§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, that as some misconceptions seemed to exist in regard to the object and scope of this Bill, he thought it would be as well that he should, in moving the second reading of it, say a few words by way of explanation. A great deal had been said and written, outside the House, in regard to the Bill and many people thought it was an attempt on the part of the Railway Company, for the benefit of themselves and their shareholders, to take away a portion of Epping Forest which had been dedicated to the public for ever, and in that way to infringe the provisions of an Act of Parliament. Now, nothing could be more foreign to the mind of the Great Eastern Company, or more contrary to the fact; and he thought he would only be assisting the House in forming a judgment on the subject if he were to state, in as few words as possible, what the actual facts of the case were. In 1878 an Act of Parliament was passed, which dedicated Epping Forest to the public for ever, and vested the management of the Forest in the Corporation of London, under the name of Conservators. The Conservators were to manage the Forest, and see that the intentions of Parliament, in regard to it, were properly and duly carried out. After having had some experience of the management of the Forest the Conservators found that the public—which really meant the poorer classes of London, were unable, with the existing means of communication, to have any real enjoyment of the greater part of it. At the present moment the railway communication to the best and most beautiful, and by far the larger portion of the Forest, did not proceed further than Chingford, and was at a distance of three miles from High Beech, and the greater portion of the people conveyed by rail instead of being able to enjoy themselves, and to derive benefit from the beauties of the scenery of that lovely portion of the Forest, were compelled to remain at Chingford, to the 160 benefit of the owners of the public-houses there, and certainly not to the advantage of themselves. Such being the case, the Corporation of London felt it necessary that, in order to enable the public to reach the Forest, some extension of the railway should take place, to a convenient distance of the most beautiful part of it. Therefore, the Great Eastern Company, whose line served that district, had, in conjunction and with the full approval of the Conservators of the Forest, projected the line of railway, which formed the Bill now before the House. This line of railway proceeded from Chingford to High Beech, and in so doing it had to intersect a small arm of low-lying land, forming part of the Forest. For the purposes of the line it would be necessary to take about nine acres, and no more, of this land. The 200 acres which the opponents of the Bill said would be cut off from the public would be thrown entirely open to the public, by the construction of three archways, or, should the Conservators wish it, of a greater number. The embankment, upon which the line was to run, would not be, as was alleged, 30 feet high, but at the highest point would only be 21 feet high; and it was to be planted with such ornamental trees as the Conservators, from time to time, directed, so that this particular part would really form an ornamental feature of the Forest. At the present time this land was swampy, low-lying, and ill-drained, and it was impossible for people to walk across it, except in the finest state of the weather. When the line was made, it would be properly drained, and the promoters proposed to run a high road along it intersected by paths running under the arches; and therefore, as a matter of the fact, this portion of the Forest, which it was now almost impossible for the public to enter, except in the finest state of the weather, would be open to the public at all times of the year. It would, therefore, be seen that in promoting this Bill the Great Eastern Railway Company came forward in that House with the full consent of the Conservators, who had charge of the Forest for the benefit of the public. There had been a good deal of opposition to the Bill, and from a variety of quarters. The opposition comprised several learned Professors, a great many butterfly fanciers, and a considerable number of 161 gentlemen who used the Forest to a large extent, in the pursuit of the insect tribe. These gentlemen, by a variety of misrepresentations, had unquestionably induced a larger number of persons than themselves to join in opposition to the Bill. He should like, therefore, to call the attention of the House to those who were in favour of the Bill. The Bill, as he had said, was opposed by a small number of interested persons. In favour of the Bill, Petitions had been presented, first of all, on account of the Great Eastern Railway Company by 16,000 persons living in the Metropolis, and including 2,000 ministers, managers of Sunday Schools, superintendents of the Band of Hope Unions, and persons connected with educational, temperance, and social agencies, representing, in the aggregate, somewhat more than 300,000 adults and children. These persons were unanimous in favour of the Bill, and he should like to give the House the names of a few of them. In the first place, there was the Suffragan Bishop of East London, the Bishop of Bedford, the Vicar of East Clapton, Dr. Bernardo, whose name would be well known in that House; Mr. E. North Buxton, one of the Verderers of the Forest, and Chairman of the London School Board; the Rector of Stepney, and many leading men connected with the Church of England Temperance Society; the Church of England Band of Hope Unions of the Tower Hamlets, Hackney, and Finsbury; the Chairman of the North-East London, North London, and East London Auxiliary Sunday School Unions, as well as the President of the Sunday School Union of the whole of London. He might mention another fact which would carry great weight. The other day the Metropolitan Board of Works met to discuss this Bill, and the Board decided, by a majority, not to take any part against it. It was stated at the time that a few years ago many members of the Board would have opposed the Bill; but, upon making inquiries, they had been converted into supporters of it. The Bill was also supported by Mr. Munro, Chairman of the District Board of Works of Whitechapel, and a good exponent of the feeling of the working classes; and by Mr. Turner, of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, which parish, as the House well know, comprised a densely populated district; also by Mr. Selway, 162 who stated that he himself was an opponent of the Bill two or three years ago, but that he was now strongly in its favour. He, therefore, thought he had showed that a large portion of those entitled to represent the feelings and wishes of the poorer classes in London were decidedly in favour of the Bill; and it rested with those who would presently get up and speak on behalf of the opponents, to show who they were, and how far the House ought to listen to their opinion. All the promoters wished, as a Company, was that the Bill, as in every ordinary case of Private Bill legislation, should be allowed to pass a second reading and go before a Committee upstairs. He felt that it was altogether impossible for hon. Members—the bulk of whom had, perhaps, never visited Epping Forest—to be able to form any decision as to the merits of such a Bill as this; but he felt perfectly convinced that if the Bill were once committed to a Committee of the House, that Committee, after due inquiry, and hearing evidence upon both sides of the question, would not do otherwise than pass the measure. He also felt that if the measure were rejected by the House at the present time, the House would be directly infringing the intentions of the Act of Parliament, in dedicating Epping Forest to the people for ever. ["No!"] Hon. Members might say "No;" but he said "Yes." It was not for the use of a few interested persons, but it was intended for the benefit of the whole of the poor of London; and the great mass of the poor in London were now debarred from having the free enjoyment of this ground, which had been dedicated only a short time ago, by Her Majesty the Queen herself, for their use for ever. He begged to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Lord Claud Hamilton.)
