Slike strani
PDF
ePub

drawers of water, and give him the chance of making the best of his inborn faculties, it would be a very good investment. If there is one such child among the hundreds of thousands of our annual increase, it would be worth any money to drag him either from the slough of misery or from the hot bed of wealth, and teach him to devote himself to the service of his people. Here, again, we have made a beginning with our scholarships and the like, and need only follow in the tracks already worn.

The programme of industrial development briefly set forth in the preceding pages is not what Kant calls a Hirngespinnst,' a cobweb spun in the brain of a Utopian philosopher. More or less of it has taken bodily shape in many parts of the country, and there are towns of no great size or wealth in the manufacturing districts (Keighley for example) in which almost the whole of it has, for some time, been carried out so far as the means at the disposal of the energetic and public-spirited men who have taken the matter in hand, permitted. The thing can be done ; I have endeavoured to show good grounds for the belief that it must be done, and that speedily, if we wish to hold our own in the war of industry. I doubt not that it will be done, whenever its absolute necessity becomes as apparent to all those who are absorbed in the actual business of industrial life as it is to some of the lookers-on.

T. H. HUXLEY.

MORE AIR FOR LONDON.

The need of open spaces for the inhabitants of our large towns has been so often brought before the public, that it is difficult now, in urging that they should be provided, to use any arguments that are new; so that advocates must base their claims to attention on the fact that the reasons they use are self-evident. Why, then, write an article on the subject ? ' readers may well ask.

I answer, first, because it is one thing to know theoretically and scientifically that they are needed, and it is another to live, as it were, side by side with those who need them; to realise, in regard to this man and that woman, how far their home is from any summer outdoor sitting-room, from any refreshing lane or field for Saturday afternoon walk; to know little children who can never, from year's end to year's end, be taken by their mother to the nearest park; to see the little pale face and shrivelled form of invalid children who cannot be laid down on the grass in the sunlight to be healed and cheered, but must sit the whole summer day through in the hot room in court or alley; to watch the big lads who get into mischief because they have no scope for their energies, no space for game at hare and hounds, no opportunity for leaping ditches, or climbing hills, or skating, or taking a refreshing walk; to watch the fresh air diminished in one neighbourhood after another, taller houses being built, and more of them, yard and garden more and more built over year by year, forecourts covered and the country retreating, as it were, further and further from within walking distance of one and another of my working friends. This is different from reason and science: this is life, and this is pain. This urges me to speak, making it my duty to speak, and that before it is too late.

Secondly, I write because to those of us who are watching and knowing all this, and who have been trying, here and there, to save this or that small space where we could, a great hope has arisen that at last, if we can get others to realise the facts, there is a possibility that something may be done to save open spaces for London, on a scale in some degree commensurate with its needs. This possibility has providentially arisen just in time to enable us, if we are wise, to save the most valuable spaces-namely, those nearest to the dwellings of Londoners.

The City of London Parochial Charities Act of 1883 provides for the future application by the Charity Commissions of funds to the amount of 50,0001. a year. Certain objects, among them the provision of open spaces, are enumerated, from any of which they are to select those which seem of most importance and to prepare schemes which will then come before Parliament. The Kyrle Society and the Commons' Preservation Society have just presented a memorial (supported also by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association) to the Charity Commissioners, embodying the reasons which lead them to think that open spaces are, to say the least, among the most pressing of the objects to which the money could be devoted ; and also containing statistics and other facts with regard to the open spaces already preserved, and sketching outlines of schemes for providing additional space.

The collection of facts for this memorial bas occupied me for a portion of the autumn, and there are several of them which I think would be interesting to readers in general, especially to those who are occupying themselves about the welfare of London. Our first step was to prepare in clear tabular form a list of the spaces now secured, their acreage, and the quantity of space in each district as compared with the population. We took one of Stanford's maps, such as accompanies this article. We struck two circles each with centre at Charing Cross, one with a radius of four miles, one with a radius of six miles. We divided these circles into quadrants. We then coloured green, not (as is usual on maps) the spaces unbuilt upon, but those really secured to the people. We marked the number of acres on every such place. When the spaces were too small to be given on a map of this scale, which was the case with some of the smaller churchyards, we still chronicled their existence and added their acreage to that of the larger spaces shown by figures on the map. We thus got the total number of acres preserved for, and open to, the public in each quadrant, with the following very remarkable result :

In the four-mile radius the number of acres preserved is

:

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Showing nearly eight times as much in the one semicircle as in the other.

These figures in themselves seemed to us very important, and readers who will glance at the map will get a bird's-eye view of the condition of things which will strike them forcibly.

