HL Deb 22 February 1864 vol 173 cc849-56

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

Several Petitions in favour of and against the Bill presented.


moved "That the Bill be now read 2a." The noble Lord said that he desired to be understood as expressing no opinion for or against the Bill.


said, that he had two petitions to present, to one of which, in pursuance of a notice which he had given, he desired to call the special attention of the House. This petition was signed by considerably more than 400 of the most respectable inhabitants of St. James's, the signatures comprising those of the whole of the clergy, of four medical men, and of a considerable number of the largest firms in the neighbourhood. There were besides 150 signatures of householders residing in Bond Street, and 130 of householders residing in Regent Street, who were all opposed to the Bill. The object of the Bill was to carry from Regent Street to Bond Street a covered Arcade, to occupy the whole length of that irregular parallelogram which was bounded by Clifford Street and Burlington Street on the one side, and by Conduit Street on the other, extending to between 400 and 500 yards in length. There was attached to the Bill, probably for the purpose of obtaining for it more favourable consideration, a proposal to widen Bond Street. No doubt Bond Street was very insufficient for the traffic passing through it, and the widening it through its whole length, or in the narrowest parts, would be very desirable; but the proposed widening extended only to about twenty-seven yards, near Clifford Street, and did not touch the narrowest point at all. As a public ground for interfering very freely, as this Bill did, with the rights of individuals, he was surprised to see it put forward, and he could only regard it as a pretext to induce their Lordships to adopt the measure. It was worth inquiring who were the promoters of the scheme, and who were its opponents. He would not say a word against the ostensible promoters. There were three names given as those of the gentlemen who formed the committee, and would be the first directors. They were all very eminent in their way:—Mr. Grissell, one of a firm of great contractors; Mr. Smith, a great builder; and Mr. Rolt, a great timber merchant. He dared to say they were very desirous to see a scheme carried out which the Metropolitan Board of Works had described as being in an architectural point of view a great improvement, and he would not find fault with their natural desire to control an expenditure of £400,000, which must call into operation their own several industries and talents. But these three gentlemen were not representing the interests of the locality. They were wholly unacquainted with the parish, and were simply promoting the scheme as a speculation of a commercial character. Who were the opponents? He had already stated that all the clergy of the parish of St. James's, several medical practitioners, and a very large proportion of the inhabitants in the immediate neighbourhood, were opposed to it, and were petitioning against it. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London had also presented a petition to the same effect from the trustees of the Burlington schools, the interests of which would be vitally affected. The object was stated to be to make a more direct communication for foot passengers between Regent Street and Bond Street. But the Bill did not give the slightest facility in that respect. On one side there was a passage by Clifford Street and New Burlington Street, and on the other by Conduit Street. Those streets were seventy yards apart, and between Clifford Street and Conduit Street there was not a single street. Therefore, no human being would be accommodated more than at present, except parties living immediately opposite the entrance to the Arcade, and they were one and all violently opposed to the passing of the Bill. He did not deny that this Arcade might afford in bad weather a more convenient mode of passing from Bond Street to Regent Street, and he did not deny that it might be used for purposes of exercise, and also, as the promoters said, for purposes of recreation. But, unfortunately, the respectable inhabitants were strongly prejudiced against the species of recreation which these Arcades were calculated to afford. Their Lordships would recollect that at one time Regent Street possessed a long line of Arcades, and that those Arcades were removed by the Government upon the strong representations that their shelter brought together society not of the most reputable character, who injured the custom of the shops and interfered more especially with ladies. The Burlington Arcade was private property, and every effort was made to prevent the growth of the same evil. But it was notorious from the remonstrances of the respectable neighbours, that at certain hours the Burlington Arcade was the resort of a very large number of the least respectable of the female population of the metropolis. The clergy and the respectable inhabitants of St. James's were not desirous of having an Arcade between Regent Street and Bond Street, which would be certain to attract a very undesirable portion of the community. He did not say that the apprehension of such a result would be sufficient ground to interfere with any work of great public utility; but he