Minutes of House of Lords Hearing

Introduced by SWARBRECK & RHODES, Thirsk, Solicitors for the Order and J. C. REES, 13 Great George Street, Westminster, Parliamentary Agent.

House of Lords.






WEDNESDAY, 25th JUNE, 1879.

THE EARL OF POWIS in the Chair.

The Counsel and parties are ordered to be called in.

Sir EDMUND BECKETT: My Lords, you see this Bill is a Pro- visional Order Bill, but for all practical purposes it is just the same as a Private Bill when it comes to be opposed; it is for establishing a water Company to supply Thirsk and two or three small places around Thirsk, the population within the district to be supplied is something over 5,000, but it is not likely that the whole of them would be able to take the water, some of them being in the agricultural parts of the district; the whole popula- tion likely to be able to take the water will be about 4,500-it is a very small scheme therefore. The Company only proposes to have a capital of 16,000, the estimate for their works being 15,500, and there is nothing very peculiar in their circumstances as far as that goes. The


necessity for the Bill is pretty much what it usually is, namely, that the present water supply is extremely bad; it depends upon wells, some of which are extremely bad, and we know now that wells, instead of being the best source of supply, as people used to think, because the water looks bright, are very often the very worst. There is, also, running through Thirsk, a small stream or river, which is probably . . more polluted than the wells, and I should think that but for a paragraph in the Petition, there would be no dispute that the time had come for a better supply of water; but you will see from the Petition that the main objection of the Petition is that there ought to be a larger supply than even this, so that it is idle to say, as they did in the House of Commons, that there is no necessity for this supply; however, I will not go into the Petition just yet. The plan of the scheme is indicated on the wall plan, and it is very much of the nature of these schemes generally.

The CHAIRMAN: Which is your map ?

Sir EDMUND BECKETT: That nearest to your Lordship; and I should guess from the figures that the other is the rival map. You will see "Company's Watershed, 800 acres." I am quite sure that there will not be any dispute that that watershed is quite large enough for this supply, or for any supply that can possibly be wanted for many years to come, for it was proved in the House of Commons that the supply was twice as large as is necessary for the present population, and as these places are not increasing places, but rather diminishing, some of them than increasing, I do not think that most of the people petitioning will contend that the watershed is not amply sufficient for the purpose.

Now below the watershed you will see two reservoirs, one of them being a service reservoir for the supply of the town, from which the supply pipe goes to Thirsk, and from that there would be pipes in the ordinary way, and in addition to that there is a compensation reservoir for compen sating the mill-owners. When mill-owners exist upon a stream, which stream is always more or less precarious, there has been a sort of rule of thumb settled among engineers in Parliament that the mill-owners are entitled to about a proportion of one-third of the ordinary supply; in some cases that becomes altogether absurd and out of the question, but this is not one of the extraordinary cases, and therefore the ordinary rule is fol- lowed, and I am happy to say that: the mill-owners are satisfied. Your Lordships would perhaps recollect the fight ten years ago at Huddersfield where the mill-owners were very far from satisfied, and they kept us I do not know how many days fighting for their rights.

Now the service reservoir is to be made in the ordinary way at the bottom of the watershed; it does not involve the making at all of an extra- ordinary high dam-it is not suggested by anybody that there is any danger in the making of the dam, which is another subject of inquiry very often, in point of fact no complaint is made about it by anybody.

The real object of the opponents of the Bill is to set up a rival scheme of their own, which I will tell you about presently, but first let me give you a few more figures, as they will be cross-examined upon. The reservoir we are to make, which the House of Commons suggested we should make a little larger by making it a little higher than was at first intended, will give a supply in case there is no rain whatever for 180, days, in fact for half a year. Such an absence of rain is a most unusual, and even an unprecedented thing even in the year 1868. I do not think that in this part of the country there is anything like a chance of such a want of rain as that, because this country is surrounded by hills, but even if there should be the same thing again, still we provide for that. The number of gallons per day that we provide would be beyond that which many places are satisfied with, namely, 15 gallons per head. When I tell your Lordships that the Committee which sat upon the great Manchester scheme thought that 25 gallons was quite enough for them with all


their manufacturing requirements, I think there can be no doubt that 15 gallons per head would be quite ample and sufficient for all their purposes, including, of course, the domestic supply, and that which is required for washing, and watering gardens and so on, and many things which-do not exist at Manchester. Now.if, by good luck, Thirsk should in any reasonable time to come double its population, still we shall for many years have water enough, because the watershed will gather water, and even then we could build a new reservoir, or do various things which would however, of course, require Parliamentary powers. All I ought now to show is that that plan is an extremely good one.

