HL Deb 02 April 1860 vol 157 cc1715-7

rose to inquire, Whether it is the Intention of Her Majesty's Government to allow any Part of the Site of Old Smithfield Market to be appropriated for Building Purposes? The noble Lord said he had always taken a deep interest in the affairs of the metropolis, and had spent twenty years of his life in endeavouring to remove the vested interests of Smithfield Market from that great centre of the town. Having got rid of them he had since been employed in endeavouring to prevent their resettling themselves on that at present vacant space of ground in the shape of a dead-meat market. He had attended with deputations to both the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) and the noble Viscount now at the head of the Government to ask that they would not allow old Smithfield to be covered with buildings. He might state that Smithfield had been granted to the Corporation of London, to be held so long as it was used as a cattle market; but when that was removed to another locality the site of Smithfield reverted to the Crown, and the Crown now claimed the right to hold it. He believed that the Corporation of the City at first demurred to the Government interpretation of the terms of the charter; but there could not, he thought, be any doubt that when the market was removed to Copenhagen Fields—whither, however, it ought not to have been removed, for he contended that it ought to have been removed wholly out of town—the ground reverted absolutely to the Crown. When that removal took place he formed one of a deputation to the noble Earl at the head of the last Government, requesting that the area should not be built over, and both from that noble Earl and more recently from the Government of the noble Lord now in power he received the assurance that there was no intention to build over the area. This was so far satisfactory, because there was no part of London where there was so dense and squalid a population as that which was found in the immediate neighbourhood of Smithfield and the adjacent localities of Snow Hill, Clerkenwell Green, Long Lane, Cow Lane, and field Lane. It was most important to the health of the people in those localities that this open space should be kept clear of buildings. That large population had no other space whatever for their children to play on. But, although he had received an assurance from both Governments, neither of them had taken a step in the matter, but had left the ground in the same state in which it was left when the market was removed some years ago. The Government having done nothing in the matter the City authorities had proposed that the space should be appropriated to a dead-meat market, and for other purposes to which they might think proper to apply it. Their Lordships should recollect that there were no squares or open places in the City for the recreation of the people. He thought the Government should have taken possession of the ground in the name of the Crown, have railed it off, and have made it into a playground for the poor children of the neighbourhood. The reason why he had asked the question of which he had given notice was because he understood a plan had been submitted by certain parties for making a great railway terminus on the site of Smithfield. The company was not in posse but in esse, for an Act had been obtained from Parliament for making a railway which should bring the Great Northern and the London and North Western Railways to that part of the town, and the company had proposed to the Government a plan under which they would occupy the greater part of Smithfield. He hoped he should receive an assurance from the noble Duke that the Government did not mean to sanction this covetousness on the part of the Corporation of London. He wished to know whether the Government would persevere in keeping the space vacant, and further, whether they would take possession of it in the name of the Crown.


said, the noble Lord was probably aware, though he had not stated it to the House, that the City had at that moment a Bill before the other House of Parliament sanctioning the formation of a dead-meat market on the site of Smithfield. Communications had taken place between the City authorities and the Home Office on this subject; and, though no decision had yet been come to by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State he was bound to tell the noble Lord that the proposition had been received not unfavourably. At the same time he might state that the matter was still under consideration, and no answer which would at all compromise the Government had yet been given. He did not know at what stage the Bill had arrived, but he apprehended that some arrangement, involving the sanction of the Crown, must be come to before the Bill reached their Lordships' House.