did say that the feelings of the more respectable classes ought to be taken into consideration, when it was a question of policy whether they should permit this Arcade or not. He would add also that it was doubtful whether a close Arcade, surrounded by shops and extending a considerable length without any opening to the external air, was at all favourable to health. The promoters urged that the Arcade would pass through old and ruinous property. Undoubtedly it was not first-class property, but it was of infinite importance to the immediate neighbourhood. The promoters were anxious to give the advantage of additional space to the extent of some few feet in Bond Street. But they would appropriate three-quarters of an acre of ground absolutely vacant, and three-quarters of an acre of ground covered only with buildings one story high. The driving this Arcade through the property at the back of Clifford Street and Conduit Street was like shutting up the back door of the houses, and leaving no access except through the front. There were workshops, stables, and other buildings connected with the great trade establish- ments which had access to the main streets, and this required another outlet at the back, from which they would be debarred by the making of this Arcade. The Burlington schools, which were among the opponents of the Bill were supported by voluntary contributions, and had been in existence for above 160 years. It had, during that time, constantly boarded, lodged, educated, and fitted for industrial pursuits, fifty girls of the parish of St. James', and a short time since the Trustees had expended £1,100 for the purpose of fitting the building to receive fifty more girls as day boarders, whose payments would assist the voluntary subscriptions, by which the school was mainly supported. This Arcade would pass through the centre of those schools. It was said that it was better they should move somewhere else; but it was almost impossible within a reasonable time and within a reasonable expenditure to obtain a site for such a purpose. It was said that the children would be better in the country. For some purposes they would, but for others they would not. They would be withdrawn from the parish; they would be withdrawn from the parochial ministration of the clergy, and the subscriptions would fall off when the subscribers had no longer the opportunity of personally inspecting and seeing the management of the charity. The space which was required for the Arcade was partly occupied by mews and workshops necessary for the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. In Burlington Mews several large establishments loaded and unloaded their goods without any interference with any public thoroughfare; but if this Bill wore passed they would be deprived of that convenience. One large house—Lewis and Allenby—had declared that the loss and inconvenience to them in this particular would hardly be compensated by the sum of £10,000. The property through which the Arcade passed, though it might not be in itself very valuable, was an adjunct to very valuable property, and if the project were carried out, it would compel the occupiers of that property to load and unload all their goods in front of their premises in Regent Street and Bond Street. The injury, therefore, to be done to property, the possible evil of congregating together improper characters, the deprivation of light and air, the destruction of the Burlington school, were of themselves sufficient grounds for rejecting the Bill, even if the people in- terested were divided on the subject. The noble Lord had presented a petition, signed by four hundred persons in favour of the Bill. He (the Earl of Derby) did not know what locality they inhabited, but it certainly could not be in the vicinity of the proposed Arcade. But with the exception of two small occupiers the whole of the owners and occupiers of the property, through which the Arcade was to run, and the immediate vicinity, were strongly opposed to the Bill and had petitioned against it. In the case of a railway, if all the landowners and occupiers along the whole line were opposed to a Bill, their Lordships would certainly not be disposed to sanction the measure unless a very strong case of public advantage were made out in its favour, and they ought certainly to be as tender of the interest of people in London as of landowners in the country, for the cost of removing one of these great establishments would be proportionably much greater than any injury which could be done to a landowner. The project was nothing but a private speculation, which was petitioned against on sanitary and moral considerations as well as on the grounds of justice, by all those who had any connection with the property, and the chief promoters of which appeared to be a builder, a contractor, and a timber merchant. He knew how loath their Lordships were to reject a Bill on the Second Reading, but still it would be a great shake to the general confidence in the security of property in London, if persons were compelled to submit to the inconvenience, the risk, and the expense of appearing before a Select Committee, merely to protect themselves against a project which was got up entirely as a private speculation. He would therefore move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this Day Six Months").


