HC Deb 25 February 1862 vol 165 cc727-41

London Coal and Wine Duties, &c, considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


said, he rose to move that the Chairman be directed to move the House that leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the London Coal and Wine Duties Continuance Act, 1861, and to authorize the formation of a road between Kensington Gore and Bayswater, and to apply the proceeds of the Metropolis Improvement Fund account towards defraying the cost of the construction of such road. It was with considerable reluctance that he asked the Committee to entertain the Motion, not merely because it was always unpleasant to deal with questions of taste in Parliament, nor because the question was mixed up with parochial and metropolitan jealousies, but chiefly because the office he had the honour to hold had for one of its special duties the guardianship of the public parks. He was therefore anxious to protect them as much as he could against any interference which would diminish the recreation and enjoyment of Her Majesty's subjects. A very strong case, however, had been made out for the proposed interference with the existing stale of the parks. For the last two years lie had received representations that the formation of a road across Kensington Gardens from north to south was a very urgent and a very necessary metropolitan improvement. Recently he had received a deputation from the five parishes of St. George, Hanover Square, Marylebone, Paddington, Kensington, and Chelsea, showing that the want of some such road as that he now proposed was urgently felt by all the inhabitants of those parts, and representing that it was a hard case that the Park and Kensington Gardens should oppose a barrier of two miles to the passage of any carriage from north to south. He felt there was great force in the demand which had been preferred, that the Crown should allow a carriage road to be made to meet the permanent wants of that portion of the Metropolis. He spoke not of a temporary want, which might arise this year from the Exhibition, but of one of the permanent wants of London. It was obviously a great in- convenience that in that great Metropolis so large an extent of ground should be suffered to remain impervious to passengers. That there should be a space of two miles, which could not be traversed from north to south by carriages, was an inconvenient arrangement which no one could wish to continue. The Committee must recollect that not merely did the ordinary private traffic between Paddington and Kensington Gore require accommodation, but also all the carriages going from the south to the Paddington Station, and all the vehicles coming from the north to Kensington Gore and its neighbourhood. That part of the town was rapidly developing itself. The Museum at Kensington Gore was daily thronged by all classes of the community, who found there amusement and instruction in science and art. The Horticultural Gardens were likely to attract thousands to the flower shows, and a part of the Exhibition building, then in course of erection, was intended to be permanent under the care and direction of the Society of Arts. The Committee, therefore, would see that not merely those who resided in London, but the public who came to London from all parts of England, might frequently require to resort to the latter centre of attraction by means of the road which it was proposed to form. Such a road was certainly a great public want. On the other hand, looking to the interest of the frequenters of the park, it was desirable that the road should not be allowed unless it could be made without serious detriment to the park. It was, to some extent, a conflict between beauty and utility. If they looked only to utility, the omnibuses and cabs must be allowed to take the shortest cut to where they wanted to go, even though it were across the park or gardens. On the other hand, if they looked mainly to beauty, they would keep out such unsightly objects as