Bedford Park, The Healthiest Place in the World
The picture chosen to illustrate Bedford Park, described as “The Healthiest Place in the World”, is one of a set of nine lithographs published in 1882 by Jonathan Thomas Carr, the developer of the suburb, as part of his publicity for a development which was aimed at persons of modest means but aesthetic sensibilities. The painter was F. Hamilton Jackson, a Slade-trained watercolourist who was a local resident and also co-director of the Chiswick School of Art. Only a minority of the known examples of the lithograph have the promotional material added at the top and bottom.
Carr had begun his development in 1875 with the purchase of the Bedford House Estate, situated just to the north of Turnham Green station, opened in 1869 on the Kensington-Richmond line of the London and South Western Railway. He rapidly acquired various neighbouring plots, and had built on about 60 acres when the lithographs were published. By this time, Bedford Park was a flourishing community, whose other principal public building was the Club in The Avenue. Most of the houses and these major buildings were designed by the well-known architect Richard Norman Shaw.
Financial problems brought about the end of Carr’s development in 1886, by which time the initial fame of Bedford Park, which had spread around the world, was beginning to fade. Nevertheless, the community continued a lively existence until about the First World War, after which a slow decline set in, with the area eventually attracting the soubriquet ‘Poverty Park’.
The decline continued after the Second World War, but some discerning individuals who had been attracted by the intrinsic qualities of the houses and the neighbourhood, and stimulated by the unsympathetic redevelopment of some larger sites, in 1963 formed the Bedford Park Society. By 1967 they had been successful in a campaign to have the houses listed, thus putting a stop to further major changes and triggering the remarkable revival in the area’s fortunes which has since occurred.
3 March 2017
Acknowledgement: With thanks to Foster Books and The Bedford Park Society.