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 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 Special Policy 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 15 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

Canal & River Trust


Derwent London

European Land

Heathrow Express

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Land Securities

Network Rail

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 is set to transform rail transport in London, increasing capacity by an impressive 10%.

With the service on the central section due to commence in 2018, 24 trains per hour will stop at Paddington each carrying up to 1,500 passengers.

That means every day Crossrail will bring 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 million sq ft of award-winning commercial space, with another 1.3 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
Land Securities and Derwent London’s Eastbourne Terrace
European Land’s Paddington Basin

* Picture shows The Point by European Land

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, EE, Prudential, Nokia 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.

A Better Paddington

In 2005 Paddington’s Business Improvement District (BID), Paddington Now, was set up to improve the surrounding older district of Paddington. Since then it has helped to create a safer, greener, and more pleasant Paddington through initiatives like kerbside recycling, wider pavements, better lighting, and a dedicated Police Community Safety Team.

Paddington Now has been re-elected several times to overwhelming majority, a sure measure of its success and popularity.

  • Chapter 6

    A Place for People

More than a Business District

To date over £5 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

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 Friday at midday.

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 groundbreaking 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, allowing 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, to providing support to homeless communities.

The programme has gone from strength to strength and now sees over 800 volunteers placed in 80 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 in the ten years from 2001 to 2011.

Westminster City Council's Social and Community Fund, established for Paddington in 1999, has seen over 100 projects, schools, and community groups benefit from investment and backing to enrich the wider neighbourhood.

Not to mention the regular fundraising activities hosted by companies in Paddington every year, from Dragon Boat Racing at Paddington Basin to the annual Christmas Challenge.

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. With the arrival of Crossrail in 2018, an over site development above the taxi facility will complete the canal side setting, reinforcing Paddington’s commercial standing as the best connected location in London.

Land Securities have created another 92,000 sq ft of commercial space by transforming 20 Eastbourne Terrace.

The former Sorting Office is poised to be redeveloped by Sellar Property Group to create Paddington Quarter.

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, home to a boutique hotel, high end residential, and 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 building at 4 Kingdom Street.

Four separate schemes at North Wharf Road will complete the regeneration of the historic waterfront, including Derwent London’s Brunel Building and a further 100 homes.

In addition, Paddington Gardens and Dudley House will complete the new neighbourhood on North Wharf Road.

* Image shows Derwent London’s Brunel Building.

Stunning new homes are underway on North Wharf Road, with Taylor Wimpey Central London’s Paddington Exchange adding another 150 residential units and Meritas's Paddington Gardens due for completion in 2019 adding 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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