HL Deb 13 July 1883 vol 281 cc1340-5

, in rising to ask a Question as to the alterations at Hyde Park Corner, said, that, as far as he could judge, those improvements, as some people might call them, had but little effect upon the block which was of daily occurrence between Hyde Park Corner and Hamilton Place. There were one or two causes which, in his opinion, had led to this conspicuous failure. The primary cause was that the new road which started from Grosvenor Crescent terminated too abruptly at Hamilton Place, so that the enormous traffic from the North of London and from the East and West through Piccadilly was but little relieved. The open space had been left too small, and was too much cut up by roads. The only good that seemed to have arisen out of the alterations was that they had opened out Decimus Barton's Arch, probably the best work executed by that artist, and which made an admirable entrance from Piccadilly into Hyde Park. The plan he would suggest would be, perhaps, rather expensive; but, as their Lordships were aware, they had nothing whatever to do with money in that House. The noble Lord then proceeded to sketch his plan, which was to the effect that the present new road should be taken further down, so as to commence at Halkin Street, with a branch to Grosvenor Crescent, and should terminate in Piccadilly, somewhat beyond Hyde Park Lane. To effect that, about 40 yards of the brick wall to the northwest of Buckingham Palace Gardens would have to come down, and about one-tenth of an acre would have to be taken from the Gardens. He would also take some 15 feet from the Green Park to add to the roadway in Piccadilly for some distance eastward. The Arch that was now being re-erected was placed in a most unfortunate position, for it would stand askew to all the other buildings in its neighbourhood. Its proper site would be pushed further back at right angles to Constitution Hill and directly opposite Hamilton Place. By the plan he proposed the open space would be more than double its present size; and he would like to see the space thus secured, not given up to fancy gardening, but treated architecturally in a fitting manner, so that it might be something like the Place de la Concorde at Paris. He understood that there was some intention of making a road from Curzon Street into Piccadilly, and if this were carried out it would give great facilities to the traffic. The important question, however, had to be considered—What was to become of the Duke of Wellington's Statue? He would suggest that the best thing that could be done with it would be to melt it, and from the metal some fitting monument might be made, which he would place on the new mound formed from the débris in the Green Park and facing Apsley House. He hoped the plan he had suggested or some alternative scheme would receive careful consideration from the Government.


said, he considered the alteration at Hyde Park Corner a very great improvement; but he thought it would be a great mistake to move the Duke of Wellington's Statue from this site to that suggested near the Horse Guards.


said, he was of opinion that a very appreciable improvement had been effected at Hyde Park Corner. That improvement, however, would be rendered greater if 18 feet or 20 feet, commencing gradually from about opposite the end of Park Lane, were added to the width of Piccadilly, to relieve the traffic coming down Hamilton Place. This would allow two continuous streams of traffic from west to east and from east to west to pass unaffected by the influx there, almost the whole of which, going, as it did, westward and southward, would be able, from the 20 or 25 feet of passage on the North thus left free for it, to diffuse itself gradually in those two directions, when it came to the wide space already provided by the recent improvement.


