A road in Bedford Park, London's first "garden suburb"
Richard Norman Shaw, E. J. May, and others
Photograph and text by Jacqueline Banerjee
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Bedford Park was a pioneering venture. Several previous developments had foreshadowed "picturesque suburbia," including the early nineteenth-century Park Villages near Regent's Park, and the later small enclosed Holly Village in Highgate. But Bedford Park set a new precedent by being planned as a self-contained community, complete with the necessary community buildings — a church, inn, shops and schools. The credit for this new concept goes to Jonathan Carr, the enterprising son-in-law of Hamilton Fulton of Bedford House. Previously a textile merchant, he saw the potential of the area around his father-in-law's home, which was situated close to the recently opened Turnham Green Station. He then embarked on large-scale speculative building there, buying up acreage from Bedford House itself and from two neighbouring houses, and adopting a layout which preserved the fine old trees growing in their grounds (the last occupier of his father-in-law's house had been a curator of the Royal Society of Horticulture's gardens). In this way Carr could and did promote the new "village" as a healthy place to live within easy commuting distance of the City.
A radical with aesthetic tendencies, Carr wanted to provide attractive houses for the middle-class market. To this end he appointed top architects, buying their designs and having the houses built, often with modifications, and with little further input from the architects themselves. E. W. Godwin was soon replaced by Richard Norman Shaw, then at the height of his powers: as estate architect from 1877-79, it was Shaw who set the predominant style of the development and also designed the important church and inn, with its adjoining buildings. Shaw was followed, with little change in the character of the building work, by his assistant E. J. May (sometimes reworking Shaw's earlier designs) and then by Maurice B. Adams. Shaw himself probably continued in the role of consultant. Shaw's Queen Anne style houses, sometimes in short terraces, are notable for their "tile-hung gables," projecting bays and "mullioned and transomed windows with a central circular opening derived from the seventeenth-century Sparrowe's House in Ipswich, Suffolk" (Curl 122). In many cases, white joinery contrasts attractively with the red brick frontages. There were also houses with curved gables in the Dutch/Flemish style, and some different finishes and motifs, including Arts and Crafts sunflowers and swags. As well as completely individual houses — often the detached corner houses — there are 30 types of houses in the Park (Baker and Elrington).
Bedford Park soon acquired a reputation for being "arty." A number of houses were built with artist's studios, and a survey of 168 early residents found that 40 were artists, 16 were architects or engineers, and nine were actors or musicians ("A Guide to Bedford Park"). Among the other architects drawn to the area was C. F. A. Voysey, whose early and controversial roughcast house on South Parade was built for the artist J. W. Foster, and also featured a studio. Comparison with other contemporary housing, such as the more uniformly and cheaply built working-class Glebe estate only a short walk away, shows just how revolutionary all this was at the time, and explains its huge impact on subsequent domestic architecture.
Other Homes in Bedford Park
- Memorial to Jonathan Carr on the wall of St Michael and All Angels, Bedford Park
- Row of three houses in Bedford Park
- Close-up of dormer on this row
- Curved-gabled houses in Bedford Park
- Decorative brickwork on a house in Bedford Park
- House in Bedford Park accented with white joinery
- Close-up of porch on a Bedford Park house
- 1 Priory Gardens, by E. J. May
- 14 South Parade, by C. F. A. Voysey
- 14 South Parade, another view
Baker, T. F. T., and C. R. Elrington, eds. "Chiswick History: Growth." A History of the County of Middlesex, Vol. 7. Viewed 24 September 2008.
The Bedford Park Society. "A Short History of Bedford Park." Viewed 24 September 2008.
"Chiswick History: Housing Schemes." Viewed 24 September 2008.
Curl, James Stevens. Victorian Architecture. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1990.
"A Guide to Bedford Park: The First Garden Suburb." Viewed 24 September 2008.
Turnor, Reginald. Nineteenth Century Architecture in Britain. London: Batsford, 1950.
Weinreb, Ben, and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopaedia. Rev. ed. London: Macmillan, 1992
Last modified 24 September 2008