But the figures become even more striking if we consider them in relation to the statistics of population. In the eastern semicircle there is a population in the four-mile radius of 1,160,173, while the Western contains 1,668,412.

Thus we have in the Western semicircle one acre of preserved open space to every 682 people, and in the Eastern one acre to every 7,481 people.

In the six-mile radius the number of acres preserved is :

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

But now translate all that from tables of statistics and map back into life. Remember that your Western population, not only in the main takes flight in July to country estate, or Switzerland; that after an illness the children can mostly go to the sea; but that, while in London, many of them have perambulators and nurses with time to take them to the parks, even if they have not ponies or carriages; that they have airy bedrooms, and day nurseries, and that the streets round them are cleaner, and the closed squares give air to their neighbourhood. Then cast your eye on the Eastern semicircle of the map, and transform the darkened surface which shows where the houses are back into reality. Few squares you see, and the majority of houses, please remember, are let in floors or couples of rooms. Fancy a working-woman carrying a baby from, say Hoxton, to the nearest park on a hot summer day with a child of four and one of six toddling beside her. Think how far people must walk from Clerkenwell to get any wide view of the sky. Picture the clergyman or overworked clerk, wanting a refreshing walk from Spitalfields, what vistas of streets to pass through, and always more of them as the suburban fields get covered! Yet these are the people who stay in town most, if not all, of the year, whose rooms are most crowded, and whose facilities for getting about are least. This is what that map means to anyone who knows real men and women living in different parts of London, and who sees in the names on the maps real places. A man once said to me, looking out from Carlton House Terrace over the park, that he thought London a very pleasant place to live in, and could not understand why I talked about want of open spaces; and there rose before me recollections of other parts of London so vividly that I had almost said • Come and see.' There are indeed many good things in life which may be unequally apportioned and no such serious loss arise ; but the need of quiet, the need of air, the need of exercise, and, I believe, the sight of sky and of things growing, seem human needs, common to all men, and not to be dispensed with without grave loss. Look well then at the map and realise what the facts there shown mean.

With regard to the future, one thing will strike you at once if

once.

you look at the map-namely, that (setting aside the S.-W.quadrant, which is so much richer in space than all the rest that it may for the moment be kept out of the question) there is within the fourmile radius little or no space of any size which can any more be saved, except Clissold Park and Parliament Hill, both of which, you will see, lie partly within it. The white space intersected by railways near Deptford, which strikes the eye as unbuilt over, is since the map was published nearly all covered by multitudes of small houses; there are still a few fields there, but they are low, flat and damp --moreover, they apparently will be covered with houses almost at

Near Herne Hill and Denmark Hill there still appears on the map a certain amount of land unbuilt over; but it is, so far as I know, nearly all attached to gentlemen's houses, is not in the marketmoreover, it is near the S.-W. quadrant, so that it is less likely any. one would buy for the people just there. Fix, then, in your minds with regard to any general scheme that Clissold Park and Parliament Hill are in the four-mile radius the main things still possible to be secured, and, in as far as they are nearer the people's homes, are of more value than any others. Clissold Park is in one of the Eastern quadrants which are, as the above figures show, most poorly supplied. Parliament Hill is in the North-Western quadrant, about which it should be pointed out that, though well supplied in the four-mile radius, it is remarkably poorly provided in the suburbs. Right out, as far as the twelve-mile circle, there is little common or secured land at all; so that, as London extends out towards Kilburn, Willesden and Harrow, it comes on no large spaces such as are found in all the other three quarters of London; therefore Parliament Hill, which enlarges Hampstead Heath, is specially important, even were it not so from its being of peculiar beauty, of a hilly form, and lying within the four-mile radius. Acts of Parliament have been passed specially authorising the Charity Commissioners to make grants to assist in purchasing Parliament Hill and Clissold Park.

It should be borne in mind in considering this question that there are four distinct kinds of open spaces needed by residents in large towns. There are the small central ones, which may be described as open-air summer sitting-rooms. These, it may be hoped, will now be preserved wherever they can be secured. Then there are the larger parks, of which, when Parliament Hill and Clissold Park are obtained, there is little or no chance of increasing the number, quite near the centres of population. The North-East and South-East are, as has been shown, badly supplied; but it is too late to save any more large spaces in them. But, besides these two kinds of garden or park, I have always felt that working-men wanted good walks, and whenever I thought about buying land in the suburbs, it always seemed to me that money would go much further if, instead of buying a large square area for a park, one could buy a field path with

« PrejšnjaNaprej »