HL Deb 06 June 1864 vol 175 cc1230-6

rose to call the attention of the Government to the great public Inconvenience occasioned by the overcrowded State of Park Lane, and to the pressing Necessity of partially opening Hamilton Place for public Traffic. The noble Earl said that the state of Park Lane was too well known to make it necessary for him to dilate upon the inconvenience and danger arising from the obstructions that constantly took place there. Park Lane was a narrow, crooked thoroughfare, carrying the greatest amount of traffic through the narrowest space of any in London. He would remind their Lordships that until Kensington was reached, it was the only communication between the north-west and south-west of the metropolis. The extensive districts of Tyburnia, Paddington, Belgravia, Brompton, Pimlico, and Kensington had no other mode of intercommunication but Park Lane; and their Lordships must bear in mind that the great railways—the Great Western, the North Western, and the Great Northern—must communicate with the Victoria station and the South Western station by Park Lane, and consequently during the greater part of the twenty-four hours there was a constant stream of vehicles passing through it—drays, waggons and carts, cabs and gentlemen's carriages. There was a part of the street where, for the distance of 150 yards, the breadth of the carriage way from kerb stone to kerb stone was only 18 feet 6 inches. There had been constant complaints in the House of Commons of the accidents that were always occurring in this street, and it had been found necessary to station two policemen at the end of Park Lane. In this very narrow part of the street there were two public houses, which seemed to be extremely popular, for whenever he passed, he saw gentlemen's carriages standing in front; and near them was a corn chandler's, where carts seemed to be always loading and unloading. These of course greatly obstructed the thoroughfare. He believed it would be extremely difficult to find a greater inconvenience than Park Lane even in this metropolis, which was perhaps the worst regulated on the earth. There were two ways, no doubt, in which the evil might be entirely removed, or much mitigated. One side of Park Lane might he taken down. They might begin by removing Gloucester House, and there were some four or five other houses; but he believed they would not effect the desired improvement at a less cost than £170,000. Now unless it could be shown that there was no other way of relieving Park Lane, this would obviously be a most foolish expenditure of £170,000. The other plan would be the opening of Hamilton Place. It certainly would not be desirable that Hamilton Place should be open for general traffic; but he thought it might be opened for light traffic, such as that which is now allowed to pass through Lord Westminster's and the Duke of Bedford's property, or through the Park. What he proposed should pass through Hamilton Place were private carriages and cabs. He believed the cab traffic to be the most important in London; all men of business used cabs, and he had once read that a man without any extravagant expenditure might easily spend £200 a year in cabs. All lawyers and commercial men betook themselves to cabs. Objections, no doubt, were made to opening Hamilton Place. It was said that Hamilton Place was not wide enough. No doubt there was one part narrower than the rest. The narrowest part was opposite Nos. 5 and 6, where, after allowing 17 feet for the footway, there remained only 29 feet for carriages, which might easily be increased to 31 or 32. Seeing that the utmost width of a gentleman's carriage was 6 feet, and that a cab did not exceed 5 feet in width, if two gentlemen's carriages were standing on opposite sides of the street they would still leave space enough for three cabs to pass abreast. The great difficulty was how to deal with the Crown lessees. But if the Crown gave its consent he did not see why Crown lessees should he sacred or inviolable more than any other persons. There were only six proprietors, he believed, in all. The occupiers or leaseholders feared very much that their privacy was likely to he interfered with; and he admitted that with regard to No. 6 there would be considerable interference, because part of the garden of that house must be taken for the purpose of widening the footway. But a garden, he thought, was of very little value in London, and one which might be supposed to be capable of pecuniary compensation. With part of the neighbourhood he (the Karl of Lucan) was familiar, for his father built one of the houses, No. 4, and the earliest years of his life were spent in this house. He might venture to say that every good room in these houses looked towards the Park, and the lower rooms were left entirely to servants and children. The light traffic he suggested could hardly be supposed to interfere with them. He thought it would be well the lessees should understand what was commonly called "Give and take." When these Houses were constructed the public were allowed to come very nearly under the windows on the Park side. It was long after the houses were built that the gardens were placed there. The advantage gained by the lessees in respect to the gardens would be a very good set-off against any disadvantage to them from the opening of Hamilton Place. Private interests ought not to stand in the way of an urgent public improvement. The improvement he was suggesting was certainly as desirable as any now going on in the City of London. If private interests were always to be considered sacred from interference, we should never have a railway or any other public improvement. The authorities of the City of London were pulling down houses by the hundred, and ejecting the inhabitants by the thousand, for the proposed Holborn Valley improvement, which was estimated to cost £750,000. He wished to contrast the opening of Park Lane with what was proposed with respect to the Holborn Valley. He had read, in common with other noble Lords, the petition of a Mr. Pontifex, a gentleman who was spending some £1,500 a week in wages. Mr. Pontifex said that he should be required to give up his premises, not because the whole of them were wanted for the purposes of improvement, but in order that the site might be resold. The City of London had powers of taking land under their Act, and they were said to be taking a great deal more land than was necessary for their improvements, in order that they might Bell it again and thus reduce the estimated expenditure of £750,000. He thought that if the traffic of Park Lane could be relieved in the way he had described, the lessees might console themselves with the reflection that they had not to deal with the authorities of the City of London. Her Majesty herself had set a very good example in this respect. When Her Majesty opened the Parks to light traffic she made a very great sacrifice, and he thought the lessees of the Crown should follow her example. Having stated the grievance, he would now proceed to suggest a remedy. Several years ago an Act called the Metropolis Local Management was passed, by the 72nd clause of which it was provided that every vestry or district board should, with the consent in writing of the Metropolitan Board of Works, have power, within their respective parishes or districts, to extend, widen, or improve any street, road, or way, for the, purpose of facilitating traffic, or any other public purpose; and to take by agreement or gift any land, Crown land, or any other property: the expenses were to be paid out of a general rate; and they were empowered to raise any sums which might be necessary for carrying out such improvements. It appeared to him that that clause was applicable to the present case; and it was a matter of great surprise to him to find that the Vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square, a very active member of which he perceived in his noble Friend opposite, should have allowed this clause to lie dormant for so long. He considered it to be the positive duty of the vestry to avail themselves of the powers contained in this Act, in order to carry out its provisions. His belief was that if the vestry were to put themselves into communication with the lessees, they would be able to make a satisfactory arrangement, and that the expense of the improvements in Hamilton Place would not exceed £5,000 or £6,000. The whole improvement might be effected at a cost of from £50,000 to £60,000, and, consequently, no additional Act of Parliament would be necessary. If the vestry could not come to an arrangement with the lessees, it would be open to them to obtain an Act of Parliament which would contain the necessary powers.


