FRONT LINE SCHEME IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS
MR MURPHY SUCCESSFUL
THE BILL PASSED WITH A CONDITION.
OUTSIDE TRAMS TO BE COMPLETED BEFORE THE
FRONT IS TOUCHED.
MONSTER PETITION IN FAVOUR OF THE SCHEME
INTERESTING EVIDENCE FOR AND AGAINST
The hearing of the Hastings Tramways Extensions Bill was reached on Wednesday afternoon, when then measure came before a Select Committee of the House of Lords. Their lordships were: Lord Newton (in the chair), the Earl of Romney, Viscount Barrington, Lord Sandhurst, and Lord Hylton. The case was heard in No.1 Committee Room.
Counsel for the bill were Mr.Pembroke Stephens, K.C, Mr. Wedderburn, K.C., Mr Vesey Knox, and Mr. J. Fitzgerald Murphy (who were instructed by Messrs. Meadows, Elliott and Thorpe), The Opposition counsel were Mr. George W. Freeman, K.C., and the Hon. Evan Charteris (instructed by Messrs, F.G. Langham and W. Carless).
In opening the case, Mr Stephens explained briefly the main features of the scheme, which he said contained three sections, the object being the connection of Bexhill, St. Leonards, and the country districts at the back of Hastings. The whole of the project for tramways had been sanctioned with the exception of about three miles along the Front of Hastings. In one shape or another the matter had been before Parliament since the year 1898. In 1900 the new line to Bexhill was granted. Proceeding, learned counsel said that on the occasion of the early applications to Parliament public opinion was not ripe for the present part of the scheme, although there was common understanding that the connecting piece of line would ultimately come. There was, perhaps, a great deal of dislike and distrust respecting trams along the Front of the town, and there might still be some dislike and distrust, as he believed opponents were present. Tramways, and especially electric tramways, had had to make their way to seaside places. At Ramsgate and Margate, where they would not listen to trams at one time, they had got their tramway system, which, he believed, had cost £300,000 or £400,000. Dover, Sandgate, Portsmouth, and other places now had their tramways. Perhaps the strongest case of all was furnished by Bournemouth. The people of Bournemouth had a strong dislike to tramways and opposed them in every way; but the time came when Christchurch and Poole – he believed those were the places-had their own trams, and such was the change of public opinion that the Bournemouth Corporation came forward and actually promoted a tramway scheme for connecting those two places. He argued that Hastings was most suitable for tramways. Bexhill had grown considerably of late years, and there was a great deal of traffic between that town and Hastings, and it should be a great advantage to both towns to possess a tramway connection. Some of the roads around Hastings were extremely difficult and omnibuses were now taken up some of the hills with the aid of three, and sometimes four, horses to each bus. There was in every way great need for improved communication such as electric traction could supply. The proposed line would connect two railway stations – one at the east, Hastings, and the other at St. Leonards.
Lord Newton – is there no parallel road to the Front?
Mr Pembroke Stephens – No, my lord.
Lord Romney – do I understand the width of the road is 40 feet?
Mr Pembroke Stephens – a width of 40 feet; then there are the pavements.
Mr. Charteris – It is a great deal less in places.
Mr Pembroke Stephens – there are one or two narrow places. In further remarks, learned counsel dwelt upon the increased population of Hastings, and said that the pinch of the War made the time not the most favourable for raising capital for the scheme already sanctioned. Having briefly touched upon what he termed the umbrage of Mr. Bray, and the result of his action, learned counsel cited the increased character of the support given the Bill by members of the Corporation. The present Bill was supported by a vote of 24 to 8 out of 40 members. He came before their lordships with the very strong support and desire of the Corporation. The same thing had happened in Hastings which had happened in other seaside towns, and now the desire for trams were much stronger than was formerly the case. Proceeding, he called the attention of their lordships to the safeguards arranged with the corporation in respect to wayleaves, Sunday traffic, etc.,
Lord Newton – are any of the trams running now?
Mr Pembroke Stephens – No, my lord.
Learned counsel next called attention to a big petition signed by ratepayers in favour. He said it had been lodged at the Private Bill Office, and if it could be got into the room he would have it produced. The petition was signed by no less that 6,700 out of the 10,000 ratepayers of the borough.
Lord Newton (emphatically) – We have not the least desire to see that. (Laughter).
