Tag Archives: Isabel Hernandez

Before the Westway: a North Paddington skyline

This week we have the long awaited return of my occasional co-blogger Isabel Hernandez who grew up in the area  sometimes called North Paddington and has many memories of it as it changed in the years around the building of the Westway. Like myself she has been looking closely at the photographs of Bernard Selwyn.

 

The city skyline changes over decades much as mountains change shape over centuries. Our small local areas, places we call home, or used to call home, places we are familiar with, are no different. These urban cityscapes seem to undergo a makeover every fifty years or so. From the overcrowded terraces of the Victorian period to the later concrete brutalism of the 1960’s, we are now witnessing the era of glass and mirrors built in angular shapes in what is now contemporary modern architecture.

Still, the shadows of the past remain in photographs and to continue with my study of the Westway (Paddington-side) I thought I would share with you a few more images of this corner of London before the infamous Westway motorway was built.

Below is a panoramic view of North Paddington bordered by North Kensington at the top. You can see the Kensal Gas Works and the St Charles’ Hospital tower, formerly the Marylebone Infirmary. [Click on the image to see a bigger view]

The Great Western Railway to the left cuts unimpeded through the built-up area.

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This is the same view a a short time later. The second tower block – Oversley House – is under construction.

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Below,a closer view. In the background you can see Ladbroke Grove bridge more clearly, connecting North Kensington to Paddington. If you look closely there is also a footbridge on the left that appears to have a tree growing out of it. Obviously it isn’t, but from this angle the bridge resembles a horizontal chute. It wasn’t a very appealing crossing, but it was a shortcut through to Westbourne Park and North Kensington. I made use of it many times, sometimes late at night, probably not a very wise thing to do with hindsight, but it saved time. The dilapidated Victorian houses, a stark contrast to their taunting new neighbours, await the bulldozer. Nowhere was there a more densely packed neighbourhood than in this part of Paddington.

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The houses come down and a temporary wasteland is created, with the exception of these houses in the foreground. They do seem a little grander than the terraces behind them and I wonder why they are still standing at this point when their neighbours have been demolished

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The strange case of the solitary houses. I suspect they were slightly more upmarket than the usual fare in the area. There is also the interesting feature of the residents coming and going as has always been their routine perhaps; shopping or simply getting from one place to another. The lady (left of the house) probably had no idea she was being included in a photographic survey.

 

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If you like trains, then the Great Western Railway before you would have been a spotter’s delight. Below is possibly Alfred Road or Torquay Street in the pre-redevelopment period. There is a builder, or certainly a very brave man,who appears to be intently prodding the side of a roof with a stick. By contrast an elderly gentleman with a walking stick is passing by, perhaps studying the changes in his area. Although there is a lot of pixilation when studying photographs at close range, when they are enlarged there is still enough to intrigue us.

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The juxtaposition of the concrete towers to the dilapidated, slum terraces is a striking image – like two Lego blocks strategically placed inside of a crowded moat. Although you cannot see it, running parallel to the two tower blocks is the Grand Union Canal.

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Below is a composite image of three photos showing the lower end of the Harrow Road. None of the shops seen here along the length of the long street now exist. Many have been replaced by the various convenience stores and take-away outlets you see today. On the corner of Bourne Terrace the Stowe Club was opened, now a doctor’s surgery and offices I believe. Many residents within Paddington and North Kensington did a lot of their shopping along the Harrow Road.

Westbourne Grove, by contrast (to digress a little), was more the Bond Street of the area with William Whiteley identifying the road as having future potential once the underground railway opened in 1863 and many more transport routes being opened up. He opened a small drapery in the area, tentatively doing what is essentially market research and gaining experience before expanding to what later became the department store, Whiteley’s of Queensway, attracting and catering for the wealthier clientele residing around Bayswater and Hyde Park.

