Bedford Park’s famous historical figures

Painting of Bath Rd by Camille Pissarro

A focus for artistic and political life

In the 1880s with its church, parish hall, club, stores, pub and school of art, living in Bedford Park was the height of fashion. The artistic and political life of Bedford Park included artists, aesthetes, occultists, retired army officers and anarchists, the latter immortalised by G K Chesterton.

Bedford Park is Saffron Park in G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday and Biggleswick in John Buchan’s Mr. Standfast. W. B. Yeats, the actor William Terriss, the actress Florence Farr, the playwright Arthur Wing Pinero and the painter Camille Pissarro were all residents at various stages of their careers.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

Camille Pissarro spent his final visit to England (1897) at 62 Bath Road, Bedford Park – the last house in Bath Road before the railway crossing and Stamford Brook. His son, Lucien who later moved to the Brook Cottage, had just moved there from Essex, having suffered a severe stroke.

During this time he produced several oils described as being of Bedford Park, Chiswick, but six were of the nearby Stamford Brook area, painted from the front and back of the house. His Chiswick paintings included one of Bath Road, Match de Cricket à Bedford Park, Londres and Fête de Jubilé de la Reine à Bedford Park.

His eldest son Lucien (1863-1944) also lived in Bedford Park at 62 Bath Road from to 1897 – 1902. He produced 30 paintings of west London including Chiswick. Ludovic Rodo (1878 -1952) another son, was also an artist as well as producer of the definitive catalogue of his father’s work and he lived at 3 Blenheim Road 1921-22.

WB Yeats (1865 – 1939)

William Butler Yeats‘ time in Chiswick was an important period in his development as an artist. In the second spell in the Bedford Park area he composed his best known poem, the Lake Isle of Innisfree, he met the woman who was to be the object of his unrequited passion, and made the acquaintance of people such as Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and William Morris.

The Yeats family had been forced to adopt an itinerant lifestyle after his father’s (John Butler Yeats) decision to abandon law for his art. They moved between Sligo, Dublin and London making their first move to Bedford Park in 1879. They took a two-year lease on 8 Woodstock Road at a time when the area was considered cheap.

After returning to Ireland for a period the family came back to London in 1887 and moved to 3 Blenheim Road in Bedford Park in March 1888. He met Maud Gonne at this house, and went on to propose to her several times. She always said no but Yeats held out hope for many years and she became an important influence on his writing. The house remained in the family until 1902 when they moved back to Ireland and now bears a blue plaque.

Sir Arthur Wing Pinero (24 May 1855 – 23 November 1934)

English actor playwright and stage director, Pinero, lived in 10 Marlborough Crescent from 1883 -1885 after he married actress Myra Holme (Myra Emily Hamilton). He was a successful playwright, authoring fifty-nine plays.

These included social dramas, some dealing with social hypocrisy surrounding attitudes to women in second marriages, including: The Second Mrs Tanqueray (1893) and The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith (1895). He was best known for his comedies, most notably; The Magistrate (1885), The Schoolmistress (1886) Dandy Dick (1887) The Cabinet Minister (1890) The Amazons (1893) The Princess and the Butterfly (1897) Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ (1898) The Gay Lord Quex (1899) The Squire (1905) and The “Mind the Paint” Girl (1912).

Florence Farr (7 July 1860 – 29 April 1917)

Florence Beatrice Emery (née Farr) was a leading actress, composer and director. She was also a women’s rights activist, journalist, educator, singer, novelist, leader of the occult order, The Golden Dawn, and one time mistress of playwright George Bernard Shaw.

She was also a friend and collaborator of William Butler Yeats, poet Ezra Pound, playwright Oscar Wilde, artists Aubrey Beardsley and Pamela Colman Smith, Masonic scholar Arthur Edward Waite, theatrical producer Annie Horniman, and many other literati.

She was an early Feminist, publicly advocated for suffrage, workplace equality, and equal protection under the law for women, writing a book and many articles in intellectual journals on the rights of “the modern woman.”

Florence did not own a home in Bedford Park (she had several addresses in the Hammersmith area) but in early 1890, moved in with her sister, Henrietta, and brother-in-law, painter and stage designer Henry Marriott Paget, to 1, The Orchard. While in Bedford Park, Farr starred in the play A Sicilian Idyll: A Pastoral Play in Two Scenes by John Todhunter (an associate of Yeats and fellow member of the Golden Dawn).

George Bernard Shaw was in the audience to review the play and was greatly impressed with Farr’s performance. Within a year she became his mistress. Both he and Yeats wrote leading parts in their plays for Farr, who used her influence with theatre patron and manager Annie Horniman to have them produced.

William Terriss (20 February 1847 – 16 December 1897)

William Terriss born as William Charles James Lewin, was an English actor, known for his swashbuckling hero roles, such as Robin Hood, as well as parts in classic dramas and comedies. He was also a notable Shakespearean performer. He was the father of the Edwardian musical comedy star Ellaline Terriss and the film director Tom Terriss.

He lived at 4 The Avenue from 1884 – 1890 and at 2 Bedford Road from 1893 – 1897. He had major successes in Robin Hood and Rebecca, and was as one of Britain’s most popular actors. In 1880, he joined Henry Irving’s company at the Lyceum Theatre, appearing in Shakespeare plays.

In 1885, he met 24-year-old actress, Jessie Millward, and they subsequently toured Britain and America together. In 1897, he was stabbed to death by a deranged actor, Richard Archer Price, at the stage door of the Adelphi Theatre where he was appearing.

Thanks to Kate Bowes of the Bedford Park Society for the information on Bedford Park’s most famous historical residents

Image above: View across Stamford Brook Common, Camille Pissarro

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Bedford Park, the first Garden Suburb

See also: Launch of W.B. Yeats trail in Bedford Park

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