 huts they did not have a model perfect of its kind, and put it up as a specimen for the contractor. He ventured to say that had this course been adopted, they would have been made for about half the cost which would really be incurred. Before the huts designed by Mr. Brunel for use in the East were constructed, a model was erected in the Great Western station, and suggestions were received for its improvement; and if this had been done in the present case, the huts would have been far more efficient in their construction, and a large sum of money might have been saved; and, considering the large quantities of timber to be used in them, he thought sufficient time had not been given to the contractors to send in their estimates, for they had been allowed only three days. When first these huts were commenced, no foundations were put in until an hon. Gentleman opposite went down to Aldershot, and brought the matter before the House. At present the foundations were being constructed in a most expensive manlier; they were making them as solidly as if they were going to build a house, although a little concrete and a few bricks would have answered every purpose. If continued in this style, the huts would not be finished for two or three months. But he would suggest that the Government should not construct so many huts. He thought it would be much better that 5,000 out of the 20,000 soldiers who were to be encamped at Aldershot should be lodged in tents, where they would be much more likely to learn the real business of campaigning, the pitching of tents, and moving from place to place, than if domiciled in these semi-barracks.


thought it was due to Sir Frederic Smith, the engineer officer who had the arrangement of the camp at Aldershot, to state to the House that he had received a letter from that officer, which, he thought, contained a fair and reasonable explanation regarding a statement he had made in that House, Sir Frederic said that they had been limited for time in the work made under his directions at Aldershot, and during the intense frost which prevailed in the during end of February and the beginning of March they were compelled to proceed with the work as they could. In such weather, it was scarcely necessary to say, that they could neither use concrete nor brick-work for the foundations; but the huts raised since had all been placed on concrete and brick foundations, and those that were built before the weather permitted of foundations being made would be properly secured as the season advanced. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the ventilation of the huts was faulty, but he thought it had escaped the observation of the hon. Gentleman that there were two shaft ventilators in each building, which would be ample for the purpose of ventilation. The huts were perhaps hardly so large as they ought to be, but that was a matter of detail into which he would not enter. With regard to the roofing, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman that it was not made in the best possible manner, and that a covering of felt would be a great improvement. A false ceiling would, he thought, be very beneficial to the troops, as it would render the huts warm in the winter, and would keep off the heat of the sun in summer. The other arrangements of the camp appeared to be well conducted.


said, the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Paxton) was a formidable critic on a subject with which he was so well acquainted as that upon which he had just addressed the House, and he (Mr. Monsell) laboured under the difficulty of not having been aware before the hon. Gentleman rose of the character of the observations he intended to make, and of the fault he was about to find with the encampment at Aldershot. The hon. Gentleman, at the close of his observations, advised the Government not to proceed with the erection of so large a number of huts, but rather to place a certain number of the troops about to be encamped at Aldershot in tents. Unfortunately, however, it would be necessary to keep the troops at Aldershot, not only during the summer but during the winter months, in consequence of the deficiency in barrack accommodation; and it was, therefore, absolutely necessary to construct huts in which to lodge them. The Surveyor to the Ordnance, who had that day visited Aldershot, gave a most satisfactory account of the progress of the buildings, and stated that they were in a most satisfactory condition, and highly creditable to the contractors. Some time ago it had been decided to cover the roofs of the huts with asphalted felt, and, therefore, any difficulty entertained by the hon, and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Knox) in that respect would be removed.


said, it was most unsatisfactory that the House should now be called upon to adjourn for a period of seventeen days, looking to time extremely critical state of affairs, to the anxious expectations as to the Vienna Conferences and their uncertain issue, to the growing agitation and discontent of the public mind, and to the high price of food in the principal towns. They were left in the most complete ignorance and mystery as to the intentions of the Government with respect to the mode in which they intended to levy taxes to provide for their reckless and extravagant expenditure. It appeared to him that the house was giving way to the most self-complimenting. Government that had ever sat upon the Ministerial benches. The Government could do nothing but compliment each other on what each had done, and no doubt that, in their own opinions, they all stood very high. Now, on the contrary, the whole country and Europe believed that they had done everything very ill, and history would comment upon their acts with the utmost severity. He contended that the House should not adjourn until they had the Budget before them, and until the country knew how it was to be taxed. There was only one newspaper in the metropolis that had the courage to support the Government. Let the House consider how our fifty colonies were treated. Representations were pouring in daily from all quarters, but there was no Colonial Minister to attend to them. Again he protested against the adjournment of the House.


