HC Deb 28 May 1878 vol 240 cc854-7

in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill for the disafforestation of Epping Forest, and the preservation and management of the uninclosed parts there of as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public, and for other purposes, said, the House had had, on more than one occasion, the subject of Epping Forest before it. The old argument had been that inclosures were beneficial to the public; and, in consequence of an opinion of the Law Officers of 1853, the rights of the Crown over 3,000 or 4,000 acres had been sold, and the lords of manors had made a great number of inclosures. But, in the year 1860, an Address to the Crown was carried, expressing a hope that the sale of Crown rights over the Forest would be prevented. In 1865, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had a Bill passed, transferring the Crown rights from the Office of Woods and Forests to that of the First Commissioner of Works. Subsequent inclosures kept public attention alive to the subject; and in 1870 the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) carried an Address to the Crown, to the effect that the Common should be preserved as an open space for the enjoyment of the public—the first time that principle had been recognized in the House of Commons. As a result of that Address, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), brought in a Bill which he said would, by a compromise, secure the just rights of the public. The Bill was brought in late in the Session and did not pass, and, in the following Session, a Resolution adverse to the proposal of the Bill, which would, it was said, only secure 600 acres to the public, was moved by his right hon. Friend the Member for South Hampshire, and carried by a large majority. This was followed by a Bill appointing a Commission to inquire into the question, and the next year another Bill was passed, under which certain suits which had been instituted were stayed, save one called the City suit, in which the Master of the Rolls made a decree with respect to the right of the commoners in 1874. The matter was argued at considerable length before the Commissioners, and a preliminary Report was made in 1875. In 1877, a final Report was presented in the shape of a scheme which was before the Govern- ment at the commencement of the Session, and it then became a question with the Government how that scheme should be dealt with—whether it should be dealt with in the form of a Provisional Order, or in some other form. There were certain technical difficulties in the way of bringing the scheme forward in the ordinary form, and the Government had to consider what steps should be taken, anxious as it was that a final settlement should be made. The Act of 1871 contemplated a final settlement, and the Government thought that by introducing a Bill, without re-opening again the old difficulties, they might carry out the original intention. The Bill was drawn, and it handed over to the City the Forest to be preserved as an open space for the public for ever. Great care had been taken, and litigation would, it was hoped, be avoided. The Bill set up an arbitration to decide what were "gardens" and "curtilages," and what should be paid to the lords of manors. The case was one for agreement between the parties interested. He believed that the Government scheme had met with considerable favour by all who had interest in the suit before the Master of the Rolls. The Bill, he hoped, would prove a permanent settlement of a long-vexed question. When it was printed, it would be found that the measure would carry out the principal recommendations of the scheme suggested by the Commissioners. The hon. Member concluded by moving for leave to introduce the Bill.


expressed his satisfaction that the Government had brought in this Bill, and hoped it might be a final solution of this most important question, and would permanently secure to the public this great open Forest, and an end put to one of the most gigantic systems of land robbery that there had ever been in this country.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


said, that there had been great difficulty at first in approving the measure, and it might still be necessary to wait and consider what were its provisions.

Motion agreed to.

Bill for the disafforestation of Epping Forest, and the preservation and management of the uninclosed parts thereof as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public; and for other purposes, ordered to be brought in by Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON and Mr. NOEL.