A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, Hampstead, Paddington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Paddington Green originally consisted of wasteland occupying a central position on the estate which supported the almoner of Westminster. The name came to be applied both to the surrounding village and to a small part of the open space, east of the late 18th-century church. The area described below is larger: bounded north-east by Edgware Road, south and for much of the south-west by the Grand Junction canal, and north-west by the Regent's canal, it corresponds with the north-eastern part of Church ward as created in 1901. (fn. 1)
When the green was first recorded in 1549 it spread southward across Harrow Road near its junction with Edgware Road. Presumably the medieval chapel stood near the middle of the north side of the waste, as did the 17th-century church, which was farther north than its successor. (fn. 2) In 1647 a large house adjoined the northern side of the churchyard, with another to the east; one of them was the manor house, perhaps the building in use by 1582, and nearby there was also a divided vicarage house. (fn. 3) A fishpond was mentioned in 1617 (fn. 4) and the lord had six ponds on the green in 1647, by which date encroachments included a tenement and two small gardens. (fn. 5)
The buildings around the green and those a little farther east, rounding the junction of Harrow and Edgware roads, constituted a single settlement. The description of properties in 1773 as in the Square or as in Paddington may have represented an attempt to distinguish the green from Edgware Road, (fn. 6) but the only distinctions made in 1552 and 1664 had been between Paddington and Westbourne. (fn. 7) 'The town of Paddington' was a term used in 1757, (fn. 8) although the locality was normally described as a village until the building of Tyburnia joined it to London. (fn. 9)
By 1746 there were houses from Edgware Road along Harrow Road to a little way beyond the green and along Church Street to the north. Others faced the east side of the green. A pond, perhaps formed out of several earlier ones, lay on the south side of Harrow Road. (fn. 10) Presumably it was the church pond, from which no mud or sand was to be taken in 1722. (fn. 11) Almshouses were built west of the pond, probably in 1714, (fn. 12) and throughout the 18th century other parcels of waste were taken for cottages or as additions to the gardens of larger houses. (fn. 13) Paddington House or its predecessor had been built on the east side of the green and was freehold by 1720, when the owner Denis Chirac, a retired jeweller, was admitted to some waste in front of it. (fn. 14) Probably it was the three-storeyed house, with elm trees and a small pond nearby, drawn by John Chatelaine in 1750. (fn. 15)
In 1753 a neighbour pulled down the fence on the green of Chirac's son and namesake, who had received permission to inclose. (fn. 16) Railings separated the green from Harrow Road by 1750 (fn. 17) and the vestry, seeking ballast for road repairs, in 1757 agreed to work only a patch on the edge of the green, in order not to hamper the letting of houses. (fn. 18) In a 19thcentury novel, by a resident who might have drawn on local tradition, the village in the 1750s was depicted as no more than a few houses at the eastern end of Harrow Road, with some better ones, inhabited by retired tradesmen and lady annuitants, around the green, and a church whose graveyard was shadowed by elms in the grounds of the manor house. (fn. 19)
In the later 18th century the village continued to offer a rural retreat. A 'handsome house' with walled garden near the Edgware Road junction and a new large brick house at the upper end of the green were advertised, probably in 1768 and 1783 respectively. (fn. 20) The Hon. Charles Greville (d. 1809) lived by the green with Emma Hart, the future Lady Hamilton, from 1782 to 1786 and later built a bigger house at the north-eastern corner, on the site of the modern technical college. (fn. 21) Greville's garden adjoining Church Street was stocked with imported plants, as was that of Chirac's house to the south, on the site of the children's hospital, when occupied from c. 1797 until 1826 by John Symmons, who employed the botanical nurseryman William Salisbury. (fn. 22) North of Greville's house there was a new house in 1807, together with a building called the banqueting house, in gardens which contained a small lake and an island. (fn. 23)
In contrast with gentlemen's residences were cottages, including one on the west side of the green which survived until 1896; originally a pair of cottages, of flint and rubble roughcast and with a steep thatched roof, it presumably resembled many of the 18th century or earlier. (fn. 24) A reminiscence of Paddington in the 1780s noted the alehouses, with long troughs for watering the teams of hay wagons and with signs spanning Edgware Road. Tall elms screened the inns and formed the most impressive feature of the green, drawing most of the landscape painters of London. (fn. 25)
