§ House in Committee.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £100,440, he granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of maintaining and keeping in repair the Royal Parks,
Pleasure Grounds, and other Charges connected therewith, to the 31st day of March, 1861.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
objected to the mode in which the Vote of £17,000 granted last year for purifying the water of the Serpentine was being expended. There was a great deal of unnecessary work—such as digging wells for water, &c.—that would create an enormous expense. He wished to know whether the First Commissioner of Works believed that a good supply of water would be obtained by the course now being pursued, and whether he imagined the contemplated work could he done for the sum of £17,000 voted by the House last year. He wished, also, to know how the First Commissioner of Works came to spend so much money in putting up a fence and making; other arrangements for the new ride in Kensington Gardens, without taking a vote in Parliament upon it. There was an item of £750 for fixing iron railings and doing other work in Kensington Gardens. He had very great suspicions in his mind with reference to these doings in Kensington Gardens, and, therefore, he would move that the Vote be reduced by this sum of £750. There was a memorial to be presented to the Queen on the subject of the new ride at Kensington. When it was presented it would show Her Majesty the great dissatisfaction that existed in the neighbourhood regarding it, and he trusted that it would have the effect of putting an end to a scheme so very unpopular. He wished also to know what was the meaning of the item of £1,800 for drainage in Richmond Park, and of another item of £250 for the improvement of the herbage there? The hon. Baronet then moved that the Vote should be reduced by the sum of £750.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the item of £750, for providing Iron Tree-guards and fixing Iron Railings and Fence in Kensington Gardens, be omitted from the proposed Vote.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
complained that the Committee appointed to inquire respecting the civil service expenditure had done nothing. The Committee had made a Report, but a more inefficient Report he had never seen. He drew attention to the item of £8,000 for the improvements in the Regents Park, and to the estimate for Kew Gardens, on which an amount (£15,000) was expended that was totally unnecessary.
§ MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH
thought the public had cause to look with much suspicion on the increasing mania for iron rail- 947 ings and hurdles in the Parks. These railings and hurdles were, generally speaking, introduced very insidiously. A few were put down first on one side, and then on another, and gradually extended till the use of the Parks was very much interfered with. The Green Park, for example, was set out with these iron obstructions in such a way as to make it resemble a cattle-market more than anything else. The space set apart for the enjoyment of the public was thus nibbled away, and a great hardship inflicted on the working classes. A park was a park, and a garden was a garden, and he did not see why the large spaces intended to he parks should be dealt with as if they were gardens. What was the object of the enclosure between the Palace wall and the road on Constitution Hill? He thought, too, the public had reason to complain of the number of fine trees which had been killed through the ignorance of those who carried on the works.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, there was a Vote of £750, a considerable portion of which had reference to the new ride in Kensington Gardens, He agreed with the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir J. Shelley) in his views of the new ride. His right hon. Friend the First Commissioner was, no doubt, actuated by the best intentions in forming that ride, hut he had no hesitation in saying that he was acting in a wrong direction. It was quite clear that the ride could not remain in its present state;—it was more like an approach to a cattle pond than anything else. If it were proposed to make it a permanent ride he must express the strongest condemnation of the whole scheme. Though exceedingly fond of equestrian exercise himself, he was hound to say, after giving the subject the fullest consideration, that the new ride was uncalled for, and would be a source of inconvenience and annoyance wholly incommensurate with any advantages that it might be supposed to confer on the public. Kensington Gardens were open to those of the public who chose to enter them on foot; why should those people be annoyed and exposed to danger from persons on horseback? Let the Parks he as open as they pleased to those who rode, but let Kensington Gardens be retained for the use of pedestrians. Who had ever heard of any gentleman opening his gardens to persons on horseback? To enter the ride it was necessary to cross the most pleasant path in the whole Gardens; and yet it was said that the public suffered no inconve- 948 nience by the Gardens being cut in two. The right hon. Gentleman could have no idea of the way in which the public are now incommoded. He had himself seen an elderly female in a wheeled chair, drawn by two men, who were vainly attempting to force the chair through one of the apertures which had been made adjoining this ride. The aperture was too small, and there was this unfortunate lady, apparently an invalid, with her chair half in and half out, exposed for a considerable time to the gaze and amusement of the passers-by. It was impossible for old people and children to enjoy Kensington Gardens as they used to do. Even as regarded riders, unless the new ride were made an unbroken continuation of Rotten Row, it would be of no advantage. In no respect could it he made a fit place for equestrians. In winter it would be a detestable swamp, and in summer every blade of grass would be obliterated, and the ground would become hard and intractable. If the £750 included in the present Vote were intended to make the new ride permanent, he should certainly vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Westminster.
