This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the listing of 356 buildings in Bedford Park, the decisive act in ensuring that Bedford Park and its architecture were preserved.
We will mark the event with a commemorative exhibition, as part of the 2017 Golden Jubilee Bedford Park Festival, from 9-16 June in St Michael and all Angels Church.
In the early 1960s the architectural legacy of Jonathan Carr and his architects appeared gravely threatened by demolitions and by general decay (some two thirds of the houses were by one calculation in multiple occupation). The demolition of a Norman Shaw house at 13 Bedford Road and the construction of a flat roof, yellow brick old people’s home, the antithesis of the suburb’s steep roofs, red tiles and gables, prompted the formation of the Bedford Park Society.
The Society was formed in 1963 by two local residents: Harry Taylor, a community activist, and Tom Greeves, conservationist and architect, with John Betjeman agreeing to become the Society’s first patron. They were horrified by the rash of demolition and inappropriate development in the neighbourhood and decided to act after the demolition of 13 Bedford Road. Although the Society grew to 200 members in its first year and lobbied hard, Greeves was aware that the only real protection for Bedford Park lay in statutory listing for the buildings.
As part of the Society’s campaign during 1966 to save one of the finest houses, No 1 Marlborough Crescent, Greeves showed Arthur Grogan of the Greater London Historical Buildings Division around the area. Grogan was a passionate lover of late 19th century architecture and works of art, and although he was unable to save No 1 Marlborough Crescent, the visit sparked his interest in Bedford Park.
The breakthrough came in 1967, when, as part of the first Bedford Park Festival, the Society mounted an exhibition, The Art and Architecture of Bedford Park, 1875-1900. Greeves had been co-opted onto the festival committee and, realising the event could provide an opportunity to promote the campaign for listing, organised the exhibition based on his photographs of Bedford Park. These captured the empty site for No 1 Marlborough Crescent and demonstrated both the quality and the plight of other buildings. Arthur Grogan, now an inspector with the Historic Buildings Council (the predecessor of English Heritage), was persuaded by Greeves to come and see the exhibition and left promising to do what he could to secure listing.
In July of 1967, Grogan together with two representatives from the Greater London Council and two from both Ealing and Hounslow councils met at Greeves’ house in Newton Grove. Over coffee, Grogan announced that the Ministry had accepted his recommendation for the statutory Grade II listing of 356 buildings in Bedford Park. This critical development ensured the protection of the buildings, which then led to the suburb being made a conservation area by Ealing and Hounslow councils in 1969 and 1970 respectively. It also marked the end of the period of gradual dilapidation of the area as new owners attracted by the heritage and sense of community of the area began moving in and to restore the houses, with the Bedford Park Society providing guidance through their publications and their comments on planning applications.
The 2017 exhibition will recall the context and content of the 1967 exhibition and consider its consequences, showing how the listing ensured the retention of the original buildings and helped to ensure that alteration and additions reflected the spirit and detail of the original architecture.
More information on the architects of Bedford Park can be found on the Bedford Park pages of the website.
Further details of other planned events to commemorate the anniversary will be announced shortly.