§ MR. BRYCE
said, he rose to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice in regard to this Bill. The Resolution was as follows:—That this House, while expressing no opinion as to the propriety of making a Railway to High Beech, disapproves of any scheme which involves the taking for the purposes of a Railway of any part of the surface of Epping Forest, which, by 'The Epping Forest Act, 1S78,' was directed to by 'kept at all times 163 unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for I the enjoyment of the public.'He had put his opposition to the Bill in the form of a Resolution, because he thought that that was the best way of raising the true issue. Those who proposed the Bill endeavoured to represent the issue as if it were whether or not the Forest should be made accessible; but he, and those who agreed with him, said the true issue was whether the Forest should be sacrificed or kept for the enjoyment of the public. The promoters of the Bill had laid hold of some expressions which had been made use of by some naturalists, and they endeavoured to represent the opposition to the Bill as being due to a desire on the part of these naturalists to keep the Forest in a state of primitive seclusion. Now, whether the Forest ought to be kept secluded or not, was not the ground upon which he had given notice of opposition. His opposition was entirely based upon this fact—that however desirable it might be to make Epping Forest accessible, that object ought not to be purchased by injuring the Forest itself. His sympathies were entirely with the expressed wishes of the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Claud Hamilton), that the Forest should be made as accessible for the poor people of East London as possible. The more the Forest could be opened up the better, and those who proposed to open it up would always rind him prepared to give them a hearty' support. But on the question of the accessibility of the Forest he hoped he might be permitted to offer a few observations. The first was that the Forest was already accessible. This was not a Bill for opening up the Forest, but for making a railway to one particular spot—High Beech. There were no less than 13 stations already, and there was no part of the Forest more than two miles from one of these railway stations. Even the very place, High Beech itself, to which the railway was proposed to be made, was distant only a mile and a-half from one of these stations. Was it possible to contend, on such a state of facts, that the construction of a railway to High Beech was a matter of the first necessity, in order that the working classes might enjoy the Forest, or that the Sunday School children should be taken (here to ramble in it? The hon. 164 Member read a letter which he had received on Saturday from a clergyman of one of the poor parishes in the East of London, in which the writer stated, from the experience he had gained last summer in taking about 500 children through the Forest, the walk from Loughton Station to High Beech was one of the most enjoyable features of the day. The writer concluded by saying—I heartily wish you success in your opposition to the Bill, which is calculated to destroy the Forest.Even assuming, however, that High Beech should be made more accessible, he did not agree that there should be this further access to it, if it were only to be purchased by injuring the Forest. It was all very well to express a desire to carry people to High Beech; but if it were necessary to destroy the Forest they went to see in order to do so, they would be paying much too dear for it. Epping Forest was really the only large open space which now remained within a moderate distance of London. There were plenty of Parks like Battersea, and other suburban Parks, surrounded by villas and houses; but Epping Forest was the one spot in the neighbourhood of London which had been left in a state of primitive nature. In February, 1863, the House of Commons passed a Eesolution—That an humble Address be presented to tier Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that no sales to facilitate Inclosures be made of Crown Lands or Crown Forestal Rights, within fifteen miles of the Metropolis.This Resolution was passed after numerous Memorials to the House, and in February, 1870, there was another Address to Her Majesty, praying her—To take such measures as in Her judgment She may deem most expedient in order that Epping Forest may be preserved as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public.After the strenuous efforts which had been made to arouse the lords of the manor and the Government to a sense of their duty, it was too much to say now that Epping Forest was to be sacrificed in the interests of a Railway Company. It was said that the Bill ought to go to a Select Committee. He admitted that, as an ordinary rule, it was 165 desirable that Bills of this kind should be submitted to a Committee upstairs, in order that they might examine all questions of detail. But the present Bill did not raise any question of detail. The issue put to the House was entirely an issue of principle: and he submitted that the House itself was a far better tribunal for deciding questions of principle of this kind than a Select Committee. He had the case of another railway in his mind at this moment. If the Bill which enabled the Metropolitan District Railway Company to destroy the Thames Embankment, by putting up the ventilators now in course of construction, had ever been considered and discussed by the House, could it be supposed that it would ever have been allowed to pass? It was because it was allowed to go to a Committee, and there was no proper person to represent the interests of the public, that a great misfortune like this to the whole of Loudon had been suffered to pass without comment. He hoped, therefore, that the House would feel he was taking a proper course, when he asked for its opinion and judgment upon the question, and when he asked hon. Members to decide whether it was not their duty to take into consideration the interests of the public. He had already denied that he opposed the Bill in the interests of any particular individuals, or that he opposed it on behalf of particular landlords. It was said that the promoters only proposed to take nine acres of the Forest. But what were those nine acres? They were nine acres in one of the most beautiful parts of the Forest, and it was proposed to build and erect upon them an embankment which would destroy some of the most beautiful views of the Forest; while the embankment itself would cut off about 200 acres from the use of the public, and, therefore, it would to that extent diminish the enjoyment of the public, because there would no longer be free access hither and thither across it. He contended that a railway should never be made across a Forest of this kind for anything short of absolute necessity. This was not a case of absolute necessity; because it was quite possible to make a railway to High Beech without touching the Forest at all, either by diverging from the Chingford line, or by a branch from the main line near Ponder's End. The 166 question of expense was not a question which ought to be raised as against the interests of the public. The interests of the public were pre-eminent; and though a line might cost a few-thousand pounds more to make in another direction, it was for the interest of the public that they should be able to enjoy unimpaired the Forest which had been given to the people of London as their heritage. It was a priceless heritage—a heritage easily lost, and, when once lost, never to be recovered. Upon these grounds he asked the House to say that this heritage never should be lost, but that it should be preserved for the enjoyment of the people of this Metropolis for ever.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, while expressing no opinion as to the propriety of making a Railway to High Beech, disapproves of any scheme which involves the taking for the purposes of a Railway of any part of the surface of Epping Forest, which, by 'The Epping Forest Act, 1878,' was directed to be 'kept at all times unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for the enjoyment of the public,'"—(Mr. Bryce,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. THOROLD ROGERS