said, the vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square, had not yet petitioned against the Bill, but they had passed an unanimous resolution to do so.


said, he thought that the proper course to pursue in all these cases was, to consider whether the public objects aimed at were of sufficient importance to justify the invasion of private rights. As a general rule, the whole House was not a good tribunal for deciding these questions, which were much better sifted in Select Committees. He could not agree with some of the statements made by the noble. Earl (the Earl of Derby). He thought it very desirable that we should have in London some of those fine lofty Arcades which were so pleasant in Paris and other continental cities. Neither did he lay altogether so much stress on what the noble Earl said, as to the species of company which might frequent this Arcade—in fact, what was now known by the cant name of the "social evil." In this country, we were in a very anomalous position by the manner in which we dealt with this subject. We were at great trouble to put down improper houses, and on moral and religious grounds, we took other steps to obviate this great immorality; but, on the other hand, our streets presented an appearance —arising from a feeling of regard for personal liberty—which was almost disgraceful when compared with the streets of any other large town. As to these large Arcades, though he should be sorry to vouch for the respectability of all who frequented the Burlington and Lowther Arcades, yet he was bound to say, being liable, as others of their Lordships were who had to walk home in the evening, to be molested in the public streets, such a thing never happened to him in the large Arcade which was under the superintendence of those gigantic guardians of morality and decorum. As to the unanimous opposition to this Bill by the holders and owners of the property affected, the noble Earl had made out a strong case on that point, which he had no doubt was perfectly accurate—and, indeed, he had been informed by those who had charge of the Crown property, that so great was the feeling against the Bill, that they would have great difficulty in recommending that the Crown's assent be given to it if it were to pass this stage. Under the circumstances, it was clearly undesirable to give the Bill a Second Reading, thus putting the owners of property to the great expense of appearing against a project which had in view no public object of sufficient importance to justify it


said, he had heard with great satisfaction the speech of the noble Earl. The House ought to be very careful how it allowed compulsory interference with private property, and it ought not to leave the owners of property to go before a Committee at a great expense in order to preserve their rights, unless there was a strong primâ facie case of public necessity.


said, he perfectly agreed with, his noble Friend behind him in his statements generally, although he felt it was rather a strong course to take to throw out this Bill upon its Second Reading. He was also glad to hear the remarks of his noble Friend opposite, because he had gone sufficiently into the subject, and had taken such a view of the matter as would relieve the House from any charge of interfering arbitrarily with what some persons might consider a public improvement. It appeared to him that the time had arrived when their Lordships ought to take into their serious consideration how or by what means the metropolis generally could be improved. Unfortunately, whenever partial improvements were proposed, the projects were invariably met by the same arguments as those which had been so justly used that evening against the present Bill—namely, the great cruelty and injustice of interfering with the rights of private property. Now, there was no person who had a greater respect for the rights of property than he had; nevertheless he was free to admit that the recognition of those rights might be carried to such an extent as to prove an obstacle to any improvement of the metropolis. As regarded the locality in question, if they looked merely to the corner of Bond Street, they must know that during five or six months of the year the state of that street was such it was impossible to pass freely It was generally choked up by carriages and vehicles of every description. There was a fashionable milliner at one side and a fashionable jeweller at the other, whose customers monopolized the thoroughfare. The time, it seemed to him, had arrived when something ought to be done by Parliament to remedy the evils arising out of such narrow and overcrowded thoroughfares. In the place to which he had just alluded an opportunity had now arisen for improving the locality; but so far from its being seized upon, two new houses had been built in precisely the same position as those which had just previously been removed, and a gentleman of the Hebrew faith, encouraged by the carriages that so frequently blocked up the place, had removed from a large establishment in Brook Street to the site of Steven's Hotel in Bond Street, for the purpose of opening a new establishment; so that that part of the street was likely to remain a nuisance for some generations more. With respect to the argument that those Arcades were frequently used as promenade grounds by the frail sisterhood, it would certainly appear that they forgot the old proverb, that questionable characters should not walk under glasshouses. He, however, confessed he had never seen any improprieties committed in the Burlington Arcade; and he thought it would be a considerable improvement to the metropolis if we had more Arcades or similar buildings established, to which the public might freely resort when the sun was shining with excessive heat, or the wind and weather were piercingly cold, such as existed in Paris and other continental cities. He ventured to make those few observations as a justification of the course he was then taking, because he should be sorry that the public should suppose that their Lordships' House had rejected a private Bill without due consideration.


said, in the presence of such facts as were stated by the noble Earl on the part of the opponents of the scheme, and in the absence of any case being made out on behalf of the promoters, he was disposed to think that this was not a project for such a great improvement as would justify their Lordships in assenting to the Second Reading.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2a on (" this Day Six Months").