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Here is another image of the same area, magnified a little to give us more detail. If you look closely you will see the ‘Tardis’, a police box, no doubt placed there to keep an eye on things whilst the area was undergoing its concrete revolution. A billboard to the left advertising glue is almost comical given the toy-like remodelling we see from this perspective

 

 

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In the picture below, the Post Office Tower, the highest building in London at the time, can be seen in the distance. It is almost impossible at this point to imagine the Westway being a part of this landscape. The Harrow Road here is clearly seen under an open sky. Within a few short years all of the buildings on either side of the Harrow Road in this image were demolished, and the Harrow Road itself partially covered by the huge motorway above it. Engineering ingenuity in the name of progress or engineering folly – a question that is still debated today.

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Another composite image I pieced together looking north:

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I had to include this one as it’s my old address – Gaydon House. I lived there for about 26 years. That is a long time to be anywhere. The rather forlorn, gothic-looking tree in the foreground appears in quite a few of the photographs before it was unceremoniously cut down to make way for more flats and other younger saplings ready for the next generation. All remnants of what came before, almost vanished within a ten year span.

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Below is Westbourne Park Villas. It runs parallel to the Great Western railway on the other side of the tracks. The spire of St Matthew’s Church can just be seen to the right of the image and in the middle you can just about make out the dome of Whiteley’s. A little behind that is the dome of the Royal Albert Hall. On the left, along Bishops Bridge Road, are a series of buildings that make up what was known as The Colonnades up until recently, before Waitrose took over. Further back, (I had to really expand this image), you can make out the four chimneys of Battersea Power Station. After being derelict for many years, and a few investors later, it is now undergoing a major redevelopment: the usual combination of luxury flats and shopping outlets so typical of London now.

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Here’s another view of Westbourne Park on the other side of the tracks, looking further west towards Notting Hill and Kensington – an interesting mixture of modern flats and late 19th century villas.

 

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And finally, a colour image of the Harrow Road most likely photographed by Selwyn from Wilmcote House, the first tower block to be built of the six now in existence. Two buses (probably the number 18) can be seen making their way north. Interestingly there existed along the Harrow Road a 2 ½ mile track from Amberley Road to Harlesden around 1888 for trams. These were replaced around 1936 by trolleybuses and later still (1961-2) by motorbuses such as the ones you see in this image.

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As always Selwyn’s wonderful collection of photographs fails to disappoint. Dave and I have posted a number of them now on the blog knowing that you will probably appreciate them as much as we do. Or at least we hope you do. The posts I have written thus far about this part of Paddington are obviously a trip into a past that pre-dates my tenancy there, but in my view, still feels so very familiar and nostalgic. Now, not having lived in the area for a few years, I feel more like an outsider looking in with an abstract knowledge of a community I was once a part of. What I realise when I look at historical photographs, is just how temporary everything is, and how changeable. The only forever in these instances are images such as these frozen in time. Perhaps this is why we always find them so appealing. A record of a slither of time that we witness much as a fictional Time Lord in a Tardis would. Except we do it without having to travel very far.

 

Postscript

Thanks to Isabel for another fascinating post. I particularly like the panoramas she has created, something Selwyn himself used to do using the medium of sellotape. Once again, if anyone knows an easy way of adding an author in WordPress I’d be grateful.

I will spend my week off working on some new posts in an unhurried languid sort of way and return next week with some of the usual stuff.

Dave.

 

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Dreams of the Westway 3: The view from the high rise

This week features the return of guest blogger Isabel Hernandez who has subjected our recently acquired collection of pictures of the construction of the Westway to close scrutiny.

 

Below are a few images taken from a set of photographs I have been working on showing the construction of the Westway from the Paddington perspective. Quite a few of the photographs were taken from the roof of my old home (Gaydon House) which certainly was of personal interest as I looked through them.

As a child growing up with the Westway in close proximity perhaps I should feel some sort of affinity for it. I certainly never thought it attractive. It was just always there: a city structure, part of the landscape…the truth is, I never gave it much thought. Such edifices are often described as eyesores for the most part – much like electricity pylons are along country fields – it was to me a modernism that (literally) passed me by. The Westway was a fixture I grew up with. I knew nothing of its history or the controversy surrounding its construction, let alone the disruption and the displacement it caused. It was simply concrete: imposing and strangely pragmatic. It was many years before I really got to know the story behind one of London’s more contentious projects.

