HL Deb 01 March 1849 vol 103 cc1-9

rose to ask a question relative to the return lately made by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. In doing so, he requested their Lordships' pardon for alluding to a matter personal to himself. He held in his hand a long paragraph from a newspaper, to which his attention had been called, containing certain comments upon those returns, in which his name was mentioned. He found it stated that he held the lease of a piece of ground in the Green Park for 99 years, at a rental of 10l. 9s. 7d.; and it was deduced that this was for the site of his house. It was not so, however. The sum in question was paid as a rent for a piece of ground as a garden, which had been enclosed to render the line uniform. He hoped the noble Lord would explain that circumstance to the House. Since the paragraph had appeared he had received various communications on the subject from parties interested; and he hoped, therefore, that the noble Lord would not refuse the explanation he desired.


said, he really felt indebted to the noble Marquess for having called the attention of their Lordships to this subject, because the charge, in which both the noble Marquess and the Crown were implicated, embraced several other pieces of property which were in the same condition with that of the noble Marquess; and as these statements had received circulation in several respectable quarters, he felt that the noble Marquess, in making his oration pro domo suâ, had conferred a favour on the department to which he (the Earl of Carlisle) had the honour to belong; and as it was for the interest of all parties that the truth should be generally known, he begged to make one or two observations on the subject. The noble Marquess had correctly stated one of these misapprehensions in respect to the row of houses fronting the Green Park. In the returns presented to Parliament, which contained "a schedule of all landed and other estates and property belonging to the Crown, which are at present under the management of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Woods and Forests, and which are held under any lease or leases from Her Majesty, specifying in alphabetical order the counties and the particular localities in which the several portions of the said property are situated, the names of the lessees, the dates of the respective leases, the terms granted, the periods at which they will respectively expire, the fines, if any, and the rents reserved," a certain amount of rent appeared set down to certain names without any further explanation; and the inference that was attempted to be deduced from this circumstance was, that such sum or sums was the rent raised in respect, not of the gardens, but of the houses, offices, and other appurtenances thereto belonging. Now, it appeared from the return to which he had alluded, that the noble Marquess was charged 10l. 9s. 7d., on a lease of 99 years, for a piece of ground in front of his mansion, 36 feet 9 inches in length, and with an average depth of 48 feet. It also appeared that the following names were included in that return;—

