HC Deb 01 June 1860 vol 158 cc1869-72

said, he rose to ask the First Commissioner of Works, Whether the recommendation of the Committee which reported in 1856 in favour of opening a carriage way from St. James's Park to Trafalgar Square would be carried out, and if not, what were the reasons for such decision on the part of the Board of Works? He thought that there was at present a favourable opportunity for carrying out the Report of the Committee, owing to the Board of Works having purchased Berkeley House, and having widened the opening from the Park into Cockspur Street. The House, perhaps, was not generally aware that a Committee sat on this question in 1846, presided over by the present Lord Llanover, and they reported in favour of such a communication being opened; but the difficulty was the expense, which at that time would have been very considerable. This great and necessary improvement might now, however, be made by the purchase and removal of one house, which had only a lease of eleven years to run. Any one who would look at the neighbourhood would find that there was an immense traffic at the bottom of the Haymarket, and a crowd of carriages around the fine exhibitions open in Pall Mall. When Her Majesty held a levee or a Drawing room the power of moving was still further impeded by the carriages pouring into St. James's Street. There was, indeed, no part of London more obstructed in the afternoon than that extending from Pall Mall East to Trafalgar Square. The obstruction arose from the traffic being unnaturally forced from the south-west along this thoroughfare. A continuation of the road by Han over gate straight to Trafalgar Square would, be of the greatest possible advantage to the public. He had seen a letter the other day signed "A Parishioner of St. James's," which stated the case so clearly and ably that he should like to bring it under the notice of those who had not read it. The writer said:— The present moment is a favourable one for calling attention to the urgent necessity of diverting by every means in our power the overwhelming traffic which at present chokes the London thoroughfares. To do this will, in many instances, call for a vast outlay of capital; there are, however, a few cases in which little beyond good sense, good feeling, and energy are required to effect immediate relief. One of the mauvais pas of London, for instance, most detrimental to carriages, and most favourable to coachmakers, is the eastern end of Pall Mall, between Waterloo Place and Trafalgar Square. To the innumerable vehicles which, rolling down St. James Street, and crossing St. James's Park from the western suburbs, pass along Pall Mall proper, are added, as soon as they reach the Athenæum Club House, the whole northern traffic of London. Omnibuses from Baker Street, Kentish Town, and Hampstead, pour furiously down through Regent Street and the Haymarket on their way to the Strand and to Westminster, while the crowds of carriages waiting at the doors of the various exhibitions—of which there are no less than five within 300 yards of each other—contract the gangway and increase the dangers and delays of the conflux. An obvious mode of relieving this nuisance exists. Were a gate opened from St. James's Park into Trafalgar Square, and were the public permitted to use the deserted road within the park, every private carriage which now crosses from the south-west into Pall Mall, or which comes down St. James's Street, bound either to the Strand or to Westminster, would, avoiding Fall Mall, drive along the Park through the proposed gate into Trafalgar Square. He was sorry not to see the Chief Commissioner of Works in his place, as he understood that the right hon. Gentleman was favourable to the proposed improvement. The expense was so small, and the advantage of the new carriage way would be so great, that he trusted this small modicum of Metropolitan improvement would not be refused.


said, he wished to point out the inconvenience of shutting at night the gate at the corner of St. James's Park, near Storey's-gate. A Member of that House walking down to the House from the Duke of York's Column was not bound to know that this gate was closed at ten o'clock. On one occasion he had to get over the paling on his way to the House.


said, that as the First Commissioner of Works was now in his place, it might be convenient to him to know that public attention had been very much directed to the subject of improved communication between Trafalgar Square and St. James's Park. The question had long been kept hanging over their heads, and the alteration might now be carried out at a very trifling expense, seeing that the Metropolitan Board of Works had done their part by putting the house which belonged to them farther back than the old Berkeley House, and that the house opposite was Crown property. He hoped his right hon. Friend would say whether he had sufficiently considered the Report of the Committee?


said, that having been a Member of the Committee referred to by the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) he begged to remind him that the recommendation given in their Report was carried only by the casting vote of the Chairman. He believed the reason why the Committee did not recommend the formation of the communication in a more decisive manner was simply because they felt that if it were true, as they were repeatedly assured, that the residents in that neighbourhood had a great interest in getting the communication opened up, these residents ought to exhibit that interest by forming a road from Charing Cross to the boundary of the Park, and then there would, doubtless, be no difficulty in inducing the Crown to afford access to the Park. No indication, however, of any willingness to take such a course had been shown by the public.


said, there was no doubt that the final recommendation of the Committee was, as had been stated by the noble Lord, only carried by the casting vote of the Chairman. The recommendation, too, was not very decisive, because it only expressed the opinion that a communication between St. James's Park and Charing Cross ought to be formed, not at present, but at some future time. The Committee considered, moreover, that the expense of making a road direct from Charing Cross to the Park would amount to £100,000. They entered into the consideration only of the general question whether some such communication would not be convenient to the public at large, without going into the details of any particular scheme or of the expenditure involved. The recommendation of the Committee could not, therefore, be regarded as of a direct practical nature, and that was the reason why it had not been carried into effect. It was unnecessary, he thought, to enter into the general question whether the convenience to the public of affording access to the Park from Charing Cross would be so great as to counterbalance the inconvenience which would be caused by the admission of traffic into St. James's Park. At present it was sufficient to deal with the preliminary question whether there were any funds applicable for such a purpose. It could hardly be maintained that the funds for the improvement of the Park could be made use of, because the work was for the improvement, not of the Park, but of Metropolitan communications. He could not admit that the expense of the alteration would be so small as the hon. Member supposed. The house at the corner of Spring Gardens, which would have to be pulled down, belonged to the Crown, but, according to the invariable practice, it would, have to be purchased from the Lands Revenue Department before it could be taken. He had not heard that the Metropolitan Board of Works were willing to provide funds for the formation of this communication. He recommended his hon. Friend to ask the Board whether they were prepared to widen Spring Gardens in order to give public access to the Park in that direction. As to Storey's Gate, it was necessary that the gates should be closed at a fixed hour, and it would be very undesirable to leave them open during the whole of the night.