said, he thought that his hon. Friend who had last spoken had raised the proper issue upon the question, and the only issue, to his mind, that ought to be raised. He bore no animosity against the Great Eastern Railway Company. He believed that the Great Eastern Railway Company had been heavily mulcted in the price it had been compelled to pay for the land that it had to pass through; and he knew that its development had been, to a considerable extent, retarded by the action which had been taken by Parliament. He, therefore, had no personal feeling against the promoters of the Bill, and he was not animated by any idea of that kind whatever. He had, however, put down upon the Paper a Notice of his intention to move the rejection of the Bill; and he had done so simply because he thought it was inexpedient to take away part of the Forest within so short a time after the Legislature had, with the gracious assent of Her Majesty, dedicated it for ever to the people 167 of London. With regard to the opposition to the Bill, he presumed the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Claud Hamilton) had told them that he was interested in the Great Eastern Railway Company. He thought the House might gather that from the speech of the noble Lord. The noble Lord had, however, certainly appeared there in quite another capacity—namely, as the advocate of the Temperance Unions of North London. Now, he (Mr. Rogers) had had an interview with the managers of the Temperance Unions of North London the other day, and he had pointed out to them that it occurred to him it was quite possible, if this railway were constructed, and that part of the Forest thrown open, public-houses would very soon find their way there. At any rate, that had been the result of previous experience. It was said that the Bill only took away nine acres of the Forest; but that was not the point. The point was that, while the Railway Company took nine acres of the Forest away, it cut off an additional 200 acres. The noble Lord had spoken of a certain number of persons who were interested in the Forest for recreation purposes. Now, he (Mr. Rogers) presented a Petition, the other day, from nearly 1,000 bank clerks in the City of London against the Bill; and he presumed that it should be referred to a Select Committee, if the Bill passed a second reading, to examine into the merits of the Bill. He also heard, on the best authority, that not less than 10,000 working men of London were engaged in the study of natural history, and to them Epping Forest was almost the only ground open. Parliament, therefore, ought to be very loth to take it away from them. He had no wish to find fault with the Corporation of the City of London; they had done great service to the public in the efforts they had made to acquire the Forest for ever for the use of the people; but he confessed that, when he looked at some of the terms of the Act under which the Forest was constituted public property, the Conservators, who were the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Town Council of the City of London, had placed a very misty interpretation upon their duties, which were, under no circumstances, to permit any disfigurement of the Forest, or its alienation from the purposes of the Forest. In construing 168 the Act it would appear that the Conservators had completely lost sight of their duties in connection with the Forest, and that they had taken a step which would go far to deprive them of the gratitude of the people of London. The noble Lord defended the cutting off from the poor people of London of a portion of the Forest, and devoting it to railway purposes; but would he be prepared to sanction the making of an overground railway across one of the London Parks? He (Mr. Rogers) thought not; and he did not see why the claims of those persons who were not able to make themselves heard in that House should not be respected as well as those of Railway Companies. He contended that it was perfectly possible for the Railway Company to get the same result by a small additional outlay of money; and it was, therefore, desirable they should be told that, at all hazards, Epping Forest should be preserved. The Bill was one of those things which, if once allowed to pass by Parliament, they would never know where to stop. There would be nothing to prevent the Great Eastern Railway Company from bringing their railway system into all parts of the Forest, and cutting it up like a chess-board. He hoped the House would show, in a decisive manner, that it was prepared to maintain and preserve the Forest.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, he only rose to say a word in regard to what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for South wark (Mr. Rogers). His hon. Friend seemed to think that the Corporation of London were in favour of the Bill. Now, the Corporation of London had taken no part in regard to it, and he believed that, as individuals, they were much divided upon it. He had known the Forest all his life, and he, for one, should deeply regret the passing of any Bill which would spoil the beauty of it. He should, therefore, cordially support the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce).
§ SIR. THOMAS CHAMBERS
said, he quite agreed with the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. R. N. Fowler), and would deeply regret that anything should be done to spoil the beauty of the Forest. But no one could deny that Epping Forest itself had been rescued and preserved for the use of the people of London by the exertions of the 169 Corporation of London. The Corporation were not less anxious now than on all former occasions to see the Forest maintained in its integrity and beauty for the enjoyment of the inhabitants of London, and that they felt that long ago was proved by the action they had taken. He would read some short extracts from the Reports which had been made to the Court of Common Council upon this question. In the spring of 1873 the Great Eastern Railway Company introduced a Bill into Parliament for the purpose of cutting up the most secluded and one of the prettiest parts of the Forest, by constructing a line from their Chingford Station to High Beech, and the Corporation not only solicited the Crown to refuse its consent to the Bill, but directed the City Solicitor strongly to oppose it. Their opposition was entirely successful; and it showed that, at all events, the Corporation, as a Corporation, were anxious to maintain this piece of woodland in its integrity. In 1874 the same Committee presented a Report to the Court of Common Council upon a communication received from the Great Eastern Railway Company in reference to the extension of their line to High Beech, with the object of giving increased facilities to the public for reaching Queen Elizabeth's Lodge and High Beech. This scheme was also opposed by the Corporation. In 1877 the City Solicitor reported that the Company were desirous of continuing their line through the Forest to their station at Loughton, so as to make a circular line, and they asked for the views of the Corporation upon the subject. The Corporation carefully considered the matter, and came to the conclusion that it was highly objectionable to have the Forest so bisected by a railway in any form, much more so in a deep cutting; and the result was that they informed the Company they were not prepared to assent to a railway being carried into the Forest beyond the spot at which it had been originally agreed to. The Railway Company acceded to the views of the Corporation, and substituted a line to which the City took no objection. Their Bill, however, was lost through the opposition of some of the landowners. The last Report of the Epping Forest Committee contained a passage which said—Your honourable Court will remember the assent you gave in the Session of 1881 to the 170 proposed extension of the Great Eastern Railway Company's branch to High Beech, in consideration of the improvements they [were to make in the Forest.It was found impossible to get any contested Private Bills through the House in that year, owing to the