The image below shows the south of the Harrow Road, opposite Lord Hill’s Bridge being filled around 1966. The middle building directly behind the corrugated iron is Gaydon House with the Victorian school, Edward Wilson, next to it. The difference in size is evident. The school is not a small building and yet it is dwarfed by the 21 storey block. Many of the aerial views for the area during the project were taken from the roof of this high-rise block.

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In some ways I am a child of the concrete era, when Brutalist architecture, as it was known, became the progressive force in the construction business. Laing was one of seven major construction companies responsible for much of the redevelopment in the Great Britain of the sixties and seventies. It was in their interest to champion “the strength and simplicity of concrete” (White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties 1964-1970 ~ Sandbrook). It was considered the answer to the ailing, defunct, overcrowded Victorian slums that were being cleared as the redevelopment boom took hold in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Concrete was the new emperor, running roughshod (as perceived by many) over history and traditional Britain like a lava flow. But I was oblivious to all this. By the time most of this had happened I was already a part of this infamous megastructure: I resided in a tower block on a housing estate with a massive motorway next door – you can’t get more concrete than that!

In this photograph we see the beginnings of an area in transformation. A large section of what will become a part of the Warwick Estate is being prepared to hold the materials and moulds for the soon to be motorway that will run parallel to the Great Western Railway. The white arches (top left corner) are part of Paddington Station with the Westbourne Bridge just before it.

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Here we have an image of the Harrow Road at ground level facing west a few months later.

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This view (below) would have been a familiar one from my balcony, except it predates me by several years and the Westway has yet to appear. I suspect some form of long lens was used here to photograph this section of the Harrow Road with Lord Hill’s Bridge just off it. You can also see Royal Oak Station serving the Hammersmith & City line on the left of the bridge. Today it remains largely unchanged with the staircase leading down on to the platforms. Now, with the Westway present, you cannot really see it this clearly anymore from the lower floors of Gaydon House.

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Three months later and we see the beginnings of a subway. This served pedestrians who wished to cross the busy Harrow Road over to Lord Hill’s Bridge that leads on towards Porchester Road and Queensway. In subsequent years most of us residents would still risk the busy road rather than venture below deck, so to speak. But to be fair it was never threatening or particularly dangerous during my time living in the area. Occasionally the compulsory graffiti would decorate the dirty, dull walls, but overall it was thankfully devoid of harder criminal activity. It is only in recent years that it was decided to seal off the subway for safety reasons. Not so much because of its insalubrious elements, but more to do with the fact that people preferred the more direct route on ground level, risking life and limb.

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Below, looking east towards Paddington. This is the route of the Westway. The Great Western Railway and the Harrow Road follow on either side of it. In the distance you can just about make out the spire of, what I think was, Holy Trinity Church on Bishops Bridge. The church itself was demolished around 1983/84 but the spire was taken down earlier C. 1972. There are now some unremarkable flats built in its stead called (to rub salt in the wound) Trinity Court.

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Here you see Bourne Terrace in June 1967 (bottom right) leading on to the Harrow Road. Anyone who has read my previous blog called Familiar Street: A Paddington Estate might recognise some of the streets. Many old streets were abolished and new ones created. This aerial view is taken from Gaydon House (my old residence) pre-Westway with construction underway all around the Warwick and Brindley (soon to be) Estates. The Westway has yet to parallel the rail track of the Great Western that will encroach from the west. Up ahead is Westbourne Park Road which you can reach over a pedestrian bridge walkway. It’s the first bridge you see by the wasteland. An area that is now the Westbourne Green sports complex. North Kensington is in the distance. If you look closely you might be able to make out the tower of St Charles’ Hospital (extreme top right).

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At first this picture confused me. I thought I was looking at the foundations of what would become part of the Westway. But on further study I realised this was actually the precast yard for the motorway (where large sections of concrete would be moulded) as well as being a storage area for all the heavy materials and machinery that would be used for this section of it.

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A closer view. Note the crane on tracks.

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This view faces south with the spire of St Mary Magdalene and Princethorpe House in the background (one of the six sibling tower blocks in the area).

