HC Deb 14 May 1868 vol 192 cc287-90

observed that an Estimate had been given of the amount of money required for the purchase of the site and other expenses for the new Courts of Law; and he wished to call attention, in connection with this subject, to the importance of providing suitable and convenient approaches to the New Palace of Justice. The Estimate for the site was £1,000,000, and for the buildings £2,000,000. Here was an outlay of £3,000,000; but what provision had been made for the approaches? None. The Courts of Law at Westminster and in the City of London would eventually be concentrated on this spot; and the amount of traffic when the new Courts were in action would be immense. It was therefore the duty of the Government, who had the management of this affair, to see that, if these magnificent buildings were placed in the centre of London, sufficient approaches were provided. There was a sort of Middle Row in the Strand between the two churches east of Somerset House. That block of buildings ought to be removed. Again, from the north and north-east the whole traffic must come through Chancery Lane. The gentlemen of the law had drawn a sort of cordon across London which much impeded the traffic of the metropolis; for the Temple, Lincoln's Inn, and Gray's Inn, occupied nearly the whole space from the River Thames to the King's Road, the only openings for traffic east and west being Holborn and Fleet Street. No doubt it was said it would be time enough to make suitable approaches when the Courts were completed; but the buildings required to be pulled down would be trebled in value by that time. The House could not too soon admit the fact that it would be necessary to make large and wide approaches to these Courts. The only approach to the building that would be adequate would be from the Strand; but even this approach could not be reached from the west without passing through the narrow portion of the street caused by the encroachment of Holywell Street. A wide street ought to be made on the west side of the new Courts from the Strand to Lincoln's Inn Fields, and continued to Holborn through Gate Street and Little Turnstile; and another street formed into Holborn through Great Turnstile. He trusted that the Government would not leave these approaches to be considered at the last moment. A comparatively small expenditure now would save a large outlay hereafter; for the public would not be satisfied that the new Courts of Justice, erected at an outlay of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, should be surrounded with narrow lanes and impassable streets.


said, he quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for London. In compensation cases for improvements where railways or new streets had been made, the owners of houses always expected three, four, or five times as much as they would previously have been glad to accept. He thought at first that the site of the new Courts of Justice was admirably chosen; but this advantage was now likely to be more than counter-balanced by the difficulty of access to the Courts. When it was proposed to put these Courts in a given position, one of the first questions should have been — How are you to get at them? Parliament should not only have provided for the con- struction of the Courts, but should also have given powers to purchase houses and land so as to make streets by which they would have been approachable. But when anything in the nature of a national improvement was proposed the Legislature of this country had never yet perceived the wisdom of doing the thing all at once. A truly honest Report had been drawn up by two well-known and eminent surveyors— Mr. Pownall and Mr. Shaw — who showed that they were determined to do their duty—and in that Report it was stated that there was not one plan for the New Courts which they could approve. From what he had heard from competent authorities he should say that the site was decidedly ill-chosen. As all the competing architects also were invited to send in plans combining a handsome external appearance with proper internal accommodation, it seemed to be an unfair proceeding towards the unsuccessful competitors to club together two plans — one selected on account of its external appearance, and the other for its internal arrangements. He was further informed that, in order to provide sufficient accommodation, light, and air on the site which had been chosen, it would be necessary to take down one side of Chancery Lane. He wished, before any further expense was incurred, that a full inquiry should be made into these matters; and he believed it would be found that the increased expenditure would as much exceed the Estimate as that for the new Houses of Parliament, unless in the first instance they grappled fairly with the question. The completion of the building without proper approaches would remind every one of the story of an amateur gentleman who built a fine house, but forgot to make a staircase in it; and he would suggest whether it might not be advisable to reconsider the project originally entertained in that House, of having a magnificent Palace of Justice erected on the side of the Thames Embankment, to which there would be easy access both by land and water. In making this suggestion, he did not propose anything which would put the country to great expense, for he was told that the site at present selected had been purchased at a comparatively small price, and might be sold at a profit. The Government ought to ascertain from the Metropolitan Board of Works upon what terms they would accommodate the community with, space for the erection of the Law Courts facing the river. He had reason for surmising that, if the Government communicated with that Board, they might, within a short period, obtain a most admirable site for that purpose; and, in that case, he trusted that English architects would be found capable of producing a building which, both in respect to its interior arrangements and its external appearance would be worthy of this great nation.


said, he was not quite sure that it was so very desirable to facilitate access to the Courts of Law, as, generally speaking, the less people had to do with them the better. He urged on the Government the necessity of their endeavouring to keep some faith with the public as to the expense of the proposed Palace of Justice, and for that purpose care should be taken that the estimates were not exceeded.

Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," agreed to.