said, that before the Motion for the adjournment was agreed to, he wished to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the case of a man upon whom an inquest was held, on the 14th instant, at Charing Cross Hospital, and is whose death had been attributed to police neglect. The deceased, whose name was Thomas Gooch, was stated, in the evidence given before the coroner (Mr. Bedford), to have left his home on a Saturday night, telling his wife that he should return presently; but nothing more was heard of him until the following evening, when she learnt that he was in the hospital at Charing Cross. It appeared that in the interval, at half-past seven on the Sunday morning, he was found lying in the street by a policeman of the C division, who took him to the Vine Street station, where a wound was discovered on the back of his head. It was stated that no medical assistance was called in, and that he was left in a cell without bedding, covering, food, or attention, for eleven hours; at the expiration of that time a medical officer saw him, when he found him in such a state that he ordered him to be immediately taken to the Charing Cross Hospital. The man was accordingly placed upon a stretcher and conveyed, through a heavy fall of snow, to the hospital, upon reaching which he was found to be dead. The body of the man was subsequently opened by the house surgeon, who stated that he found no food or spirits in the stomach, and that, in his opinion, the man had died from apoplexy, produced by concussion of the brain; and the jury, in returning their verdict, animadverted in strong terms upon the conduct of the police. He (Sir J. Shelley) had made an inspection of the cell at the station, and ascertained that if a man were apprehended at night, no matter what might be the circumstances, no difference was made as to the cell in which he was placed. There was nothing but a wooden bench to lie or sit upon, and no bedding or covering from the cold, or any warm clothing in which to wrap a person who was conveyed from the lock-up to the hospital. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) would turn his attention to the state of these lock-up cells, and see if something might not be done to provide some covering and shelter for persons who happened to be taken there in the situation of the deceased. In justice to the police themselves, as well as to the public, he thought it was desirable that further inquiry should be made into the case of this poor man, who, it appeared, had been left in the cell for eleven hours without food or proper care being taken of him.


said, he would cause an inquiry to be made into the state of those cells, and he had no doubt that an inquiry had already been instituted into the particular case referred to by his hon. Friend; but as no notice of the question had been given him, he was not prepared to give any answer as to the details.


wished to know if the Government had taken, or when they would take, any steps for the appointment of a new chairman of Ways and Means, as he understood the House had lost the services of Mr. Bouverie?


said, he had observed in an evening print, which was supposed to be a semi-official organ of the Government, the statement that Mr. James Kenneth Howard had been appointed to succeed Mr. Kennedy at the Woods and Forests. He wished to know if the statement were correct?


believed the immediate question before the House was the housing of the troops. He recommended the adoption of a description of housing so constructed that the soldiers themselves could be taught to erect them, to take them down, and replace them in another position. He also recommended the Clerk of the Ordnance to provide the men with tools of every description that they were likely to require, and that they should be taught not only to make roads but to construct works and mines, make fascines and gabions, bake their own bread, and kill their own meat. When the troops were assembled in great numbers, there was an excellent opportunity of teaching them many things which were of the highest utility to an army in the field, but of which ninety-nine out of 100 of the troops who had been sent to the Crimea were perfectly ignorant.


in answer to the question of the hon. Member for Ayr, had to state that the appointment of Mr. Howard to the Woods and Forests was to take place, and that, according to Act of Parliament, the appointment would be communicated to Parliament within twenty days afterwards. The appointment of a new Chairman of Ways and Means would be moved when the House met after the Easter holidays.


gave notice that, after the recess, he would call the attention of the House to the appointment of Mr. Howard.

Motion for the adjournment of the House agreed to.