HL Deb 23 July 1846 vol 87 cc1375-7

begged to call their Lordships' attention to a petition which he had to present from a person named Hartnell, residing near Yeovil, in the county of Somerset, complaining of the injustice which had been done to him under an Act of Parliament passed by their Lordships in the last Session. The petitioner stated that he had a house and grounds which he used as a nursery garden, and which were included in the land proposed to be taken by a railway company, under the Act alluded to. That the company had entered on his grounds, but that the Act had not been since carried into effect; that no arbitrators had been named to award him compensation for his property, and that, in point of fact, no compensation had been given or offered to him; that his property had been completely useless to him since this Railway Act had been passed into a law; that he had since January last received two notices from the railway company of their intention to take possession of his property, but that nothing had been done in compensating him for the loss which he had sustained. The noble Duke proceeded to observe, that, from the great advantages conferred by Parliament on these railway companies, and considering the powers which were given to them, in order that they might keep to themselves those advantages, he should say they ought, at least, to conduct themselves with fairness towards those unfortunate proprietors who were the victims of their speculations, and of the measures passed to enable them to obtain possession of property. He would not conclude what he had to say on this subject without naming the company that had been guilty of what he should call this outrage. It was the Great Western Railway Company which was making this railroad by Yeovil.


wished to say a word on this subject, as he had been Chairman of the Committee of their Lordships' House by which the Bill alluded to in the petition had been passed. The petitioner complained before the Committee that he had not been fairly used; and he (the Earl of Clarendon) inconsequence succeeded in suspending the decision of the Committee until an arrangement was come to by the company with this person. The engineer, on the part of the company, entered into a specific promise in consequence before the Committee, that the required arrangement would be carried into effect. There was not the least doubt but that, firstly, the petitioner had been extremely ill used, and, secondly, that the company had no right whatever to enter on this holding without awarding him compensation. He (the Earl of Clarendon) believed that the reason the company had so acted was that the party happened to be a poor man, and did not know how to resist them. He thought the Land Clauses Consolidation Act contained a clause providing a remedy for cases like the present, and he hoped this poor man would be so advised as to procure justice under it.


said, he was very glad his noble Friend had brought forward this matter. He (Lord Brougham) had occasion during the last Session to state this poor man's case before their Lordships, when presenting a petition against the same railway speculators, from a noble lady in that neighbourhood, who asked him also to mention the case of her poor neighbour. This was not a solitary case of the kind, as he knew by the many private letters which reached him. Lord Harbo- rough resisted these parties, and defeated them; but the petitioner was a poor man not able to compete with them. Their course was this. They kept the powers which they acquired by their Bill hanging over the poor man's head, and did not grant compensation until such time as they required to use the property, though in the meantime it was utterly valueless to the holder. The petitioner could not carry on his improvements as a nursery gardener, and yet this company declined paying him. He was glad to hear his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) admit that the trespass by the company was a most gross one; but there still could be very little doubt, as most jurors were railway proprietors, that if this poor man brought an action for trespass against the company, he would not get damages sufficient to pay him his costs out of pocket.


thought that the time fixed in all Railway Acts for the purchase of land should be materially shortened. It was monstrous for a company to seek a period of seven years, during which they could command a compulsory sale of property.


agreed that the time for the purchase of land should be limited, and he thought two years quite enough. He did not think, however, that such a long period as that mentioned by the noble Lord was ever allowed.


said, when the London and York Railway was before the Committee, of which he happened to be a Member, a power of seven years for the purchase of land was sought for, but he succeeded in having the period reduced to five years.


said, the company of which the petitioner complained was not the Great Western Railway Company, but the Western Branch of the Bristol and Exeter Railway.

Petition read and ordered to lie on the Table.

Back to