The only thing I have to add is that the water is actually as soft as Manchester has been taking so much trouble to get, as soft as Glasgow has got from Loch Katrine, as soft as Leeds has got from Wharfdale, and other similar cases.

Now it is worth while to mention that the person who was the main father of the scheme was as anxious as we are at present for soft water, but he has for some reason changed his mind, but I am not anxious to go into that. Your Lordships know very well that the great desire is to obtain soft water, because we know in the manufacturing districts the soft water is economical in manufacturing processes, but we know that sometimes there is a run upon hard water: Even my learned friend, Mr. Michael, who is not only a lawyer, but a chemist, was heard to say in the House of Commons that he feared this soft water might give rise to cartilaginous bones. I asked him whether he found any cartilaginous bones at Manchester.

Now as to the manner in which the Bill is brought forward. If the board of guardians, although I will call them the local board for sim plicity, were here applying for a Bill of their own, I admit that Parliament would not entertain the project of a Company that is well settled, but in this case the local board declined to do anything of the kind. The local board thought, and they were right in thinking, that there would be some risk and expense in this scheme. My learned friend, Mr. Michael, calcu- lated that if all the people took the water, it would be a good thing, and then the local board will take it up; but still they would not be obliged to take it up, and you know what has happened in other places. I will take Bradford, for instance, where the Corporation a good many years ago bought up the water Company, thinking it was going to turn out an extremely good concern, and the result was that they had almost to remake the waterworks, and they had to spend almost 2,000,000 in order to complete the scheme, and they found out before long that they had very much better have left the Water Company alone. I know the same thing happened at Doncaster, and that was the case my friend mentioned. I had the carrying of a Bill at Doncaster some years ago at an estimate of 80,000, and it has cost nearly 180,000, and is not made yet; therefore I cannot help thinking that the local board are not unwise in their generation in desiring us to take the risk first; and afterwards they might desire to buy us out; that is what they have done-therefore I fully admit that if they had been here opposing the Bill, and saying they wanted a scheme of their own, I should have found it impossible to carry mine. But that is not the case-the opponents in this case are the inhabitants-the inhabitants are not a collective body. Nobody can act against the inhabitants-it is all very well for people to sign Peti- tions against Bills on the ground that the rates would be raised, and that they would be ruined-the consequence would be that if the Bill was thrown out upon the absurd Petition of the inhabitants, they would be left in the same position as they are now, because the local board will not take it up, and they would be left to go on drinking their dirty water as long as it may happen.

Now the Petition in this case has some bearing upon the history of the scheme, and is a very curious thing, for the odd thing is that the instigator


of all this opposition is a gentleman who has some agricultural machine works at Thirsk, and who was actually Chairman of this Company; he went on with it for a considerable time, even past the time for giving notices, until the 17th January last year, when there was a meeting held expecting everything to go on quietly, but at.that meeting, to the surprise of every- body, he stated that he had changed his mind. Why, nobody knew, but of course guesses could be made which I should not be justified in going into.

Now being a large employer of labour in Thirsk, and being an active man, he had no difficulty in getting up a Petition, and the less difficulty, be- cause he sent people about, saying that the rates which we are going to charge are very high. Now, the rate we are going to charge is, of course, an ascending rate; :it begins at the lowest rate fixed by the Public Health Act, that is to say 2d. a week for the lowest class of houses, and when I say " the lowest class of houses," I mean houses which in another place, not in an agricultural place like Thirsk, would pro- bably be rented at about 10; in Thirsk they are not, the rents reach to 3 or 4 only, and it will be proved to you that the houses which are let at 3 or 4 in Thirsk would in Manchester or Leeds let for a great deal more. We go beyond the Public Health Act; we give all the houses a water closet in gratis; if we are going to do that it is perfectly idle for the Peti- tioners to put in their Petition, though it is certainly not idle in another sense, to go round a town to tell people that they are going to be unduly rated, that is a thing they are always willing to hear.