butchers' carts, hack cabs, omnibuses, and waggons, and reserve places of recreation for more refined objects. But in this case there was no necessity, fortunately, to choose between beauty and utility; they might be combined. He believed it possible to sink a road below the surface, which would give a direct route for travellers, with sufficient light and air, and yet not interfere in any material degree with the beauty of the landscape or the enjoyment of the pedestrians in the park or gardens. He had described the road on the previous night, but its situation did not appear to be quite understood, as few had been on the gravel walk through the centre of Kensington Gardens, along which the road would proceed. The generality of visitors to Kensington Gardens frequented the walks on the east and west, but there were many who had never penetrated to the centre. What he proposed to make a road was now a grave walk, about the centre of Kensington Gardens from their eastern and western boundaries. If the road were made, those who now walked on the broad gravel walk would have an opportunity of walking in either of the avenues on each side, which they would find much pleasanter, inasmuch as the avenue of trees which they would adopt was much prettier than the avenue at present in use. The road would commence at Lancaster Gate on the north, and terminate at the wrought-iron gates of Rotten Row. Is was quite clear of the Serpentine, being about an eighth of a mile from it. The road would be forty feet wide at the bottom, and eighty feet wide at the top of the slopes, and supposing it were made, no pedestrian would be checked in any walk which he now took. If he desired to walk in an avenue, there would be an avenue on either side; and if he desired to cross the road, he could do so either on the level, at the present footpath, which would not be interfered with, or pass over it by means of light bridges. Although the number of crossings would be limited, ample provision would be made for the purpose. He did not believe that the noise and dust from the proposed road would have any material effect in annoying the people in the vicinity, when he considered to what a small distance the noise from the existing road, penetrated into the Gardens. Neither would the road he proposed interfere with Rotten Row or with the carriage drive, as it would pass underneath them, and in that way, from its going in a direct line, it would actually form a shorter communication from Paddington Station to the Exhibition than any other road which had been recommended as an alternative. Another road had been suggested, sunk in an open cutting, which would follow the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, and cross the Serpentine; but the difficulty in respect to that road was in crossing the Serpentine, A tunnel under the river, as proposed by Mr. Page, would be very disagreeable. A now bridge close to the existing one, at a different level, would be a disfigurement; and the widening of the present bridge would probably entail not less expenditure than £20,000, provided the present appearance of that structure were preserved. He thought, therefore, that the best mode both of consulting the convenience of persons passing across northwards and southwards, and of maintaining the present features of the Park and of the Gardens, would be by the adoption of the read he now proposed. Then it had the advantage, that whatever amount of annoyance might arise from the passage of vehicles would, in the case of the middle walk in Kensington Gardens, be felt by the smallest number of persons, because that centre walk was the least-frequented part of the Gardens. On the other hand, the boundary walk between Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park was the most used, and if they brought a large number of carriages and omnibuses immediately into contiguity with that walk, they would expose the largest number of persons to whatever inconvenience would arise from noise and dust.

