The Story Of Paddington

  • Chapter 1

    History and Heritage


Our story of Paddington is entwined with the history of England’s capital city. In existence for hundreds of years, the area has witnessed many historic events, from the arrival of Queen Victoria on her first rail journey in 1842, to the birth of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis at St Mary’s Hospital more than 170 years later.

Once a metropolitan borough in its own right, Paddington became part of the City of Westminster in 1965 and is today an important part of the character of London.


Who can think of Paddington without also thinking of its inspiring cultural heritage?

Did you know, for instance, that Sir Alexander Fleming revolutionised the world of medicine right here in Paddington? You can still visit his infamous musty laboratory today, and see the spot where he discovered Penicillin back in 1928.

And let's not forget Michael Bond's Paddington Bear, imagined locally and adored globally by children the world over.

Our local bear, named after the author's favourite station, came to life one Christmas Eve (1956) when Michael noticed a lonely teddy bear in a Paddington store. After taking him home as a gift for his wife, Michael was inspired to write his first tale of Paddington Bear in 1958, and the rest is history!

The Canals

Paddington's character is perhaps most defined by its proud heritage as the gateway to London.

The Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal opened in July 1801. Known as the Grand Junction Canal until 1929, it joined the Regent's canal on the latter's completion in 1820 with the formation of Browning's Pool at Little Venice.

The Canals

The Grand Junction Canal Company oversaw the construction of Paddington Basin.

Along those canals came the goods and freight of new industry in the midlands and the north, searching out markets in London, and unloaded into mighty warehouses all along the canal’s banks.

Soon the area was bustling with local, national and international communities. With Paddington at the heart, connecting new industry to new markets, the economy of London and England beyond began to boom.

Brunel's Great Western Railway

1838 marked the arrival of the steam train and Paddington was once again at the forefront of a new transport system, becoming the terminus for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's magnificent Great Western Railway.

The original Paddington Station opened on 4 June 1838 on a site to the west of what is now Bishop's Bridge Road. It was not until May 1854 that the station was fully operational in its current location.

Now Grade I listed and lovingly restored by Network Rail, Brunel's much adored Paddington Station is arguably the most important historical railway station in the world.

  • Chapter 2

    Ripe for Regeneration

The End of an Era

The canals ultimately fell out of favour as the rail and roads began to take the strain of industry and travel.

These once vibrant central London streets had become synonymous with disused canal wharves, empty warehouses, and barren goods yards.

Whole areas, some of which had been inaccessible for more than 200 years, created barriers between local communities and squandered the area’s potential.

By the early 1990s, though still a booming transport hub at the heart of London, much of Paddington had become overlooked as a place to do business.

The Dawn of a New Era

That was until the Heathrow Express arrived in 1998; a non-stop, dedicated high speed train connecting passengers to and from Heathrow airport in record time, with record frequency. Once again bolstered by leaps in transport innovation, a new era for Paddington looked set to break.

For many people it was time for Paddington to become connected again. Not just through transport links, but by building a place for modern commerce and local communities alike; to restore the vibrant Paddington of yesteryear.

At the same time there emerged a desire to breathe new life into the disused waterways, to give them a renewed purpose in a modern landscape, and open up spaces for public enjoyment.

Designated the Paddington Opportunity Area by Westminster City Council, and highlighted as one of London’s key Opportunity Areas, Paddington is now the largest, most significant regeneration and growth opportunity in Westminster of recent times.

  • Chapter 3

    The Principles of Partnership

Establishing a Partnership

Bringing an area the size of Soho back to life wasn’t going to be easy. It would take ambition, imagination and determination.

So, in 1998 the Paddington Partnership was set up to connect multiple landowners, development schemes, funding bodies, and local communities. Together they would forge the future of Paddington.

The founding members of the Partnership were the launch pad from which the vision for Paddington would continue to grow:

British Waterways
Hilton London Metropole
Kensington, Chelsea, and Westminster Health Authority
Paddington Development Corporation Ltd
Rialto Homes

More than 20 years later, as the landscape has changed, the Partnership continues to count many innovative and influential development and transport partners amongst its numbers:

British Land

Brockton Everlast

CC Land

Derwent London

European Land

Great Western Railway

Heathrow Express

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Meritas Real Estate

Sellar Property Group

Tishman Speyer

The founding members set their sights for Paddington very high. Working closely with Westminster City Council they established an ethos of partnership, securing a voice for all parties and ensuring a united future vision.

