HC Deb 31 March 1882 vol 268 cc462-75

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Charles Forster.)


said, he thought that the ground of the opposition which he had to offer to the Bill might be stated very shortly. In the first place, he wished to explain that he gave an entire adherence to the principles which usually governed the proceedings of the House with respect to Private Bills—namely, that unless some novel principle were involved, or unless some very special conditions existed in a particular case, it was desirable, as a rule, to send a Bill upstairs in order that it might be threshed out by a Select Committee. That was undoubtedly the rule, and he should be glad to follow it now; but he believed he should be able to show the House that special circumstances existed in this case, and that there were vital principles involved to which the House ought not to assent without full consideration. The fact that the House consented to read these Bills a second time at all was a proof that the House desired that, when necessary, they should receive full consideration. He admitted, however, that the case of sending a Bill upstairs was somewhat strengthened when the Bill itself was in the nature of an Omnibus Bill, because they could not reject such a Bill without defeating a good many parts of the scheme which they had no real wish to reject. He had endeavoured to get rid of this difficulty by placing on the Paper a Resolu- tion precisely defining the limits of his opposition; and, having done so, he was ready to say to the promoters of the Bill that if they were prepared to meet him by striking out that part of the Bill which dealt with the particular portion of the line to which objection was raised, he would at once withdraw his opposition to the Bill so amended, and allow it to be read a second time and sent to a Committee upstairs. He had heard it stated that there existed a strong feeling in Norwich in regard to the defective nature of the present station accommodation. He could very well believe it. He could very well understand that great advantage would accrue to the inhabitants of Norwich from the construction of a central station; but, as a matter of fact, it would be easy to show that this particular scheme was not the only one possible, and that by rejecting one part of the Bill they would only be postponing the matter for a year, and enabling the promoters to apply to Parliament another year for an amended scheme. The grounds of his opposition to the Bill were clearly expressed in the Resolution on the Paper. In the first place, it was contended that the Bill unnecessarily interfered with the precincts of Norwich Cathedral. There had been circulated among the Members of the House within the last day or two a map which he ventured to describe as a very misleading map. It had been prepared by the promoters of the Bill, and its object was to show that although, technically, the line would interfere with the Cathedral precincts, yet, as a matter of fact, it passed at some distance from the actual precincts of the Cathedral. The truth of the matter was, that it was proposed to carry the line through an inclosure commonly known as the Cathedral precincts, although he readily admitted that the part of the inclosure through which the line would run was not occupied by Cathedral buildings. But he might venture to rest his case in regard to this Cathedral property entirely on the tenderness which Parliament always manifested in regard to places of this description. That tenderness might be based on the higher ground of the associations which these places created in the minds of all of them, even in these somewhat too practical times; or it might be based on the desire to preserve the privacy of places devoted to repose and study, and the desire to keep open spaces in the neighbourhood of our large towns. But, whatever the feeling might be, nobody would dispute the special tenderness of Parliament in this matter. If they wanted an instance, it would be found in the case of the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, and the grounds and gardens connected with them. Parliament had always anxiously guarded the people connected with those Colleges from the intrusion of the Railway Companies. It was upon similar grounds that he trusted the House would show its tenderness in regard to the present Bill. The fact was, that he was opposing the Bill not mainly upon the extent of the interference with these precincts, but on the ground of the principle of the interference; because he believed, if this part of the Bill were to be passed, the thin end of the wedge would be introduced, and a vital precedent would be created, which might be used in a damaging manner hereafter in dealing with similar cases. The second ground of opposition was the interference of the Bill with the historical gateway. Now, the gateway within the precincts of Norwich Cathedral was one which belonged formerly to a Benedictine Monastery, and it was supposed to bear date as long ago as the beginning of the 14th century. It was one to which a special interest was attached by antiquarians; and yet it was included, he was told, within the limits of deviation of this Bill. It was quite true, as stated by the promoters, that it was not intended to pull down the gateway. The promoters alleged that they were not going to interfere with it at all. But what was the fact? They were going to run an embankment, from 18 to 25 feet in height, immediately in front of this gateway, isolating it entirely from the rest of the precincts and the close, and shutting it up in a narrow space between the river and the embankment, entirely destroying all the beauties of the spot which had been so much appreciated. He did not wonder, then, that a strong feeling had arisen in Norwich and elsewhere against the Bill. All of them knew that the feeling was not confined to Norwich, but that it extended all over the country. The Society of Antiquaries in London felt strongly on the subject, and desired most anxiously that this gateway should be preserved. Of course, they would all admit that if it was absolutely necessary for the sake of public improvement, and if it could be shown that the requirements of the public were paramount, and that, in spite of all the objections he had urged, it was essential that the railway should be brought in at this particular spot, then he would be one of the first to admit that the Bill must be passed. But that was not so. Anybody who took the trouble to look at the map could satisfy himself in five minutes that the construction of the line in this particular spot was not in the least degree necessary, but that a small deviation would carry it across the river at another point, without interfering with the gateway, and consequently removing all objection. It was on these grounds that he ventured to move the Resolution which stood in his name, believing the House did not desire to establish so dangerous a precedent; and that, while anxious to give all reasonable facilities for the extension of railway enter prize where it could be proved to be necessary, the same jealous care which had always been displayed where interests of such great importance were affected would continue to be exercised.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is not desirable to proceed with a Bill which unnecessarily interferes with the Cathedral Precincts at Norwich, and with the ancient historical gateway there,"—(Mr. E. Stanhope,)—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House had entirely covered the ground which he (Mr. Thorold Rogers) had proposed to occupy in the Motion for the rejection of the Bill which stood on the Paper in his name. If the House accepted the Amendment, as he trusted it would, his Motion would be rendered altogether superfluous. But, beyond the points urged by the hon. Gentleman, it was as well to add this also—that, although the course which the line was proposed to take would only touch portions of the precincts of very little im- portance, yet, as it was intended to construct a central station in Norwich, which would be very close to the Cathedral buildings, it would seem to be absolutely impossible but that, at some time or other, the contingency to which the hon. Gentleman referred must come, and the extension of the central station, with sidings in the direction of the Cathedral precincts, would be inevitable. He did not object to the Bill on general grounds. He knew it was necessary to the town and city of Norwich that there should be a central station, and he disclaimed all hostility to the Bill. But he did think that, under the circumstances, the House should be invited to pronounce an opinion whether they would sanction an entirely novel course in regard to the lines on which railways in future were to be constructed; so that if they were to permit Railway Companies to invade these open spaces, they should in this case do it with their eyes open, before sending the Bill to the House of Lords.