Mr Pembroke Stephens said he only mentioned the petition in order to show the state of feeling in the town. He read the prayer of the memorialists, and laid stress on the fact that three-fifths of the actual ratepayers of the town had signed it, which he submitted, was a very strong manifestation of feeling. The opposition, he pointed out, had presented a petition signed by 285 gentlemen. Of course, these 285 gentlemen were quite entitled to their opinion. A good many of them were gentlemen of position, but he thought he might very fairly say they were gentlemen who were not indisposed to make the most of themselves. (Laughter). Amongst the 285 gentlemen some had done their best to make out their claim by signing their names more than once.
Lord Newton – I should think that perhaps there are dozens of the same kind in the other memorial. We have had sufficient experience of memorials.
Mr Pembroke Stephens, in some further remarks, dwelt upon the experience of Mr. Murphyin the tramways world, and referring to the presence of motors on the Hastings Front, said it would be most inconvenient to have a system of motor buses sandwiched between two systems of electric tramways. Learned counsel then proceeded to call his witnesses.
Mr. Ben F. Meadows, Town Clerk of Hastings, was the first witness. He said the population of Hastings was 65,528, and the number of burgesses was 10,270. In the summer the population was very considerably increased. He produced a minute showing that 24 members of the Council voted in favour and eight against the Bill; four members were neutral, and the others were absent. He produced a copy of the conditions as to wayleaves, etc. He attended to support the Bill on behalf of the Corporation.
Cross-examined by Mr Charteris – The first application for tramways was under the Light Railway Act, and was rejected by Lord Jersey.
Mr Charteris – and Lord Jersey threw it out because he said he could not be a party to a line along the Sea Front?
Witness – I understood it was rather on the ground that the inhabitants did not want it.
In further cross-examination, witness cited the other previous applications for tramways. In all previous schemes where the Sea Front had been concerned he admitted those schemes had been rejected. The frontager’s on the Front Line had, he believed, been considerably opposed to tramways along the roadway. He could not say, without, opportunity of checking, if £29,608 represented the rateable value of the Front Line. Hastings was a health resort.
Mr. Charteris read parts of a petition presented against a tramway application in 1899, in which the Corporation objected that the promoters were speculators with no connection with the town. Had Mr. Murphy any connection with the town?
Witness – Possibly.
Questioned as to a statement about the commencement of trams, issued on the eve of the Municipal Elections, witness said he had not the copy of the newspaper containing such representation before him, and therefore he could not say. Six out of nine representatives of the Western Wards were opposed to trams.
Re-examined – In 1898 there was a proposal for the Front Line, but since then there had been no proposal dealing with the Front till the present. He could not say how many empty houses there were along the Front.
Mr. Charteris – We say 16 out of 213.
Mr Pembroke Stephens – those figures do not agree with mine, but that is not material now.
Witness further stated that he believed that taken generally the action of the Corporation in supporting the Bill represented the ratepayers.
Councillor Harden, of the firm of Messrs. Dawson and Harden, house agents, examined by Mr. Vesey Knox, claimed that he was acquainted with the views of the public. There had been a great change of opinion in favour of trams in recent years. He did not believe a tramway would depreciate the value of property on the Front. He represented Silverhill and Hollington on the Council; the people of his ward were almost unanimously in favour of trams.
By Mr. Charteris – Silverhill and Hollington Ward laid back from the town. The change of opinion in favour of trams was amongst people living on the Front Line and close to it. Some people who had signed the petition against trams had told him they would not object to trams if it were a single line, and not in the middle of the road.
Pressed to give names, witness said he could not give them. He, however, said that one gentleman was the proprietor of 66, Marina. He met these people every day. He had not had experience as house agent in a locality where there were tramways.
By Mr. Pembroke Stephens – Since the tramways had been discussed he had has many applications for houses. He had recently sold three houses on the Marina at a fair price.
Mr. Howard, Mayor of Bexhill, said he had considered the Bill, and supported it on behalf of his Council. They considered it most important that the line should be extended from Bexhill to Hastings. With the improved facilities which the Bill would grant, he believed there would be a very large traffic. The Bexhill Council had unanimously requested witness and the Deputy Mayor to come and support the Bill.
By Mr. Charteris – The tramway does not go along the Front of Bexhill.
Mr Charteris – Would you encourage such a thing for Bexhill?
Witness – For the purpose of linking up two such systems I would.
Mr Pembroke Stephens – But the tramway does go into the heart of Bexhill?
Witness – Yes.
Mr Pembroke Stephens – And you are not afraid of it?
Witness – No.
Councillor Boutwood (examined by Mr Murphy), in giving evidence, said that at Southampton his firm had a shop on the route, and they found it no objection. He had always supported trams. He had seen electric trams at work on the Continent and in various part of England, including Bournemouth.