, as s member of the Vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square—though neither an active nor an influential member—wished to say a few words in vindication of that body. According to his noble Friend's statement Park Lane was a means of communication between enormous districts in the north and others in the south of London, and yet his noble Friend wished to impose upon the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square, the burden of effecting this great metropolitan improvement. The Vestry of St. George's were the representatives of the ratepayers of that parish, and were bound to watch over the interests of that body. It was bound to remove inconveniences crated by the parish itself, but not those created by the whole metropolis. The duty of carrying out improvements of a general character was intrusted to the Metropolitan Board of Works, which had the power of defraying the expense by levying a rate over the whole metropolis. If the whole of the metropolis was to be benefited, the whole ought to contribute, and the burden ought not to he thrown solely on the parish of St. George's. He thought, therefore, the vestry of that parish could not be justly accused of supineness or apathy. His noble Friend had not stated, and their Lordships did not know, whether the First Commissioner of Works was prepared to assent to this improvement on the part of the Crown, and it was highly probable that the lessees would refuse to produce the leases under which they held.


said, their Lord-ships would agree with the noble Earl (the Earl of Lucan) that the overcrowded state of Park Lane occasioned a perpetual nuisance owing to the stoppages which constantly occurred there. The real question was how it could he relieved, and there was a difference of opinion respecting the best mode of doing this. Some years ago a Committee of the other House recommended, by way of improvement, that Hamilton Place should be opened for traffic. The First Commissioner introduced a Bill for that purpose, but it was opposed by the Treasury on two grounds—first, that in the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown it would be a breach of faith with the lessees to open Hamilton Place; and, secondly, that it was not the business of the Government but of the Metropolitan Board of Works to make the opening. He believed the matter was now under the consideration of the Metropolitan Board.


said, he could hardly think the statement of the noble Earl the President of the Council to be valid. In the first place, the Law Officers of the Crown did not appear to be consistent in their opinions. Three years ago he (the Earl of Malmesbury) had been ejected from a house which had been held by his family for upwards of eighty years, on the assigned reason that it was required for a temporary Foreign Office. He received the value of his lease, and some compensation for the inconvenience to which he was subjected. He did not believe that the lessees of Hamilton Place would resist any fair proposal that might be made to them. With respect to the argument that these improvements ought to be paid for out of the general rates of the metropolis, he did not think there was much force in it. The argument might have been a good one twenty or thirty years ago, but now it did not stand upon the same ground. The fact, was that the impediment was caused by the enormous concourse of people whom the railways brought from the country. If the metropolis were left to the regular inhabitants there would be room for every one in the streets, but owing to the new invention of railways, which gave facilities to every one to come to London, the streets were becoming choked. He thought, therefore, it would only be fair that the improvements rendered necessary by this influx of visitors should be paid for out of the general taxation; indeed, no tax could be more fair than a general tax for the relief of the principal streets of London.


said, that the inconvenience now experienced in Park Lane would be remedied to a great extent by simple police regulation. It was a most monstrous thing that the whole traffic should be stopped because one or too tradesmen choose to allow their carts to stand for hours together at their doors. One cart standing at a particular part of the Lane, just opposite the entrance of his house, permitted only one line of carriages to pass, putting an entire stop to the flow the other way. He did not see why the police should not have power to prevent any carts being allowed to stop in Park Lane for two, four, or five minutes at a time. He did not know whether they had the power, but was told they had not, and it was a power which might advantageously be intrusted to them. He agreed with his noble Friend who had just spoken, that the railways had an effect upon the streets of the metropolis. Since he (the Duke of Cambridge) had lived where he did, the traffic through Park Lane had enormously increased. This was caused, to a great extent, by the opening of the Victoria station. Formerly there were no omnibuses passing down Park Lane; now there was a regular service of them; and the flow from the Paddington station to that of Victoria was enormous. He might assume that this was not the proper London traffic, and he could not help thinking that the expense of the improvements should he borne not by the ratepayers of St. George's or of the metropolis, but by the country generally.


said, that nothing more was required to relieve Park Lane than to give the public possession of the small angle of the Park between Grosvenor Gate and Hyde Park Corner. The communication between Bayswater and Kensington had been facilitated in a similar way. No expense would be thrown either upon the metropolis or upon the country at large.