Lecture by Dr Mervyn Miller on Edwin Lutyens’s Contribution to Hampstead Garden Suburb

at RIBA 19 June 2012

“Hampstead Garden Suburb is that most nearly perfect example of that unique English invention and speciality …. the garden suburb”

With a series of excellent archival (not a car in sight!) and modern photographs, Mervyn Miller recounted the long and complicated history of the Hampstead Garden Suburb – described by Nikolaus Pevsner in his Buildings of Britain – Middlesex, published in 1951, as “The aesthetically most satisfactory and socially most successful of all C20 garden suburbs.” The formidable Dame Henrietta Barnett, a cosmetic heiress turned avid social reformer, wishing to create an ideal community that mixed the classes, approached Eton College, owners of Wyldes Farm. They turned down her initial approach as she was ‘only a woman.’ Having gained influential male support, she successfully concluded the purchase and appointed Raymond Unwin as Architect and Surveyor with Edwin Lutyens as Consultant Architect. The layout was devised by Unwin but from 1907 Lutyens designed the major buildings: the formal Central Square (as a cultural centre with its Institute, reminiscent of Williamsburg), two steep-roofed churches: the Free Church and St Jude’s each with their parsonages and the quite grand houses in Erskine Hill and North Square, characteristically in his William and Mary mode in superb two toned brick but including some of his engaging idiosyncracies. St Jude’s fulfilled Lutyens’s ambition to build a church and was some compensation for his disappointment in losing the competition for County Hall. But while bowing to a degree to Henrietta Barnett’s desire for a Gothic church (for which as a classicist he had no taste), he created a highly successful eclectic building. However, never in tune together, she got him sacked. After her death in 1936, Lutyens got a reward in designing her memorial in 1938. The subsequent history after the Great War brought a dilution of the Lutyens aesthetic. This interesting lecture concluded with a vote of thanks by Martin Lutyens to the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects who organized the event and to the RIBA who kindly lent the room.

Michael Barker