Now the first signer of this petition is Sir W. Payne Gallwey, M.P., for Thirsk, and there are 869 others. With regard to the 869 others, I have this very obvious remark to make, that they are a great deal too many, because there cannot be a possible 869 out of the people, even if it embraced the whole area of 4,000 or 5,000 who could possibly know anything about this matter. We could, if it were worth while, take your Lordships through an analysis, and show you the people who have signed two or three times-the married women, the children, the apprentices, the lodgers, and people of that kind, but it is not worth while, because I say that a petition signed by 869 in such a population as this kills itself and proves that it is only the result of agitators going round the town telling people what they like, and getting what signatures they could. Therefore, I shall spare your Lordships that inquiry; but I cannot spare your Lordships and the opponents this state- ment. You will hardly believe that the person who is at the head of this petition - Sir W. Payne Gallwey - took an active part in this scheme. He employed a solicitor to look after his interests. His solicitor suggested various things, among others these waterclosets, which we conceded, and other things for the benefit of the people in the town, some of whom are Sir W. Payne Gallwey's tenants, and they signed the petition for the Bill, or the Order, as the technical term here is, in the following terms:- "We agree to the above Order as amended," signed by somebody on behalf of the solicitor, and John Richardson on behalf of the objectors.

Mr. SHIRESS WILL: That was the millowners.

Sir EDMUND BECKETT: I thought you would have said that, and I am delighted that you have said it - that is just what I wanted "on behalf of the millowners." I should like to know whether the millowners were in- terested in having water closets in the town; and whether the millowners were interested in having the rates modified. Now, I will ask your Lord- ships to look at the modifications and the very document signed by the solicitor for the millowners as my learned friend says - that is the latest dodge. And another thing also they were not satisfied with, namely, the ordinary provisions for keeping the water clean, they were not satisfied with the ordinary filtration, but they wanted things which they called strainers - we said, if you want strainers, have strainers and we will not object, and we put in a clause about strainers - do the millowners want straining I wonder. Now, these people whoever


they were, at any rate they included Sir William Gallwey, acted on behalf of the people who were interested in having the Bill modified in respect of price, purity, filtration, straining, and everything else, and not only that, they were the only people who appeared before the Board of Trade. I am told that local enquiry is directed upon an opposition - there was notice of opposition sent into the Board of Trade by Mr. Richardson on behalf of all these people. A local enquiry man was sent, but there was no necessity for him to hold an enquiry, because the matter was settled before be went down, so that we have the original opponent disposed of, and Sir William Gallwey disposed of, Mr. Bamlett gets his Petition signed by all Thirsk, and Sir William Gallwey is member for Thirsk, so possibly two and two could be put together under those circumstances. Now Sir William Gallwey was acting not only as millowner, but as a householder in Thirsk, and when Mr. Bamlett gets up that Petition, here is Sir William Gallwey appearing again and joining the opposition.

Now, my Lords, even that is not the full or the whole account of the institution of this scheme, the reservoir is to be made upon the property of some people whom I will shortly call Walker's trustees - the trustees of a Mr. Walker who is dead. It was necessary to have interviews with them, and they were seen, and they were so satisfied with the arrangements which we made, that we have now the benefit of their engineer in support of this scheme, so that whether you look at it in a pecuniary way or any other way, it seems to me that we have had in some way or other every possible approval to the scheme. The engineer will be called before you - he is a gentleman of great eminence - he was examined with regard to the Great Manchester Bill, and has been connected with the Wolverhampton waterworks and other waterworks, though not perhaps of equal Metropolitan experience. We have also, I should add, the consent of all the landowners through whose land the conduit goes, and in fact we have the consent of everybody except Mr. Bamlett and the people with whom he works.

Now, I should have stated affirmatively that we have had the good luck to secure a very good customer at once. We had no doubt that we should have plenty of custom without, but it so happens that the North Eastern Company are in the neighbourhood, and they want some water, and they say, if you will take a pipe to our station at Northallerton we will take 130,000 gallons per day. Now, that is a very good basis to start upon; but although we start with it, the Petitioners actually find fault with that, and one of their ridiculous complaints is in Paragraph 9 of their Petition, which says: "The object of the scheme, as put forward by the Promoters in their pro- spectus, and as your Petitioners are otherwise informed," certainly they were informed of it because I mentioned it in the House of Commons, "appears to be mainly to supply the North Eastern Railway Company with water at their Thirsk and Northallerton stations." Your Lordships probably know that we supply the water in bulk to them, that is what that means, as you know that is allowed by Parliament and encouraged by the Public Health Act, and it is a good thing to do, and not only may we supply the North- allerton station of the North Eastern Company in bulk, but if the Northallerton people want water, we may sell it to them, and generally towns and local boards have been very anxious to get that mode of supply, because then they will have control over the price to be charged. Then they say, "the promoters propose, by agreement with that Company, to lay a main from the Thirsk station along that railway to Northallerton, a distance of nearly eight miles. This main will for its whole length be unprofitable, and the supply to the Railway Company is, as your Petitioners are informed, intended to be afforded at such a rate as cannot properly remunerate the promoters, who will consequently be compelled to charge to your Petitioners the high rates proposed in the said Order." Now what earthly object can they suppose a set of people to have, who form a Com- pany, and then make an agreement immediately they have