Lord Newton – Do they run along the Front at Bournemouth?
Witness – There is no line of traffic on the Front there.
Evidence continued – The general opinion in the town was in favour of trams. He made trams on the Front a very prominent plank in his platform at the last Election in November, and his won by 112.
Cross-examined – There was a growing feeling in favour of trams on the Front Line. There had always been a strong opinion in favour of the Front Line, but that feeling had become overwhelming.
Mr. Charteris – Was it not represented to the House of Commons Committee in 1900 that the project would be carried out without the Front Line.
Witness – Yes
Cross-examined – Invalids and visitors resorted to the houses on the Front. Every scheme embracing the Front Line had been rejected; there had only been two such schemes. He could not recall a tram on such a sea front in England.
Lord Newton – You need not go abroad; keep as close to the neighbourhood of Hastings as you can.
Replying to Mr. Pembroke Stephens, Councillor Boutwood said he believed the great bulk of opinion in Hastings was in favour of trams on the Front. He had seen trams at Margate, but they were not so much on the front there as they would be at Hastings.
Dr. Symington said he owned the house he lived in at St Leonards. As a medical man he considered the proposed Tramway would not have injurious effects.
The Front Line was not the best place for invalids; it was too relaxing and too noisy. The noise of the sea was not desirable for invalids.
Lord Newton – Really, we shall soon get to the point that seaside towns are the most insanitary places. You will ruin all seaside places, Mr. Pembroke Stephens, if you go on like this. (Laughter).
Mr Pembroke Stephens said he desired to draw attention to the seaside benefit to be obtained a little higher up from the sea.
In further remarks witness said he did not stand alone as a medical man in supporting trams on the Front.
Cross-examined by Mr. Freeman- He had lived in Hastings for twelve months. He came from Buckingham, and had had experience of trams. Strings of bathchairs were to be seen on the Hastings Front. The Corporation had recently completed wood-paving along the entire Front. He did not know that this had had the effect of increasing the number of carriage people. He did not know a seaside place with trams on the front.
Dr. Lewis, of Springfield House, St. Leonards, said he was formerly a member of the Town Council. He considered that trams were most desirable. Better locomotion was necessary. He believed trams would be beneficial to invalids; they were quicker, more sanitary, and quieter than buses. He preferred electric trams to motor buses. He had his own carriage, but in spite of this fact he did not fear trams. Witness added that he did not endorse the last witness’s view as to invalids on the Front.
Cross-examined – He had had no experience of tramcars on the front line of a seaside resort.
William Slade, jun., said his business premises were on the Front. He had a 21 years lease. He had been in business 20 years, and he saw no objection to trams on the Front, providing there were no overhead wires. He had business premises at Bournemouth close to the Corporation trams. Business had improved at Bournemouth, and he hoped for the same thing at Hastings. Trams went through the best street at Bournemouth. He had always advocated trams, but he was against overhead trolley wires.
Cross-examined – Bournemouth was differently arranged to Hastings. The sea front was different. He knew no seaside place with trams on the front. He began to favour trams in 1900 when he saw the surface contact system. Personally he thought the trolley system would be inconvenient in Robertson Street. A good many invalids went on the Front, and he believed some of them went back as convalescents. (Laughter). He objected to the smell of the petrol of motors.
Mr. Wedderburn read from the report of the Omnibus Company that the motor bus had been put on “as an experiment” and that if successful others would follow.
Mr. Freeman said this information was not new. Seven more had since been put on! (“Oh!” and laughter).
The Rev. E.F.P. Durnford, vicar of All Souls, Clive Vale, next gave evidence in support. He had resided at Clive Vale for 13 years, and considered that the proposed tramway would be most convenient. As far as he knew, with a single exception, everybody in his parish was in favour of trams. It was terribly hard work for the horses which pulled the buses up to Clive Vale. In his judgment a completed tramway service would be a great advantage to Clive Vale. He believed a majority of the Board of Guardians, of which he was a member, were now in favour of trams.
Cross-examined – About half of his parishioners were working people, but the residential class was rapidly increasing. Some of his parishioners wanted to go to St. Leonards. He had heard the motor bus, he had seen it, and smelt it. He had never been able to catch the motor bus yet.
Dr.G.G.Gray, J.P., said that he was a member of the Town Council for three years. He supported Municipal trams, but was not successful. He came to the conclusion that Municipal trams were not practical, and since then he had formed the opinion that if practical, they were not desirable. He frequently had complaints about the existing traffic accommodation. A Corporation Band was provided out of the rates, and played on the Front. People came from all parts to hear the band, and better accommodation was wanted. He had property on the Front, and he was sure trams would not be a detriment.
