Bedford Park Society's Norman Shaw Lecture Made Free Online

Talk by Nicholas Fried is entitled Designing Utopia

Norman Shaw (left) with St Michael and All Angels Church. Photo: Ellen Rooney

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The Bedford Park Society has made its autumn online lecture available free to anyone who would like to watch it. Entitled Designing Utopia — Norman Shaw and the architecture of Bedford Park, the lecture was described as a "fascinating and entertaining talk", "very well researched", and "perfectly showcasing the beauty and variety of Bedford Park architecture.”

The speaker Nicholas Friend, MA (Oxon) MA (Cantab) FRSA, explores — with a variety of illustrations and photographs — Norman Shaw's crucial influence on the architecture of Bedford Park setting a standard for the estate, which was followed by its later architects, as well as inspiring Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Norman Shaw, one of the most prominent and influential architects of his time, was appointed Estate Architect of Bedford Park in 1877 during the early stages of the development of its unique character. His designs — including houses, St Michael and All Angels Church and the Tabard Inn — set the tone for the estate, recognised internationally for its architectural importance.

The talk covers the background to the development of the world’s first garden suburb, illustrating Bedford Park’s importance as a chapter in the Victorian house design revolution. Friend describes it as an experiment in living, offering an escape from industrial central London to what was described in its early days as “the healthiest place in the world.”

Publicised as a utopia for those of modest funds, Bedford Park attracted many members of the artistic middle class and became the home of numerous notable residents including writers, painters, and actors. Norman Shaw’s influence was crucial, setting a standard for Bedford Park, which was followed by its later architects, as well as inspiring Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Friend’s enthusiasm for Shaw is described as infectious; he sees the architect as having “a great eye for drama” and shows many examples of Shaw’s house designs that feature his dramatic chimneys, varied roof lines, tile hanging, moulded brickwork and variety of windows. These all contributed to what was known as the distinctive “Queen Anne” style.

The talk also covers the exterior and interior of St Michael and All Angels Church and the Tabard Inn, beautifully illustrating their original features. Friend calls St Michaels “one of the most extraordinary churches of the 19th century.”

Nicholas Friend was Founder-Director of the Cambridge University Art History Summer School for 25 years. Since 1986 he has also been Founder-Director of Inscape, the art history study tour society, which has taken its members into the active study of buildings and art galleries all over the world. Following the popularity of his autumn lecture, the Society has commissioned two further lectures in January and March 2022. Details will be announced soon.

To watch the lecture click on this link.

For further information about the Society email: or check its website.

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December 19, 2021

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