The Bill would provide that the new road should be made by the Metropolitan Board of Works, and that the money should be drawn from the proceeds of the penny coal duty, which had been invested since 1859 in Consols, in the names of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Works. By an Act of the 8 & 9 Vict. that money was directed to be invested for the purpose of being afterwards applied to some metropolitan improvement, as Parliament might direct; and it was for Parliament to decide whether the proposed I purpose was the best to which that sum of £34,000 could be appropriated. It was intended for a metropolitan improvement, and he proposed the construction of the road he had described as a metropolitan improvement. The proposition had I received the sanction of a very considerable number of the representatives of the metropolis [Sir JOHN SHELLEY: What representatives?] Those who represented the metropolis in this matter were the vestries, although the hon. Gentleman who interrupted him thought that the metropolitan members in that House were only to be listened to. No doubt there were conflicting interests and rival claims for the appropriation of the fund, and he should be prepared to see the majority of the metropolitan members opposed to any proposal that might be made. If it was proposed to spend the money in the East of London, he should expect to see the north, south, and west opposed to the step. The question for the Committee to decide was, whether the proposed road was the most desirable and useful improvement that could be made? He believed it was. It was said that, the road being a special improvement to the district of Paddington and the parishes of Chelsea and Kensington, the expense should be defrayed by them. He should be glad if they could be induced to take on themselves the burden; but there might be difficulty in their agreeing to a voluntary rate: the eastern portion of Paddington, for instance, might urge that they were not so much benefited as the western parts of that parish. Neither had the parishes the power to apply their funds to such a purpose without a special Act, and that could not be obtained in time to be of service that year. The Metropolitan Board of Works had considered whether it would be right to take the money for the road out of the rates they had the power of levying, and had determined not to exercise their power in this way; and therefore, practically, the question whether or not there was to be such a permanent road depended upon the view which the Committee might take on the proposal for devoting the sum he had mentioned as arising from the penny coal duty to the purpose. As officially charged with the management of Hyde Park, he had no desire for this road. Looking only to the interests of those who enjoyed and frequented the park, he might say that they could do very well without any road of the kind; but if the advantage of direct communication were to be considered, it was an improvement that ought to be made. The Bill gave authority to the Metropolitan Board of Works to make the road, and empowered the Commissioners of Works to defray the expense. It had been stated that in reference to the convenience of visitors to the Great Exhibition—which was a matter of paramount importance in the minds of many—the road could not be made in time to provide the accommodation temporarily requisite this year. It would no doubt be economical to combine a permanent road with the access wanted for a few months to the Exhibibition. The question having been raised on a former evening as to the time in which the road could be made, it was in his power to state that engineers of the highest authority had declared that such a road could be completed in a period of two months. He was also prepared to say that a contractor, who performed work on a very large scale, would undertake to execute it in three months, on condition of not receiving one farthing of remuneration if he did not at the end of that period deliver up the road in a complete and perfect state. If the Bill which he proposed had been received with the favour which he had anticipated, and if it had been allowed to pass rapidly, the road could have been completed by the time when the greater number of persons would begin to flock to the Exhibition—namely, the 1st of June. But his anticipations with respect to the reception of the Bill had certainly not been confirmed. On the contrary, instead of a desire to hasten on the progress of the Bill, intentions had been manifested to obstruct and retard it. What was not a usual proceeding, advantage was taken of a thin House the other night to force on a division, and thereby to delay its progress for four days. If, on the introduction of the Bill, the forms of the House were taken advantage of for the purpose of retarding the passing of the Bill, it was impossible that it could become law in time to enable the contractor to have the road completed before the opening of the Exhibition. To guard against such a contingency, he had introduced into the Bill a provision for the making of a temporary road, and he should wish to have the opinion of the Committee whether they desired it to be of a permanent or simply of a temporary character. That there ought to be some means of access across the park to the Exhibition was, he supposed, a proposition which nobody was prepared to dispute; but the point which he wished to have decided was, whether the inhabitants of the Metropolis were to have a road constructed by means of the coal duties? The proceeds of those duties constituted a sum invested in the name of the Commissioners of Works, and if not applied to the purpose which he proposed, they would be soon devoted to the accomplishment of some other metropolitan improvement. The question, therefore, was, were these coal duties to be appropriated to the construction of a permanent roadway across Hyde Park or not? In any event, there would, he trusted, be a temporary road, which might be made, indeed not for the sum mentioned by the Member for Finsbury on a previous evening, but for a moderate amount. It was true that such a road might be to some extent inconvenient; but still those who used the park as pedestrians, or Rotten Row as riders on horseback, were willing to submit to the inconvenience in consideration of the great public object of having a northern access to the Exhibition. He might add that, being once strongly urged by many persons connected with the Metropolis to aid them in carrying out the project of a permanent roadway, he had deemed it to be his duty to bring forward the present measure but, of course, if the view which he had indicated with regard to the construction of such a work were not carried out, he, as being officially charged with the custody of the parks, would have no reason to complain, although he was of opinion that the Metropolis would suffer very considerably, owing to the want of what he believed would be a most useful line of communication—a line of communication, moreover, which might be made available when the gates of the park were necessarily closed, inasmuch, as it would be lighted by gas, and watched by the police. There might be other roads which it would be desirable to improve and enlarge, but no line of communication could, he thought, be constructed so really useful as that which he proposed.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Chairman be directed to move the House, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the London Coal and Wine Duties Continuance Act, 1861, and to authorize the formation of a Road between Kensington Gore and Bayswater, and to apply the proceeds of the Metropolis Improvement Fund Account towards defraying the cost of the construction of such Road.