Cross-examined by Mr. Charteris – He was the chief ground landlord of the Palace Hotel. He would take it for granted that Mrs. Sorey, the other owner, and the tenants (Spiers and Pond) had petitioned against the Bill. Trams would benefit all the places of entertainment. The Front was anything but quiet with motor cars and buses.
Lord Nelson – Have you niggers? (Laughter.)
Witness – On the beach, but not on the Front. They are only there in the summer.
Councillor Frank Shoesmith, examined by Mr. Wedderburn said he supported the Bill. Before November he left St. Clements and fought All Saints against Councillor Ball. In his address he appealed as an “out-and-out tramite.” Principally upon this ground he won the election. George Vale, deputy Mayor of Bexhill, giving evidence, said he believed the proposed line would be a great benefit to Bexhill. The matter had been before the Bexhill Council, and the members unanimously supported it. As a tradesman, he was acquainted with the views of the public, and he could say that the general feeling were in favour of the Bill.
By Mr. Charteris – There were no seafront trams proposed for Bexhill. He could not say if they would be proposed later on.
At this juncture the sitting closed for the day.
Their Lordships resumed the Inquiry punctually at eleven o’clock on Thursday morning.
Alderman Tuppenney, J.P., was the first witness. He said he was an ex-Mayor, County Councillor, etc. He had been a member of the Town Council twelve or thirteen years, and he had been on the Board of Guardians for 25 years. He was an owner of property and mortgagee of property on the Front. He thought the Bill, if passed, would be a great advantage to the borough. He wanted to see the project carried out in its entirety by connecting the two tramways already sanctioned. The Front had been improved at the cost of all the ratepayers, and he thought all the ratepayers should be enabled to enjoy the Front. The houses on the Front were chiefly boarding-houses, lodging-houses, and hotels; he believed there were comparatively few private residents, and these were mainly at Marina. The character of Eversfield Place was being changed and it looked as if there was to be a line of shops. A good system of tramways on the Front would, in his opinion, be a great advantage. He pretty well knew the opinions of the ratepayers. At the last Municipal Elections the question of Trams was a test one, and eight out of ten Tramways candidates were returned.
Cross-examined by Mr. Charteris – He gave evidence on the Corporation Bill, which was rejected. Upon that occasion he suggested that a tramway would be an advantage in enabling people to get from the Front to the back parts of the town, and vice versa. He had had no experience of the effect of trams on property. He was not aware that at the last Election Councillor Captain Colvile put opposition to rams in the forefront of his Election address.
Lord Newton, intervening, said he thought the least said about Election matters the better.
By Mr. Vesey Knox – the Corporation had carried out great improvements on the Front in recent years. As far as he knew, the opponents of the previous Bills were the same as those opposing the present Bill. He thought it important that there should be connection between Hastings and Bexhill.
Lord Newton – I suppose there is a railway communications?
Witness – There is no communications between Clive vale and Bexhill. Clive Vale is a very populous place, and many workingmen living there, who have had work at Bexhill, have been obliged to get up an hour earlier in order to get to the Railway Station than would have been the case if there was tramway communication.
Mr. Henry Gallop, solicitor’s clerk, gave evidence that he had counted the number of empty houses on the front. They totalled 31 at the present time, but this did not include Warrior Square.
Lord Newton – I do not think we need trouble about Warrior Square.
Mr. Waller, of the firm Kincarn, Waller, Manville and Dawson, engineers, gave evidence explaining the character of the scheme. The sea Front was a very wide road, generally 40 feet in width, and there was plenty of room to allow the statutory space for ordinary traffic. It was proposed to leave the character of the trams to be settled in consultation with the Corporation. He believed this was provided in the Bill. It was his proposal that the greater open spaces should be left on the sea side of the thoroughfare. There were no engineering difficulties whatever. There would be plenty of room for business and other traffic outside of the space occupied by the trams. He knew the district between Hastings and Bexhill. Many people living there were a long way from a station. Many trains leaving Hastings – those on the south Eastern line-did not go to Bexhill. There was no possible alternative route for the connection of the two tramways; they must go along the Front.
Lord Newton – Does the ground rise rapidly close to the Sea Front?
Witness – Yes, my lord.
