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Supply—Miscellaneous Estimates

Volume 142: debated on Friday 13 June 1856

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House in Committee; Mr. FITZROY in the chair.

(1.) £4,500, Entrance to St. James's Park.

Sir, I rise for the purpose of proposing to the Committee two Votes connected with the same matter, in regard to which the Committee this day week rejected, by a large majority, the Vote proposed by the Government. I mean that in reference to the proposed passage through St. James's Park. The Vote refers to two matters—the one is the passage from the iron gates near the German Chapel to the Mall, in St. James's Park; the other is the erection of a suspension bridge, for the passage of pedestrians, across the ornamental water. Of course it is not for me to determine the motives which actuated that Committee in rejecting the Vote which was proposed last week with a view of carrying out the object which the House had previously expressed a great desire to see accomplished. I presume, however, that the Committee objected to the expense of pulling down the German Chapel and rebuilding it elsewhere. That a new passage should be made through the park, I believe, is generally desired. In regard to the erection of a bridge across the ornamental water, some objections have been made to the plan proposed. I propose now two Votes, the one for the road, the other for the construction of the bridge. The two Votes shall, however, be taken separately, and therefore the Committee will have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon the merits of each, and of dealing with them as they deem fitting. When the Committee had rejected the Vote proposed last week, on the ground I have assumed, Her Majesty, always anxious to make any sacrifice or arrangement conducive to the public convenience and interests, immediately consented to give up a portion of the garden of St. James's Palace, in order that a straight road might be carried from the iron gates between Marlborough House and St. James's Palace, and from thence across the bridge, to be erected over the ornamental water. The estimate for the formation of the road, for giving a large footway, for rebuilding the wall at Marlborough House, and the carrying it westward towards the Palace, for rebuilding the wall of St. James's Palace Garden, which is to be thrown back, for putting a railing at the front of what is called the Ambassador's Court, for the erection of lamps on the road leading to the bridge—the estimate for all this is £4,500, being the amount of the Vote which I now propose to take. The estimate may seem extravagant for the work to be done, but those who are professionally employed on such matters are the best judges. I can, however, assure the Committee, that my right hon. Friend at the head of the Board of Works will take every care that the work shall be done by contract, and at the lowest possible price. This sum of £4,500 shall he the maximum of the cost. Of course, if the expense be reduced, all the money will not be expended. This road will of course be made for carriages to pass over it. We are thus providing for the convenience of those who ride in carriages. There is, however, a class of people in this metropolis whose convenience I trust the Committee will not forget—I mean those who walk upon their feet. [Laughter.] Why, Sir, there are some who, it is said, walk upon their heads. Now, it Would be a great convenience to a large portion of the community if there were a passage across the water so as to connect Westminster with the other part of the metropolis. To effect this object it is proposed to construct a bridge over the water. I believe that such a work was also much desired by those persons who frequent the gardens for purposes of amusement and recreation, who would be thus enabled to cross the water by this bridge, instead of being obliged to go a considerable way round. I should think—but this is a matter of taste—that a light suspension bridge, so far from being unsightly, would, on the contrary, be a great ornament to the park, as well as a great convenience to the public. The Committee, however, will deal with it as it deems fitting. For the construction of this foot bridge I shall propose a Vote of £3,500. That, like the other Vote for the road, will be the maximum cost.

said, the mode in which the noble Lord proposed the Vote almost disarmed all opposition; but he thought the noble Lord was quite justified in expressing an opinion that the sum he asked for was rather extravagant. He (Mr. L. Davies) had, however, taken the trouble of inquiring into the subject. He had applied to an eminent engineer, who caused the road work to be measured yesterday. The result was an estimate by which he proposed to make the alterations specified for a sum not exceeding £2,500, and stating that he was prepared to give the most ample security for its proper performance according to the specifications laid down, and to execute the work under the superintendence of any persons appointed by the Government. He (Mr. L. Davies) was as anxious as the noble Lord that the work should be done properly, and that it should not be spoiled by any false economy. The only difference between the statement the noble Lord and the estimate to which he alluded was the proposed railing in the front of the Ambassadors' Court. He was disposed to think that such a railing would be found to be an obstruction. He proposed to reduce the Vote to £3000, allowing £500 to cover the expenses of the railing, which he thought would be ample for the purpose.

said, he hoped the hon. Member would not persevere with his Amendment. He did not propose his Vote as a fixed sum, but only as the maximum cost of the alterations. He could only say, if the person who communicated with the hon. Gentleman on the subject would undertake the performance of the work in a proper manner, he was quite sure that his right hon. Friend (Sir B. Hall) would be delighted to avail himself of the offer.

said, if the noble Lord would allow this gentleman to be a competitor for the work to be done he was perfectly willing to let the Vote pass.

said, that in order to explain the apparent discrepancies of the two estimates, he could state that about one-fifth of an acre was to be taken from the Palace Gardens, and about two-fifths of an acre to be added to the grounds connected with Marlborough House. According to the previous scheme, it was intended, he believed, to take land from Marlborough House, but to pay for it; surely, if, under the new plan, ground were to be given, it might not be too much for the trustees of Marlborough House to enclose that land for themselves. Another item in the estimate was, the rails to be put up in front of the Ambassador's Court. That fence was not to consist of a rail, but of four gates of a very costly description. If these things were taken into consideration, the Committee would understand the apparent discrepancy between the two estimates.