said, he had the honour to act as Chairman of the Committee by which the extension of this line into Norwich was sanctioned two years ago, and he therefore hoped that he would be allowed to state a few facts. The railway was one which had had a stormy existence during the time it had been before the world. It was originally a small line through Lynn to Fakenham; but the promoters saw that it was possible by its means to open out a fresh communication between Norwich and the great Midland districts. It was strongly approved by the landowners, who were anxious to break down the monopoly of the Great Eastern Railway Company, and in spite of great opposition and contest, lasting over four or five weeks, the Committee unanimously decided to sanction the Bill. They were told that there was not the slightest chance of the line ever being made; but within the two years which had since elapsed he believed it was rapidly approaching completion, and that it would shortly be opened into Norwich itself. He need not say the line passed through a very important district—important to the agricultural industries of Norwich, and to the much larger connections it opened up. It was now naturally exciting a great deal of alarm by the proposal to enter, in however small a way, into the Cathedral precincts; but he thought that a greater objection to it in the minds of many was that it had committed the greater audacity of attempting to compete with the Great Eastern Railway in that district. As the line was originally passed, a station was sanctioned in the north part of the city of Norwich, and one chief recommendation of that station at the time was that, although not central or convenient, it would be the means of clearing away some very bad rookeries and some very poor buildings which it was most desirable to remove. But it was always felt that it would be a great advantage if the station could be brought to the southern side of the town, in the hope of connecting it with the other railways. The reason of the alteration now proposed was that it was felt desirable to bring this railway, feeding a very important agricultural district, into immediate communication with the Cattle Market of Norwich. That was felt to be a most important object by the Corporation of Norwich, who would, no doubt, be represented in the House that day, and who, by a large majority, had passed a resolution approving of the Bill. At the same time, he could not wonder for a moment at the jealousy which had been excited by the proposal, both on the part of the Dean, who was the natural guardian of the Cathedral and of its precincts, and of the public, whose interest was naturally and laudably on behalf of these ancient monuments of which the people were so proud in England, and for the preservation of which the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) was constantly asking the sanction of Parliament. But the question was really whether they were in a fit condition in that House to decide the matter on ex parte statements, either on one side or the other. If they took upon themselves the responsibility of accepting the Amendment, the case made out in its favour ought to be an absolutely unanswerable one. In this case there was something, at all events, to be said on the other side. His hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill said that it unnecessarily interfered with the precincts of the Cathedral at Norwich. He (Sir John Kennaway) held in his hand a letter from a Norwich clergyman—Prebendary Brereton—in which that gentle- man said that the proposed railway would be nearly a quarter of a mile from the Cathedral, and that, although it crossed a portion of the precincts, it would do them no injury. Indeed, it was in the very position of the railway at Oxford, with which the hon. Gentleman had compared the proposed line. It would no more interfere with the Cathedral precincts at Norwich than the line at Oxford did with the gardens and Colleges there. And, further, he was told that these precincts at Norwich were neither ornamental nor attractive, being nothing more than tumble-down buildings and groups of pigsties. Nor was it intended to isolate or intercept the interesting old water-view; but the railway would pass at a convenient distance from it, and so high as to leave the gateway uninjured. He did not vouch for these statements; but, as he had told the House, there was a Norwich clergyman who did vouch for them. Of course, the statement about the thin end of the wedge they had often heard before. This, however, was a case that ought to be decided on special merits; and where there were these strong differences of opinion, the best place for settling them was a Select Committee upstairs, where every statement could be thoroughly examined, and a fair hearing given to all the parties concerned.