The ultimate preservation of part of Paddington green was foreshadowed in 1753, when the lord, at the petition of several residents, granted land called the green in front of their houses to Denis Chirac. It was to be inclosed with posts and open rails, as had been done before, and to serve as an ornament to the parish, rights of way being unaffected. (fn. 26) In 1779 land called the green, with the site of the almshouses and ground in front of them and to the east, was vested in the lawyer Francis Maseres (1731-1824) and two other trustees for the benefit of the parish. (fn. 27) Maseres had been left all the real estate of the second Denis Chirac, (fn. 28) and the trust presumably included inclosures which had been made in front of Paddington House. The rebuilding of the church between 1788 and 1791 placed it near the middle of the green, which it helped to divide, the northern section eventually being taken for burials. (fn. 29) Seats on the green and the fence around it were in bad repair in 1803, when the trustees' lessee John Symmons refused to pay for their replacement. (fn. 30) In 1805 Charles Greville submitted suggestions for improving the green. (fn. 31) A different plan was adopted in 1807, for immediate work to be financed by private subscriptions and future upkeep by the highway rates, and in 1808 Symmons formally ceded management of the green to the vestry. (fn. 32)
Meanwhile seclusion was threatened by the canals and the gradual advance of London. Obstruction in Edgware Road, by carters around the White Lion, gave rise to complaint in 1795. (fn. 33) Although industry did not spread as widely as had been expected, (fn. 34) a rising poor population, presumably around the canal basin or on building sites farther south rather than at Paddington green itself, led to demands for a school, built in Harrow Road in 1802, (fn. 35) and for a poorhouse. It was hoped that the poorhouse might replace the decayed manor house, whose grounds were needed for the overcrowded churchyard. (fn. 36) Prosecutions for dumping night-soil on the wharves by the canal had greatly increased in 1808 and petitions were sent to the bishop and parliament against the proposed Regent's canal. (fn. 37) Once the Regent's canal had been opened, however, it seems to have benefited residents: some canal traffic was diverted, select villas were built in Maida Hill West (later Maida Avenue and treated below as part of Little Venice), (fn. 38) and the canal was advertised as offering beautiful views from a house on the north side of Paddington green. (fn. 39) Along Edgware Road, there were houses in Philpott Terrace and Devonshire Place, north of Church Street, by 1811. (fn. 40) With little room towards Edgware Road or towards the basin, the bishop and his lessees inevitably decided to build west of the church. Their architect S. P. Cockerell, himself a vestryman, in 1812 submitted a plan for nearly 100 tall and closely packed terraced houses on nursery ground, in new roads which afterwards formed Park Place (later St. Mary's Terrace) and Porteus Road. (fn. 41) The road in Park Place, however, was not sufficiently well made for the parish to take it over in 1824 (fn. 42) and only a single terrace had been built there, opposite Porteus Road, by 1828. (fn. 43)
Older village features gradually disappeared. The parish was authorized to buy the manor house in 1810 and demolished it in 1824, enabling the churchyard to be enlarged to the north. (fn. 44) The pond on the south side of Harrow Road had been used as a rubbish tip by the turnpike trustees' surveyor in 1813 when the vestry, anxious about drainage, insisted that it should not be filled up. In 1818, when there was a pumping-engine house nearby, the Grand Junction Canal Co. was allowed to fill in the western part of the pond in order to construct a short way (later Church Place) from Harrow Road to North Wharf Road. The parish in return received a strip of land east of the almshouses, (fn. 45) where a free school was built in 1822, either then or soon afterwards replacing the remains of the pond. (fn. 46) A new vestry room behind the almshouses was ready in 1823 (fn. 47) and the company had constructed more ways to North Wharf Road, later Hermitage Street to the west and Green Street to the east, in 1828, by which date North Wharf and Irongate Wharf roads, serving the basin, were lined with buildings or yards. Both Hermitage Street, containing a watchhouse where the fire engine was also kept, and Church Place were taken as parish roads in 1828. (fn. 48)
Fashionable churchgoers could attend Bayswater chapel from 1818 or St. John's, Southwick Crescent, from 1832. Despite the provision of a large vicarage house at the corner of Park Place and Porteus Road, St. Mary's ceased to be the parish church in 1845. Part of the green immediately west of it, which had been bought as more burial ground in 1843, was taken instead for a new vestry hall in 1853. (fn. 49) North of the hall, a short way leading from Park Place to the church was called Stanley Place in 1846, when 6 houses were to be built there, (fn. 50) and St. Mary's Square from 1864. (fn. 51) A police station was built in Dudley Grove, the stretch of Harrow Road west of the hall, in 1864. Both the vestry hall, which became the town hall, and the police station were afterwards enlarged, giving some dignity to a run down neighbourhood at the price of being separated from many of Paddington's later public buildings in Bayswater. (fn. 52)
The building of the new vestry hall (fn. 53) reduced the open space to an area comprising the churchyard, the burial ground to the north, a four-sided plot (the modern Paddington green) east of the church, and a plot east of the free school on the south side of Harrow Road. The last was built over between 1842 and 1855, with working-class terraces in Victoria and Albert streets, which ran parallel to Church Place and Green Street, and also facing the green in Harrow Road.