Evidence continued – The railway connection between Hastings and St. Leonards was nearly all by tunnel. The most similar place to Hastings was Scarborough. The work of tramways was about to be commenced there. The trams would run along the present Sea Front and Marine Drive at Scarborough. Altogether there would be almost three miles of tramways along the Front of Scarborough. At Douglas, in the Isle of Man, there was a long line of tramways on the Front; also at Morecambe and Weston-Super-Mare. He had heard of no disastrous results from trams on the Front. His estimates were based on the idea that there would be no overhead wires.
He provided for either the conduit or surface contact system. Personally he would prefer the conduit system to that of surface contact.
Cross-examined by Mr. Freeman – He agreed that people along the Front would get the least benefit from trams, but he felt sure trams would do them no harm.
R Freeman – do you think the two lines sanctioned would be remunerative without the Front Line?
Witness – Yes, but nothing like so remunerative as with the Front Line.
Mr. Freeman – Has any step yet been taken to start the tramways for which you have sanctioned?
Witness – No construction has taken place.
Mr. Freeman – Have you received instructions to proceed in the matter?
Witness – Yes; I have made plans, and have been in negotiation with landowners.
Mr. Freeman – Do you know if any of the capital has been raised?
Witness – I assume it has not.
In further cross-examination, witness explained that his plan provided for a single line in Robertson Street, with interlacing lines there and at the Colonnade.
Mr.W.M. Murphy was the next witness. He said he was the promoter of the undertaking. He was Chairman of the Dublin Tramway Company, and had had great experience in such undertakings in no instance had he failed to carry through undertakings in which he was engaged. It was usual to meet with great opposition in a tramway project; it frequently took four or five years to educate the public. But it was his invariable experience that when they had tramways all opposition speedily died out.
He instanced a big square in Dublin, where the judges, doctors, and others were bitterly opposed to the introduction of trams. The scheme was, however, carried out. None of the influential residents left the Square, and if there was now a movement to take the trams from them there would be something like a revolution. When he obtained previous powers he quite thought he would have been able to have provided the capital. The War interfered with such matters, and later on nearly a year was wasted through action taken by Mr.Bray to set aside an agreement between himself and the Corporation. Witness and the Corporation gained the verdict. The feeling in Hastings had been intensified in favour of trams. The question influenced the Municipal Elections in November, and be believed almost a clean sweep was made of those who opposed trams. He understood Earl Spencer had changed his mind.
Lord Newton – Lord Spencer has been known to change his mind upon important subjects before now. (Laughter)
Evidence continued. – At present there were very ugly looking omnibuses and char-a-bancs on the Front, very unsightly sort of vehicles. He had agreed that the Front Line was not to be constructed till the other lines had been laid down. He was prepared to put a substantial sum into the project himself.
Cross-examined- He always felt satisfied that sooner or later there would be trams on the Front. He was still of opinion that the original scheme would pay even without the Front. He got powers in 1900, but nothing had been done in the way of works. He had been in treaty for some land which was required. When he appeared before Lord Jersey under the Light Railway Commission he applied for the Front Line.
Mr. Charteris here quoted Lord Jersey’s decision from the “Observer.”
Witness said he believed these remarks referred to the proposal that the Front Line should be left to the discretion of the Town Council.
Mr. Charteris read portions of a letter dated 25th October last which appeared in the “Observer.” In which Mr. Murphy stated that the lines to Hollington, to Ore, and Bexhill would be completed within the time sanctioned by Parliament, and that his arrangements for commencing these lines were in a forward state.
Counsel asked witness – had you at this time raised any capital?
Witness – I had capital at my disposal.
Mr. Charteris – Is that what you call being in a forward state?
Witness – Yes.
Mr. Charteris the Municipal Elections took place just after, in November?
Witness – Yes.
Mr. Charteris – and after the election you wrote to the Town Clerk?
Witness – Yes.
Mr. Charteris – In which you said that if the Corporation deny your consent for the Front Line your position becomes one of greater difficulty in the matter of finance?
Witness – That applied to the whole undertaking.
Mr. Charteris – That was in reply to a letter asking you to go on with the work?
Witness – It was asking me for information.
Mr. Stephens said this would be his case.
In the temporary absence of Mr. Freeman, K.C., the speech for the opposition was reserved till after the evidence had been called.