formed it, to do some work at an unprofitable rate? Is not that statement as suicidal as the petition itself? That requires no further answer. It must be obviously just the opposite. It must be a good thing for us to lay a pipe for these eight miles with the security of having 130,000 gallons per day taken immediately. We have here from the House of Commons the estimate for this pipe - it was 3,200, and it is estimated that that will pay 7 per cent. on about 6,000, which is the extra cost entailed on the Water Company for supplying the Railway Company. That is not a very bad bargain to begin with. Then they talk about the scheme being speculative, which is mere nonsense. Every scheme is, of course, speculative in this sense, that the promoters hope it will pay. Then they say that there is an intention of its being sold. All I can say is that if there is an agreement made hereafter to sell the concern to the local authority Parliament would be very glad to ratify it, though the local authority have expressly declined to buy it at this moment.

Now my present statement does not rest merely upon the general consent of the local board, but upon a formal resolution. When we were in the House of Commons we had not got this formal resolution, but merely their tacit consent. Since the Bill has been in the House of Commons the opponents have been going on stirring up such opposition as they could, and they seem to have caused a meeting of the sanitary authority to be called; it was called upon the 21st June, last week, with this result, here is the notice of it; this is the notice sent out by the clerk to all the members of the board, it is dated the 16th June. [The same was read.] Then came the meeting, and this is the memorandum of it; the deputation of the opposition which called upon the following gentlemen addressed the meeting, Mr. Henry Smith read the form of Petition to be presented; Mr. Bamlett addressed the meeting and showed samples of water, and explained his rival scheme; the deputation on behalf of the scheme was addressed by several gentlemen. Mr. Siever moved that this meeting Petition the House of Lords against the scheme, and that the Petition now produced be adopted, and that the Common Seal of the Board be affixed thereto, and that the Petition be handed to the Solicitor for the Opposition Committee. Mr. John Rose moved the meeting to adopt the Petition now produced to the House of Lords in favour of the Company's scheme. The votes were taken by ballot - for the Company's scheme, 15, against it, 9. That is decisive enough about it, I think.

Mr. SHIRESS WILL: Except that no Petition has been presented.

Sir EDMUND BECKETT: You are wrong again. Your Lordships see perfectly plainly that it is entirely idle for this Petition to be suggesting that this Bill should be thrown out, with the idea that the local board should take up Mr. Bamlett's new scheme, for they have declared by almost two to one, that they do not mean to do it.

Now in this Petition they set up a rival scheme which they describe to a certain extent. Page 4 of the Petition, which I will not read through, is occupied with the description of the rival scheme. Now you know Parlia- ment in both Houses is extremely unwilling to entertain suggestions of competing schemes, especially by those who are not responsible for them. I admit that if the local board had been here with a rival scheme your Lordships would have attended to it. I admit also that when there have been conflicts between Companies as to which should have possession of a district, rival schemes have been entertained; but sometimes they have not. I know cases in which they have not been entertained, but here you have nothing in the world but a set of inhabitants suggesting, that if this Bill is thrown out somebody may take up a scheme called the Kepwick scheme, and they have put upon the wall a map, which I see for the first time - they have not condescended to send us plans or sections, which is sometimes done, but they put on the wall for us to see for the first time the condition


of the rival scheme. We see at once that it involves an interference with a great quantity of land-how are the landowners to be dealt with-there is no possible evidence that they would have consented, because nobody has dealt with them-somebody must give his consent to the placing of their reservoir-nobody can have dealt with them, because nobody has had to deal with them.

Now, we know that the water there is certainly inferior to our water; evidence has been given upon that in the House of Commons; it is actually one of the very places which Mr. Bamlett himself went to with us in the first instance have rejected, because the water was too hard. Therefore we know that, unless they adopt some complicated means of picking and choosing between the different streams there, they must spoil the scheme. Now, it is so hard that it is actually a petrifying water, because in the House of Commons the Committee allowed the thing to be gone into, although they said they would not. We had specimens of things allowed to lie in the stream which had been petrified by this water; it is almost as hard as the water of the dripping well at Knaresborough.

Now, we know, moreover, that the soil is limestone in a state of dis- location; even limestone out of a state of dislocation is very precarious. We know quite enough about it to know that nobody could' be certain of making a reservoir, even if they intended to make it, but we do not even know that they intend it, because we believe they intend to try the scheme which was tried at Lancaster, and has not answered, of running a conduit to catch a quantity of the streams.