West and north-west of the green, the vicarage was still the only house on the west side of Park Place in 1840, although Porteus Road and the parallel Fulham Place and Howley Place were already projected. Building agreements for some of the houses in Howley Place were made in 1841 and, with Matthew Wyatt, for some in Porteus Road in 1846-7. (fn. 54) The roads had been built up by 1855, when the vicarage itself had made way for St. Mary's Terrace, where the houses were stuccoed and had pillared porches. Porteus Road and Fulham Place were also terraced and middle-class. Nearer the Regent's canal, detached and semi-detached houses, with larger gardens, lined Park Place Villas and the north side of Howley Place.
To the north and north-east there was still open ground behind the villas of Maida Hill West and the denser housing along Edgware Road, although Hall Place, running north from Church Street parallel with Edgware Road, had been named by 1828. It was built up for Benjamin Edward Hall, a local gentleman. (fn. 55) Many large semi-detached houses stood in the northern part of Hall Place, then called Hall Park, and in and around Crompton Street, then called Elm Tree Place, by 1842.
Efforts were made to preserve some of the village's 18th-century charm. When the former manor house garden was cleared of its undergrowth in 1825, the timber and ornamental trees were to be retained. (fn. 56) The Act of 1824 authorized refencing and planting of the green, (fn. 57) which in 1839 was to be enclosed with iron railings and kerbstones. (fn. 58) Artists still lived in the neighbourhood, although Bayswater became increasingly popular. (fn. 59) They included William Sawrey Gilpin (1762-1843), first president of the Old Watercolour Society and a parish officer, in Harrow Road in 1803 and Edgware Road by 1805, Cornelius Varley (1781-1873) at Junction Place, Paddington green, before 1811, and Joshua Cristall (1767-1847) at the manor house from 1812 to 1816. (fn. 60) George Barret the younger (d. 1842), of Philpott Terrace, Edgware Road, exhibited views of the canal and the enlarged St. Mary's churchyard. Thomas Uwins (1782-1857) spent periods at Paddington green from 1834, Edward Calvert (1799-1883) lived in Park Place, where he printed his woodcuts, from c. 1832 to 1851, and William Henry Pyne (1769-1843) was briefly in Dudley Grove in 1835. The sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt (1777-1862), who with his sons took leases for several new houses in Tyburnia, (fn. 61) was at Dudley Grove House probably from 1843 until his death.
The green's attractions could not survive the urbanization which took place around it in the mid 19th century. Edgware Road became an increasingly busy thoroughfare: omnibuses, causing congestion at the corner of Church Street in 1831, were blamed in 1833 by 28 residents for the depreciation of property, (fn. 62) and commercial interests prompted ambitious rebuilding, of which a noted example was the White Lion with its courtyard north of the corner of Harrow Road, a forerunner of the Metropolitan Music Hall, in 1836. (fn. 63) Shops, small warehouses, workshops, inns, and dining or coffee rooms lined Edgware Road from Star Street to Church Street by 1845. Farther north-west, Devonshire Place and Prospect Place stretched to Crompton Street; set back from the road, they consisted mainly of private residences, with a few schools or offices for professional men. The scene had changed little by 1863 but the names of the terraces in Edgware Road were abolished in 1868 and most of the houses north of Church Street had been taken for shops by 1879. There were also shops in Church Street and Hall Place and, west of the green, in Harrow Road between Porteus Road and Fulham Place. (fn. 64)
The green itself, where old trees had to be felled in 1849, (fn. 65) became less desirable. It drew disorderly crowds in 1851 and was used for games in 1856, prompting a petition for the paths to be railed in, to which the vestry replied that it was empowered only to preserve the green for general use, subject to the lord's rights. (fn. 66) There were rival open-air preachers and in 1861 a pedlar had set up a stall, 'to expose offensive anatomical drawings'. (fn. 67) After 115 inhabitants had asked for the green to be enclosed for recreation, as at Islington and Camberwell, the vestry agreed to do so in 1865, the burial ground being taken over later. (fn. 68)