said, he sympathized with the feeling of the Dean and Chapter with regard to the sacredness of these precincts, and he should certainly support the Amendment of his hon. Friend, if he did not hope that he could see his way to a very fair compromise between the Dean and Chapter and the promoters of this railroad. He had been spoken to on both sides of the question, and he therefore desired to effect a compromise. The question was this. There was really a double opposition to the proposed line. There was the opposition of the Great Eastern Railway with regard to competition in Norwich, and also the opposition of the Dean and Chapter, founded on the more reasonable grounds so eloquently stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope). He wished to have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Lyon Play fair) for a few moments while he stated what the nature of the compro- mise he had to suggest was. The objections raised to the line by the Dean and Chapter were because the line went right across the Cathedral precincts, and proposed by an embankment to shut out the water-gate. That water-gate was a monument of great historical value, and therefore, in the first place, the Dean and Chapter did not wish the precincts to be touched; and secondly, they did not wish to have the water-gate shut out from view. He was authorized by the promoters to state that if his hon. Friend would withdraw his Amendment, they would undertake entirely to abandon the line through the precincts of the Cathedral, to carry the line over the river and back again, so as to skirt the precincts without in any way affecting the Cathedral property, except in two small corners, which it would be absolutely necessary to cross in order to avoid blocking up a public road and destroying some vinegar works, the compensation for which would be very large. By this means there would be no embankment in the Cathedral precincts at all, and no shutting out of the water-gate from the public view. The deviation would go to the other side of the river, and the line would run then upon the south side, and thus approach the central station which it was proposed to make near the Cattle Market. The promoters proposed to carry out this compromise in the following way. There would be some difficulty in carrying it out this year, unless they could make private arrangements with the owners of property. They would therefore withdraw that portion of the Bill this year, on condition that the Dean and Chapter would not oppose their application next year for a Bill in the terms he now suggested—namely, to leave the precincts entirely free except at these two corners which it was a matter of public necessity to take. The water-gate would not be interfered with, and the embankment and other works would be carried to the other side of the river. He thought the offer was a fair one, and he hoped his hon. Friend, on the assurance he now gave, would withdraw his opposition to the Bill.