The Mayor of Hastings (Alderman Tree, J.P.) was the first witness sworn for the opposition. He had house property on the front yielding £1,100 a year. He was present at the Inquiry before Lord Jersey: the Front Line was not withdrawn on that occasion; it was thrown out. He believed the Council supported Mr. Murphy on a previous occasion in the belief that he would carry out the scheme as it stood. The opposition all through had been in the interest of the Front. Nearly all the members of the Council who were in favour of trams represented the Old Town or outlying wards. A good many people he believed supported the Front Line because they were afraid that if this was not granted they would not get trams in their own district. The best property was on the Front. They had no factories or anything of the kind. With trams on the Front certain visitors would cease to come. The best visitors came and remained from October to April, but the tripper class only came during the months of June, July, and August. He had seen trams in man y places and he had information that trams had deteriorated the value of property at Margate.
Cross-examined – He gave evidence in 1900. There was no Front Line in that Bill. He was against tramways, and always had been. He was a consistent opponent to tramways everywhere. Last year he bought an extra house on the Front.
Mr. Stephens – In spite of all the rumours of trams coming?
Witness – Yes; it was a house sandwiched between two which my father built.
Alderman F.A. Langham, J.P., (Deputy Mayor), in giving evidence, said that since he had been a member of the Council he had consistently opposed trams on the Front. He believed trams would be most injurious to the town. By far the most valuable property was in the Wards of St Leonards and St. Mary Magdalen. He had heard many visitors at the Queen’s Hotel say that if the tramways came they would not come again. They now had a very fine drive, all wood paved along the Front, and it would be a serious matter if trams came.
Cross- examined- He retired from his firm three years ago. His late firm were acting for the Opposition, but he had no interest in the firm. His personal views, as one who drove, was against trams generally, but with regard to the Front Line, he believed trams would be detrimental to the town; this was not personal, but in the interest of the town. He believed tramways would damage property along the line of route.
Mr. Warner: valuer to the Court of Chascery, said he knew Hastings and St. Leonards and was acquainted with the features of the Front Line. In his opinion, the effect of tramways on the Front would be most disastrous.
He could not conceive the Corporation sanctioning such a scheme. He believed visitors would be driven away. Tramways would be highly detrimental to residential property. He knew that a tramway would not be allowed by the De La Warr Trustees to come along the Front at Bexhill.
By Mr. Pembroke Stephens – He had not been in Hastings recently. He knew more about Bexhill than of Hastings. The tramway at the back of Bexhill did not affect the property in which he was especially interested.
In reply to one of the noble Lords, witness said that trams were such an intolerable nuisance at Streatham that he moved to another residence.
Mr. Pembroke Stephens – That is a cable tram.
Mr. Green, of the firm of Messrs.Weatherall and Green claimed that he was intimately acquainted with tramways, and knew their effect upon property. Witness had recently acted in connection with valuable estates at Hastings. A tramway along a residential locality would be absolutely disastrous. Tramways did not affect small property, but with large property there was immediate reduction of value. At Sandgate property had deteriorated. In regard to Folkestone, Lord Radnor gave evidence against trams.
Mr Pembroke Stephens – In spite of Lord Radnor their lordships granted the scheme?
Witness – the trams haven’t come yet.
In cross-examination, witness said in condemning trams he spoke particularly about the Front. He admitted there was valuable property off the Front, such places as St. Helen’s.
Alderman Isger (Mayor of Hove) gave evidence that there was considerable similarity between Hove and Hastings. He formed the conclusion that t tramway along the Front would be disastrous. A Bill by the Hove Corporation for bringing a tramway to the Front was floored, as the people feared trams would come on to the Front.
Mr. Byron Curtis, Editor of the “Standard”, said he had been a visitor to Hastings for thirty years. In his opinion a tramway along the Front would entirely ruin the town.
He had heard visitors express strong views against tramways.
By Mr. Vesey Knox – He had objected to noise in Hastings and had got the organs and monkeys stopped. (Laughter) He did not think the buses were more noisy than other vehicles. There was already plenty of accommodation with buses and motors
Mr. James Notcutt, of Orwell House, St Leonards, an owner of property on the Front, said he had carried on business in the town for 52 years. He had come into contact with very many visitors, and their view generally was that tramways would be ruinous not only to the Front but the town at large. He considered the Town Council had pursued an unwise policy in the interests of the town.
Cross-examined – He was a near neighbour of Mr. Slade at the Grand Parade business.
Mr. Pembroke Stephens – And Mr. Slade gave evidence in favour yesterday.
Witness – I have had 52 years experience of the town.
Further cross examined – He could recollect the town when it had a population of 16,000, whereas the population was now over 60,000. There were frequent trains from Hastings to Bexhill.
