Founded in 1963 to protect the character of the garden suburb, the Bedford Park Society was first set up when a local conservationist, Architect Tom Greeves, and community activist Harry Taylor met. They had both had expressed horror at a rash of demolition and inappropriate development in the neighbourhood and decided to act after a large Norman Shaw house in Bedford Road was replaced by a yellow-brick, flat-roofed old people’s home – the antithesis of the suburb’s steep roofs, red tiles and gables.
Tom, who with his wife Eleanor went to live in Newton Grove in 1951 and stayed there till his death, came to be known as the saviour of Bedford Park. An architect, a witty perspectivist and an able musician, Tom had the breadth of culture to appreciate both the charm and the originality of the place when few others did, and worked indefatigably on its behalf. He realised that the only real protection for Bedford Park lay in statutory listing of the buildings.
Seeking advice, he turned to poet John Betjeman, a prominent defender of Victorian architecture. Betjeman – who became the Society’s first patron – suggested they print some headed paper and start lobbying as if the Society already existed. Tom became secretary while Harry was vice-chairman until his death in 1964.
The turning point was the 1967 Bedford Park Festival, when the Society organised an exhibition in the vicarage to highlight the history of Bedford Park and the dangers it faced. One visitor was a Ministry of Housing & Local Government inspector, who was so impressed he recommended the Grade II listing of 356 buildings, including the former Stores (now offices), the Tabard Inn, the Club (now the London Buddhist Vihara), the Church of St Michael and All Angels and its Parish Hall. The Church and Tabard have since been promoted to Grade II*.
This victory was consolidated when Conservation Areas were declared by the boroughs of Ealing (1969) and Hounslow (1970), who administer the two halves of Bedford Park. These areas have since been expanded to take in more non-listed houses.
In 2001 Hounslow implemented an Article 4(2) Direction, which gives greater protection to these non-listed buildings. Ealing Council introduced an Article 4(2) Direction in 2008.
The Society is interested in the buildings, their setting and their maintenance, along with encouraging development sympathetic to their architectural and historic importance. We want owners to appreciate details such as windows, brickwork, boundary fences and mature trees which all contribute to the character of our streets.
In addition to our core preservation work, we are also concerned with a broad range of issues that affect Bedford Park and are keen to respond to our members’ interests and requests for help with local issues. We are committed to modernising and improving the effectiveness of the Society’s communications and our contact with our members. We have an established programme of events including meetings, lectures, exhibitions and social activities.
Our remit encompasses trees, street lighting and furniture, as well as roads and pavements, including parking and traffic schemes, waste and recycling. We are also involved in public transport issues and support campaigns against changes that might adversely affect Bedford Park.
The Society has links with similar organisations locally and combines resources and ideas with them to tackle local issues. We are also a member of the London Forum of Amenity Groups, a capital-wide organisation chaired by the Society’s vice chairman, Peter Eversden.
Recently the Society worked closely with the local residents’ association, the Bedford Park Community Group, to support their work in negotiating special concessions for wheelie bins in the Ealing part of the conservation area.
Our work with the Community Group demonstrated the significant benefits in having one organisation providing a single, more powerful voice for the whole Bedford Park community and removing overlap in our work or confusion about our respective roles.
We are now seeking a way to join forces by combining our respective skills and experience, while ensuring that we continue to reflect the full breadth of interests and needs of our respective members. As a result, members of the Community Group committee have joined the Society’s executive committee and key working committees.
We believe that our closer working with the Community Group and increased capacity to tackle issues, will enable us to better serve the needs of our members and those of the whole local community.