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Below, Brinklow House in construction and to think that double-glazing was never even considered with the Westway looming next door. I can remember listening to the motorway traffic whizzing by. Eventually it became background noise along with the trains, the planes and the automobiles. The sirens too get a special mention. When the towers were eventually refurbished around 2004/5 double-glazing was put in. I had left by then.

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March 1968 and here we can see the beginnings of the motorway rising up off the ground. If you want perspective take a look at how small the cars are, driving along the Harrow Road.

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The Westway encroaching from the west. By April 1968 the Paddington section was rising fast.A diesel train heads towards Paddington Station and behind that, blocks of flats along Westbourne Park Villas adds to the strangely linear synchronicity of the whole image.

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I can only describe this as chaos.

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But somehow, eventually, the engineers manage to bring a semblance of order to the scene.

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The Westway is taking shape as the traffic below continues to ebb and flow as normal. The chaps on the motorway, probably inspecting sections of it, look like they’re exploring a playground. It was not unusual to find workers of the period (depending on their assignments) not wearing the required hard hats or safety gear compulsory today. Below left you can also see a number 18 routemaster heading west towards Harlesden, possibly Wembley. It still continues on a similar route to this day.

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See the caption on the picture below. What is an epox pipe you may ask yourselves? The truth is I have no idea. But I think it has something to do with a strong, protective coating that can be used on piping or bars in concrete to reinforce it. All those dials and conducting cables make me think of physics lessons. It was a science that flummoxed me. As do epox pipes.

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Here is my own blurry photograph of the Westway taken in the early 1990’s during the autumnal season. It was taken with one of those incredibly daft 20th century inventions – the throw-away camera. I snapped this from my balcony, which incidentally, boasted one of the best views of London. The small park below – once a slum, then a wasteland converted into a temporary building site – gives this particular corner of Paddington a lighter, less congested feel, hinting back to its former rural history and remarkably, the Westway, despite its initial ugliness and awful connotations, actually doesn’t look so out of place here. Not anymore. Something natural to balance out the progressive, intrusive advance of technology seems to be the secret here. Concrete used unwisely is a monster. But, temper it with an intelligent creative flair and you could be looking at a masterpiece. Love it or hate it, the Westway is here to stay.

Westway, Gaydon House view early nineties

Postscript

Despite the fact that I’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this I still haven’t managed to work out how to add an author on WordPress. Anyone?

My thanks to Isabel for another excellent post.

 

 


From darkest Peru to West London: Paddington Bear in Kensington

This week features the return of our Paddington correspondent, my esteemed colleague Isabel Hernandez who has turned her attention to the other Paddington.

“It’s nice having a bear about the house.”

Well you know, I cannot dispute that. As bizarre as that line seems out of context I actually think it has a point, for I do indeed have a rather earnest-looking, anthropomorphic bear gracing my bookshelves often making me laugh when nothing else will. He lives in the pages of a certain set of stories I keep on there as well as physically imposing himself in a small space next to the books wearing a red hat, blue duffel coat and red wellington boots with a label attached that says, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

Many will know who Paddington Bear is, where he came from and why he was named after a London station. I also think of him as a West London bear, even if he did originate from Darkest Peru, not Africa, as Michael Bond had originally written, until it was pointed out that there are no indigenous bears living in Africa, so he set about diligently doing his research by paying a visit to Westminster Public Library followed by a trip to London Zoo until he eventually settled on Peru.

It may seem strange that a bear should be so iconic (not unlike Winnie-the-Pooh) but Paddington just happens to be so in a very down to earth way. In re-reading the stories recently and hunting for the 50 statues dotted around parts of London before they were auctioned off, I was prompted into reading Michael Bond’s autobiography, Bears & Forebears. A Life So Far, which not only is a guide to how he came to breathe life into all of his creations (for there are others aside from Paddington), but also gives a wonderful insight into his own life and the influences and inspiration that later (I think) contributed to his best known character.

Meet Paddington. Here he is as originally drawn by British illustrator Peggy Fortnum, a lady who (according to Michael Bond) using pen and ink ‘understands Paddington perfectly and with a few seemingly deft strokes….manages to convey a living breathing creature.’