Mr. Percy Beer, Manager of the Alexandra Hotel, said his establishment was patronised by a good man y invalids and visitors who remained for periods. Invalids need the Front very much. The Corporation had created a magnificent marine drive, which was much appreciated by visitors with carriages. All the hotels along the Front were unanimously against trams. The capital in those hotels was more than £170,000.
Cross-examined – The Alexandra Hotel was formerly private houses. In many instances private houses had been turned into business premises. The character of Hastings residentially had changed somewhat.
Sir D. Duckworth, treasurer of the Royal College of Physicians, said he was acquainted with Hastings. In his view the introduction of tramways on the Front would be a very disastrous proceeding.
People in delicate health who now went to Hastings would go elsewhere. At present Hastings was regarded as one of the best health resorts in the south of England.
Cross-examined – He gave evidence in 1900. His evidence was the same then as now.
Mr. F. F. Murphy – You are opposed to all tramways, are you not?
Witness – Yes. He knew Bournemouth, but it was not a place on all fours with Hastings. He knew of no place on all fours with Hastings. He knew of no place which had been benefited by trams.
Dr. Bryan Allen stated his view in opposition to trams. He had been in practice at Hastings for 36 years. He was aware that if the trams were sanctioned medical men outside would cease to recommend patients to Hastings. In his opinion tramways would almost ruin the town as a health resort. Almost all the medical men were opposed to the introduction of trams.
Cross-examined – He had no great experience of trams. He had seen rams, and had travelled on them. He thought trams would be worse that motor buses and ordinary buses.
Mr. C. W. Tagg (Town Clerk of Camberwell) said he had resided at Elmswood, Clive Vale, Hastings for several years. He considered the introduction of tramways on the Front would be absolute suicide. Hastings had no other industry than living on visitors. He had had painful experience of tramways in London. He lived in a flat off Camberwell Road, and suffered annoyance from trams.
Mr. F. Murphy – They are horse trams?
Witness – Yes.
Sir Charles Rushout, the next witness, who said he was a resident of St. Leonards, and previously he lived at St. Helen’s, declared that it would be a disastrous policy for Hastings to have trams on the Front. He believed the motor buses would be preferable to trams.
Cross-examined – The motor bus was first heard of two or three months ago.
Mr Pembroke Stephens – Invented for the present purpose?
Witness – No, I understand the Bus Company contemplate substituting motors for the horse buses.
Mr. White Ford, J.P., of the firm of Barrance and Ford, of Robertson Street, said that, in his opinion, trams were not desirable on the front.
A great many of the members of the Borough Association, of which h was Chairman for many years, were opposed to trams. He objected in the interests of the borough of Hastings.
Cross-examined – He was against trams altogether, but especially on the Front Line. He did not, and never had, represented the Borough Association in the matter. The object of the Association was to advertise the charms of the town outside, and not to mix itself up in matters inside the town.
Mr. Alfred H. Burton, J.P. (late High Sheriff), the owner of a considerable estate at St. Leonards, said that St. Leonards was founded by his grandfather. He naturally felt great interest in the welfare of the town. He held a strong feeling upon the introduction of trams.
He thought it would be disastrous to the town to have trams along the Front. Many of the houses on the Front were the most highly rented houses. A large population of invalids came down for protection from the north winds. The drive along the Front was, in his opinion, one of the finest in England.
By Mr. Pembroke Stephens – Some of the best houses at St. Leonards were built about 40 years ago. He had consistently opposed trains anywhere.
Mr. Pembroke Stephens – You are an all-round opponent of tramways?
Witness – I have been a consistent opponent of tramways.
Mr. Freeman informed their lordships that he had a good many more witnesses in attendance, but he had no wish to prolong the proceedings.
Lord Newton intimated that he considered the case has been very fairly represented.
Mr. Freeman said the whole question was a very limited one, and depended more upon what could be gathered from the cartoon on the wall rather than evidence. The probability was that at some time some of the noble lords had visited Hastings, but if not they could judge from the cartoon the character of the place. It was a seaside resort, to which people of the better class went. The place possessed a specially beneficial climate, and people went there who required a certain amount of peace and quietness. To have electric trams running along the face of the town must mean a total change in their lordships were satisfied that there was overwhelming necessity for such a thing; he contended this should not be allowed. He submitted that those he represented should be considered in the matter. The attitude of those people had been perfectly consistent from the time when the lines were first mooted, and it had been contended all along that the other lines were only a stepping stone to the front.