said, that the question raised by the noble Lord was one that had been before their Lordships on two or three previous occasions, and he feared that he could add little to what had already been said on the subject. The noble Lord, who was a great authority on all matters of taste, agreed, he thought, that the alteration made had been, at any rate, an improvement, and that it had tended to do away with the block which existed for so many years. The noble Lord appeared, however, to think that those improvements might with advantage have been carried out on a larger scale, and criticized with some severity the plan which had been adopted. There was no doubt that, as London increased in size, the growth of the traffic would be proportionately great. When the arrangements were entered into for carrying out the alterations that point was very carefully considered, and the First Commissioner came to the conclusion that there would be ample space for any increase of traffic for a very considerable period. Hyde Park Corner had been a bugbear and a stumbling-block to a good many First Commissioners. Plan after plan had been rejected, owing to the enormous difficulties they entailed and the wide diversity of opinion which was manifested. By the adoption of the present plan all danger to life, limb, and vehicles had been removed. The noble Lord thought that a much larger piece of the Park should have been cut off and thrown into the place, and that the line from Hamilton Place to Halkin Street should have been concave instead of convex; also that the triangles which had been made should have been differently arranged, and that the Arch ought to have been placed in another position. The noble Lord thought that if that had been done, the block which now existed at Halkin Street would have been obviated. With regard to making the place larger, he had to say that to have done so would have entailed the sacrifice of a larger portion of the Park, and unless a great necessity should arise London could ill spare its trees and green corners. At Hamilton Place Corner there was no doubt a certain block; but it could not for a moment be compared with the block which used to exist at Hyde Park Corner, though, of course, it would be a benefit if it could be removed. The traffic appeared to have increased since the Arch was removed. That was believed to be due, to some extent, to that route being regarded as a short cut to Belgravia. The noble Lord thought, with many others, that if Piccadilly were widened this block would cease; but, in the opinion of the First Commissioner, and of the highest authorities, this was not so. The traffic from the east passed away to the west without any block, but the western line was and must be always, to a certain extent, blocked by the northern, and the Office of Works was convinced that the widening of Piccadilly would not prevent that. It was quite possible that if it could be arranged that the south traffic should go up Park Lane and the north traffic go down by Hamilton Place much trouble might be avoided; but that was a matter of police arrangements, and, unfortunately, the power of the police over vehicular traffic was taken from them in the year 1870. With reference to the triangles, he might state that they were placed in their present position after much careful consideration; and experiments had proved that for places of refuge they could not be better situated. At present they were in a very unfinished condition, and some further expenditure upon them was necessary. In Provincial towns patriotic and munificent citizens not unfrequently dealt with matters of this sort. It was hoped that a similar movement might be made in the present instance by some public benefactors coming forward prepared to expend such a sum upon the site as would render it worthy of London. There was no doubt much could be done to beautify it and to render it a striking ornament to the capital, though it would be impossible for much more public money to be spent upon it. The question of having a tunnel to carry the northern and southern traffic under Piccadilly had been advocated at various times; but the Office of Works, after going carefully into the matter some time ago, found that the levels would necessitate the entrance to the tunnel being very nearly at the top of Hamilton Place and the outlet very low down in Grosvenor Place, so that the project was far from easy to carry out. In any case it could only be effected by the Metropolitan Board of Works, and would not come under the jurisdiction of the First Commissioner. The noble Lord had further asked what was to be done with the Wellington Statue. He could only repeat what he stated on behalf of the Government three weeks ago—that a very responsible Committee which was appointed to inquire into the matter had recommended that the Statue should be placed opposite the Horse Guards. It had, therefore, been determined to test the suitability of that site by first erecting a wooden profile there. This having been done, the Committee would again meet, and be asked for their final opinion. Until then no action would be taken. Generally speaking, he might say that some time must elapse before the value of these great alterations at Hyde Park Corner could be fairly estimated. The First Commissioner had taken enormous interest and trouble in the matter, and was carefully watching the result of the change, and would see what further improvements could be made. In conclusion, he could only assure the noble Lord that the remarks and suggestions which he had made would be taken into the very careful consideration of the Government.


said, that there had been a strong expression of opinion, both in this House and in the other, in favour of retaining the Statue of the Duke of Wellington on its present site. The opinion of the public was also in favour of the Statue remaining in a great centre of traffic where it could be seen by everybody. For one person who would see the Statue opposite the Horse Guards he supposed that 100 would see it where it stood at present.


suggested that the appearance of the Statue might he improved by washing, which it sadly needed.


wished to know whether the triangular pieces of ground were to remain in their present state unless some benevolent person came forward to pay the expenses of improvement?


said, in reply to the noble Earl (the Earl of Redesdale), that the bronze of the Statue was found to be much corroded, and it was doubtful whether it could be improved by being coloured; and, in reply to the noble Earl (the Earl of Milltown), that it was intended to make the triangular spaces as far as possible ornamental.