History of the City of London coal duties

The Metropolis Improvement Fund

The 1851 Act provided that the duty of 1d. was to be transferred to a "Metropolis Improvement Fund", to be managed by the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Woods, Forests, Land Revenues, Works and Buildings, until Parliament should decide on the precise application of the money, with the general intention that it should be used as a means of "opening poor and densely populated Districts of the Metropolis, or for keeping open Spaces in the immediate Vicinity of the same, as a means of promoting the public Convenience, Recreation and Health" -- though the motives for this were not necessarily quite as high-minded as might at first appear. The combination of genuine concern and great condescension in this passage from the 1838 report of a Select Committee on Metropolis Improvements gives an insight into Victorian motives:

There are some districts in this vast city through which no thoroughfares at present pass, and which being wholly occupied by a dense population, composed of the lowest class of labourers entirely secluded from the observation and influence of wealthier and better educated neighbours, exhibit a state of moral and physical degradation deeply to be deplored. Whenever the great streams of public intercourse can be made to pass through districts such as these the cure of this lamentable evil will speedily be effected. The moral condition of these poorer occupants must necessarily be improved by immediate communication with a more respectable inhabitancy; and the introduction at the same time of improved habit and a freer circulation of air, will tend materially to extirpate those prevalent diseases which are now not only so destructive among themselves, but so dangerous to the neighbourhood around them.

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