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A Bear Called Paddington was first published in 1958 by Collins. There were eight stories in that first book of the series. Several more were written in subsequent years and are still being written to the present day. Paddington, you see, moves with the times. As it turns out Paddington was conceived on a typewriter one spring morning in a one-roomed garden flat near the Portobello Road, “…it was a bit like living in a caravan,” said Michael Bond, “The kitchen had to be tucked away in a cupboard at night and during the day the bed was used to provide extra seating for visitors. But the market was just around the corner, and Holland Park, with its peacocks and its shady walks, was only a short distance away.”

Not difficult to see why this was a haven….

Holland Park 1962

 

Much has been made of the location of 32 Windsor Gardens where the Browns live. Many have made the literary pilgrimage visiting a location by the same name in West London – only a stone’s throw away from where I used to live in the Paddington area. Karen Jankel (Michael Bond’s daughter) has since explained how the fictitious address came into being, which is not in any way related to the real address with the same name. Michael Bond himself reveals in his autobiography that number 32 Windsor Gardens was “in my mind’s eye Lansdowne Crescent – a quiet street of rather grand houses off Ladbroke Grove and close to Arundel Gardens where we lived.” Imagine my surprise at the revelation! I too was under the same misapprehension as everyone else.

 

Lansdowne Cres 1970

Lansdowne Crescent, named after the Lansdowne area of Cheltenham, was built about 1842-1846. The houses are typical Victorian builds and here we have a 1970s photograph showing some typical cars of the day.

29, Lansdowne Crescent 1979

 

We all have our own ideas about what fictional places look like when we are reading a story so I decided to look and see if we had anything interesting that might live up to my imagination. Above is a rather picturesque image of a house that exists along Lansdowne Crescent taken in 1979 although you would be forgiven for thinking this might be more of a 1950s film studio print. The dramatic lighting here must have been caught in the early morning. There are milk bottles still waiting to be taken in and (no doubt) breakfasts to be served. I could imagine the Browns living here under Mrs Bird’s scrutiny. I rather think Paddington might have been taken with the foliage growing around the house too.

But, I’m a little ahead of myself. Geographically we need to start at the beginning and that is Paddington Station seen in the photograph below (courtesy of my colleagues at the Westminster City Archives).

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This location has been the terminus for the Great Western Railway from as early as 1838, but the larger part of the mainline station, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, dates from around 1854 with the underground Metropolitan Railway being the first in the world following in 1863. Paddington Station warrants a blog all to itself and summarising its history here would be an injustice. (Something for another day perhaps…)

Why was Paddington Bear named thus, aside from the obvious?

“We called him Paddington because for some years Paddington Station had been my first port of call whenever I travelled to London, and it was also just down the road from where we were living at the time. Besides, it had a nice, West Country ring to it; safe and solid”

We also know that Paddington wears a label round his neck with the words:

“Please look after this bear. Thank you”

“It was the memory of seeing newsreels showing trainloads of evacuees leaving London during the war, each child with a label round its neck and all its important possessions in a tiny suitcase, that prompted me to do the same for Paddington.”

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(Image first published in The Daily Telegraph)

And so a bear was named and rescued by the Browns, “an immigrant in a strange country with no money and nowhere to go”.

The strangeness of a place and the sudden upheaval of one’s life can be a daunting and frightening experience and yet perhaps there can be found, when we look closely, almost a haven or familiarity in the new friends we make and the new places we explore, depending on where we end up.

Portobello Road 1951

 

Which brings us to Portobello Road, a familiar haunt of Paddington’s, seen here in 1951; it has always been a bustling and diverse community selling everything from antiques, bric-a-brac, fruit and vegetables to fashion, household goods and street food. Indeed this year both Portobello and Golborne Markets celebrate a 150 year anniversary.

In the books, Mr Gruber (a family friend) is a central character in Paddington’s life. An immigrant himself he has an understanding of the young bear’s unfamiliarity with his new home:

“Mr Gruber was born in Hungary and his antique shop in the Portobello Road is an oasis of peace and quiet in Paddington’s life: a retreat where every day he can share his elevenses, discuss the world in general over cocoa and buns, and seek sound advice from his friend whenever the need arises.”

Perhaps his antique shop resembles this one?