time of the House being occupied in the discussion of important measures affecting Ireland; and the result was that that Bill also was lost. It would, therefore, be seen that the Corporation had been very jealous of any encroachment upon the Forest; but, notwithstanding their just feeling of jealousy, they had come to the conclusion now that it was for the interest of those they represented that the House should pass the present Bill. There was no use in having a beautiful tract of forest scenery, unless they could enable the people to enjoy it. It was all very well to say that the distance of a mile and a-half or two miles was a small matter; but, in his opinion, a station two miles from a particular spot was an argument in favour of giving further facilities. Very young persons, and very old, and even middle-aged, could not walk that distance, and they were prevented from enjoying that part of the Forest altogether. There was no advantage in possessing this Forest, which was 13 miles long, unless facilities were given to enable the public to enjoy it in its full entirety. His hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) mentioned several times in the course of his speech that the Bill involved the utter destruction of the Forest. If anybody could have looked at a map as the hon. Member made these statements, he must have felt amused at the learned Professor making such an assertion, as a justification for the House rejecting a proposal to construct a line which was only a mile and a third in length. In regard to the embankment, the Railway Company had agreed to slope the banks, as far as it was necessary, so as to produce the effect of a natural undulation of the land; so that, in point of fact, the disfigurement would be very trifling indeed, and the work was to be undertaken in order to accommodate a very large number of the public. He denied that any outlying portions of the Forest would be separated from the rest. The Forest consisted of 5,520 acres, and it was absurd to say that the separation of 200 acres 171 would utterly destroy the beauty of the Forest. When the House of Commons remembered that the Great Eastern Railway Company carried no less than 350,000 people to the Forest every year, and that the great majority of them stopped in the neighbourhood of the Chingford Station, they must feel how desirable it was, on every ground, that a portion of this vast number should have the opportunity of continuing their journey to another point, if they desired to do so. At present, they congregated at one spot; and the result was such that he was sure no hon. Member of the House would care to go there. The fact that all the people were deposited on the same spot led to scenes of disorder, which could not well be controlled or kept under by the police. If this Bill were passed, and the Company were allowed to carry a portion of their passengers a little further on, this state of things would be put a stop to altogether. He therefore contended that no case had been made out to justify the House in preventing the Bill from going before a Committee. The Corporation of London were not the promoters of the Bill. All they had done was to oppose every Bill brought in by the Great Eastern Railway Company until the Company consented to the terms which they considered necessary for the preservation of their good faith with the public. The Conservators and the Verderers also agreed in this proposal; and, therefore, all the parties most interested supported the Bill. The Bishop of Bedford, and a large number of persons interested in the amusements and recreation of the poor, asked the House to allow the Bill to go before a Committee; and it would be contrary to the usual precedents of the House to throw it out without an examination of the plans, and of a map of the country—a tract of forest 13 miles long, from which 200 acres only were to be separated by an ornamental embankment. He regretted that the Corporation of London had been attacked, as if they had any interest in the matter. It was nothing of the kind. On the contrary, the persons who were charged with the conservancy of the Forest were of opinion that the line would not interfere with the Forest at all; and their opinion, he thought, ought to have great weight with the House.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he wished that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just addressed the House could have been able to tell them that the Corporation of the City of London remained in the same mind they were when they first opposed the proposal of the Great Eastern Railway Company to extend their railway from Chingford to High Beech, on the ground that it would not only interfere with the the space, but with the beauties of the Forest. As one who probably knew the Forest as intimately as almost any Member of the House, he confessed that he had been somewhat surprised to hear some of the arguments which had been urged in favour of the Bill. He should like first, however, to say that, looking upon it from the point of view of the Act of 1878, he could not help thinking that it was a direct violation of the conditions and terms on which that Act was passed. He had personally had something to do with that Act. He was the draughtsman of it, and he had to carry out the negotiations between those who, as lords of the manor and as commoners, were interested on the one side, and the City of London on the other, who had gained a suit in Chancery for opening up the Forest to them as commoners. It became his duty to negotiate the terms on which a Bill should be passed; and the Bill of 1878 was practically a compromise between the parties for the preservation of Epping Forest as an open space, not only an open space in the sense of a public Park, but an open space of a wild and picturesque nature, and, perhaps, the only specimen of the kind within immediate reach of any other city of the country. Well, now, the Act of 1878 distinctly laid down that the Corporation of the City of London should be appointed the Conservators of the Forest, and that they should preserve it intact from any such purposes as those named in the present Bill. Nothing could be clearer than the terms of the 2nd clause of the Act. He knew perfectly well that the Corporation of London relied upon certain words in the clause, which said that Epping Forest was to be kept unenclosed and unbuilt on, as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the people. The clause then went on to say that the Conservators should by all lawful means prevent, resist, and abate all further 173 encroachments for the purpose of building, attempting to enclose, or encouraging to build on any part of the Forest, or attempting to appropriate or use the subsoil and timber contrary to the intentions of the Act. When he was told that it was now only proposed to give additional facilities to the public for obtaining access to the Forest, and that that was an object that was not inconsistent with the purposes of the Act, he fell back upon Iris own knowledge. He could not but recollect what were the conditions at the time of the passing of the Act of 1878, when large portions of the Forest were taken away from people who possessed a title which had passed the best inspection of the day. It was a title which was at the time supposed to be indisputable. But when this Act was passed there were a number of circumstances which might have prevented the Forest from becoming open to the public for a considerable number of years. A compromise was effected, however, for the purpose of gaining for the public this large open space; and not only were the Conservators bound under that clause of the Act to preserve it in its integrity for the purposes to which it was devoted, but by another section they were not to sell, demise, or otherwise alienate any part of the Forest whatever, or concur in any such sale or alienation. Nothing could be more definite. If hon. Members would look through the Act they would find that all the clauses bore upon that point, and they proved what was the mind and intention of the Corporation of London themselves at the time they asked that they should be intrusted with these powers. That being what he