11 SEPTEMBER 1858, Page 12


Ir the English people is the practical people which it professes to be, and if the House of Commons represents it, the first step will soon be made in improving the banks of the river Thames. A change is about to be begun on the banks of the river, and unless the Ministers for the time being, the actual House of embezzle Commons and the business men of the City, enter into a conspiracy to the opportunities of the Metropolis, and to defraud future genera- tions, that first step must be taken in conformity with conditions securing a progressive improvement. It is said that a company is in course of formation to enlarge the dock accommodation in the port of London, so as to give increased facilities for landing and for examining goods. That such a space is wanted no one can doubt. The docks below London Bridge may afford opportunity for the sketches from life which Boz has continued in separate

novels, or for the much more sin romance of Joseph Windle Cole, who was at once author and flettrai. Picturesque elements may be found there, as they can boon any spot where w e have active life, with accessories of broken ground, ruins, and other forms of the decayed ; but it needs the genuine artist's eye to detect anything worth painting in the dull dirty, poverty-stricken scenes in so many of the wharves or in the crowded ill-contrived places called docks. It appears that the company centres on Custom House Quay, leased by W. J. Hall and Co., and on Brewer's Quay, owned by Barber and Co., together with a dock &heady constructed at North- fleet by Mr. Pitcher. We gather, however, from the announeemen in the Mises Money-market, that other ground will probably be brought into the scheme ; and that the warehouses and quays will be placed more upon a level, instead ad of exhibiting., as they now do, modern improvements alongside of the .most antiquated. burlesques of commercial buildings in a district which might be sup- posed to belong to beggars ; a scene of sheds and lumber, ani- mated by a few poverty-stricken labourers loitering about. But before the plan of a thorough renovation has been even described in public, suggestions pour in for enlarging it by uniting the whole of the quay between London Bridge and the Tower, removing Billingsgate Market, and thus driving away at once mismanagement, obstruction, and eyesores. ..Undoubtedly the improvement will be great; but it would constitute a fresh and indefensible nuisance if it were to give us, on a renewed lease, a construction out of harmony with the further improvement which must sooner or later take place on both sides of the river.

Here, then,

is the starting-pomt. Commerce at last has be- come practically and immecliately interested in the improvement of the Thames banks within the city of London. This is the capital condition of all modern enterprises, that a dividend shall be de- clared, or at all events promised, within a short range of years. The condition, of course, is absurd, since it shuts the na- tion out from many improvements which are most desirable for the development of our national life, while it debars numerous classes of the community from occupations that might well em- ploy them. Neither England, nor any other great country of our day, would be what it is, if it had never undertaken improve- ments the profit of which would not accrue until after the lapse of one or two generations. But we who affect to be greater than our forefathers, can venture upon nothing except through the ma- chinery in fashion — the joint-stock association, with the condition of a dividend, at least promised, "within a year after the formation of the company." Heretofore, Parlia- ment has played the part of pander to these companies ; but if good oometh out of evil, if the discredit into which joint-stock associations have brought themselves is to have any practical moral, Parliament will hesitate to acquiesce at once in the dictate of any mere joint-stock project. If it cannot set going enterprises to improve the apparatus of this nation, even where there is no immediate profit,—if it cannot re- new that active form of national intelligence, it will at least pre- scribe negative conditions upon any mere temporary schemes, and will prevent them from becoming impediments to the action of our national energy when it shall revive. It must not for a moment be supposed that London Bridge forms a natural boundary between the kind of improvement which has been so long desired and that now proposed by the wharfingers. Already the City presents, in its means of transit, a daily repeated and living censure upon itself. We, a people who have spent hundreds of millions sterling on the object of accelerating conveyance, suffer the transit from one end of the metropolis to the other to occupy as much time or more, than the journey from London to Brighton ; though a little man- agement would soon range into rapidly moving files the crowds of conveyances that now obstruct each other, and a very little well- directed enterprise, in the rearrangement of streets, would place the most distant portions of this business metropolis within five minutes reach of each other. The great artery for that improve- ment would be the promised railway along the embankment, which would also improve the stream and enlarge the available space of ground ; at the same time bringing forward land. on the south bank of the Thames, and greatly enhancing its value. This will be done some day, and when it shall be done, it will ob- viously be necessary to place the departments in Downing Street and the two Houses of Parliament, with the business men congre- gating around those centres, in the promptest communication with the Customhouse and with the province of maritime business "below bridge." Hence the promenade along the banks of the river, the carriage-way for cabs, and the railway, with its tele- graph, must be extended below London Bridge as far down as— who shall say where this combined means of communication shall atop? It would be a disgrace to the merchants of the present day, if they were to ask permission to build up, now, a grand obstruction to that improvement which we foresee ; and if they have the imprudence to make the request, it is scarcely possible that the stupidity of Parliament should go so far as to grant it.