Portobello Road Market 1970

Everybody sells something a little different and people are always on the lookout for something unique.

Portobello Road Market 1960s K4075B

Portobello Road - Kennedy McCreadie 1964

(Photograph by Kenny McCready 1964)

This gentleman appears to be about to pay for something but we have no idea what.

The market also has many fruit and vegetable stalls –that was its main function before the antiques moved in. Back in the 1950s shopping in markets was where the average shopper would buy things. The concept of supermarkets was not yet realised to a great extent. Everything was pennies and shillings, pounds and ounces and people knew each other by name. That may still be the case to a degree but times have definitely changed. Paddington certainly seems to enjoy doing his daily shopping in the market – not sure what he would think of a large Tesco store.

Portobello Market 1958 Mrs I.M Cain's fruit stall

[Mrs I.M Cain’s fruit stall in 1958.]

Portobello Road 1958 Mrs Rudd's salad stall 79450

[Mrs Rudd’s salad stall in 1958.]

Portobello Market 1958 Jaffas

This unnamed gentleman also has a fruit stall with what appears to be a fish stall next to him (1958). I rather like his sign, shaped like individual oranges saying JAFFAS on the top of the stall – the oranges and not the cakes I suspect – seems to be the most popular orange variety sold in Portobello.

Portobello market 1958

Here’s another unnamed gentleman also selling Jaffa oranges.  I wonder if they are any good for marmalade…

I almost wish these photographs were in colour. The colours on that stall would have been very vibrant.

Lyons van 1958

A Lyons Tea van with a fresh delivery. Paddington does like his buns after all.

Portobello Market 1958 Imperial Playhouse Ltd

In the background is 191, Portobello Road, home of the Electric Cinema, first opened in 1910. In the London Post Office directory of 1958 it is listed as The Imperial Playhouse having been renamed in 1932 during one of Notting Hill’s less salubrious periods in history. It went back to its original name in the late 1960s and despite its precarious existence it remains an iconic survivor. Few original cinemas remain in London now, not least those of the West End which are succumbing to the indignities of redevelopment. How much has changed since Paddington Bear’s original debut! And yet, modern technology has brought him to life on the big screen premiering him in Leicester Square for the first time. Our bear from Darkest Peru has come a long way, and even though he has very much become something of a universal bear despite his being quintessentially an English bear, I personally think of him as a West London bear and I almost half expect to see him traipse down the Portobello Road with his trolley in search of some tasty buns for his elevenses with Mr Gruber any day now.

Postscript

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The quotes I have used are taken from Michael Bond’s 1996 autobiography: Bears and Forebears. A life so far which I borrowed from the library’s biography  collection. (Out of print but still available through Amazon and other sources)

The post itself is not about any one specific place; it’s more of a geographical jaunt following some of the places we know Paddington Bear has frequented and still does by all accounts: a fictional character set in real surroundings given one or two imaginative alterations here and there.

Michael Bond has expressed that he has no intention of retiring as a writer and I do believe we’ll be seeing a lot more of Paddington, which I, for one, am very pleased about. You see when I feel a little put out upon occasions, for example; during my commute in and out of London, I too have a particular stare that usually indicates my displeasure at someone’s rudeness or lack of consideration. Whether this is a universal thing we learn as we age I do not know. This is why when Paddington directs his formidable stare at anyone he deems discourteous I cannot help but crack a smile – it’s incredibly funny when it’s done by a bear:

“Paddington had a very persistent stare when he cared to use it. It was a very powerful stare. One which his Aunt Lucy had taught him and which he kept for special occasions.”

And here I conclude my rather whimsical homage to Paddington Bear.

Postscript to the postscript (by Dave)

My thanks to Isabel, and apologies because I still haven’t worked out how to add an author on WordPress. This post kills two birds with one stone for me. Not only do we get Paddington but also the Portobello Market which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. You can expect more on the market in the months to come.

I know lots of readers don’t live in London but forgive me a bit of advertising. For Holocaust Memorial Day this year we have an event on January 27th at Kensington Library featuring historian Roger Moorhouse. Follow the link for more details. Roger gave an excellent talk at our London History Festival in November based on his book “The Devils’ Alliance: Hitler’s pact with Stalin 1939-41” so despite the sombre subject I can highly recommend this talk especially in the light of recent events.