Lessees. Frontage. Average depth. Rent Date of Lease: Terms granted.
Ft. In. Feet. £ s. d.
Lord Vernon 34 5 67 8 0 8 5 April, 1796.
Lord Yarborough 41 0 57 7 9 5 5 April, 1796.
Sir John Hort 26 0 53 4 14 0 5 April, 1796.
Lord Viscount Gage 45 1 63 8 16 8 5 April, 1796.
Lord Romney 31 3 48 5 4 0 5 April, 1796.
Mr. Morton Pitt 49 9 53 13 3 3 5 April, 1796.
Lord Dundas 53 6 50 9 2 0 5 April, 1796.
Earl Cork and Orrery 47 5 47 7 16 3 5 April, 1796.
Earl of Moira 53 1 67 31 3 0 5 April, 1796.
Earl Spencer 217 11 90 115 5 0 5 April, 1797: 99 years.
Duke of Bridgewater 126 11 63 69 0 0 5 April, 1797: 99 years.
Hon. Sampson Eardley 78 0 47 12 17 3 5 April, 1796: 99 years.
But not one of the houses fronting the Green Park, named in the foregoing list, is built upon Crown property. In the years 1798 and 1799, leases were granted by King George the Third, under the seal of his Court of Exchequer, to the several parties named in the foregoing list, of small pieces of garden ground on the east side of the Green Park, adjoining their respective mansions; the whole of which were reported to Parliament in 1802. The proprietors of these houses paid rent to the Crown only for the slips of garden ground in front, and the Crown had nothing whatever to do with the ground on which these houses stood. The two leases to Sir John William Lubbock and Samuel Rogers, which included their houses— Lift not your spear against the Muses' Bower, were granted by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, under the Act 10th George IV., c. 50, sect. 23; and, previously to the granting of such leases, the Commissioners caused surveys to be made by Messrs. Chawner and Rhodes, the surveyors employed by them for that purpose, who, upon oath, certified that the terms and conditions on which the leases were granted were proper; that their surveys and estimates had been faithfully and impartially made; and that the value of the property of the Crown had been justly estimated, according to the best of their skill and judgment, in the terms prescribed by the Act, So that, in point of fact, these rents, varying from 4l. per annum to 115l., were paid for pieces of garden ground, in fact, for a few lilacs, laburnums, and other ornamental trees, which added considerably to the beauty and fragrance of that walk in the Park which the public so much frequented Moreover, there was a condition attached to those leases, by which the public benefited much—namely, that no buildings whatever should be erected on those strips of ground; and thus, while the beauty and fragrance of the Park were so far secured, the public received the additional advantage of rent to the amount of 300l. a year for those strips of ground. There was another case which had not been adverted to, but on which he might say a word; the mansion of the Duke of Sutherland, which was built on Crown property. The public had not suffered by that arrangement, however; for the Duke, besides having paid 72,000l. for the carcass of a house, and having spent an enormous sum in completing it, paid a ground rent of 750l. a year with respect to the terms of the leases granted to Mr. Nash, who, it had been asserted, had received the whole, or nearly so, of Augustus-street at the nominal rent of 1l. per messuage, what was the state of the case? When new streets were laid out, the Crown generally let out the land to a builder on certain terms of lease; and he was allowed to sub-let the ground to others in the way most convenient to himself, the security to the Crown for the ground-rent remaining the same, and, in the case of Mr. Nash, the facts were these; The ground now forming the east side of Augustus-street, Regent's Park, together with two adjoining pieces of ground on the margin of the Regent's Canal basin, containing in the whole about four acres of grass land, were let to Mr. Nash by several leases. The result of which is, that the Crown is now in the receipt of a ground rent of 686l per annum for four acres of land, which, in 1819, was grass land; and the lessee has at his own expense covered the land with dwelling-houses, warehouses, and workshops. From 1857 to 1918 the Crown will be in the receipt of a rent of 1,374l. per annum for the same four acres of land; and on the 5th of April, 1918, the Crown will come into the unincumbered possession of the ground, and of the whole of the buildings erected by the lessee thereon. The ground rent was apportioned on different plots of the four acres, according to what was then estimated to be the probable ultimate value of the different plots; under which arrangement a rent of 1l. per annum was apportioned on each of the small houses in Augustus-street—the rent now received by the Crown being at the rate of 171l. 10s. per acre per annum, and from 1857 to 1918 will be at the rate of 343l. per acre per annum. He would also give their Lordships the opinion of a Committee of the other House on the subject, an extract from the report of which was as follows;— The Select Committee appointed in 1829 to inquire into the conduct of Mr. Nash, so far as regards the granting of lease of or sale of Crown lands in Suffolk-street, Pall-mall East, Regent-street, and adjoining the Regent's Canal, have, pursuant to the order of the House, examined the matters to them referred, and agreed to the following resolutions, which they have directed to be reported to the House, together with the minutes of evidence taken before them, and an appendix. That no evidence has been laid before the Committee to justify any charge of fraud against Mr. Nash … That in the remaining case, that respecting the ground adjoining the Regent's Canal (Augustus-street, &c.), the Committee have found that Mr. Nash became the lessee of the Crown, in consequence of the desire of the Regent's Canal Company, subject to certain onerous conditions connected with the interests of the company, of which he had been the projector and principal promoter. … That in the opinion of the Committee there is not, according to the evidence given, any ground whatever for impeaching the integrity of Mr. Nash, nor for supposing that the valuations for the leases of the Crown lands made by him were either influenced by improper motives, or lower than they ought to have been.—June 19, 1829. Then with regard to the case of Mr. John Bell, to whom it had been said that a certain number of messuages in Edward-street had been granted on the easy terms of 6l. per annum for 99 years, from October, 1829; what were the actual circumstances of the case? John Boll, of the New-road, Fitzroy-square, in consideration of the expense incurred, and to be incurred by him, in erecting and finishing twelve houses on a plot of ground containing 180 feet frontage by 70 feet in depth, in Edward-street, Regent's Park, had a lease granted to him on the 11th of May, 1826, for a term of 99 years, from the 10th of October, 1824, at several yearly rents amounting in the aggregate to a ground rent of 72l. per annum, being at the rate of upwards of 250l. per acre per annum. This rent the Crown is now in receipt of; and on the 10th of October, 1923, the ground, with the whole of the buildings erected thereon by the lessee, will revert to the Crown unincumbered. The case of James Burton had likewise been made the subject of comment, and he was represented as holding 31 messuages in Chester-terrace, Regent's-park, at 6l. a year, for 99 years, and ten other messuages for the same term, at 52l. 10s. per annum. The facts were these;—A lease was granted to James Burton on the 6th of March, 1827, of forty-one plots of grounds now forming the sites of Chester-terrace, Regent's Park (upon which he has erected, at his own expense, forty-one substantial dwelling-houses, with necessary offices, stables, and outbuildings), at various ground rents, amounting in the aggregate to 711l. The quantity of land comprised in Mr. Burton's lease was about three acres, and the ground-rent received by the Crown (excluding the ornamental gardens) considerably exceeds 250l. per acre per annum. He only regretted to add, that he had been informed that Mr. Burton was a loser by this bargain to the extent of 40,000l. At the expiration of the lease, on the 5th January, 1926, the ground and the whole of the buildings erected by Mr. Burton thereon will revert to the Crown unincumbered. In like manner, in the case of John Hill and Edward Burton, executors of Lord Berwick, the case stood thus;—On the 28th September, 1799, about fifty years ago, a lease was granted by King George III., under the seal of the Court of Exchequer, to John Hill and Edward Burton, as the executors of Lord Berwick, for a term of ninety-nine years, from the 5th of April, 1796, of two pieces of ground, with leases of them, and of two pieces of ground then used as ornamental gardens, at the present yearly rent of the tenements, with houses, of 221l. 4s. 6d. per annum, and at the yearly rent for the gardens of 39l. 10s., making the aggregate yearly rent of 260l. 4s. 6d. And, lastly, as to the terms on which the plot in Chan-dos-mews was granted to the Dowager Lady do Clifford. On the 30th of October,' 1834, a lease was granted to Lady de Clifford, in consideration of the expense, considerably exceeding 2,000l., which her husband, the late Lord do Clifford, had incurred in building stables and coach-houses on a plot of ground in Chandos-mews, St. Martin's-lane, having a frontage of 54 feet 9 inches, and a depth of 21 feet 5 inches, for a term of 99 years, from the 5th of April, 1832, at a rent of 31l. 10s. per annum, being a ground-rent of 11s. 6d. per foot frontage, and at the rate of 1,100l. per annum. That rent the Crown was now in receipt of, and on the 6th of April, 1931, the ground and buildings thereon would revert to the Crown unincumbered. It must be obvious to their Lordships, that those observations did not affect those who were now in charge of the property of the Crown; but he had taken the liberty to state these facts to their Lordships, because he felt that the honour and reputation of his predecessors, or of old officers of the department who may yet survive, ought to be as precious to him as his own. He had no doubt that these inadvertencies and misapprehensions had arisen from the fact that the parties who had made these comments had to refer to a blue book of 750 folio pages, in which the information was scattered up and down in all parts; and he had no doubt that, on the part of those who managed the property of the Crown, there might in transactions occupying that space to record them, also be found some errors and miscalculations. All he could say was, that whatever was com- plained of would be explained, and if error could be pointed out, the Commissioners would endeavour, as far as in them lay, to correct it. With respect to the management of the Crown property generally, he had no doubt that in this, as in all other establishments, whether of a public or private character, it would be found that from time to time improvements might be effected. An inquiry was now taking place into the management of the Crown property, and he could assure their Lordships that there was no disposition on the part of the Commissioners to hold back information, but to consider the suggestions that might be offered, and adopt any practical and well-considered measures of improvement.