thought was tire actual interpretation of the Act and the spirit in which the Act was passed, he should like for one moment to see whether anything had been put forward by the promoters of the Bill which ought to induce the House to alter an Act passed so recently as in the year 1878. It was alleged that greater facilities of access to the Forest would be provided by this railroad. But those who knew the Forest knew perfectly well that it was a narrow strip of ground practically, he might almost say, surrounded by railroads. In fact, there was not a single portion of the Forest which could not be got to within about a mile and a-half from a given station. In this point of view alone, unless they 174 were prepared to go further and place the Forest under the control of the Railway Company altogether, there was no necessity for any further railway communication. He was afraid that that was only the thin end of the wedge, and that the Railway Company would propose by-and-bye to go a great deal further. There were several other beautiful portions of the Forest to which the same arguments might be applied, and to which it might be said the public were entitled to have more immediate access and more immediate facilities. If they once got the railway to High Beech they would find the same arguments used for cutting up the Forest still further, and connecting the railroad to High Beech with other parts of it. There was no difficulty at the present moment for anybody to obtain access to almost any part of the Forest. He was afraid that all these proposals would only lead to one object—namely, the planning out of another public-house in the centre of the Forest—another public-house where they would have repeated again the same scenes which were constantly, to his own knowledge, going on at Chingford and its immediate neighbourhood—scones which had practically driven a greater portion of the little children, for whom this plea of legislation was raised, away from that part of the Forest altogether, on account of the dissipation and immorality which occurred there. He would not make this statement unless he knew it to be true from his own personal knowledge. He had not the least interest in Epping Forest of any sort or kind. He said that, because he had noticed a letter in the newspapers asserting that the opposition merely came from people who lived in the Forest, and who, therefore, were desirous of resisting all access to it on the part of the public. He lived miles away from the Forest, but he knew it perfectly well. It was in the division which he represented in Parliament; he had constantly occasion to visit it, and he often rode across it. He opposed the Bill because, in the first place, it was a direct violation of an Act which had been recently passed, and passed in order to give the public the full enjoyment of the whole of this space in the natural aspects of its wildness. He opposed it also on the ground that it was not necessary to facilitate the access of the public to the Forest, and also because it would 175 he detrimental to the Forest, from the way in which it would multiply the grievances which were well known to exist already.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he should like to read to the House the opinion of one of the Conservators of Epping Forest, written at the time when a similar Bill was before the House in 1881. The gentleman he alluded to was Sir Antonio Brady, who was now dead, but whose name would be well known in the House. That gentleman said that, as one of the Conservators of the Forest, he regarded the Epping Forest scheme—As a grave mistake. He could well understand that certain persons would like to make High Beech a terminus, so that they might be enabled to have readier access to London; but he failed to conceive why the citizens of London should take up the matter. And certainly the proposal, if carried, would spoil one of the most beautiful parts of the Forest.He was certainly astonished to hear the observations which had fallen from the learned Recorder of London (Sir Thomas Chambers) and the hon. Alderman who represented the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler), that the Corporation had nothing to do with this matter. He had certainly been under the impression that this was a Bill of the Corporation of the City of London, and he rested that opinion upon a letter which had been written by the solicitor of the Great Eastern Railway to the Metropolitan Board of Works, in which it was stated that—The authority of Parliament for the construction of this line was sought at the instance of the Epping Forest Committee of the Corporation of London.The letter went on to say that—If the measure did not meet with the cordial support of the people of London, it would be withdrawn.He wished to know if the Corporation were really interested in the matter? He found that at High Beech there was a public-house called the "King's Oak," and that an officer of the Corporation had purchased, in 1876, 11 acres of land for £5,100; he probably bought it on behalf of the Corporation; and this officer had stated to several influential persons in the district that it was the intention, if the Bill passed, to build a large hotel on that land—a hotel which was to contain at least 200 rooms. It was, therefore, evidently intended to turn this 176 estate at High Beech into a great building speculation, and it was estimated that these 11 acres, for which there had been paid £5,100, would be increased in value ten-fold; and he thought it probably would. At any rate, if the same people were behind the Bill now as when the proposal was formerly before the House, it was evident that the measure had not been fairly put before them as one with which the Corporation of London had nothing whatever to do. As far as the Bill itself was concerned, he was of opinion that it was distinctly contrary to the intentions of the Act of 1878 and to the undertaking given by the Railway Company themselves; it was also contrary to the interests of the Forest, as far as its preservation was concerned. All the people of London were very much interested in the matter, because the Forest had been paid for by a tax raised upon the food of the people; it had been paid for out of the grain duty, and they were all equally interested in seeing that the tax to which they had contributed was not misapplied. It was most desirable that the people should have some constituted authority able to speak and act in their name; and he should be glad, if for no other reason, that the House would consent to defer the second reading until they were able to constitute some new and properly representative authority.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he thought the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Essex (Sir H. Selwin-Ibbetson) were in favour of the Bill being referred to a Select Committee, because the hon. Baronet had brought forward several matters in dispute—namely, whether the Bill was in conformity with the Act of Parliament, and whether it could be carried out without contravening that Act. Surely those were matters for a Committee, and not for controversy in that House. The hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth) said that the Forest had been paid for by money raised by a tax upon the food of the people. All he could say was that, if the Forest was paid for by a tax upon the food of the people, every person had paid his share; and what the Corporation were anxious to secure was that the people of London should have their full share in the Forest. He congratulated the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) 177 on the cleverness with which he had brought forward the Motion. The hon. Member knew that he could not bring forward a direct negative to the Bill. What would the inhabitants of the Tower Hamlets say to one of their own Members if they had found him opposing a Bill the object of which was to render more accessible to them this beautiful Forest? They all knew what had resulted to a former Member who had proposed the inclosure of open spaces. It was very clever indeed for the hon. Member to decline to offer any remark upon the Bill itself, and simply to propose a