The hope was to create a strong collective that would achieve more together, a whole that would be greater than the sum of its parts. Since then, the Partnership has worked hard to bring this shared sense of place to life; to create an identity, destination, and sense of individuality that means something to everyone, businesses and local communities alike.

  • Chapter 4

    A Place to Connect

Back on the Map

Today, Paddington is once again one of London’s most sought-after locations to do business, and to live, work and play.

Key to putting Paddington back on the map was to re-establish its status as the gateway to London. To restore the beating heart of this long-time transport hub whose arteries connect the city to the world beyond.

Paddington Station

In 1998 Network Rail oversaw a massive £65 million facelift to Paddington Station, with a further £47 million refurbishment of Span 4 in 2009-2011. The designs restored the Victorian structure to its former glory whilst bringing the station up to date with the contemporary transport industry. Network Rail’s refurbishment of Paddington Station continues in 2014-16 with Spans 1 to 3.

Today Paddington is amongst the UK’s busiest stations, with one of the highest dwell times for those passing through. The station remains globally and historically significant, taking Brunel’s vision of connecting London to the world beyond firmly into the future.


The construction of Crossrail has transformed rail transport in London, increasing capacity by an impressive 10%.

With the Elizabeth line service on the central section commencing in May 2022, 24 trains per hour stop at Paddington each carrying up to 1,500 passengers.

That means every day the Elizabeth line brings a massive 1.5 million people within a 45 minute commute of the major employment centres of Paddington and the West End, the City and Canary Wharf.

  • Chapter 5

    Enabling Business Success

A Development Vision

The development vision for Paddington is to create a vibrant area for business around which new work and residential communities can grow, and existing communities can thrive.

Since 1998 Paddington has seen the development of over 2.5 million sq ft of award-winning commercial space, with another 1.4 million in the pipeline.

Developed by the UK’s leading property companies and designed by some of the world’s best architects, the Paddington master plan already includes:

British Land’s Paddington Central

European Land’s Paddington Basin and Merchant Square

Derwent London's Brunel Building

LandSec's Eastbourne Terrace

A Place to do Business

The extraordinary vision of the developers leading the evolution of Paddington has already welcomed an influx of bold commercial occupiers. Huge global brands such as Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, Nissan, Prudential, Kingfisher, Microsoft, Mars, The Premier League, Coach, Sony Pictures and Visa now live in Paddington in stunning commercial properties.

Alongside international brands, smaller pioneering businesses and the bustling modern markets of Merchant Square and Paddington Central provide the perfect blend to creating the unique character that is Paddington.

  • Chapter 6

    A Place for People

More than a Business District

To date over £10 billion has been invested in creating Paddington, enabling the area to evolve at a pace alongside contemporary London. But Paddington is about much more than transport developments and new buildings alone. It’s about people and communities, the surrounding neighbourhood context, and creating a vibrant place to live, work and play.

A Place to Live

Since 1998 over 2,000 new homes have been built at Paddington (including affordable housing), with another 500 in the pipeline. In that time, committed investment has been made to developing the residential aspects of the area and creating a wonderful place to live.

With an individuality and character in its own right, Paddington enjoys close links to its neighbours. Nestled between the rich flavour of Marylebone High Street and the tranquillity of picturesque Little Venice, you can stroll to Hyde Park or Oxford Street in just ten minutes, or head further afield from the five underground lines on the doorstep.

A Place to Cherish

Paddington is a unique setting. Where else in central London can you expect to see a family of swans or Canadian geese glide past your door? Where else can you look out over paddleboarding, pretty narrow boats and a shimmering water space?

The whole place comes alive every day, through bustling restaurants, bars and galleries, to the guided walks, food markets and public art on offer.

A Place to Enjoy

Much investment has been made to improve pedestrian access and create better public spaces by the waterside; places to linger, places to stroll, places to stop and sit a while. These areas have been developed in the spirit of enjoyment and spectacle, to imagine something unique for Paddington.

