Thanks to a small bear from Peru, this neighbourhood on the north-west edge of central London is one of the most famous places in the world. The creation of author Michael Bond, Paddington Bear was found in his trademark blue duffle coat and red hat at Paddington station and taken in by the kindly Brown family.
The Paddington Bear books, which first appeared 57 years ago next week, have sold 30 million copies worldwide and his statue at Paddington station is now a major tourist attraction.
The bear is not the only thing the area is known for. Paddington station, with its beautiful listed ironwork train shed, opened in 1854 and is the London terminus of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway — his statue also stands in the station.
St Mary’s Hospital next door is where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 and where royal babies, including Prince William, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, have been born in the private Lindo Wing. Paddington Green police station is the UK’s main high-security police station, where terror suspects have been held for interrogation.
Like much of central London, Paddington is due to benefit from the arrival of Crossrail. The new station, being built below Departures Road and next to Eastbourne Terrace, will be one of the first Crossrail stations to open in 2018, with the journey to Bond Street cut to a speedy three minutes.
The area around the railway station and the Paddington canal basin is the largest regeneration project in the borough of Westminster, with many new mixed-used developments built over the past 15 years and more to come.
Heldon Square, predominantly offices, opened behind the station in 2002. More office blocks are planned and a new woodland garden is proposed for Kingdom Street. Around the Paddington Basin, there are new flats and offices, with Marks & Spencer choosing this as the new location for its head office in 2004.
What there is to buy in Paddington
Paddington has a wide range of homes — large flats in white stucco Victorian terraces, railway workers’ cottages in the roads behind Praed Street, mews cottages, post-Second World War homes on the Hyde Park Estate and modern flats in developments around the canal basin.
Stucco-fronted flats in tree-lined Westbourne Terrace have the advantage of off-street parking. The price per square foot here is about £1,000 and a two-bedroom flat on the favoured first floor sells for about £1.6 million.
Mews houses sell here for between £1,200 and £1,500 a square foot — on the Hyde Park Estate, they sell for between £2 million and £4 million. Tom Folland, of estate agent Hamptons, says the firm recently sold a stripped-out house in Leinster Mews for £2,165,000.
Post-Second World War houses on the Hyde Park Estate sell for up to £6 million. Hamptons is selling a six-bedroom house in Cambridge Square for £4.75 million. Connaught Square and the adjoining mews, where former prime minister Tony Blair and his family live, has a 24-hour armed police patrol and must be one of the safest places in London to live. The Blairs were reported to have paid £3.5 million for their house — the last house to sell in the square went for £4,375,000 in March.
Folland says that buyers of the new flats around Paddington Basin expect to pay between £600,000 and £1.1 million for a one-bedroom flat, between £900,000 and £1.5 million for a two-bedroom flat and between £1.2 million and £2.25 million for a three-bedroom flat, with penthouses ranging from £3 million to £6 million.
Three things about Paddington
Why do some sailors get called Polly?
Sailors in the Royal Navy with the surname Perkins are called Polly after the music hall song Pretty Polly Perkins of Paddington Green, about a housemaid wooed but rejected by the local milkman. The refrain goes: “She was as beautiful as a butterfly and proud as a queen. Was pretty little Polly Perkins of Paddington Green.”
Where did actor Ben Whishaw succeed where Colin Firth failed?
Colin Firth was originally cast to be the voice of Paddington Bear in the film Paddington, which came out in November last year. In June 2014, Colin Firth withdrew, saying he had come to the realisation that Paddington Bear did not have his voice. He was replaced by Ben Whishaw in the film that starred Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown.
Where in Paddington did a famous whistleblower receive sanctuary?
The Frontline Club in Norfolk Place is a media club much-frequented by foreign correspondents, started by cameraman Vaughan Smith. In December 2010, Smith allowed his house in Norfolk to be used as a bail address for whistleblower Julian Assange, who had been holed up at the Frontline Club for two months.
Photographs by Daniel Lynch
Shops and restaurants: Paddington’s main shopping street is Praed Street which is still a sad mix of cheap cafes and shops selling tat to the tourists in the nearby hotels. The exceptions are patisserie Bonne Bouche in Praed Street itself and Greek delicatessen and café Tothelo in nearby Norfolk Place. Around the Paddington Basin and in Sheldon Square there is a better choice of restaurants and cafes including Pizza Express, an M&S café in its headquarters building and new arrival KuPP, an all-day brasserie with a Scandinavian twist. Crave is a new market selling street food on Tuesday and Thursday lunchtime in Merchant Square. The top local restaurant is in the Frontline Club restaurant in Norfolk Place.
Not far away there are smarter shops in the triangle formed by Connaught Street, Porchester Place and Kendal Street that is being sold as “Connaught Village”. Here find a mix of cafes, restaurants and fashion. Lucy Choi, Jimmy Choo’s nieces, has opened a shoe shop in the premises once occupied by her uncle; De Roemer specialises in cashmere and ME+EM sells clothes for chic career girls. There is cheese shop Buchanans, Cocomaya Bakery, which sells cakes, pastries and lunchtime salads; and Markus for freshly ground coffee. Stuzzico is a favourite local Italian restaurant; Salt & Honey is a sister restaurant to Fulham’s Manuka Kitchen and has a New Zealand twist; while Kurobuta is an Australian’s take on a Japanese Izakaya, a sort of oriental pub.
Open space: There are interesting walks along the canal; nearby Little Venice is particularly lovely. Hyde Park is within walking distance.
Leisure and the arts: The Canal Café Theatre, is a small fringe theatre above the Bridge House pub in Delamere Terrace overlooking Little Venice. Nearby in Blomfield Road there is the Puppet Theatre on a barge. The nearest multiplex cinemas are the Odeons at Marble Arch and in the Whiteleys shopping centre in Queensway. The Everyman Maida Vale in Sutherland Avenue is a two screen cinema.
Paddington has a good selection of state schools judged to be “outstanding” by the government’s education watchdog Ofsted.
The primary schools are: Hampden Gurney CofE in Nutford Place and Gateway in Capland Street.
Westminster Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Harrow Road; Paddington Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Marylands Road and St Marylebone CofE (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Marylebone High Street. There is also one all-through school: King Solomon Academy (co-ed ages three to 18) in Penfold Street. City of Westminster College (co-ed, 16 plus) is a large further education college judged to be “good”.
Connaught House (co-ed, ages four to 11) in Connaught Square; Wetherby (boys, ages seven to 13) in Bryanston Square and Pembridge Hall (girls, ages four to 11) in Pembridge Square. L’Ecole Bilingue Elementaire (co-ed, ages three to 11) is a French/English bilingual private primary school in St Mary’s Terrace. Francis Holland (girls, ages 11 to 18) is private girls’ secondary school in Clarence Gate. The Sylvia Young Theatre School (co-ed, ages 10 to 16) is a well-known performing arts school in Nutford Place with many famous former pupils including Emma Bunton, Rita Ora and Keeley Hawes.