Paddington: Introduction

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, Hampstead, Paddington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.

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'Paddington: Introduction', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, Hampstead, Paddington, (London, 1989) pp. 173-174. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]


Paddington, (fn. 1) apart from containing the G.W.R. Co.'s London terminus and St. Mary's hospital, was notable mainly for contrasting social conditions, with fashionable terraces facing Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, middle-class avenues around Westbourne Grove and in Maida Vale, and some of London's worst slums along the lines of communication which bisected the parish.

The present account includes Queen's Park, formerly part of a detached portion of Chelsea parish. (fn. 2) Paddington was roughly triangular in shape before the addition of Queen's Park and was nearest to London at the south-eastern corner, close to Marble Arch. Marylebone lay to the east, Willesden to the north, Chelsea detached to the north-west, and Kensington to the west. St. Margaret's, Westminster, lay to the south, until its division left Paddington bordered by a detached portion, with part of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, later St. George's, Hanover Square, farther east. The longest, north-eastern, boundary followed Edgware Road, the Roman Watling Street, for 3.2 km. to Kilburn. The north-west boundary in the north followed the Westbourne stream, which was later straightened along the line of Kilburn Park Road, before turning northwestward towards Willesden Lane, and then ran south and south-eastward through fields to meet the Uxbridge road (later Bayswater Road) nearly opposite Kensington Palace Gardens. The southern boundary mostly followed the Uxbridge road but south of the road it included a rectangular piece of Kensington Gardens (fn. 3) and on the north, near Marble Arch, from 1763 it excluded c. 5 a. which were sold by the beneficial lessee of Paddington manor to St. George's, Hanover Square, as a burial ground. (fn. 4) The eastern and western halves of the parish were divided by the Westbourne, in part a manorial boundary, (fn. 5) and the northern and southern halves by Harrow Road, and later also by the Paddington canal, the G.W.R. line, and the elevated road called Westway.

The inclusion within Paddington of land south of the Uxbridge road antedated the creation of a royal residence at Kensington Palace and annexations to it from 1689 of parts of Hyde Park as Kensington Gardens. (fn. 6) Boundary stones between the parishes of St. Margaret's, Kensington, and Paddington were to be placed in Hyde Park in 1658. (fn. 7) It was suggested in 1803 that a perambulation of Paddington had failed to include enough of the park. (fn. 8) After an attempt to levy rates on the land leased to St. George's parish for a burial ground, Paddington in 1828 was advised that it had no rights there, despite a breach of faith by St. George's in having allowed houses to be built. (fn. 9)

The area of the parish was estimated at 1,220 a. in 1831. (fn. 10) After minor changes, including an addition from Kensington Palace's gardens in 1841 (fn. 11) and a transfer to Willesden in 1883, the acreage was 1,256 in 1891. Under the Metropolis Local Management Act, 1855, Paddington became a civil metropolitan parish within the area of the M.B.W. (fn. 12) In 1900, under the London Government Act, 1899, Queen's Park, the northern part of Chelsea detached, was allotted to the new Paddington metropolitan borough, which also acquired the disused St. George's burial ground. Many slight adjustments were made to the Kensington boundary, chiefly eastward to skirt Ledbury Road, southward from Artesian Road to the west end of Westbourne Grove, westward from Hereford Road to Chepstow Place, and eastward again to Ossington Street. (fn. 13) Houses at the north-eastern end of Kensington Palace Gardens, with part of the gardens stretching east to the Broad Walk, were also surrendered to Kensington. (fn. 14) Paddington metropolitan borough, covering 1,357 a. (c. 550 ha.) in 1911 and 1961, formed the north-western portion of Westminster L.B. from 1965. (fn. 15)

The northern two thirds of the parish are covered by London Clay, which also covers the west side as far south as Moscow Road but the east side only to Paddington green. A narrow central tongue of clay, along the line of the Westbourne stream and Gloucester Terrace, stretches south across Bayswater Road to the Serpentine. Taplow Gravel lies in the south-western corner, south of Moscow Road, and more extensive gravel, broken only by a patch of clay beneath Stanhope Street, covers south-eastern Paddington. (fn. 16)

The natural contours were said in 1853 to have been obscured by excavations, deposits, and subsidence. (fn. 17) Paddington lies on a gentle slope from Hampstead and has its highest point, 120 ft. (36.6 m.) above sea level, in the north-east corner at Maida Hill. The slope is gradual along Edgware Road but more marked along the valley of the Westbourne, where part of Westbourne Grove lies at only 63 ft. There is a slight rise towards Bayswater Road in the south-western part, with Craven Hill and the north-western slope of Notting Hill. (fn. 18)

The Westbourne, (fn. 19) until the mid 19th century usually called the Bayswater rivulet, is a union of streamlets rising on the west side of Hampstead Heath and joining near Kilburn. From the dip in the northern boundary it flows overall in a southeasterly direction across Paddington. Often straightened and culverted, as the Ranelagh sewer, before being built over, its course was still open in 1871 along the later line of Kilburn Park and Shirland roads; (fn. 20) farther south, it had disappeared beneath Formosa Road, Ranelagh (later Lord Hill's) Road, the western ends of Bishop's Bridge Road and Cleveland Square, and behind the western side of Gloucester Terrace to Hyde Park, where its valley had been dammed in 1730 to form the Serpentine. Half way along Shirland Road, the Westbourne was joined by a stream which flowed from Kensal Rise across Queen's Park. A small eastern tributary, from Marble Arch to the Serpentine, was sometimes called the Tyburn brook but was not the better known Tyburn, which flowed southward across Marylebone.


  • 1. The article was written in 1983-4 and revised in 1985.
  • 2. Following 2 paras, based on Gutch, Plan of Paddington (1828, 1840); Lucas, Plan of Paddington (1869); O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Lond. XXIII, XXIV, XXXII, XXXIII (1869-71 edn.); ibid. Lond. XLVII, XLVIII, LIX, LX (1896-7 edn.); ibid. Lond. IV. 7, 8, 11, 12 (1915-16 edn.); ibid. 1/10,000, TQ 28 SE. (1974 edn.).
  • 3. Below.
  • 4. Ibid.; Westm. libr., C 770, ff. 203, 220 (St. Geo. Hanover Sq. vestry mins. 19 Feb., 2 May 1763).
  • 5. Below, manors.
  • 6. R. Church, Royal Parks of Lond. (H.M.S.O. 1965), 18, 25.
  • 7. Chwdns. acct. bk. (1656-1736), f. 8. Par. rec. are in Marylebone libr.: below, local govt.
  • 8. Vestry mins. 6 May 1803.
  • 9. Select vestry mins. 2 Dec. 1828.
  • 10. Para. based on Census, 1831-1961.
  • 11. 5 & 6 Vic. c. 19.
  • 12. 18 & 19 Vic. c. 120.
  • 13. Old and new boundaries are on Map of Paddington (1900) in Marylebone libr.
  • 14. Survey of Lond. xxxvii. 151.
  • 15. Lond. Govt. Act, 1963.
  • 16. Geol. Surv. Map 6", drift, Lond. IV. NE., SE. (1920 edn.).
  • 17. Robins, Paddington, 107.
  • 18. Ibid.; Bayswater Annual (1885); O.S. Map 1/10,000, TQ 28 SE. (1974 edn.).
  • 19. Para. based on N. J. Barton, Lost Rivers of Lond. (1962), 37, 96, and map; T.L.M.A.S. vi. 272 (map).
  • 20. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Lond. XXIV (1871 edn.).