said, he wished to know whether the two-fifths of an acre were to be added to Marlborough House, and enclosed by means of a dead wall, or whether that land was to form part of the approach to the park with an ornamental rail in front? A dead wall would be very unsightly, whereas this small piece of ground might he so laid out with a rail as to add to the beauty of the approach.

said, he must express his regret after the decided manner in which the Vote was rejected last Friday evening that the same proposition should be brought before the Committee again that evening. ["Oh, oh!"] He heard sounds of dissent from that, but it appeared to him a distinction without a difference. He would remind them of the grounds on which the Vote of the previous Friday was rejected, and it was his opinion that a shorter road to Pimlico through the Stable Yard, already existed if it were only thrown open to the traffic of the metropolis. All that was necessary was to put up a board at that corner insisting upon those who went that way with carriages going at a slower pace. Cabs were at one time permitted through St. James's Park. [Sir G. GREY said: That was a mistake.] Well, at all events, cabs were allowed to go through after it was dark, which only increased the danger which was supposed to attend the passage in daylight. Besides, it was only proposed as a temporary expedient, and the season was now far advanced. At the same time he would not divide the Committee upon the question.

said, he wished to know whether it was intended to impose any new restrictions with regard to the passage through the Stable Yard; whether it was intended to remove the existing gates between Marlborough House and St. James's Palace, in Pall Mall; and whether hackney carriages would be allowed to go through the new entrance?

said, the new road was expressly intended for the convenience of the public, private carriages, and hackney cabs, would of course be allowed to use it, but carts and waggons would be excluded. There would be no occasion for removing the existing gates, as they were wide enough, the one for going and the other for returning vehicles. The roadway referred to by his noble Friend (Lord R. Grosvenor) was only fifteen feet wide at the corner, and further round it was only nineteen feet wide; and, therefore, he must consider it a very dangerous road.

said, he thought that, considering the difficulty in which the Government had been placed by the Vote of the other evening, the plan they now proposed was the best which could, under the circumstances, be adopted. He begged to ask whether there was to be a lodge at the new gates?

said, that it was not at present intended that there should be a lodge at the new gates. He promised that this work should be done under his own supervision; and that if the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. L. Davies) would communicate to him the names of the persons who had sent their tender to him it should receive the attention of the Board of Works, and those persons should have a copy of the specifications of the work to be done, and should be enabled to tender if they thought fit to do so. As to the ground to be taken from the Palace gardens referred to by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Tite), he had found by stepping that it amounted to fully a quarter of an acre, and that a few yards more would be given to Marlborough House.

said, he could not help suggesting that a lodge at the entrance would be very desirable.

said, he believed it was now generally understood that it was the wish of Her Majesty that as much accommodation should be given to the public as possible. He wished to know whether the old exclusiveness of the passage at the Horse Guards was to be maintained, or whether a free road was to be made through the Horse Guards entrance?

said, he would beg to inquire whether the present entrance through the Stable Yard, was to be entirely closed, and if not, whether it would be opened so as to admit carriages and persons on horseback?

said, that the gate would not be closed to foot passengers. He thought that no equestrian would go in by that gate, except he had a very bad horse.

said, that in order to remove the impression that during the year of the Great Exhibition public carriages were allowed to pass through the Stable Yard Gate, he would read the letter from his right hon. Friend at the head of the Home Department (Sir G. Grey) to the Duke of Wellington in accordance with which that gate was to a certain extent opened to the public. In that letter there was a special provision that the permission to pass through the Stable Yard Gate should not extend to "stage coaches, hackney coaches, cabs, cabriolets, omnibuses, carts, waggons, or public carriages." There was, therefore, no foundation whatever for the supposition that in the year 1851 permission was given to public carriages to pass through that gate.

said, he wished to know whether the Stable Yard Gate was to be open while the new road was being constructed? and, also, whether the new road was to be open at all hours of the day and night?

replied, that the new passage would he open all day. The present arrangements would hold good till the new road was constructed.

said, he still thought that there should be a limit to the expenditure for these new works; but he would withdraw his Motion on the understanding that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir B. Hall) would exercise a proper surveillance over those employed.

said, he thought the Committee ought to consider not so much economy as the appearance of the works to be executed. The proposed alterations were in one of the most important parts of the metropolis. It was besides in the immediate neighbourhood of a mansion that would be long occupied by one who was the heir apparent to the Throne, and his (Sir W. Jolliffe's) opinion on this Vote was that they ought not to consider expense. He thought the plan was infinitely the more important of all the plans which had been brought forward for opening a passage into the park. He would suggest, however, that the wall to be put up should not be a dead wall, as that would contribute very little to the ornament of the place.

said, he objected to the funds of the nation being expended for the convenience of a few persons living in Belgravia or Pall Mall. He knew it was of no use to divide the Committee upon the subject: but he could not avoid recording his protest against the Vote.

said, he wished to know whether it was intended to give the public the same privilege of passing up and down Constitution Hill which they now enjoyed in St. James's Park? [Sir B. HALL replied in the negative.] He thought it was only just, as the parks were the property of the public, who paid large sums on account of them, that the gates should be opened.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) Motion made, and Question put—

"That a sum, not exceeding £3,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Cost of erecting a Suspension Bridge for Foot Passengers over the Water in the Inclosure in Saint James's Park, in the year ending the 31st day of March, 1857.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 182; Noes 95: Majority 87.