The Aesthetic Movement: Beauty and Civilisation
As a major new exhibition on the Aesthetic Movement opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Richard Cavendish explores Bedford Park, the garden suburb inspired by the movement’s ideals.
An estate agent’s advertisement for Bedford Park in its early days called it ‘the healthiest place in the world’, with an annual death rate below six per 1,000 and houses equipped with ‘the most approved Sanitary arrangements’. The man behind England’s first garden suburb was a businessman called Jonathan Carr, who married Agnes Fulton, daughter of Hamilton Fulton, a well-known engineer. The Fultons lived in west London at Bedford House on what is now The Avenue, near Turnham Green station, opened in 1869, which gave commuters access to the City of London by steam train in 30 minutes. The house had been built a hundred years earlier for the family that was to give its name to the new Bedford Park estate after Carr bought it with 24 acres of land from his father-in-law in 1875.
Carr, who was 30, employed the architect E.W. Godwin to create an estate on the social and artistic principles of John Ruskin and the Aesthetic Movement. They soon parted company and in 1877 Carr replaced Godwin with Richard Norman Shaw. He lasted until 1880, but had a profound influence on Bedford Park’s character and more houses were added on Shaw’s lines by Maurice Adams, E.J. May and others.