We are pleased to announce that the practice has received several commissions in Bedford Park and will be actively looking to develop its expertise in this special part of London.
Although it looks like just another part of London, albeit a very agreeable part, Bedford Park is an important historical milestone in architecture and urban design. It was the first planned residential development outside any city, and established what came to be called the suburbs. Bedford Park looks so agreeable because, when it was built at the end of the 19th century, there was a happy combination of social reformers (such as Octavia Hill, founder of Octavia Housing and inspiration for the National Trust, and Henrietta Barnett, who founded Hampstead Garden Suburb after seeing Bedford Park), who sought to improve people’s housing, health and happiness, and extraordinarily gifted architects who specialised in domestic architecture.
Architects such as Robert Kerr in The gentleman’s house; or, how to plan English residences, from the parsonage to the palace (1864), C. J. Richardson in The Englishman’s house: a practical guide for selecting or building a house (1874) or J. J. Stevenson in House Architecture (1880) published practical guides to designing family houses. The fame of British architects led to the German government to send a cultural attaché, Hermann Muthesius, to Britain in 1904 to record their work, published in The English House, and develop domestic architecture in Germany.
The architects who worked in Bedford Park – E. W. Godwin, Richard Norman Shaw, Maurice B. Adams, and E. J. May, and one building by C. F. A. Voysey – created what became called the Arts and Crafts style, freely interpreting historical styles of English architecture. They reacted against the rigid social and formal principles of Victorian architecture, and consciously designed the kind of beauty found in old buildings. Although Bedford Park had a reputation for being ‘artistic’, and indeed many residents worked in the arts, it was intended for ordinary working people.
These reformist ideals of family life, and the kind of beauty found in old buildings, were swept away in the First World War. Bedford Park went into decline, and buildings began to be demolished to make way for more ordinary commercial developments. The tide turned, however, mainly due to the efforts of a resident, Tom Greeves, who published Bedford Park, the first garden suburb, a pictorial survey in 1975, and the Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman.
Virtually every original building in Bedford Park was listed by English Heritage (now Historic England) in 1970, either Grade II “of special interest” or II* “particularly important”. The borough of Ealing declared a Conservation Area in 1969, with Article 4(2) Direction (restricting otherwise Permitted Development) in 2008; Hounslow declared a Conservation Area in 1970, with Article 4(2) Direction in 2001. This means that Bedford Park is protected both nationally and by the local authorities.
As a result of these special planning directions it is obligatory to commission an architect with expertise in residential design and conservation in order to carry out any work. Formed Architects & Designers has the ability and experience to convert these wonderful buildings sympathetically to suit today’s requirements.
Written by Thomas Deckker, BSc Dip(AA) MSc (Lond) ARB RIBA, Senior Architect at Formed Architects