The intention was to combine the advantage of town life with the attractions of living in a healthy rural environment. Garden cities were to be planned, self-contained communities surrounded by green belts. They were to include carefully balanced areas of residences, industry and agriculture. Standards had to be maintained beyond the design and building phases; it was important that both the town and the agricultural belt would to be permanently controlled by the public authority under which the town was developed.
Semi detached Queen Anne houses in Bedford Park
Bedford Park Garden Suburb was one of the world's first garden suburbs. As far as I can see, the merchant Jonathan Carr was politically progressive but he was not interested in free housing for impoverished families and he did not believe in communal living. Since we know, for example, that Carr formally created the Bedford Park Company, we can assume that Carr was interested in raising money for his speculative ventures. As it happened, the Company later collapsed, but that only meant that the remainder of the Bedford Park land was sold off to other developers.
Shops and tavern in Bedford Park
The first architect for the estate was Edward William Godwin a leading member of the Aesthetic Movement. Developer and architect did not get on well together, and as Bedford was not built in the cooperative manner like some later developments, Carr simply asked Godwin to pack up his plans and pencils, and leave. In 1877 Carr hired the architect Richard Norman Shaw instead.
Individually designed detached and semi-detached houses, arranged as terraces, were used at Bedford Park. Shaw adapted C18th styles in red brick and white joinery that he called Queen Anne. So his scheme was important because Bedford was one of the first garden suburbs, but it was also unusual in architectural terms. The nature strip, with its mature street trees, as well as the private garden separated from the neighbours by low fences, appeared everywhere. It won’t surprise anyone that Shaw’s work became very influential.
St Michael and All Angels Church, Bedford Park, 1880
St Michael and All Angels Church 1880 was not just any old church, of course; it was designed by Shaw as the centrepiece of Bedford Park. I wonder how the rest of the community sympathised with Shaw’s Anglo-Catholic preferences. Perhaps they were mollified by the presence of the great pub, mentioned above, opposite the church.
The concept of a special estate owed much to the Aesthetic Movement of the 1870s, a movement that romanticised the simple and honest rural life, and celebrated freely expressed beauty. Bedford in turn attracted the families of artists, architects and other aesthetic types, and provided dedicated studios in many of the houses. Perhaps only fashionable, very literate people could afford to live there eg writer WB Yeats, painter Camille Pissarro and Granville Fell, editor of Connoisseur (my second favourite learned journal).
T. Affleck Greeve's book, Bedford Park: The First Garden Suburb
In 1967 the government formally listed and protected the greater part of the estate, a total of 356 houses. Many of them have since been renovated.
You might like to read Bedford Park: The First Garden Suburb, written by T. Affleck Greeves and published in London by Anne Bingley in 1999. The book includes a selection of old photos taken soon after the suburb was built in 1875. Other illustrations include maps, drawings and architectural plans.