By the mid 19th century the old village centre was hemmed in by Edgware Road to the east, by the canal basin, considered the worst threat to Paddington's health, (fn. 69) amid industrial and working-class premises to the south, and by the canal with the sidings and goods depot of the G.W.R. beyond it to the west. (fn. 70) Only to the north was there an adjoining middle-class area, where elegant villas survived along the Regent's canal in Maida Hill West and northwest of the green in Howley Place and Park Place. The large houses of Elm Tree Place and the northern end of Hall Place, however, made way for tightly packed terraces, presumably when the name Crompton Street was adopted in 1859. Terraces also filled the new Hethpool, Campbell, Howell, and Cuthbert streets, so named from 1858 and 1859. Adpar Street, squeezed in between Hall Place and Edgware Road, was named in 1878. Manor Place, facing the burial ground and still mostly empty in 1869, was being built up in 1885 (fn. 71) and had been lined with terraced houses by 1901. Two new houses at the corner of Church Street and the green were taken in 1883 for a children's hospital, which was later extended. (fn. 72) Housing was so dense that an iron church, St. Philip's, was sited on part of the burial ground at the northern end of Manor Place from c. 1861 until 1893. (fn. 73)
No longer the home of noted artists, the neighbourhood was better known in the 1870s for the song 'Polly Perkins of Paddington Green', published in 1863 and probably referring to Annette Perkins, who may have lived in Albert (later Consort) Street, a cul-de-sac off Harrow Road south of the green, and who entered domestic service. (fn. 74) Also well known was Ignatius Paul Pollaky (W. S. Gilbert's 'Paddington Pollaky'), the first eminent private detective. Pollaky (d. 1918) had an inquiry office at no. 13 Paddington Green from 1865 until 1882 and lived in Maida Hill West in 1865 and later in Portsdown Road. (fn. 75)
The last building spaces were taken in 1881, for a board school in Campbell Street, (fn. 76) and in the 1890s, when leases were made of a plot south of Porteus Road for a drill hall and land west of the former burial ground for St. David's Welsh church. (fn. 77) Many houses in St. Mary's Terrace were leased in reversion by the Paddington Estate for rebuilding as flats, (fn. 78) called St. Mary's Mansions. Since 1864 the name St. Mary's Terrace had applied to the whole of the road which had been called Park Place, except to the more select Park Place Villas at the northern end. (fn. 79) Three lodging houses were listed in St. Mary's Terrace, 2 in Porteus Road, and 1 in Fulham Place in 1879; the same roads had 15, 7, and 9 houses offering 'apartments' by 1901. Park Place Villas, Howley Place, and Maida Hill West had escaped such a change, (fn. 80) although nos. 4 to 6 Maida Hill West were to be demolished in 1902 and three blocks of flats, called Stafford House, Douglas House, and Aubrey House, replaced those and other villas at the Edgware Road end of Maida Hill West between 1905 and 1910. (fn. 81)
No streets in the area were considered wealthy c. 1900, unlike many in Tyburnia and Bayswater. Prosperous residents lived along Edgware Road, the Regent's canal, St. Mary's Terrace, and Howley Place, and fairly prosperous ones in Fulham Place, Porteus Road, and near the green itself in Harrow Road, Church Street, and Manor Place. The terraces between Crompton and Cuthbert streets were classified as mixed, but there was poverty in parts of Hall Place and adjoining cul-de-sacs, including Adpar Street, and more in the alleys running from Harrow Road to the canal basin. (fn. 82) In 1894-5 Kent's Place, North Wharf Road, had 16 persons to a house, making it the third most overcrowded street in Paddington, and Church Place had 13.7 persons. (fn. 83)
Little further building took place until after the Second World War. Social decline continued, with many subdivided houses in Porteus Road having deteriorated by 1937. (fn. 84) Two large houses in Howley Place, nos. 8 and 20, were to be turned into furnished apartments under 24-year leases in 1938. (fn. 85) The borough council made its first major move towards rehousing in 1937, when it acquired c. 50 houses in Dudley Street, a cul-de-sac west of Hermitage Street at the corner of Harrow and North Wharf roads. Dudley House, a five-storeyed block of 50 flats for 232 people, was opened there in 1938. (fn. 86)
More extensive clearance was carried out from the 1950s, mostly among the dense streets north of the green. North of Church Street, buildings in and back from Edgware Road made way in 1954 for Gilbert Sheldon House, where 40 families occupied an eight-storeyed block of flats and a four-storeyed block of maisonettes. (fn. 87) Immediately to the west between Hall Place and Manor Place, Paddington's scheme for three blocks of fifteen storeys to be called Perkins Heights was defeated by the L.C.C., which secured the site for a technical college, finally opened in 1967. (fn. 88) Plans by the borough council to extend municipal building along Edgware Road from Gilbert Sheldon House to the Regent's canal (fn. 89) were partially realized by Westminster L.B., which replaced the terraces between Crompton and Cuthbert streets with the Hall Place estate. A small shopping precinct and 146 dwellings, in maisonettes and a tower block of twenty-one storeys, were finished by 1973. (fn. 90)