Resolution, knowing very well that it would have the effect of negativing the Bill. The tactics pursued by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets were clever; but, no doubt, they would be fully appreciated by the inhabitants of the East End of London, who took so great an interest in obtaining access to this Forest. The hon. Member had alluded to the opinion of the House in regard to the preservation of the Forest in former years, and had quoted Addresses presented to the House; but the hon. Member ought to know that the House had done nothing whatever effectual to preserve the Forest to the people. It was the Corporation of London who were compelled to fight the matter in the Law Courts. They had fought it out in the Court of Chancery, and they had risked a large amount of their funds for the preservation of the Forest. Fortunately, they happened to win, and they succeeded in rescuing the Forest from those who had robbed and plundered it without the slightest right or title. Yet now, at the present moment, when the Corporation had done so much for the preservation of the Forest, and were anxious that the people of the Metropolis should have an opportunity of enjoying it, they were accused of being desirous of setting up their own advantage against that of the public. He thought it was too much to say that, when they had spent so much and risked so much for the preservation of the Forest. The Committee of Epping Forest consisted of 12 members of the Corporation, acting in conjunction with four gentlemen who were Verderers, elected by commoners; and he believed that that joint Committee were unanimous in supporting the Bill. [An hon. MEMBER: No!] Well, at any rate, 178 there had only been one dissentient; and, as far as the Committee of the Corporation were concerned, they were quite unanimous. The dissentient was one of the Verderers. The whole question had been brought to the notice of the Corporation, and they had resolved that the Bill ought to pass, in order that the poor of the Metropolis might have an opportunity of enjoying this beautiful Forest. It was now said that every part of the Forest was accessible. If every part of the Forest was accessible, what harm would this station at High Beech do to the public? It was a very important question, and he quite agreed that it could be looked at from two points of view. He sympathized entirely with those gentlemen who were anxious to preserve open spaces in every part of the country, not only in London, but elsewhere. It was not merely in Epping Forest that the Corporation had shown their eagerness for the preservation of open spaces; but they had endeavoured to preserve them for the public elsewhere. Therefore, he said that, at the present moment, when the question in dispute was one upon which two sides had been taken, it was desirable that they should go to a Committee and have the matter fully discussed, where every interest could be represented. His own opinion was that it was not desired to preserve the Forest only for the enjoyment of those who wished to live in it, or simply for the fancies of those who desired to catch butterflies. No doubt, that was a very delightful occupation, and they all knew that many gentlemen were interested in that pursuit, probably to the great advantage of themselves and the country. But he wished to put into the other scale the toiling millions of the Metropolis, who wanted the opportunity of enjoying this beautiful Forest, while those who resided in it were anxious to deprive them of that opportunity. Those who had a means of entrance into the Forest by other modes than a railway objected to the extension of railway accommodation. It should not be forgotten that the persons who were opposing the construction of this railway consisted of those who had strenuously opposed the Corporation of London in all their attempts to obtain this Forest for the benefit of the people. ["No!"] He fearlessly 179 asserted that that was perfectly true, and that all those who opposed the Corporation some years ago were now objecting to the present Bill. ["Oh!"] Then, if some of them were in favour of the Bill, he was very glad to hear it; and, that being the case, he hoped that the House would afford a proper opportunity for the fair consideration of the question. It was really a question concerning the poor inhabitants of the Metropolis—those who only had one holiday in the year, and who were glad to resort to such a place as Epping Forest to spend that holiday in. He asked the House to be careful how they shut the door to a further inquiry, by which the whole matter could be gone into fully and thoroughly sifted. It was most undesirable that the interests of the many should be sacrificed to those of the few.
§ MR. T. C. BARING
said, he entertained a strong personal feeling on this subject. He had opposed the Bill, and other Bills like it, for many years, and he was quite willing to confess that he had a personal interest in doing so, and he saw no reason why he should not consult that personal interest. He lived at High Beech. He was not a large landowner there, nor did he oven own the house in which he lived; but he lived there, and, on behalf of himself and his neighbours, he thought he was bound to exercise that first instinct of human nature—self-preservation. He had certainly no desire to see High Beech reduced to the position of Chingford. They had seen who it was that the Great Eastern Railway brought to Chingford, and they knew that the Corporation had allowed a large public-house to be built on the land they had purchased there. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Sir Thomas Chambers) had very aptly described the scenes that went on at Chingford, and he (Mr. Baring) and his neighbours had no desire to see them repeated at High Beech. But, at the same time, he was well aware that no personal interests, however great, could be allowed to interfere with the public advantage; but he would ask, what was there of public advantage in this case? It was said that the railroad was promoted in order that the public might be served by it. But, as a matter of fact, every householder of High Beech had signed a 180 Petition against the Bill, except one particular class, and that was the occupiers of public-houses. Throughout the whole of the county, in the division he represented, and the division represented by his hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), there was only one opinion. It was said that the people of London wanted to go down to the Forest; but the respectable people of London found their way there already. Living there, as he did, he was able7 from personal knowledge, to judge of the class of persons who went down. Everyday in the summer there were thousands of people congregated outside his gates, and they were most respectably-behaved people, too. A great many of them were the very Sunday School children on whose behalf the noble Lord (Lord Claud Hamilton) had made so touching an appeal. They found their way there by van, or otherwise, by road from London; and those who were unable to do so, and who went by train to Chingford, had not very far to walk. The idea that Sunday School children could not walk a distance of a mile and a-half was simply absurd. If they were unable to do so, they were very different now from what he had known them. What he wished to avoid was that class of people who congregated around the public-house, and who had no idea of the beauties of nature; but, having spent their time in a public-house all day, brought about those disreputable scenes at night which the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Sir Thomas Chambers) had so justly condemned. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Claud Hamilton) spoke of the great anxiety experienced on the part of the Sunday School Union and similar bodies for the passing of the Bill. Now, he (Mr. Baring) had received a letter from a man whom he had never heard of before, and who was not one of his own constituents. The letter was dated from Tottenham, and the writer stated—That he was the superintendent of a Sunday School containing 300 children, and of a Baud of Hope consisting of 500 members, and he did not think that the promoters had fairly represented the feeling of the class to which he belonged. A good many of them had declined to sign the Petitions which had been got up in favour of the Bill, and all the argument went the other way.He had received many other letters addressed to him from constituents, and 181 from many who were outside his constituency; and he thought it ought not to go forth to the public, that the whole body of Sunday School teachers and Bands of Hope were in favour of the Bill.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