This had been the foundation of the opposition of those residents and property-owners to the introduction of tramways. Mr. Murphy had given evidence on every occasion, and he had invariably, he (Mr. Freeman) believed, stated that whilst the Front was desirable to him for the making of profit, he was content to go on without it. On the other hand, the Corporation had been inconsistent; sometimes they declared they would not allow tramways on the Front, and sometimes they said they would. He pointed out that upon the occasion of the previous inquiries a strong case had been made out as to the great boons which trams would prove to people living out of the town, and also that at present buses drawn by three or four horses went up the steep gradients. Then upon one occasion they had the promotion of the Bexhill to St. Leonards line, which it was urged was desirable in the matter of connecting the two lines. But that line stopped at a point before getting upon the Front Line of St. Leonards. Mr. Murphy had said that he was content to carry out the scheme as granted, but now he came and said it was necessary for his enterprise that he should have the Front Line. If Mr. Murphy believed in his schemes, he (Mr. Freeman) said then let him carry out what parliament had already granted him.
He did not intend to detain their lordships with a description of the Front, as from the evidence which had been given the facts were still fresh in their minds. He represented the great bulk of the people interested in Front Line property, and upon about seven different occasions, he believed, these people had fought against what they believed would prove a most serious injury to the place. Lately, as had been pointed out, the whole Front had been paved with wood, and Hastings and St. Leonards now possessed one of the finest promenades in the world. He submitted that the introduction of trams on the Front would have a bad effect, and prove a permanent danger to the best interests of the town.
Mr. Pembroke Stephens briefly replied. He denied some of the statements of Mr. Freeman. He did not for a moment wish to undervalue the character and position of the gentlemen who opposed the Bill, but he said this: they were a small residuum of what was at one time a large body of feeling. But with all the power, energy, and means at their disposal, they had only succeeded in getting 285 signatures to their memorial in opposition. The principle of trams had already been fought and won, and Parliament had granted certain lines, which it was now desired to link together. He admitted that the actual issue now between them was as to the Front Line, although upon previous occasions his learned friend, and those he represented, had objected to the utmost to lines which would afford the public the opportunity of getting down into Hastings and up out of the town. As to the visitors to Hastings and St. Leonards, how many were there who had opposed the scheme apart from the perpetual opponents of tramways.
Lord Newton – We have heard about them.
Mr. Pembroke Stephens – Yes, my lord, we have heard about them, but we have not seen them.
Mr.Charteris – I said we had many other witnesses.
Lord Newton – Yes, I think I intimated that we did not want to see them.
Mr. Charteris – Yes, my lord, I clearly intimated that we would call them.
Lord Newton – Yes.
Mr Pembroke Stephens – The Sea Front of Hastings and the beautiful air of Hastings are things that some of us, at some time or another, have enjoyed, but we know the houses on the Front and the terraces, striking as they are in appearance, cannot be said to be representative of the Hastings of today. These houses, proceeded learned counsel, were for the most part built 40 or 50 years ago, when undoubtedly Hastings was the resort of the wealthy invalid class. In those times there were nothing like the number of Continental resorts of today, and the same facilities for getting to them. Hastings had since lived largely on that reputation, but they now had the fact given in evidence that the private houses along the Front were gradually being transformed, and many of them were now turned into hotels, boarding houses, and business premises. In other words, the character of the town had been gradually changing. These changes meant different needs. There were still beautiful houses on the Front, but the claim set up that the circumstances of 50 years ago should govern the legislation of today could not stand. He submitted they must consider the wants and demands of today – the required facilities for locomotion – and that the wants and demands if the public should not be subordinate to things as they existed 50 years ago. They had to legislate for circumstances of the time in which they lived, for if they were to be bound by the ideas of 50 years ago there would be no progress but a condition of stagnation, such as was, fortunately, not recognised in the work of legislation. They had the fact that 6,700 ratepayers asked their Lordships to support this Bill, and there was no reason to doubt that tramways would prove a boon to the public. On these grounds he asked their Lordships for a favourable decision. Any reasonable condition they might be inclined to impose would be acted upon, but in the true interest of the public of Hastings and St. Leonards he asked their Lordships not to deprive them of that which they required, even if it should be in opposition to the feelings of some who were only in the town for three of four months in the year.
The room was then cleared whilst their Lordships deliberated.
In a few minutes the court was re-opened, and Lord Newton gave the decision.
Thus: The Committee are of opinion that the Preamble of the Bill has been proved on condition that the tramways on the Front shall not be commenced till the tramways authorised by Parliament are completed and opened for traffic.
Mr. Pembroke Stephens submitted that to meet their Lordships decision Clause ten should be altered. He would frame and submit a clause.
Typed direct from a local newspaper dated May 1903