& LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY
A report on the important work being carried out by
the Society's Conservation Committee.
BAALHS is actively involved in trying to ensure that Bedford's buildings of special architectural and historic interest are protected and to increase public awareness of their importance. We also seek to preserve the best of the present urban landscape and to oppose developments which are incongruous or otherwise unsuitable. To carry out this important work we have a dedicated committee co-chaired by David Fletcher and David Fowler who are carrying on the work that was started in 1966 when the Bedford Society was formed. In 2008 the Bedford Society and the Bedford Archaeological and Local History Society merged to form BAALHS, the Bedford Architectural, Archaeological and Local History Society. This society with its Conservation Committee is the only body in Bedford dedicated to the protection of the town’s built environment. In this capacity it is a formal consultee to the Planning Department and meets regularly with its Historic Environment Team Leader, Ian Johnson.
Our recent achievements include the successful campaign to obtain listed status for St Luke’s Moravian Church in St Peter’s Street (1864-65, Architect James Horsford). This stately building with its peaceful town centre garden is now a stylish theatre which is owned and operated by Bedford School and offers a much needed facility to the people of Bedford.
Amongst our proudest achievements is part we played in the very survival of 1-4 St. Paul’s Square, the parlous state and uncertain future of which has been of great concern to us for many years. That these buildings not only remain standing, but have been imaginatively and sympathetically restored is partly the result of the vigilant manner in which the Society has kept these remarkably important buildings in the public eye. The rescue of these buildings, one of which dates back to the 15th century, is fully explained in Nancy Falloon's article in the April 2016 edition of the Bedford Local History Magazine.
In this context, we are proud to have been represented on the board of the Townscape Heritage Initiative, and applauds The Borough Council which with the support of Lottery funding and a massive injection of matching private capital has brought about a remarkable transformation in the visual appearance of the High Street. Many of the town’s best buildings, including no. 80a, a rare 17th century survival, and, by contrast, the Victorian ‘showpiece’ building on the corner of High Street (no. 100 – formerly ‘Porter Blacks’) have been restored to their original appearance. As a result of these improvements a wealth of original neo-classical feature have reappeared along the length of the High Street and, coincidently, but perhaps of even greater importance, the upper floors of the restored buildings are once again in residential use. For the first time in a great many years, people are actually living in the High Street!
Moving away from the centre of Town, we are proud of our role in ensuring the preservation of a group of Victorian frontages, including that of the former Convent School, on Bromham Road, which were threatened by the St. Bede’s ‘extra care’ housing scheme. Happily - at our suggestion - these were seamlessly incorporated into this imaginative project which was designated ‘Development of the Year (East Midlands category) at the Chartered Institute of Housing Awards in 2014. A perhaps unexpected benefit of the re-ordering of this extensive tract of built-up land has been the remarkable re-invigoration of The Avenue - previously a rather gloomy ‘dead end’ - which now has the appearance and atmosphere of a continental piazza!