§ MR. MALINS
said, that he, like the noble Lord, was attached to equestrian exercise, and had been many years a frequenter of the ride at Rotten Row, and therefore he would naturally be favourable to an extension of the ride; but he must say that he did not very highly estimate the advantages of the new ride. He did not think it was worth much, and on many days it could not be used at all. He did not hear that it would be of any advantage except that on sultry days persons might obtain shelter under the trees there. He was a great walker in Kensington Gardens, and there were few things he enjoyed more than a walk there on Sundays; and few walks were more pleasant than the walk on the south side parallel with Rotten Row. Meetings, very numerously attended, had been held to object to this ride, and petitions very numerously signed were adopted against it, and he must say it was not a thing that should he done in opposition to the wishes of a large portion of the community. The ride was not worth having, at the expense of violating the feelings of a great number of people. A very large portion of the population were known to be opposed to it, and he would venture to say that if they were to poll all the parishes lying to the west of the Haymarket, they would find that there was a majority of the 949 whole population against it. He was an inhabitant of Belgravia, and had heard a great number of people expressing their opinions. Some few persons, particularly young ladies, were in favour of the new ride; but four out of five of the people he heard speaking on the subject were opposed to it. ["No, no!"] What then was the meaning of the meetings—what was the object of the deputations that waited upon the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cow-per)? There was scarcely any one living in the neighbourhood of Kensington who was not opposed to it. ["Oh!"] He cautioned Gentlemen below the gangway who were such admirers of popular suffrage, how they trifled with the public feeling on this subject. It might be agreeable to some persons to get under the shade of the trees, but the feelings of the majority were not to be neglected for the private convenience of those persons. He did not act upon that principle. He should be glad to use the ride, but through respect for the feelings of his fellow-countrymen he should not require to have it. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was in error, but that he acted from the best motives. He thought it was merely intended to see this season how it would work, and he (Mr. Malins) would not object to that; but if a vote were taken on the Amendment, he would feel bound to vote in its favour.