said, that he was one of those with respect to whom the misinformation referred to by his noble Friend had been published, and he found himself held up to public notice by a public journal a few days since, as the possessor of a house on a larger and grander scale than was fitted to his station in life—he was represented as paying for this mansion a ground-rent of but 69l. a year, instead of 500l. a year, which it ought to be—and he was further represented as having profited by the corruption or negligence, or both, of a public department, or by the exercise of undue influence possessed either by himself or his predecessors to get that ground on those very insufficient terms—that the house he was building stood on the site of one which had been destroyed by fire—and he was also represented as inheriting it from a deceased Earl of Bridgewater, who lived much abroad, and of whom the less that was said the better—that was a general summary of what had been said respecting him, and which he only mentioned to show what pains anonymous writers in the press took to collect information on the subjects on which they wrote; but there was one thing of which it would be found the writer had been forgetful—that was the strong moral obligation every man was under of inquiring into facts before imputing misconduct to individuals, or defects to public departments in the State. The facts of the case were quite contrary to what had been alleged. As to his having a house of larger dimensions than suited his rank of life, he would not enter upon that question; but with respect to the other allegations, he had to say it was not true that the house he was building was on the site of one which had been destroyed by fire—it was not true that he paid 69l. a year ground rent—it was not true that he had inherited it from a late Earl of Bridgewater—still less that he had inherited it from a late Earl of Bridgewater who lived for the most part abroad—and still less from a late Earl of Bridgewater of whom the less that was said the better. He (the Earl of Ellesmere) was not a person to be proud of any accident of his position in which he had no earthly merit of his own; but if he could be proud of any accident of that description, it would be that of inheriting from one who had been a great benefactor to his country; for him, of all others of his deceased predecessors, might it be justly said, "the more said the better." As for the house for which it was said he paid an insufficient rent, he paid no rent whatever, insufficient or otherwise, to any one, for the good reason that the site was his own; and as for the slip of ground for which he paid 69l. a year rent, if his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Carlisle) thought that that was an insufficient rent, he was ready to abide by his decision, and pay more if required.

House adjourned till To-morrow.

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