Bedford Park – to the uninitiated – is a residential enclave located between Stamford Brook and Chiswick in West London. It is not technically a park. It is the world’s ‘First Garden Suburb’. Wow! Nineteenth Century paradigm of suburban development, featuring Norman Shaw-designed Queen Anne-style houses. There are trees and pavements and other things like that. It’s nice. John Betjeman called it:
The most significant suburb built in the last century, probably in the western world.
And you know that if John Betjeman says something about a suburb, the suburb in question is going to be very suburby.
Lots of people want to live here which makes it expensive. And once people move in, they never leave. So you could say that people are happy here because it is a beautiful place to live.
But, as is often the case, with beauty comes monstrosity. If someone says to you that they live in Bedford Park, they are telling you that they don’t live in Chiswick. Bedford Park? Which street? Is it prime Bedford Park? Is it the rich heartland of Bedford Park or the outskirts? Tell someone who lives in Bedford Park that you live in Bedford Park when actually you live on the outskirts of Bedford Park they will say quite furiously:
Is that Bedford Park?
Because they are paying £400 per square foot more to live in Bedford Park than in the rest of Chiswick.
My friend who works as an estate agent here says that a lot of people who want to buy houses in Bedford Park are the horrible, entitled people who come from tiny flats in Holland Park who have been driven out by the Russians and the Chinese, unable to afford the houses. That’s us, I thought! Substitute Holland for Belsize and that is us in one. We are those horrible, entitled people.
As a result of this demand, houses don’t come up very often in Bedford Park so in an effort to get ourselves into Bedford Park, we decided to do a door drop on the houses we loved. We can’t rent on the outskirts forever, we thought. Horrible. Entitled. So we wrote letters. We printed them on Conquerer paper. Times New Roman. 14pt. We made Hubert post them through the buffed brass letter boxes of the Queen Anne-style houses while we hid and watched from behind the white picket fences.
Within 24 hours we got two phone calls from people wishing to sell; one from a man on Fairfax Road and one from a woman on Woodstock Road. Now Woodstock Road is my dream Bedford Park road and this house was my dream Bedford Park house. So, like a shopaholic drifting blindly into Chanel on Old Bond Street, entranced by the whiff of Gardenia, I was in there for hours, hypnotised, wanting all of it, not knowing how I could afford any of it yet refusing to leave empty-handed.