After the death of the life tenant of Bedford House in 1922, the Bedford Corner shops were built on what had been, since the development of Bedford Park, most of its front garden. Although there were protests at the time, led by Maurice B Adams, one of the suburb’s original architects and strong promoter of its significance, who was still resident, there was no legal obstruction to this unfortunate despoilation of Bedford Park.
An original scheme for shops along the South Parade frontage only was abandoned, and the eventual development also extended along The Avenue to within about ten feet of Bedford House itself. Originally with only pedestrian access, the establishment of a short-lived filling station at No.1 just before WWII required a road connection to be established across the forecourt between South Parade and The Avenue. This development further extended the original fragmentation of ownership of the forecourt and contributed to its deterioration.
Although some piecemeal improvements have been made to halt what had become a serious deterioration of the paved surface, the fragmented ownership has still prevented any comprehensive re-ordering of the space to take place, although several proposals have been made over the last 30 years or so.
There are still some mildly neglected houses in Bedford Park, usually those still in multiple occupation. There is one case of a house which was in comparatively good condition in 1965, but has undergone serious deterioration in the subsequent 50 years, providing a reminder of a phenomenon which was much more common at that time.
The work continues
Many houses have been sympathetically restored in recent decades, and only a few of the early, unsympathetic alterations to which Tom Greeves drew attention in 1967 still remain:
A final thought
In the past, Bedford Park suffered because of poverty but 1967 was the turning point in saving the architectural heritage of the suburb. The challenge now is enabling the adaptation of homes for modern living while preserving the character and integrity of the conservation area.
A new find
Until very recently, the only known image of Jonathan Thomas Carr (1845-1915), the founder of Bedford Park, has been the relief portrait on the memorial to him attached to St Michael and All Angels (Original Exhibition Panel 1: 1/1). The source may have been an oil portrait by Lance Calkin which was one of the items sold in the auction of the contents of the Bedford Park Club after its closure in 1939, and whose present whereabouts are unknown. This portrait appears in very small size and poor resolution in the background of a 1933 black and white photograph of the interior of the Club. Very recently (May 2017), a member of the Carr family who contacted the Bedford Park Society to purchase some publications has provided a copy of a photograph of Jonathan Thomas at the age of 19. Although not of architectural relevance, it seems appropriate to close this exhibition, as it began, with a picture of the founder of Bedford Park.
This exhibition was selected and presented on behalf of the Bedford Park Society by Dr D W Budworth MBE, Historical Adviser to the Society, whose Greeves Archives have provided much of the material. Special thanks are due to Sandra Grant and Carol Woolner, who have been particularly helpful in locating relevant material. Other sources have included Chiswick Library Local Studies (London Borough of Hounslow), Ealing Library Local History (London Borough of Ealing), and the London Metropolitan Archives (City of London). Help from the following is gratefully acknowledged: Sandra Goodman, Geoff Hoddinott, Dotti Irving, Mr and Mrs Peter King, Nicholas Mesquita, Peter Murray, Richard and Emma Oliver, and Oliver West and John Scott. The final volume of Bevis Hillier’s biography of John Betjeman, The Bonus of Laughter, contains much the best published account of the so-called “Battle of Bedford Park” and in particular records the background to Greeves’s 1967 Exhibition.
The mounting of the exhibition would not have been possible without the permission of the Vicar of St Michael and All Angels, Bedford Park, the Rev Kevin Morris, and the active help of Torin Douglas and James Cox, whose assistance is most gratefully acknowledged.