West of the green a four-storeyed range of flats, Fleming Court, was built in the 1950s by the L.C.C. at the corner of St. Mary's Terrace and St. Mary's Square. A much larger municipal scheme replaced most of the houses between St. Mary's Terrace and Harrow Road with the yellow-brick blocks of John Aird Court. The estate stretched north from Porteus Road, which became a cul-de-sac, across Fulham Place, which formed a residents' car park, to Howley Place, leaving only the Warwick hotel in Harrow Road as a Victorian survival. A later, private, scheme created Hogan Mews, a cul-de-sac off the south side of Porteus Road. (fn. 91)
South of the green, short terraces east of Hermitage Street made way for Sarah Siddons school, opened in 1961-2, and for industrial rebuilding in North Wharf Road. (fn. 92) The most striking change was the construction in the mid 1960s of the flyover across Edgware Road and its linking in 1970 with the elevated Westway, which ran parallel to a widened and realigned Harrow Road along the southern edge of Paddington green. Buildings at the junction of Harrow and Edgware roads, including the Metropolitan Theatre of Varieties, were partly replaced by the large Paddington green police station at the north corner and the towering London Metropole hotel at the south. The old town hall, police station, and houses of Dudley Grove were also demolished, to allow Harrow Road to pass closer to the church. (fn. 93)
The immediate neighbourhood of the church forms a small outlying part of Maida Vale conservation area, to which houses along the Regent's canal and around Howley Place also belong. (fn. 94) Modern road building has reinforced the separation of Paddington green from the south part of the parish, where Edgware Road, except near Praed Street, is much more imposing and uniform than it is between the flyover and Maida Vale. The stark new concrete police station and yellow-brick blocks of Gilbert Sheldon House contrast with many converted mid 19th-century houses, those of the old Devonshire Terrace having shop fronts built over their gardens, and with J. Turner & Son's former boot factory of c. 1865 at the corner of Cuthbert Street. Similarly the shopping parade and towers of Hall Place contrast with a late 19th-century red-brick range near Maida Avenue.
Back from Edgware Road, overshadowed by tower blocks and skirted by traffic lanes, some of them sweeping upward to the flyover and Westway, the open space around the refurbished church provides an unexpected oasis. Plane trees shade the railed paths of the green itself and a marble statue of Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse, by Léon-Joseph Chavalliaud, unveiled in 1897. (fn. 95) Other established trees border the former burial ground, which, with tombstones lined against its wall, stretches north to a children's playground. A few tombs stand undisturbed, including that of Sarah Siddons beneath a modern glass canopy. Some altered houses and a yellow-brick pair belonging to the children's hospital are the only reminders that Paddington green was a desirable place of residence in the earlier 19th century.
West of the church, where St. Mary's Square has been cut off from the realigned Harrow Road, a neoGeorgian vestry hall by Quinlan Terry (fn. 96) stands slightly north of the site of the demolished town hall. The east side of St. Mary's Terrace contains the 119 flats of St. Mary's Mansions, two blocks of five storeys and basements in red brick with stone dressings, shielding two less imposing blocks which back on the burial ground. The similar but slightly later flats of Alexandra House and Osborne House stand to the south. Beyond St. Mary's Mansions is a line of older houses but on the west side of St. Mary's Terrace only the refurbished nos. 1-21 (odd) survive in that or neighbouring roads from the mid 19th century. Farther north, facing John Aird Court along the north side of Howley Place and where St. Mary's Terrace gives way to Park Place Villas, are large stuccoed houses of the earlier and mid 19th century. Single or in pairs, well kept and in leafy gardens, they have not shared the decline of the terraces closer to Paddington green. Together with those at the west end of Maida Avenue, they are among London's 'best examples of early Victorian domestic architecture.' In appearance and social standing they have remained part of the area which came to be known as Little Venice. (fn. 97)