But there is another thing to be considered-there are millowners upon those streams too; have they dealt with them ? How do they know that if they come here with plans and everything perfectly ready, they could get the consent of a single land or millowner ? How do they know that they could get the consent of Parliament to any scheme whatever. We know, and they know that that is a district in which rain falls; it is a certain area, and therefore a certain quantity falls. There are streams there. No doubt by engineering some of the water can be gathered, but we know the water is hard, and the streams are precarious, And the millowners would be difficult to deal with on that account, and we having examined it can say that no scheme of a proper character can be laid out to bring before Parliament from there.

Now although they talk vaguely in their Petition about supplying 11,000 people, what are the limits of supply to be? They are not defined and cannot be defined. What quantity of water are they to get? They cannot prove that, because before they can do that they must have sections of the dam and reservoir, and all the things necessary, for bringing a com- plete scheme before Parliament. Now here is a scheme practically adopted by nobody, because the Petition goes for nothing. They put on paper a certain amount of description of this hypothetical scheme, which would not be sufficient for bring the scheme before Parliament, and they ask your Lordships, I will first of all say, to attend to that which is quite contrary to practice, and if you do attend to it, to attend to it to the extent of throwing out this Bill, which has been approved of by the Board of Trade, and modified by the opponents of the Bill, while you are to take the chance of their bringing forward something else, for it is only a chance - if this Bill is rejected, who is pledged to take up the scheme at all? Suppose Mr. Bamlett comes and says "I will." Yes, but you will not find all the money for it, and who else will do that ? Do you think that all married women and children and lodgers and all that kind of cattle in Thirsk will do it? I should tell you that we have nearly all the money raised for this scheme. In the House of Commons I was able to state that there were 1,284 shares taken out of 1,600, which is a very unusual number - possibly it is more now - about 1,300 shares are now taken up.

Now, although 869 signatures look a great many, we know what their rateable value in the district would amount to, it amounts to 7,000 and


odd out of a rateable value of 43,000; and even that is taking their own view which is exaggerating the amount very much, because although they own property altogether to that amount, they do not own property within the limits of supply to that amount, but only to the amount of 4,500 in round numbers or one-tenth of the whole district. So here are we representing the public authority of the whole district represent- ing the consent of everybody while those people who represent only one-tenth actually ask to have the Bill thrown out, in order that they may have the chance of bringing in a new one; there is not the slightest probability that they will.

There are, my Lords, it is worth while mentioning, also petitions on our side in favour of the Bill to a greater amount, even double the amount, which they themselves profess to represent; indeed, I do not know what bad incident or character, of a petition this petition does not represent. Now I tell your Lordships this story about the alternative scheme which, with a view of doing what I did in the House of Commons: I intimated there that I should take the same objection as I shall take now, that the Committee could not entertain a rival scheme; but notwithstanding that, pretty early in the case they began cross-examining upon the rival scheme. Here are the Minutes: "The Committee Room was cleared. After a short time the Counsel and parties were again called in and informed by the Chairman that the Committee were quite unanimous upon this point; that they were determined not to consider the merits of any other rival scheme, and that they would not admit any evidence in chief in favour of any other rival scheme; at the same time, they did not desire to stop the cross- examination." So they let my learned friend go on cross-examining as to evidence of that kind, but told him it was all to no purpose, because they would not allow any rival scheme to be set up substantially. They heard all that could be alleged against the scheme itself; they heard a speech of my learned friend, Mr Michael's who, very discretely, did not call any witnesses, and the result was that the Committee unanimously and very decisively passed the Bill.

The CHAIRMAN: Who was the chairman of the Committee?

Sir EDMUND BECKETT: Mr. Charles Cavendish Clifford, and I may mention that a referee sat with them. You know what a referee is perhaps, and although they are a body of whom I am in the habit of speaking with extreme respect, still they have a good deal of experience in water and gas Bills. Whatever was the value of the referee sitting with this Committee, they had the benefit of his assistance. I give notice then that as soon as my learned friend sets up this rival scheme here I shall ask your Lordships to come to the conclusion that Committees invariably, I may say, do come to, except in the cases I am going to mention. If we had a Corporation here setting up a rival scheme against us, and saying that they were going on with it themselves, that would be a different thing. That happened in the case of East Retford where I was counsel, but there is no such body here and no such rival scheme as that.

Vide Minutes of Evidence.

Thirsk water scheme dispute main page