said, he was anxious to have some further information on the subject of the road proposed than the right hon. Gentleman had afforded. He had not, for instance, told the Committee what kind of road it was intended to construct, or given any explanations as to the height of the proposed bridges or the depth of the cuttings. It was true that on a previous evening he had been understood to say that the road would be some feet below the level of the parks, and that it was intended to be crossed by bridges wherever it divided the pathway in Kensington Gardens. He begged, however, to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Act of Parliament by which the construction of bridges over roads was regulated, required that there should be a headway of sixteen feet; and if to that the length necessary for the construction of the arch were added, it would be found that, from the surface of Rotten Row to the surface of the proposed road would be about eighteen or twenty feet. According to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, the bridges would be somewhat similar to those on the well-known willow-pattern china. Now, he (Mr. Ayrton) would like to be informed whether it was intended that there should be a slope at an angle of forty-five degrees in the park, because, if so, he thought it would be most dangerous in connection with a line of communication described as likely to be one of the most frequented in London? He would further ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he contemplate d having two lines of iron railings on each side of the park; because, if so, Kensington Gardens would be as completely divided into two parts as if the Bayswater Road a t the present time lay between the divisions of the park?


replied, that the engineers whom he had consulted on the subject by no means proposed to construct the antiquated and absurd description of bridge to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded, but to employ flat iron girders to span the arches. Neither was it intended to have so large a headway as had been mentioned; it was quite open to the engineer to carry the road as low as he might think necessary, in order to clear the upper surface. Looking at the plans and sections, he had every reason to believe that 10 ½feet would be a sufficient depression, and certainly the bridge at Rotten Row would not be above that level. The bridges in Kensington Gardens would be slightly raised, but they would be very light, and would not be so arranged as not to divide the gardens, as the hon. Gentleman supposed, into two parts. For his own part, he did not see how it could fairly be contended that such would be the result, when persons might cross the road in six or seven places within the distance of half a mile. The slope to which the hon. Gentleman referred would not be at an angle of forty-five degrees, it being proposed that it should be supported by a retaining wall of four feet in height, while there would be a fence, not at the top, so as to obstruct the view in the park, but a short distance down the slope, where it would be amply sufficient to protect the promenaders and children from danger.


said, that he had opposed the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the other night, because he thought that a question of such importance and interest should not be discussed in a House consisting only of about twenty-five members. It was usual to allow a Bill to be brought in without opposition, that the House might be enabled to form an opinion as to its merits or demerits; but his right hon. Friend had given so full a description of his measure that there was nothing more to learn concerning it, and upon his description the metropolitan Members were satisfied that there was no cause for allowing the Bill to proceed. He thought it much better that it should be at once understood that the Bill would not be allowed to go on, in order that other arrangements might be made for the accommodation of the traffic to and from the forthcoming Exhibition. He (Sir John Shelley) thought that the right hon. Gentleman had rather shirked one part of the question which he brought before the House the other night, and that was as to the source from which the funds for the construction of the proposed road were to be obtained. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House fairly enough the other night that it was by an oversight that the sum of £32,000 was not included in the Act of last Session appropriating the proceeds of the coal tax to the Thames Embankment, and that he thought the money might now be employed in the construction of the road. He (Sir John Shelley) did not believe there was any difference of opinion as to the great advantage that would accrue to both Kensington and Paddington from a road running between them, and he believed that both localities, if they were empowered by law to do so, would readily contribute towards so great an improvement. The Metropolitan Board of Works, which was intrusted with the funds of the metropolis at large, would likewise be perfectly justified in voting a sum of money for such a purpose. But the real question now before the Committee was, whether the plan proposed by the First Commissioner of Public Works was the one best calculated to accomplish the object which all desired to attain? He was anxious, if the present proposal were regarded in the light of a permanent metropolitan improvement, that the Exhibition should be put altogether out of sight, and that the matter should be carefully considered before any plan was decided upon. If, on the other hand, it was to apply only to the Exhibition, he thought there were already roads sufficient for all the purposes of traffic, if they were only made use of. At the time of the last Exhibition nobody was inconvenienced by the traffic being allowed to pass in front of the Knightsbridge Barracks; and he (Sir John Shelley) was persuaded, that if the right hon. Gentleman were to throw open the Marble Arch and the other gates of Hyde Park to cabs and other vehicles, of course under proper restrictions, it would be found that the existing roads would afford better access to the Exhibition at Brompton than there had been to that in Hyde Park. Under all the circumstances, he thought that the best and most straightforward course for the Committee to adopt would be to tell the Government at once that the Bill was a mistake; that they had no right to lay their hands upon money which the House intended to appropriate to the Thames Embankment and that if they wanted to improve the approaches to the Exhibition, they had nothing more to do than to throw open Hyde Park for traffic as they had done in 1851.