said, he held in his hands a Petition from the Corporation of Norwich in favour of the Bill. After referring to the project contained in the Bill, it went on to state that the proposed railroad would be of great advantage to the city. It had been stated by the hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill that there was considerable alarm in the locality in regard to the provisions of the measure. He (Mr. Tillett) was rather surprised to hear such a statement; and it was a singular fact that no Member representing the locality had come forward to move the rejection of the Bill in the place of the hon. Gentleman. He observed on the Paper three Notices of Amendment—one by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope), another by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Thorold Rogers), and a third by the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton); neither of whom in any way represented the district. Surely it was remarkable, if so strong a feeling existed in Norwich and the neighbourhood against the measure, or against the particular part of it to which reference had been made, that neither of the Members for Norfolk, nor either of the Members for the City of Norwich, had been induced to come forward to move the rejection of the Bill. The fact was, that the strong feeling in Norwich was in favour of the Bill. The inhabitants desired to have a central station, as the hon. Gentleman had rightly observed; and he (Mr. Tillett) thanked the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Kennaway), who was Chairman of the Committee two years ago, for the reference he had made to the actual facts of the case, because he was quite convinced that a considerable number of hon. Members who had cheered the statements made in opposition to the Bill did not know the locality, or the nature of what was called the contemplated invasion, or what was the real aspect of this picturesque water-gate. The fact was, that there would be, as things stood, three railways in the city of Norwich—one of them with a station at a place Heigham, in the north-west corner of the city; another with a station called Victoria, on the south side; and a third in connection with the Company opposing the present Bill. It was extremely inconvenient and perplexing to the public to have these distinct and distant termini for approaching the city of Norwich; and this Bill proposed to construct a central station, and to extend the terminus of the Lynn and Fakenham Rail- way from somewhere about Heigham in the north-west corner to the foot of the Cattle Market. Norwich being the Metropolis of a large agricultural district, and one of the principal Cattle Markets in the Kingdom, it would be of great advantage not to Norfolk only, but to the Northern and Midland districts, to have this station constructed. It was because the Bill proposed to give to Norwich the prospect, and also the assurance, of a central station that the people of Norwich were strongly in favour of its being sent to a Committee. In 1845 the Great Eastern Railway Company, or rather the Associated Companies that were afterwards amalgamated under the name of the Great Eastern, did actually project an extension of this railway to this very spot, or near to it. They applied to Parliament for a Bill in 1845, and obtained the sanction of Parliament to it. They thereby recognized that it was important and desirable for their own interests and the interests of the community that this central station should be made. But from 1845 down to the present time not a single step had been taken in the direction of carrying out that which was the implied purpose of the Railway Company. And now that Norwich saw the chance and the promise of a central station, the inhabitants were very anxious indeed that the House should not allow the Bill to be strangled in the way now proposed, but that it should be sent upstairs and be inquired into, so that the real interests of the public and the real interests of the agriculturists might be considered in the matter, and that it should not be made a mere question of bargaining between the Dean and Chapter and the promoters of the undertaking. He held it to be exceedingly inconvenient that questions should be raised upon the details of Private Bills in this way. The House was already overcharged with Public Business, and questions of urgent importance in which the entire nation was concerned could hardly be advanced a single step. There were now before the House some 180 or 200 Private Bills upon which questions of this kind could be raised and the Business of the country be almost put a stop to. That would not only be a source of great inconvenience to the House, but it would be a source of injustice to the country, because hon. Gentlemen would attend the Sitting of the House at 4 o'clock who had received private letters and been invited to discuss these questions upon ex parte statements, without having been able to hear the evidence of the engineers or to look at the proper plans. If this course were to be sanctioned, there was extreme peril that undertakings of the greatest importance to particular localities and to the community at large might be put an end to by an opposition raised in this way. He had no wish to pronounce an opinion in favour of every detail of the present Bill. If it could be shown that it was not necessary for the line to go through the precincts of the close; if there was a wanton and unnecessary invasion of what was called the sacred close; then let a Committee ascertain the fact on the evidence of the engineers, and let them decide accordingly. But the question ought not to be decided by the House upon a one-sided statement. He was able to confirm the assertion already made, that this railway did not propose to go within a quarter of a mile of the Cathedral at the point where it passed the property of the Dean and Chapter. He believed that 400 yards, or thereabouts, was the distance at which it passed the meadows, and it did not touch a single building upon the property of the Dean and Chapter. It came up to a street called Cathedral Street, at a distance of more than 300 yards from the Cathedral. He was prepared to concede that if the line unnecessarily intruded upon the privacy and seclusion of the Cathedral precincts, it ought to be resisted; but that was a question for a Committee upstairs, and he should not complain if, after hearing all the evidence, a Committee arrived at the opinion that such an objection was a fatal objection to the Bill. What he objected to was, that in that House, upon mere ex parte statements, they should be called upon, without having before them the substantial facts of the case, to reject the Bill.