 

Another Postscript (June 2015)

There is a Paddington related event in Portobello / Goldborne market on June 20th. See below.

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Familiar streets: a Paddington estate

When I first looked at Bernard Selwwyn’s pictures of 1950s Paddington I had no idea I was working with someone who knew a great deal more about the area than me. So this week my colleague and friend Isabel Hernandez is guest blogging, about a neighbourhood she knows very well:

 

You may recall a post Dave wrote a little while back called Unfamiliar Streets: Paddington 1959…It so happens that when I had the opportunity to view the photographs within that blog I realised to my surprise that I was very familiar with these northern Paddington streets. Views of the Warwick Estate prior to its redevelopment beginning around 1959 and the early 1960s were images I had never seen before, and considering I spent my entire youth growing-up on the relatively new estate, it really was like entering a time capsule. Very few of the original buildings survive now, with the exception of St Mary Magdalene’s and the local Victorian schools which I will talk about later, and some of the bigger, grander houses around Blomfield Villas. There have been name changes too: some abolished, others given to rebuilt roads such as Clarenden, Woodchester and Brindley.

Below is an image of Bourne Terrace, previously Westbourne Terrace North. The photograph appears to have been taken from Torquay Street which backs on to the now Westbourne Green Sports complex, opened around 1976. The railway lies directly behind that with the Westway looming large alongside it. On the corner of Bourne Terrace you can see 264 Saws Ltd and various blocks which no longer exist. They look to be derelict and ready for demolition with people going about their daily lives as usual. Nobody in that scene seems to have noticed the camera.

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Here’s another photograph showing Bourne Terrace, only this time one of the blocks has already been demolished. Already a new build has been erected on the left – the familiar flats of the current Warwick Estate. The spire of St Mary Magdalene’s is clearly visible in the background.

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Below is the Harrow Road with Bourne Terrace to the right and what appear to be lines set up for trolley buses. They were certainly gone by the time I moved in. The 18 and 36 bus routes were diesel run, ironically less clean than the electric bus option. All these blocks are now gone: the billboards, the shops. My memories of this part of the Harrow Road are not dissimilar to what exists today. To the right is a high rise block, possibly Brinklow House. Further up on the left, past the block of flats, existed the Westminster Council Offices (now an academy) and below that, garages where I housed my first car. To the right there was a Londis, a video shop (the epitome of visual technology at the time) and George’s chip shop. Each business had a residing family that we all knew well. People tended to stick around in the same community for a long time.

 

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Here’s another street which runs parallel to Bourne Terrace. This is Cirencester Street. To the right is the Roman Catholic chapel, Our Lady of Sorrows where I first had confession and had to wrack my 8 year old brain into confessing something inoffensive, like I really didn’t like my breakfast that morning, much to the priest’s amusement. Soon after, I did my First Holy Communion where my friends and I looked rather charming in our white dresses and suits. The chapel itself is quite beautiful inside.

 

Next to the chapel and above it – although not obvious – is my old primary school Our Lady of Dolours. The school was founded on this site in 1872 having previously been managed by priests of the church of St Mary of the Angels. It’s one of the few schools in London to still have a roof playground. At this point the school had yet to convert the front part opposite its façade into the front playground. I have many fond memories of the old place and I’ll never forget how small it looked when I returned many years later to visit. It must be true for all those who visit their old primary schools. We grow and mature and yet we’re not really sure when and how it all happened.

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Here’s the chapel again with the camera facing Desborough Street. The blocks to the right face onto the Harrow Road looking rather shabby and derelict.

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Below is a view of Our Lady of Dolours from a higher vantage point. Already the shabby, block opposite has gone and new flats are being built in the surrounding area. The high-rise block under construction is Wilmcote House, the first of six, high- rise blocks in the Warwick and Brindley Estates.

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Here’s another high vantage point of view. Our Lady of Dolours and Our Lady of Sorrows sectioned off and Wilmcote House nearing its 20/21 storeys. I lived in Gaydon House, nearest to Royal Oak and possibly the last of the six blocks to be built. Great views over London if you lived on the uppermost floors.

