HC Deb 01 August 1862 vol 168 cc1084-8

rose to call the attention of the House to the Return of Public Statues in London [Parl. P. 366], and to ask the First Commissioner of Works, Why the Statue of Pitt in the National Debt Office, Old Jewry, and also the Monuments lately erected in the Broad Sanctuary and Waterloo Place, were not included in the said Return? It would be in the recollection of many hon. Members, that in 1854 an Act was passed in consequence of some doubt as to the person who should have charge of the public statues in the Metropolis. Appended to that Act was a schedule in which were enumerated fifteen statues which were from that time forward to be placed under the direct charge of the Chief Commissioner of Works. The Act also contained a clause to the effect that in future no statue should be erected in the metropolitan district without the written assent of that authority. Since 1854 a great many statues had been placed under the charge of the First Commissioner—those, for example, in St. Stephen's Hall, and others enumerated in the Return. But there were various other statues in London which had been omitted, and he wanted to know why the Return had not been made correctly. There was now in the National Debt Office in the City a fine statue pf William Pitt in bronze, and he thought, since it had been bought and paid for by public subscription, it ought to have been included in the Return. The same observation applied to the statue of Charles II. at Chelsea, to that of William III. in St. James's Square, to that of George II. in Golden Square, and to three statues in the City—those of William IV., the Duke of Wellington, and Sir Robert Peel. Probably the three latter might be, considered as under the charge of the Corporation of London; but, inasmuch as they were public property, their existence should have been made known to the House in a memorandum appended to the Return. There could be no doubt, however, that the other statues to which he had, alluded should have been included in the Return. Another omission was that of the statue pf Queen Anne, in Queen's Square, Westminster. He observed, also, that two public monuments—the monument to the Guards, in Waterloo Place, and that in the Broad Sanctuary—had not been included, and he wished to know under whose charge they were placed. It might be said, that they were not public statues; but, surely, the disagreeable erection in Waterloo Place was as much a statue as the Achilles in Hyde Park; both had figures upon them. The monument in the Broad Sanctuary might be called a pillar; it was erected to commemorate great deeds; and he contended, that both it and the monument in Waterloo Place should be placed under the charge of some public authority. The Return he moved for specified "Monuments" as well as "Statues." The statue of William Pitt in the National Debt Office was the finest that had been executed of that statesman, and should be removed to the Houses of Parliament, for it was lost in the City, and at Westminster it would be deemed a great ornament.


, in reply to the several Questions that had been put, had to answer, to that of the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. C. Forster), that the Houses of Parliament had been open to the public recently on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and after the prorogation they would be open on three days a week—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—when the public would be admitted by the ordinary permission given on application at the Lord Chamberlain's office; and he believed that would be sufficient to meet the public requirements.

With regard to the arboricultural Question, which had been put to him by the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir John Shelley) he should have thought that all people acquainted in any degree with the management of trees were aware that any sudden alteration of the condition of the soil in which old trees were growing would have a tendency to injure them, and that the removal of moisture to which old trees had been accustomed by means of drainage very often killed them. A good many trees were killed about thirty years ago by the extensive drainage which was carried on upon the southern side of Kensington Gardens, near Rotten Row. A black pool was then drained off, and a considerable number of elm trees died, and he was informed by a person who was employed in Kensington Gardens about that period, in 1834, that the death of those trees was attributed to the drainage; and as that explanation agreed with the opinion of the best authorities that any sudden alteration in the condition of the soil in which old elm trees were growing was most detrimental to them, he had no doubt the cause assigned was the correct one. With reference to the well in Kensington Gardens, it had been a long time in progress. The sinking of wells was a matter of so much difficulty and delicacy that even the most able contractors could not always command the time within which the work should be completed; but he had taken the precaution to stipulate that the contractor for the well should not be paid till the completion of his work, and he had therefore the strongest possible inducement to bring it to a conclusion. He was not yet paid. The well had recently been finished, but they were not satisfied with the amount of water produced; and there had been an experimental boring into the hard chalk at the bottom of the well. He was happy to say that boring had been eminently successful, and a large supply of very pure water was obtained. He was not able to measure the precise amount produced, but it was estimated at 200 gallons a minute, and he believed a still larger supply would be obtained. No formal agreement had yet been made for the boring, but the matter was now under consideration, and very shortly an agreement would be entered into by the contractor to continue the boring lower down. He was asked with reference to the Vote of £17,000 which had been granted for improvement of the Serpentine, before he came into office; and he had to state that there yet remained a balance of £1,600 unexpended; so that they had not yet reached the limit of the Vote, owing to the long delay in sinking the well. The water was at present not so pure as it would be when the great drain the Metropolitan Board of Works were carrying through Hyde Hark was brought into use. When the sewage was entirely cut off from the Serpentine, no doubt the water would be much purer than it had ever been. He certainly had no intention at present to make any proposal to the House with reference to any change in the bed of the Serpentine. He doubted whether it was necessary. At all events it would be right to see the effect of the alterations now in progress there before any further changes were made, and he was in hopes that we should get a purer stream of water without any further charges.

His hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Hankey) complained that he had not got all the information he wanted in regard to public statues in the metropolis in the Return he had moved for; but if his hon. Friend had studied his Return as closely as he (Mr. Cowper) had been obliged to do, he would have seen the reason why the monuments to which he had referred had not been included. His hon. Friend had set him rather a difficult problem by calling for a list of all the statues and monuments within the metropolitan district which complied with three conditions—first, that they should be public; second, that they should belong to the nation; and third, that they should be under the charge of the First Commissioner of Works. The statue of Pitt in the National Debt Office, Old Jewry, he believed, did not comply with the first of these conditions. He could not discover that the statue was public property. So far as he knew, it was the property of the hon. Member for Peterborough himself, as one of the directors of the Bank. The building in which the statue was belonged to the Bank of England, and he supposed the statue was also the property of that corporation. The two monuments in Broad Sanctuary and Waterloo Place were not included in the Return, because they did not fulfil the condition of being under the charge of the First Commissioner. They were under the charge of a committee of the subscribers who put them up, and they were responsible for the merits or demerits which those monuments might possess. With respect to the statues in St. James's Square and Golden Square, they were not included in the Return, because they stood on private not on public property, and he was not aware that the nation had any right to claim them as its property. His hon. Friend had alluded to the Act of 1854, which provided that after the passing of that Act all statues erected in any public place became thereby public statues, and they could only be so erected with the written consent of the First Commissioner of Works. In regard to statues erected subsequently to that Act there was no longer any difficulty as to what were or were not public statues; the difficulty in the definition of a public statue existed in regard to those erected previously to the passing of that Act; and upon the whole he thought the Return which had been presented had solved the problem as satisfactorily as could have been expected.