said, that, by the indulgence of the House, he wished to say one word in regard to the compromise which had been offered by his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff). He was afraid that he was not able to accept that compromise. The proposal of his hon. Friend was, first of all, that the line authorized to be constructed by Part No. 6 of the Bill should be withdrawn for the present year. So far he had no objection to make. But his hon. Friend went further, and proposed that he (Mr. Stanhope) should give an undertaking that no opposition should be given by the Dean and Chapter, or any other person in whose interests he had been speaking, next year, when a Bill was to be brought forward for a railway which would cut the Cathedral close in two different places. [Sir H. DRUMMOND WOLFF: Only two corners.] It must be obviously clear that he could not accept a conditional scheme of which he knew nothing whatever upon a mere statement of this kind by his hon. Friend. Such a scheme, when submitted to Parliament, might be found to be in the highest degree objectionable; and, therefore, he must reluctantly press the Resolution.


said, he should not have troubled the House if it had not been for the speech of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Tillett), who had stated that no Member who had any connection with the county of Norfolk had been found to put down his name in opposition to the Bill. Now, when he looked at the Notice Paper, and found that three Notices had already been given for the rejection of the Bill, he considered it unnecessary, although a Norfolk man, to add another, or otherwise he should undoubtedly have done so. It was scarcely necessary to remind the House that this was not a case of opposition to the whole Bill. The Company promoting the Bill had a station already at Heigham, and the opposition was only directed to a portion of the present scheme—the portion delineated on the map by a red line. No objection was raised to the construction of a line to Norwich from the station at Heigham, but only to that portion of it which ran through the precincts of the Cathedral. He agreed with his hon. Friend on the Front Bench, the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope), in all the objections he had so eloquently urged against the invasion of the precincts of the Cathedral, and also to the contemplated appropriation of open places in that already crowded city. At the same time, he should have thought that the compromise suggested by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) would have been in many respects a reasonable one, because the railroad would then be carried on the opposite side of the river, and there could be no very great objection to the slight invasion of the Cathedral property which would then he necessary. The junior Member for Norwich (Mr. Tillett) said the great object of promoting the line was to bring the station into the Cattle Market in the centre of the city. He should have thought that the Corporation of Norwich would themselves have been extremely jealous of having this space in the centre of the city occupied by a station of that kind, and that they would have preferred a station in another and more convenient place, exactly opposite the station of the Great Eastern Railway Company, which led to Yarmouth and the Eastern Coast. He felt it necessary to point out that if the Bill was to pass in its present form, and if this was to become a great cattle line, passing cattle through Norwich to the Northern and Midland districts, it was quite obvious that an increase of station accommodation would be required as the cattle trade developed, and if that accommodation could not be found in the city it must be found somewhere close at hand. They would not be able to obtain this increased accommodation in the direction of the river, as the hon. Member for Norwich had shown; and if it was hereafter found necessary to provide it, the provision must be made not on the river side, but by further encroachment upon the precincts of the Cathedral. He thought that was a fatal objection against allowing the Bill to pass in its present shape. At the same time, he would repeat that the compromise which had been suggested was not an unreasonable one to consider. As to the question in dispute being one between two Railway Companies, he had nothing to do with that. He had no interest in either of the Companies, and he ventured to think that getting two railroads into Norwich might, after all, be of no very great advantage to the citizens of Norwich, so far as competition was concerned. Hon. Members knew very well, from past experience, that even where the public had two Railway Companies to deal with, those Companies had only to put their heads together, and the public found themselves ground between two millstones instead of by only one.


said, he thought the promoters of the Bill must see that there was a strong feeling in the House against interfering with the precincts of the Cathedral more than was absolutely necessary. The compromise suggested by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) was practically a new suggestion, and was altogether outside the limits of deviation contained in the Bill. He would suggest that the promoters should withdraw Part 6 of the Bill, which authorized the construction of the works that were objected to, and go on with the other parts of the Bill against which there was no contention. If this suggestion were accepted the Bill might be read a second time, and the promoters would be able to bring forward a Bill next year without any pledge on the part of the Dean and Chapter. He would, therefore, suggest that the promoters should give an undertaking that Part 6 of the Bill should be withdrawn, and that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) should then withdraw his opposition to the Bill.


said, he had no right to speak again; but, with the indulgence of the House, perhaps he might be permitted to say that the promoters of the Bill authorized him to state that, in accordance with the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Lyon Playfair), they would withdraw that portion of the Bill which affected the precincts of the Cathedral.


, as Vice Chairman of the Company who were promoting the Bill, said, he would be happy to give a guarantee on their part that that portion of the measure which referred to the precincts of the Cathedral of Norwich should be withdrawn.


said, that, upon that understanding, he begged leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.

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