I so far agree with the hon. Baronet who has just spoken that I think the matter before the Committee has been pretty fully explained by my right hon. Friend, and that, as the Committee is tolerably full, we may as well come to a decision upon it now as wait for the second reading. No more information can be derived from a perusal of the Bill than has already been given by my right hon. Friend in his opening speech. This really is a question in which the Government have no particular interest. It relates mainly to the convenience of the metropolis. Everybody must admit that there is a great want of communication between that great mass of town which lies to the north of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and the huge city, as I may truly call it, which is growing up in the south. There are two questions—how and in what direction that communication is to be made, and who is to pay for it. My right hon. Friend has proposed a direction which is the shortest and most central, and which is therefore the most convenient to those who have occasion to pass from one side to the other. Some persons may think that a sunken road is not so good as a road upon the level. That is a matter of opinion. A road upon the level may be less convenient to those who use the Park and Gardens, while such a road may be favoured by those who use the road only. It is a balance of convenience between two classes of persons, and the question may fitly be reserved for future consideration. Then, with respect to the funds, some people say that the parishes ought to supply the money. Recollect, however, that a parish is bounded by an arbitrary line; and why are persons living in particular streets which are contained within the parochial limits to pay, while others, who live a few streets off, and who are not less likely to make use of the road, are exempted? A proposal to collect tolls from all who should use the road would, at least, be intelligible; but I cannot see the justice of calling upon people to pay for the construction of a road which they may never use, merely because they happen to live in a parish which adjoins the place through which the road is to pass. Whatever may be the fate of this Bill, and whatever may be thought of the proposal for a permanent road, I think we must all agree that some additional communication ought to be made with a view to the Exhibition. My hon. Friend who spoke last said it would be enough if we were to allow a passage through the Marble Arch and down the road which is parallel to Park Lane.


And through all the other gates in the Park.


But all the traffic passing through those gates must come round by Hyde Park Corner; and what, I ask, would you gain when you got to the Marble Arch by coming down through the Park instead of along Park Lane? The only advantage would be, that you would avoid, perhaps, some obstruction in the narrow part of Park Lane. You would, however, make no saving in point of distance, which is the very object sought to be attained. However, I shall not go further into that matter; but I shall be glad to have the opinion of the Committee upon the question of a permanent road, and I think it will be better to take it now than to wait until the second leading. The question is a very simple one. Here is a communication wanted which would be a great advantage and convenience to the metropolis at large; and here is a fund not now applicable to any other purpose, which cannot be used except under the authority of an Act of Parliament, and which we ask Parliament to devote to what is admitted to be a public improvement.


said, he believed that the difficulty in which the First Commissioner of Works found himself placed at that moment was mainly owing to his having confused the duties of his office with others which did not belong to him, and he trusted that the result of that unfortunate Bill would be, that the right hon. Gentleman would for the future confine himself to the discharge of his important public functions. The right hon. Gentleman had distinctly stated that, as guardian of the Royal Parks, he had serious objections to the proposed road, but that in his private capacity, looking at the road as a great metropolitan improvement, he thought it ought to be made. Let the Committee support the right hon. Gentleman in the performance of the special duties of his office. It was as a metropolitan improvement, however, that the right hon. Gentleman wished them to support him in making this road. But that was precisely the function which the right hon. Gentleman was not called on to discharge; and if he would only leave it to the proper authorities to carry out metropolitan improvements, he would greatly facilitate the discharge of his own important duties, and spare the House a great many unsatisfactory discussions. The right hon. Gentleman had found a supporter in the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who sometimes assumed the whole management of the Office of Works on his own shoulders. That noble Lord said they were called on to say aye or no to a great metropolitan improvement. Well, but great metropolitan improvements had been by Act of Parliament delegated to another body. If, then, the proposed road were a great metropolitan improvement, it was for the Metropolitan Board of Works to decide whether it should be carried out. No doubt a great metropolitan improvement might be carried into one of the Royal Parks, and in that case the right hon. Gentleman would be bound to see that no damage was done to them. But there was a broad and distinct line of demarcation between the duties of the Metropolitan Board of Works and those of the right hon. Gentleman, which ought not to be transgressed in the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had attempted on that occasion. They now understood that the Government, seeing the temper of the House, were not anxious to persevere with one portion of this embryo Bill, which dealt with metropolitan improvements, but they were still anxious that the Committee should enable them to form a temporary road. The noble Lord asked why the parishes should pay for the road? The answer was, that the law of the land required the parishes to make and maintain the roads. But was it necessary that any temporary communication should be provided? The suggestion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster (Sir John Shelley) was founded in good sense and upon fact. The majority of hon. Members would recollect what had happened at the Exhibition of 1851. He believed there was no great likelihood of greater multitudes coming to the Exhibition of 1862 than came in 1851, and it was quite probable that the roads which were sufficient then would be sufficient in 1862. But, admitting that some increase of accommodation were necessary, why proceed by Bill? It was enough, if the outlay of a few hundreds was necessary, to lay the estimate on the table, take a vote for the amount, and the thing was done. If the proposal to make that objectionable road was considered in the light of a permanent metropolitan improvement, he should join the metropolitan Members in opposing it; and he sincerely trusted that would be the last time great metropolitan improvements were undertaken by the First Commissioner of Works.


