HL Deb 24 November 1884 vol 294 cc226-8

in rising to call attention to the great benefit which would be conferred upon the inhabitants of the crowded districts of Stratford, Plaistow, and East Ham if the Main Drainage Embankment passing through those districts could be converted into a public boulevard, said, the structure, on the top of which he wished to place a public walk, was a very large work, three miles in length and about 30 feet in breadth. It was raised above the level of the street, and it would enable persons on the top of it to obtain a breath of really fresh air, and to retire for a time from the noise and bustle of the streets. It would make a most acceptable walk, and would somewhat resemble the walks seen in some of their old towns along the top of walls. He would be glad to know what the objections of the Metropolitan Board of Works were in regard to the planting of this Embankment with trees and shrubs. To do so would not interfere with the works. No reason for objecting to do so had been given; and they were, therefore, driven to conjecture. One reason, it was supposed, was that there would be a certain amount of smell; but if there should be any from the drains it could be obviated by having ventilating shafts constructed at a small expense. Another objection that had been taken to the proposal was upon the ground of safety; but he thought that would be really one of the strongest arguments in its favour. At the present time there was a fence throughout the whole length of the Embankment, on each side of it, eight feet high, which afforded facilities for people bent on mischief hiding behind it. Therefore, there would be less danger if the fence were down and the Embankment thrown open. West Ham was densely crowded with poor people, and it was extremely desirable to make this improvement to enable them to have recreation and enjoyment.


remarked that they had only heard one side of the question; but, personally, he was inclined to say that his noble Friend had made out a good primâ facie case in favour of his proposal. He had, however, communicated with his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department; and he was informed by him that, as his noble Friend was probably aware, the matter primarily rested with the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Home Secretary had sent the Notice of his noble Friend to Sir James M'Garel-Hogg, the Chairman of the Board of Works, and had requested him to make his observations upon it. As soon as the reply was received the Home Secretary would consider it in connection with his powers in the matter; but, as his right hon. and learned Friend stated, it was very doubtful if he had any power at all. However, the Home Secretary would communicate with his noble Friend on receiving the reply.


said, he thought that no opportunity whatever should be lost of calling the attention of the House to the possibility of providing fresh places of recreation for the people of the Metropolis, and this particular case was one which appeared to recommend itself to the consideration of the House. He recollected being present at the opening of the great Metropolitan sewer, and a great variety of benefits were then promised which had not all been entirely realized. It appeared to be a reproach on the Local Authorities in London that they should have to be awakened by means of private Associations to what appeared to be their paramount duty.


said, that the subject deserved attention from its bearing on the question of Municipal Reform. The Municipal Authorities in London ought to take into consideration the best means of affording recreation and healthy exercise to the masses. It was the misfortune of London that its open spaces were being rapidly covered with buildings; and it became neces- sary that the Government of the Metropolis should look beyond the material advantages of drainage and convenient thoroughfares, and the employment of rates, and should look, as part of its duty, to the mode of meeting the comforts and enjoyments and happiness of the masses of toiling people who were placed beyond the reach of any open air exercise. It appeared that this Embankment might be made a promenade for the enjoyment of large numbers of people without any additional expense of any consequence; and he hoped that the Metropolitan Board of Works might rise to their great duties in that respect, and not suffer itself to fall behind the Corporation of London, who had preserved Epping Forest for the public, and had used their powers for the promotion of the comfort and enjoyment of the population under their control.


remarked on the improvement of ventilation in the low-lying North Woolwich district from the rush of air caused by the passage of the railway trains.