remarked, that his constituents were very much interested in the Bill, and, therefore, he wished to say one or two words upon it; and they would be only one or two words, because he was quite aware that at this stage of the Bill the House had already heard quite enough argument, and that the question was now ripe for a decision. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Alderman Lawrence) had spoken as if the Corporation of London were very much interested in the matter; but surely, if that had been the case, they would have seen the Sheriffs of London at the Bar. It was perfectly clear, from what had been stated by his hon. Friend who represented the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler), that the Corporation were not at all agreed on the matter, and that, as a matter of fact, tb.03' were neutral. Allusion had also been made to the Metropolitan Board of Words. He thought that his noble Friend (Lord Claud Hamilton), in speaking on behalf of the Great Eastern Railway Company, had stated that the Metropolitan Board of Works were in favour of the Bill. It was quite true that they were in favour of the Bill, but by what majority? By a majority of 2, so that both of these Bodies were really neutral; and it behaved hon. Members in that House who were lovers of beauty to stand up for the preservation, intact from the outrages now proposed to be committed upon it by a Railway Company, of one of the few beautiful pieces of natural scenery now left in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis. One of his own constituents had written to him upon the subject, and he thought it right to quote the letter. Although a good deal had been said about the people of East London, very little had been said as to what the people of West Essex thought upon the question. The writer of the letter to which he referred was a gentleman who was both a schoolmaster and a clergyman, and it might naturally be supposed that he would support the views of the Bishop of Bedford; but he wrote to say that, in his opinion, the passing of the Bill would bring about at 182 High Beech the same ill effects which the extension of the line had already brought about at Chingford. The writer added that the Bill, if passed, would utterly spoil the Forest for Sunday School children. Dancing at Chingford had happily been done away with; but the hotel there was still a Sunday rendezvous for a score or two of young girls who usually went down in twos or threes, and whose morals could not be improved by their visit. If the railway were extended to High Beech, they would have the same sort of scenes there and the same kind of immorality. He trusted that the House, on this occasion, would make a special exception, and show their real feeling by throwing out the Bill.
said, he would not delay the House for more than a few moments. Something had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Alderman Lawrence) to the effect that the Verderer, were not unanimously in favour of the extension of this railway. He held in his hand a letter he had received from a gentleman, who was not only a Conservator but a Verderer, in which the writer stated that the Conservators consisted of 12 members chosen by the Corporation of London, and four Verderers elected by the Commoners, making 16 in all; and that they were unanimously in favour of the proposed extension. The writer added that he did not think that any of the objectors could have been down to look at the place. Well, all he (Mr. Buxton) could say was that he had been to look at the place. He knew the district well; and, to his mind, if they wanted to make the Forest an open recreation ground for the people of Loudon, they would support the proposed extension of the line to High Beech. Much had been said about the attendant evils at Chingford around the hotel which had already been ercted there; but surely that was an argument for carrying the line further, and having another terminus, so that all the people might not be compelled to congregate at the same spot. As far as the land was concerned which it was proposed to take, it was very low, damp and muddy. The extension of the Hue would be carried on an embankment, and, as the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Claud Hamilton) told them, over arches across this part of the Forest—a part of the 183 Forest where Sunday School children could not at present be allowed to stray at liberty, and where they were unable to get a view of the scenery. If they wanted a magnificent view, it was necessary that they should go to the top of High Beech Hill, further on. The railway would not go to the top of that hill, but only to the foot, whence through a woody part of the Forest there would be an easy access to the hill, and to the view that was to be obtained from it, and which, in his opinion, would provide these Sunday School children with a much more liberal education than could be got now from any school board. He believed the opposition came from a certain number of scientific gentlemen. He remembered reading of a noble Lord, a well-known and scientific entomologist, who was travelling in the Western States of America, and on arriving at Salt Lake City, The Salt Lake Clarion inserted a paragraph stating that—They were happy to announce that they had in their midst that scientific and well-known aristocratic bug-hunter, Lord Walsingham.Well, he believed it was the scientific and aristocratic bug-hunters who were opposing the extension of this line. The number of school children and clergymen in the East End of London who were in favour of the proposed extension was very great. He thought that the whole of the East End should have access to High Beech; and believing, as he did, that this railway would give free access, he should vote for the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he did not intend to be deterred by the awful threat which the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Alderman Lawrence) held out towards the Members for the Tower Hamlets if they chose to differ from him on this question; and he would say candidly at once that he could not support the Bill. He had arrived at that decision with some amount of difficulty, because there was a good deal to be said in favour of those who desired to obtain free access to all parts of Epping Forest, and for whose use it was intended. But if there was one thing more than another that he had found among the people of the Tower Hamlets it was a feeling of jealousy with reference to Epping Forest. There was great jealousy and fear lest those important 184 open spaces might be interfered with or tampered with in any way. If they were to admit, as an argument, that this was a beautiful spot, and that a railway station ought to be set down at every beautiful spot in Epping Forest, it was pretty evident that Epping Forest would, sooner or later, become honeycombed with railroads. It was perfectly true that this beautiful spot at High Beech was a mile and a-half distant from any railway station. [Lord CLAUD HAMILTON: Two miles.] His noble Friend stated two miles; but he (Mr. Ritchie) thought a mile and a-half was nearer the mark. Although that might be true, yet this was also true—that throughout the greater portion of the mile and a-half which persons bound to High Beech had to traverse they passed through portions of the Forest; therefore, it was out of the question to say that people were prevented from enjoying the Forest on account of this distance of a mile and a-half. As he had stated just now, he had not arrived at the conclusion to vote against the Bill without some kind of hesitation; but when he pictured in his mind's eye a great ugly embankment reared in the midst of this beautiful Forest, he could not but think the proposed additional station in proximity to the Forest would be very dearly bought if it involved the ruin of one of its most pleasant aspects. There was another thing which guided him in his vote. He could not but think that if a railway was necessary or desirable to this part of the Forest, it could be constructed without encroaching upon the Forest at all. If the Great Eastern Railway Company would consent to incur some additional expenditure, he ventured to assert that a station could be brought within measurable distance of High Beech without trenching on the Forest at all. Therefore, for these reasons, he had come to the conclusion that the interests of his constituents would be best served by maintaining the integrity of the Forest; and he would, therefore, vote against the Bill.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES
