HL Deb 19 August 1895 vol 36 cc247-9

asked the Secretary of State for War if he would lay on the Table of the House all the Paper connected with the purchase of Kilworth and adjoining lands in Co. Cork for military purposes? In explanation of the matter, the noble Lord said that some two or three years ago attempts were being made in the neighbourhood of Fermoy and Kilworth, Co. Cork, to purchase land for manœuvring purposes He was much interested in the matter, having been a soldier, and having certain experience and also local knowledge of the ground examined for the purpose. He was particularly anxious that the War Office should acquire the ground at as reasonable a rate as possible, consistently with the rights of the landlords and occupiers, but most important of all was that the best ground should be obtained. He saw the late Under Secretary, Lord Sandhurst, on the subject. He urged him not to allow the matter to be unduly hurried on, as he had reason to think that the War Office was not being very wisely counselled locally, and was in treaty for the most expensive ground, and what was considered by experts the worst ground for the purpose. The noble Lord promised to look into the matter, but nothing was done. On his return from India last May, he found to his dismay that the purchase was almost, if not actually, completed, and his object in moving now, was simply to draw attention to the facts. He was also desirous to find out the legal costs incurred, and to compare them with costs of a similar nature dealing with the compulsory purchase of cottages under the Labourers' Act.


in reply, stated that the purchase of the Kilworth site had been decided upon before he assumed his present office, and he had only been able to make a somewhat hurried perusal of the rather voluminous papers which relate to the subject. He did not think it would be desirable to lay all the papers on the Table, but, if his noble Friend would give him an idea privately what were the particular documents which he would like to have, he would do his best to produce them. The purchase of this particular site was, he found, first suggested by the General Officer Commanding in Cork District in 1891. He had manœuvred over the ground and formed a very high opinion of it on account of its suitableness for maoelig;uvres and also because of the facilities which it offered for rifle ranges. The ground was inspected by the Royal Engineers and also by the Medical Officers. It was reported that some parts of it were somewhat boggy, but that about 95 acres on the west side were well suited for camping ground. There was an excellent water supply and the elevation was good, and there was room for a safe rifle range for three battalions, and three other safe sites for field firing. Lord Wolseley reported upon the site in 1892, after a personal inspection, to the effect that he considered it most suitable for manœuvring, not suitable for the training of a large force of cavalry, but very suitable for the efficient instruction of a small force. Lord Wolseley also dwelt on the excellence of the water supply and the roads, and he appeared to have recommended that the site should be acquired. With regard to the cost of the transaction, he was not able to tell his noble Friend anything as to the legal costs, but he found that the original estimate of the value of the property, made on the basis of voluntary sale, was somewhere about £21,000. The necessary steps were taken for acquiring the property under the Defence Act, but he had ascertained that the late Government were reluctant to sanction any course that involved the compulsory acquisition of the tenants' interest. It therefore became necessary for the Crown Solicitor and the Chief Engineer to meet the tenants and to make the best bargain with them of which the circumstances admitted. The result was that the tenants' interests were bought for a sum of £9,717. That sum included something on account of the growing crops which were upon the land, and no doubt that was a proper arrangement. He found that the owners had not yet been settled with for their interests. Their interests included a certain amount of compensation for timber, but the whole cost, for a property which included some 6,000 acres, was expected to reach a sum of between £ 23,000 and £ 24,000.


while thanking Lord Lansdowne, said the point ho wished to lay stress upon was that alternative sites placed before the Government were not dealt with, and that if local knowledge and local expert guidance had been utilised in looking into the alternative lands, a better and cheaper site could have been found.


said he was advised that the alternative sites were not quite suitable for manœuvring purposes.