said, that he believed the right hon. Gentleman to be one of those men who were more formidable to his friends than to his enemies. He (Lord Fermoy) had been one of the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman in endeavouring to get a road made across the park, but even those who were most anxious for such a communication, were quite opposed to his engineering crotchet, which, indeed, was distasteful to everybody but to some few individuals in his own office. The right hon. Gentleman hazarded the very principle of carrying a road from north to south across the park by adhering with intense obstinacy to a plan of his own. His plan would sever Kensington Gardens into two, and that he, for one, could never consent to. He quite concurred with the noble Lord who spoke last, that this engineering crotchet did not exactly come within the province of the right hon. Gentleman. He much preferred that the suggestion of the hon. Baronet the member for Finsbury should be adopted. He (Lord Fermoy) complained that the right hon. Gentleman had so placed his Bill before the Committee as to force those who disliked it to vote against the introduction of the Bill. He was not, however, prepared to go that length, believing that in committee it might be competent to introduce a clause to prevent the cutting up of Kensington Gardens; but if it was to be supposed that by voting for the introduction of the Bill the House was committed to the plan of the right hon. Gentleman, he for one could not support it.


said, that he strongly objected to the formation of a permanent road across Kensington Gardens. There was scarcely a feature in the metropolis worthy the notice of foreigners except the parks and those gardens, and he could never consent to sacrifice them merely to promote the success of the present Bill. A temporary road might, if necessary, be made along the west side of Rotten Row, which would simply cause slight temporary inconvenience to equestrians. The right hon. Gentleman had not answered the question raised by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton). That was not a matter merely affecting the interests of Tyburnia or Belgravia, but was one of national importance. He wished to know whether the Bill was intended for the making of a permanent or a temporary road, or whether the two were to be combined in it?


said, that after the appeal made to him by the noble Lord the member for Marylebone, he (Mr. Cowper) felt himself very much in the position of the camel whose back was broken by the last feather. In the quarter from which he had expected staunch support he had met with strong opposition. Seeing that the feeling of the Committee was so decidedly against a permanent road, he should only be wasting time by persevering with the Bill. But before the Chairman left the chair, he wished to make one observation on what had fallen from the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Manners). The noble Lord had said that he had got into that scrape by going beyond his province. He must take the liberty of reminding the noble Lord that it was quite within his province to propose a Bill relating to the Royal property. The noble Lord had spoken as if the Metropolitan Board of Works had jurisdiction in the Royal Parks; but he must have been aware that that Board would have no right to introduce a Bill to affect those parks, or to make any road beyond its own jurisdiction. As far, however, a3 the opinion of the Metropolitan Board of Works went, he begged to inform the noble Lord that he had received a vote of thanks from that body with reference to this measure. Therefore, as far as that Board represented the Metropolis, he should have expected the cordial support of the Metropolis to the Bill. But he found that different views were taken by the Metropolitan Board of Works and by the metropolitan Members of that House, and he felt that he could not do better than withdraw his Motion. He would, however, provide for the other branch of the subject—namely, the arrangements to be made for the temporary passage of vehicles to the Exhibition, by proposing an Estimate for that purpose. He thought the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury had taken a very sanguine view as to the expense of such a work, but still its cost would be moderate.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

House resumed.

House adjourned at a quarter before Eleven o'clock.