by Andy Walters, Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 11, 2002
The Bedford Park Society is leading the way in a unique programme to research every listed house within the Bedford Park conservation area. The Society was founded in 1963 in the face of the demolition of a number of important buildings in the area. In 1967, after much effort by the Society, the majority of the houses that formed the heart of the original development – 356 in all – were listed.
The Society believes that it is essential to inform new residents right from the purchase of their house of the importance of the heritage of which they are custodians. For this reason the Society embarked on its project From Knowledge Comes Care. This will allow the information to be used in a variety of ways. The first is to create an individual record for each house which will be printed and placed in a special binder – the Bedford Park Log Book. Each house would have its own Log Book which will remain with the house in perpetuity.
The From Knowledge Comes Care programme was given considerable impetus by Eleanor Greeves, the widow of Tom Greeves, one of the founders of the Bedford Park Society and its mainstay for thirty-five years. She created a trust fund to support the project since she felt it would continue the work of the Society in a manner of which her husband would have approved. The programme would build upon her late husband’s work which is held by Chiswick Library’s Local Studies department as the Bedford Park Society’s Archive.
Andy Walters, who had recently completed an MA in Conservation Studies at the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies at York University, was asked to take on the work of organising the programme. Andy’s first task was to research all the available sources, from local libraries, Gunnersbury Park Museum and council planning departments to national bodies such as the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Victorian Society and the National Monuments Record, not to mention the Society’s own somewhat scattered records. The recent generous donation by Averil Harper-Smith of some of her late husband Tom’s work on Bedford Park and the Chiswick area means that the Bedford Park Society’s Archive is rapidly becoming a significant addition to the Local Studies section.
The Archive contains at its core the bulk of Tom Greeves’ research into the area. There is an extensive photographic record which Andy has built upon and he estimates that on completion of the project there will be nearly 3,000 photographs. Half of this collection will be digitised and will be available on CD-ROM when Chiswick Library re-opens after its forthcoming modernisation. There are fourteen academic papers which cover various aspects of the development and significance of Bedford Park and life on the estate. All the known published articles from architectural journals and any significant chapters from architectural histories have been collected together to create a comprehensive picture of the architects involved with the development of the area. The social aspects of life in Bedford Park are covered by biographical notes on the early residents, based upon the work of local historians George Horner and Lawrence Duttson. A comprehensive record of the activities of the Bedford Park Society, such as planning appeals and specific campaigns that have led to the enrichment of the aesthetics of the estate, completes the Archive.
The Archive is available to the general public on the days when the Local Studies section is open. The Bedford Park Society encourages its use and is happy for people to add to its overall content. Further information about the Bedford Park Society and the From Knowledge Comes Care project can be found on their web site at www.bedfordpark.org.