Heatherwick's Rolling Bridge, for instance, is a nod to the innovative engineering heritage of Brunel's Paddington. This spectacular unfurling bridge can be seen in action over Paddington Basin every Wednesday and Friday at midday and on Saturdays at 2pm.

Knight Architect's Fan Bridge at Merchant Square is an elegant bridge that fans open to allow boats into the head of Paddington Basin on the Grand Union Canal.

  • Chapter 7

    Bridging the Gap

Bringing People Together

Creating a place with a shared identity is not just about building spaces to live and work in, but about nurturing a place culture that can really live, take off, and be evolved by everyone.

Through a ground-breaking CSR programme and an inclusive attitude to place making, the Paddington Partnership has trained its focus on bridging the gap between commerce and culture. They have brought businesses and people closer together to foster the community vision for Paddington and ensure a voice in the story for all.

Community Focus

In 2004 our Community Programme, Time for Paddington, was launched, enabling employees from local businesses to donate time and resources to local causes. Since then, employees from Paddington companies have contributed to many valuable schemes, from teaching CV and job interview skills to young adults, transforming community spaces, to providing support to the homeless.

The programme, which is now simply known as the Paddington Community Programme, has gone from strength to strength and experienced year on year growth. Today we place over 1,000 colleagues from Paddington businesses into more than 40 partner charities and schools every year.

The community driven activities which have defined Paddington have many success stories to tell.

The Partnership's dedicated recruitment centre, Paddington First, found work for 5,740 people between 2001 and 2011.

Today, through the Partnership, employees from some of London's most demanding and successful businesses are being supported to share their skills and hobbies to plan and deliver breakfast and after-school clubs, photography and DIY workshops, book groups, mentoring schemes and tech support to the elderly.

Paddington employees spend over 4,000 hours a year inspiring, educating, empowering, listening to and laughing with the local community.

A Place for People

To further enrich community activity, local companies and organisations have set up educational workshops, creative competitions, and job training schemes at every opportunity. In other instances, developers have invited local pupils to name some of the new buildings in Paddington and leave handprints in the foundations of Paddington Basin itself.

The community spirit of Paddington shines through the inclusive attitude of the developers who have invited the people of Paddington to leave their mark in its evolving history.

  • Chapter 8

    A Vision for the Future

Still to Come

Since 1998 the development of Paddington has been defined by persistence and ambition. Much has been overcome to create the place it is today, and to pave the way for the Paddington of tomorrow. Following the arrival of the Elizabeth Line in 2022, an over site development above the taxi facility will complete the canalside setting, reinforcing Paddington’s commercial standing as the best connected location in London.

Yard Nine have created a further 86,000 sq ft of commercial space and seven new homes at 50 Eastbourne Terrace. Maarten Baas's Real Time clock is Paddington's newest landmark.

The former Sorting Office is poised to become Paddington Square, with Sellar Property Group transforming the London Street site into a striking 360,000 sq ft office scheme. Over 75,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant uses will breathe new life into Praed Street and deliver a brand new public piazza as the front door to Paddington Station.

Three more schemes are in development at European Land's Merchant Square. Designed by Robin Partington Architects, numbers 1, 2, and 6 will house office and residential space, complete with a children's nursery overlooking a unique water maze. 1 Merchant Square will act as the flagship Paddington building. At 42-storeys this will be the tallest building in Westminster, with homes below a unique sky bar offering incredible views across the London skyline.

British Land's continued investment in Paddington Central following their purchase in 2013 will see the remainder of Kingdom Street realised, with the delivery of a stunning new 570,000 sq ft commercial building at Five Kingdom Street, accompanied by 18,300 sq ft of retail and restaurant space.

Below Five Kingdom Street, proposals to bring 'The Box' to life with cultural, community and leisure uses see the creation of new pedestrian connections and public realm to the north and west of the Paddington Central campus.

Stunning new homes have been created on North Wharf Road, with Taylor Wimpey Central London’s Paddington Exchange adding another 150 residential units and Meritas's Paddington Gardens a further 335 homes.

As the largest London development of the last 50 years, Paddington has established itself once more as the gateway to the city and it will be the destination for tomorrow.

Here’s to building the future of Paddington together.

The End.

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