HL Deb 24 March 1884 vol 286 cc557-60

, in rising to move for a Copy of the Report of a Select Committee of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, recently presented to the Board in reference to certain house property in South wark, said, that he would wish to make a few observations on the subject. The property in question, long leasehold, had come very slowly into the hands of the Commissioners, block by block and house by house, as the leaseholds and sub-lease- holds upon lives fell in. Prior to 1881 only a small number of leases, covering a limited area, had lapsed; but in that year and in the year 1883, a large number expired, and the direct control of these, which they had not at all until 1881, was very much intermixed with that of others. A Select Committee of the Board of Ecclesiastical Commissioners, recently appointed, presented a Report on the 13th March with reference to the condition and future use of the property. Whilst it had become the duty of the Commissioners to take the property into their own hands, it was necessary that removal should be carried out very gradually. Strong representations had been made by the Brompton Committee and others as to the character of the people who inhabited this district; that the houses were thieves' dens, brothels, and public-houses, and other disreputable haunts; but, as a matter of fact, the streets alluded to were entirely outside the property of the Commissioners; the inhabitants of their property were very poor people indeed, but industrious as a class, hard-working, and earning weekly wages. The Commissioners had now decided to let this land to a builder of good repute, who had been recommended by the Metropolitan Board of Works; and on it he would, as rapidly as desirable, remove the old and dilapidated houses and erect suitable labourers' dwellings. The houses would be in blocks, and would accommodate more persons than the houses which had been destroyed. One particular characteristic of the plan was that they would be erected with rooms capable of being let singly, in pairs, or in suites of three or four rooms, according to the needs of the people. The people had the option of becoming tenants in the meanwhile of the rooms as they were erected; but as more or loss time must necessarily elapse before the whole property would be rebuilt, they would be permitted to occupy old rooms as they became vacant. He might mention that Miss Octavia Hill had expressed a wish in the meanwhile to take in hand the remaining tenements and tenants, to collect the rents for the Commissioners, and to improve the tenants on the system which had proved so effective in other parts of London. It had accordingly been arranged with Miss Hill that she should pursue her well-known plan in connection with the Offi- cial Receivers and Agents of the Board. The circulation of the Report would remove impressions which were founded upon misapprehensions.

Moved for, Copy of the Report of the Select Committee of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, recently presented to the Board in reference to certain house property in Southwark."—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)


, in supporting the Motion, as one of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, would like, in the first place, to state how it happened that the Church became possessed of houses of so wretched a character as those in question. They were tenements let upon leases for lives, and under the tenure by which this property was held the sub-lessees had the power of renewing the leases upon the payment of a small fine; thus the property was virtually taken out of the hands of the landowners. When Parliament abolished that kind of tenure in regard to Church property, and the lives dropped, about a year ago, the Commissioners actually came into possession of this property. This estate was situated between Union Street and Falcon Court, Southwark, and did not include, as asserted, Mint Street. The Committee which had been appointed in Brompton to consider"the bitter cry of Outcast London" had reported that the property was of an exceedingly bad character, and that most of the houses were thieves' dens, brothels, or public-houses. But the property alluded to in that Report was not the property of the Commissioners at all. The character of their tenants was very respectable. They were engaged in various industrial pursuits, though they were very poor. He would give their Lordships a census of one block on the Winchester Park Estate. This block was one on the east side of Red Cross Street. The number of houses occupied was 102. The population was—married. 261; single, 130; children, 244; total, 635. The heads of families were 124 in number, of the following occupations:—namely, artizans and workers at trades—for example, bootmakers, bricklayers, painters, carpenters, basket, brush, box, and paper-bag makers, glass engraver, tailor, carpet sewers, &c., 26; shopkeepers, 5; porters, 5; waterside labourers, 11; bricklayers and other labourers, 25; charwomen, needlewomen, and washing, 8; hawkers, costers, and dealers, 15; rabbit skin pullers, 10; chimney-sweeps and dustmen, 3; other callings—such as carmen, ostler, omnibus driver, cow-keeper, rag-sorter, dock constable, seaman, orange-seller, &c., 11; while those subsisting on charity, or supported by relatives, were only 5 in number. In the case of such people as these, it was a real hardship to remove them from their trades, and he was glad to say that, in this instance, the operations proposed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners could be carried on without any removal of the inhabitants, except of some few who had removed of their own accord. It was hoped that, in a few months, there would be ample accommodation for all these poor people. He thought it would be seen, when the new buildings were completed, that the Commissioners had tried to carry out to the best of their powers the principle, and, he might say, what he considered their bounden duty, of housing the poor who were situated on their estate. The Report, when presented, would prove the truth of what he now stated in asking the House to accept the Motion of the most rev. Primate.

Motion agreed to.