Once upon Paddington
From code-breaker Alan Turing to thespian Alfred Molina, Paddington has had many notable residents. It is perhaps more commonly known for its striking canals, being the birth place of Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin and of course, Michael Bond’s nomadic bear. But Paddington, home to Norfolk Square, has a lesser known history.
Boasting an infrastructure the envy of other neighbourhoods, the 1800s saw much cargo entering London through Paddington's canals. Coming from the midlands and the north, cargo was often stored in purpose built canal-side warehouses. The influx of cargos and goods soon created commerce and then came workers. Community followed comprising of local, national and international folk and Paddington soon became a neighbourhood in its own right. The coming years would see industry blossom and in 1838 Paddington Station opened. As the world marvelled at architect and engineer Isambard Brunel’s building, it quickly became one of the most iconic stations in the world. The neighbourhood was now a burgeoning empire.
Over a century later, Paddington faced hard-hitting times. The dawn of road and rail meant cargo would access London not only through other means, but also through other boroughs. Over the years as these modes of transport became ever more popular alternatives, the locals soon moved away, opting to live nearer to their livelihoods. But those who overlooked the neighbourhood’s spirit were about to be proven wrong.
In 1998 a collection of influential parties who believed in a united future for Paddington gathered to start the ‘Paddington Partnership’. A group whose work would mobilise community and galvanise public interest through collaborating and pooling their resources and networks. Over the coming decade they would revive the neighbourhood, by re-establishing Paddington's credentials as a gate-way to not only London, but also further afield – and commerce made a return.
Today, from Norfolk Square’s Victorian buildings to the Basin’s more modern day architecture, Paddington is once again a place to live, work and play. With local, national and international community, the story of the area continues to develop and evolve. But perhaps Paddington's most prolific trait is that it is a neighbourhood about its people and their accomplishments, a sentiment that remains as true today as it was in the 1800s.