Historian rediscovers grave of man who helped save Epping Forest

Verderer Richard Morris, OBE, at the grave of John Thomas Bedford in the City of London Cemetery
Verderer Richard Morris, OBE, at the grave of John Thomas Bedford in the City of London Cemetery

Members of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest Committee have laid flowers on John Thomas Bedford’s grave at the City of London Cemetery, Manor Park. In 1871, Bedford - a member of the City Corporation’s executive body, the ‘Court of Common Council’ - proposed that the City of London Corporation should secure Epping Forest for ‘the people for purposes of public health and recreation’.

During the following seven years, he was tireless in his efforts to save Epping Forest from enclosure, and by August 1878 the City Corporation both owned the manorial rights to the Forest waste and had been appointed Conservators of the Forest.

Local historian and Forest Verderer, Richard Morris, who recently traced the Bedford grave, said: “Without John Bedford taking the initiative in 1871, the Forest may never have been saved as an open space. Importantly, the City Corporation had the resources to take legal action in the Court of Chancery against the local lords of the manor.”

Richard Morris is just beginning his research into Mr Bedford - the latest in a series of investigations into leading figures in the fight to save Epping Forest - and is keen to hear from any surviving members of the Bedford family.

Bedford came from a family of undertakers and coffin makers who lived and worked in the Farringdon area of the City. He died in March 1900, and was buried in the City of London Cemetery with other members of his family. Richard.

Gordon Haines, Chairman of the City Corporation’s Epping Forest Committee, which sets Forest policy, said:

“It is now over 130 years since the City Corporation took over the stewardship of the Forest, during which time many other notable persons have ensured the protection of the Forest, but John Thomas Bedford led the way.”

You can learn more about the fight to save Epping Forest in the exhibition at The View visitor centre on Rangers Road, Chingford. Richard Morris’s latest book, William D’Oyley 1812-1890 has just been published by the Loughton and District Historical Society is on sale at The View.