A rustic ‘utopia’ in London’s suburbia

MY CHILDHOOD HOME was in the heart of north London’s Hampstead Garden Suburb (‘HGS’). For those of you who are unfamiliar with garden suburbs, here is a definition (from Collins online dictionary) that might begin to help:

“…a suburb of a large established town or city, planned along the lines of a garden city”

And a garden city is (from Collins) is:

“…a planned town of limited size with broad streets and spacious layout, containing trees and open spaces and surrounded by a rural belt”

In Brentham garden suburv

The garden suburb differs from the garden city in two main ways. (1) The former is part of a city, whereas the latter is separated from other cities by countryside (e.g., Welwyn Garden City). (2) The garden city is exclusively or mainly residential, but the garden city can include all that other cities contain.

The first houses in HGS, which was founded by Dame Henrietta Barnett, were completed in 1907. Our house in HGS bore the date 1908.

Brentham Garden Suburb (‘BGS’) was founded earlier than HGS: in 1901. One of its founders was Ebenezer Howard, the who founded The Garden City Movement in 1899. BGS is located close to the River Brent, where it flows through the Borough of Ealing. Its architecture was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement, which was inspired by the philosophy of the social reformer and designer William Morris.

On a recent visit to BGS, the first for me, I was impressed by the similarity of many of its houses to those which I had grown up amongst in the HGS. The similarities are not surprising when you learn that from 1907 onwards for a few years, BGS’s planning was under the supervision of Raymond Unwin, the architect who planned the layout of HGS. Most of the buildings built after 1907 in BGS were designed by Frederic Cavendish Pearson and George Lister Sutcliffe, who were both in sympathy with Unwin’s ideas.

Most of the houses in BGS were built before the 1920s. This was not the case in the larger HGS, where building on a substantial scale continued into the 1930s. So, whereas Art Deco buildings and some other modern designs can be spotted in the HGS, this is not the case in the more architecturally homogenous BGS. A visit to BGS is worthwhile, especially if you are familiar with other garden suburbs and garden cities.

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