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Here’s Wilmcote House from the view point of St Mary Magdalene’s. To the far left is Edward Wilson C.E School. I assume named after the physician and naturalist who died on the ill-fated British Antarctic expedition lead by Captain Robert Scott in 1912. Edward Wilson practiced as a doctor in Paddington in his earlier years.

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Edward Wilson School seen from the back possibly from Cirencester Street. The skyline is a little different now with Gaydon House directly opposite the front of the school and the Westway marking a path through the lower horizon towards Edgware Road and Marylebone Road.

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St Mary Magdalene’s in the distance with the endless row of houses leading up to it. This gives you an idea as to how little space there was. It was designed by the architect George Edmund Street and it is often described as a ‘long, tall narrow design’ simply because the layout of the former streets gave little room for width. Now, of course, there is a spacious green behind the church with the Grand Union Canal running parallel to it. As children after school lunch, usually a hideous concoction of hard boiled potatoes, spam and simpering vegetables that would probably make Jamie Oliver’s toes curl, we would be taken by dinner ladies to the green to play. We would often dare each other to go up to the church wall, put our hand on it and count to ten – seems perfectly harmless – except we just knew it had to be haunted. To our point of view a gothic behemoth such as that, towering over our small frames was good enough reason to allow for our vivid imaginations to concoct some fantastical cowl covered floating monks to be living there in all their frightening silence. I know now that this is quite impossible. St Mary Magdalene’s was only completed around 1878. No cowled monks in the area at the time as far as I know.

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Here is the church again a little closer, from the other side of the canal. I have always admired its red brick walls and unassuming character. It’s not surprising it is often used as a film location. A church ‘completed by degrees’ in the middle of a crowded residential area. Now it stands as the centre piece of the Warwick Estate. If you want more details about the church, Pevsner’s London 3: North West is an interesting read.

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The Warwick Crescent development underway; note the leaning lamp-post in stark contrast to the massive crane beyond the corrugated barriers. Out with the old in with the new. It seems a shame that these could not have been restored – as far as street furniture goes these were rather attractive.

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The new blocks of flats were going up as soon as the rubble from the old houses was cleared. Presumably, rather than demolish everything in one fell swoop and displacing many residents, it made sense to demolish sections and rebuild, that way you could re-house people in increments and not displace them for too long.

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Here is a clearer photograph of the flats under construction. These are what you will find on the Warwick Estate now.

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I will conclude my post with this image. Here, the old and the new seem to co-exist in an absurd time warp: old houses new flats. Note the lampposts again! Here we see (what I assume) are residents passing through what appears to be Lord Hill’s Road. It now connects Senior Street with Delamare Terrace. I imagine a mother with her shopping trolley; gentlemen in suits, perhaps finishing work for the day; somebody on a motorbike and a chap looking at the camera on the other side of the road taking an interest in what our photographer is doing. It’s difficult to see unless you expand the image. They all seem to be taking the huge redevelopment in their stride quite literally. I wonder what they thought of it all.

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Postscript:

I came to the Warwick Estate as a child in the early 1970s and my first impressions are still relatively clear in my memory: tall high-rise blocks, lots of green spaces to play in, a canal full of sticklebacks and the ever stoic St Mary Magdalene’s at the centre of all the residential flats. Being a new girl on the block what I experienced was the London County Council’s post war answer to social housing. I never realised – now looking back at maps and photographs – just how densely populated the area was with narrow streets. A true Victorian relic. I had never seen what the area looked like before my tenure there so to have looked at these images and given the opportunity to talk about them was a real treat. Some of you reading this may be familiar with these Paddington streets and may even remember how it was before the cranes arrived on the scene. There is so much I’m still learning about my old haunt; for example, I had no idea that the painter, Lucien Freud had a studio in Delamare Terrace and later in Clarenden Crescent. Did you? History always has a way of inviting you to delve further. I would never say I know everything there is to know about my old address because I clearly don’t but I hope to have piqued your interest just a little and that you have enjoyed looking at these photographs as much as I have.


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