HL Deb 17 June 1856 vol 142 cc1571-2

presented a Petition from the Vestry of St. Mary's, Islington, against the Leases and Sale of Settled Estates Bill, now before Parliament. His Lordship was understood to say that opportunity should be taken of this Bill to secure the possession of Hampstead Heath to the public for ever.


said that, if he had rightly collected from the noble and learned Lord the prayer of the petitioners, he quite concurred in the principle set forth by them. Some twenty years ago one of the Oxford colleges, possessed of the fee simple of Primrose Hill, was about to dispose of their rights, which would have led to building over that property. He was at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, with the assent of the Government of Lord Melbourne, he bought the property from the parties entitled to hold it, and Primrose Hill had been saved by that purchase for the purposes of the public. He could not help thinking that the people at large had an interest in a question of this description, and the right way to proceed was not to deprive any proprietor of the right properly appertaining to him, but to give him fair compensation and thus acquire the property honestly for the public. If he understood the matter in the case of Hampstead Heath, the public would in a very short period be left in the lurch. They might petition their Lordships, and Parliament might deal with the case, not on its own merits, but by reason of a supposed interest which the public had in keeping the Heath intact, but such a struggle could not long be maintained, and then this property would be enclosed and built over. Now, if the public wished to preserve the ground in its present state, let them buy it on reasonable terms, and so attain a public object in the only way in which it was consistent with the honour and dignity of Parliament to allow such an object to be attained.


said, that while he thought that the terms of the testator's will were such as to show a clear intention to withhold a leasing power from the present tenant, Sir T. M. Wilson, yet considered it advisable to bear in mind that ere long there would probably be a tenant seised in fee, who would have power to deal with this property as he chose, in defiance of the public. Hence he concluded with the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) in thinking it desirable that something should be done to protect the public interests in the matter.