said, the Vote contained an item for iron railings. One portion of these were to be employed as a substitute for the high brick wall that ran along a portion of Kensington Gardens. Another portion of the Vote was to go for a gateway, and there was an item of £250 to provide hurdles for the new temporary ride. The hon. Baronet (Sir John Shelley) might, therefore, fairly take the sense of the House on the subject of the new ride by proposing the reduction of the Vote by this sum of £250. They had been told in the course of the discussion that parks were parks, and that gardens were gardens. He denied that that proposition supported the argument of the noble Lord (Lord John Manners), that because Kensington Gardens were gardens they were therefore unfit for the purposes of riding. It arose from a mistake as to the meaning of the word "gardens." Of course, they could not make a ride in a flower garden, but these were not flower gardens. They consisted of 268 acres of park scenery, sheep were grazing on them, and the avenues were adapted for horses. Not so many flowers 950 were to be found there as in Hyde Park. But would the House say that the grounds called Kensington Gardens were to be preserved for one class of the public, and that no other class was to be admitted? He believed the House would agree with him, that the mere fact of Kensington Gardens having hitherto been kept for pedestrians was no reason why people should not be admitted who took recreation on horseback, provided only they could do so without inflicting any material discomfort on other classes. This ride, he believed, secured that object. It was an immense advantage to a large portion of the public, while the inconvenience to the remainder was as slight as it possibly could be. The people who went to the flower walk never need cross the ride at all. Certainly the entrance was not such as he could wish, but he had only taken advantage of an existing entrance. It seemed to him that the whole collision was between persons who preferred quiet and retirement and those who preferred publicity. One body of the people of the neighbourhood had presented a petition in which they stated that they liked quiet and retirement, and another body of respectable inhabitants at Notting Hill said that they had a vested right in the possession of quiet and solitude. It was certainly a new thing to hear that privacy was to be the characteristic of public gardens, and that the House of Commons was to be called on to choose between the two—publicity or privacy. He could not but think that there was something selfish in the views of those who demanded exclusively the possession of Kensington Gardens for the enjoyment of solitude. There were portions of those gardens in which, even with the existence of this ride, those persons might enjoy as much solitude as they pleased. But this had been called a question between the higher and lower classes of the community. Nothing could be more untrue, for as regarded the working classes they were, generally speaking, earning their bread by their labour at the time when the riders were there. On Sunday the ride was shut. It was not the custom in this country for persons to ride in the Park on Sunday, and he should be sorry to open Kensington Gardens for the use of riders on that day. The truth was that the persons who opposed this scheme were quite as rich as those who were in favour of it. But the question had assumed its present impor- 951 tance from the agitation of members of the five vestries of the parishes adjoining the gardens. At these vestries strong resolutions had been passed against the project, and still stronger language used. One gentleman, who took a special interest in the appointment of the First Commissioner of Works, declared that his (Mr. Cowper's) place should be made too hot for him. He did not object to that mode of discussing the question if the gentleman liked it, but it was not calculated to have great weight with the House of Commons. He had only to repeat that the Vote contained an item of £250 for hurdles for the temporary ride, and he hoped that, on the whole, the Committee would consider this a proper use of the public money.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he would amend his Amendment according to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, by moving that £250 proposed to be expended on the ride should be deducted from the Vote. His right hon. Friend had made a violent attack on the Vestry of Marylebone. He wished to remind his right hon. Friend that he had challenged public opinion on the matter; and had said that, if he found public opinion was strongly against the Vote, he should not persevere with it. How was that public opinion to be expressed but by the representatives of public opinion in the various parishes? The question was now fairly before the House, whether Kensington Gardens were to be thrown open to equestrians? Was his right hon. Friend justified in taking a course of this kind, when no one instigated him to it, and when he did it of his own accord?
MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, that the declaration of the hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster, reminded him of the three tailors of Tooley Street. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not yield to clamour. The vestry orators would soon find another subject on which to expend their rhetoric. Rotten Row had evidently become quite inadequate to the number of equestrians who frequented it; and since the ride in the Gardens had been opened, the number of pedestrians had greatly increased.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
must say he had not heard any argument which would induce him to think that there was that tremendous infringement upon the liberty of the subject that had been assumed by the 952 Vestry of Marylebone. Had not a proposition been made by that very vestry to cut a carriage road across Rotten Row, and to appropriate a large sum of public money for the purpose? If that proposition was made by them, did nut the objection to the ride come very ill from that quarter?
said, he totally differed from the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) on this subject; and was sure that the great body of equestrians who made use of the Park and Gardens were grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, the First Commissioner of Works, for what he had clone. He hoped he would persevere, and not give way to the cry that had been raised against him.
§ Motion, by leave,withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question put,
That the item of £750, for providing Iron Tree-guards and fixing Iron Railings and Fence in Kensington Gardens, be rednced by the amount of £250.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 48; Noes 71: Majority 23.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this day, at Six of the clock, after the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Fortifications) Provision for Expenses) Bill.