said, he did not rise for the purpose of entering into the controversy which had been raised between the Corporation of London and their opponents. He regretted that the speech of his hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill (Mr. Bryce) had 185 not been postponed until the end of the debate, rather than having been delivered at the commencement of it. A considerable number of Members had entered the House since that speech was delivered, and he was afraid they had not heard the full merits of the arguments against the Bill. He regretted that the Bill should be discussed entirely from the view of Epping Forest. The hon. Member who last spoke asked why High Beech could not be reached by some other route without going through the Forest at all? The answer to that question was very simple—namely, that if they went through common land they had not got to pay for it. He thought that that fact lay at the root of this question, and also at the bottom of all the encroachments which were continually being made upon those common lands, which his right hon. Friend the Postmaster General had, in previous Parliaments, laboured so assiduously to preserve. Upon that general ground of policy, without entering further into the merits of the Bill, because he had no desire to deprive the people of the East End of London, or the Sunday School children, of the full opportunity of enjoying Epping Forest, he hoped that the Bill would be rejected by a majority sufficiently large, not only to throw it out on the present occasion, but also to prevent its being brought in again at a future time. He certainly thought that Parliament should adopt the principle, wherever it was possible, of requiring Railway Companies to go over private land, which they could obtain by paying for it, rather than permitting them to obtain possession of common land without payment.
§ MR. CAINE
said, that he had taken some pains in order to collect the opinion, on this subject, of the Bands of Hope, to which special reference had been made by the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Claud Hamilton); and the result of his inquiries was that he could not find that any manager or secretary of these institutions wished to have this railway extended to High Beech. He only found one who was in favour of the extension of the railway; while all the rest said—"Whatever you do, do not let us have another Chingford at High Beech, but let us be free from the contamination of the public-house." The matter was simply this—that the 186 Great Eastern Railway Company desired to save the pockets of their shareholders at the expense of the people of London. He sincerely trusted that the House would reject the Bill by a very large majority.
§ SIR ANDREW LUSK
wished to say one or two words on behalf of his constituents. There were a very large number of persons who lived in the North part of London, and they had wives and families, for whom he was anxious to plead. There were 5,530 acres of land in Epping Forest, and they desired to get there; whereas the House, judging from the tone of some hon. Members, seemed anxious to say—"We won't allow you to get there." That was what the whole thing amounted to. The people of London wanted to got to Epping Forest; but the opponents of this Bill told them they must go there by road, by fly, or by van. They might just as well tell the poor man, who was starving from hunger, and had not a penny in his pocket, to go to the "London Tavern" and get a good dinner. It would be all very well, if the poor inhabitants were able to follow this advice; but they had no money to invest in flys and vans. Still, they wanted to go to the Forest, and to take their wives and children with them. At present, they found it impossible; and the House appeared to be anxious to deprive them of the facilities which they ought to have, and which they demanded, not as a favour, but as a right. It had already been stated that it was these poor people who paid the money, by a small tax on corn, for preserving the Forest. Then, why, if they were called upon to find the money for maintaining the Forest, should they not have the power to go there and enjoy themselves? It was very hard indeed to say that they should not go to the best parts of the Forest, because certain gentlemen who lived there did not want them. It was absurd to talk about this line cutting off part of the Forest. They might just as well say that a bridge over the Serpentine would cut off part of Hyde Park. In both cases, instead of cutting any portion off, it would be of great advantage. High Beech was the best part of the Forest; it afforded the best views and the most picturesque scenery of the whole district; and yet it was two miles from the nearest station at Chingford. 187 How were women and children to walk two miles there and two miles back? How would hon. Members like it themselves, if they were compelled to try it? And why should these people be called upon to undertake a four miles walk, when there was not the slightest necessity for it? He was pleading on behalf of his constituents. He did not care one whit for the City of London, or for the Railway Company: but he cared a great deal for the interests of his constituents, and he asked that those interests should be studied, rather than the fancies and cruelties of the collectors of butterflies and black-beetles. All that he asked, as a Representative of a Metropolitan constituency, was that the Bill, which was brought in for the benefit of the people of London, should be fully investigated by a Committee upstairs. If they did that, the promoters would endeavour to show good cause why the House ought, in justice to the public, to pass this Bill.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he should like to say a word in reply to some of the remarks which had fallen from hon. Members who had opposed the Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 82; Noes 230: Majority 14.8.—(Div. List No. 81.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
wished to address the Chair upon a point of Order. When he had risen to reply to the various statements which had been made, the Speaker called him to Order, and intimated that he was not entitled to reply. He now wished to know whether he had been out of Order in rising to speak upon the Amendment?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord moved the second reading of the Bill, and upon that Motion he was not entitled to reply. But the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) moved an Amendment, and it was by inadvertance I ruled that the noble Lord was out of Order when he rose to ad- 188 dress the House on that Amendment. If my attention had been directed to the fact that an Amendment had been moved since the noble Lord addressed the House, I should have corrected it at once.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ Resolved, That this House, while expressing no opinion as to the propriety of making a Railway to High Beech, disapproves of any scheme which involves the taking for the purposes of a Railway of any part of the surface of Epping Forest, which, by 'The Epping Forest Act, 1878,' was directed to be 'kept at all times unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for the enjoyment of the public.'