One hundred years ago
Mr Shaw Lefevre should look still more narrowly into the proposal of the Metropolitan Railway to connect Praed Street with Westminster. The line would be invaluable, if it could be made without too much destruction, but it is to cross Hyde Park and Saint James's Park, and we fear for the trees. The First Commissioner of Works has jealously guarded against the construction of ven- tilators in the Parks, and has demanded powers to regulate the depth of the tun- nels, but has he ascertained exactly the effect of a great disturbance of the drainage? When the Metropolitan Railway passed under the open space between the Swiss Cottage and Hamp- stead known as 'The Fields', all the trees died, and it was understood that the tun- nel acted as a new and colossal drain- pipe, which sucked all moisture from the roots. New trees will grow on the space now built over, but the old ones could not endure the changed conditions. It is quite possible that this was not the cause of the destruction, but we can personally testify to the withering of the trees, and a similar catastrophe in the two Parks would almost destroy a government. The progress of hurry-scurry cannot, of course, be resisted; but it would be bet- ter to pay almost any price than the extinction of the park trees — which might, perhaps, die out of spite. They are not Radicals, trees, but slow- growing, time-consuming things, apt to think that an inch a year is quite as much as they can afford to rise into the air, and to regard any innovation affecting roots with shivering disgust.
Spectator, 24 November 1883