Born and brought up in Paddington, with family connections that go back well over a hundred years, ‘Paddington Paul’ was an obvious choice for me for a user name on this site.
The first mention of Paddington is as ‘Paddintun’. ‘Tun’ being the Saxon word for a fortified farm. It is mentioned in documents that date to 998, recording lands granted to Monks at Westminster.
However, there is no mention of Paddington in the Doomsday book, so it is likely that any farm that existed at the junction of the now Edgware Road (former Roman Watling Street) and the Harrow Road was quite small, and not worth recording. A 12th century document records the land as being owned by the brothers Richard and William de Padinton.
In the 13th century the Paddington manorial records details the obligations of the tenants to produce crops, manure the land and cart hay to the Lord of the Manor.
Much of the land was owned by the Church, even after the dissolution under Henry V111. By 1640, 90% of the land was producing hay for the horses of London and the rest was woodland adjoining the dense St. Johns Wood.
In the 18th century, Paddington was the junction of two droving roads used to drive cattle up from the country to the abattoirs at Smithfield Meat Market.
Paddington therefore became a site to rest and fatten up the cattle. As the population of London and demand for milk grew this gave way to dairy farming and Paddington became famous for dairymaids and milkmen.
Indeed, today on the junction of Elgin Avenue and Shirland Road you can still see the red brick building of the former Welford Dairy, which processed the milk from the Warwick farm on Warwick Avenue and supplied milk to Queen Victoria.
It still operated a fleet of milk floats until the mid-1970’s. Indeed, one of my former neighbours worked in the dairy when I was a boy.
The oldest area of Paddington is around the Green. Two original Georgian houses remain and the Church of St. Marys, built in 1791, is the third church on this site.
I remember as a small boy seeing graves on the south side of the church exhumed to allow the building of the Westway, above the old original Harrow Road, and the knocking down of the original police station that stood roughly where the roundabout now is, at the junction of Harrow Road/Bishops Bridge and North Wharf Road.
The last remaining old buildings here, the ‘Dudley Arms’ and the small row of shops that have just been demolished for more glass office blocks and that thing we all need – luxury flats!
Paddington Green is probably best known for the statue of the actress Sarah Siddons, but for me the most iconic thing on the Green is the plaque to the Music Hall singer and songwriter Harry Clifton who wrote the song ‘Pretty Polly Perkins of Paddington Green’ in 1863.
Probably based on a local folk song, the song mentioned that the main employment in the area, milkmaid, milkman, domestic servant and bus conductor on the first horse drawn bus service introduced from Paddington Green to Bank in the City, by George Shillibeer in 1829.
The song was a huge hit in Victorian Music Halls and taught to London Primary school children until the 1980’s.
‘Pretty Polly Perkins’ by Harry Clifton
‘I am a broken-hearted milkman, in grief I’m arrayed,
Through keeping of the company of a young servant maid,
Who lived on board and wages, the house to keep clean,
In a gentleman’s family, near Paddington Green.
She was as pretty as a butterfly and proud as a queen,
Was pretty Polly Perkins of Paddington Green.
When I asked her to marry me she said “Oh what stuff”
And told me to drop it, for she’d had enough
Of my nonsense…At the same time I had been very kind,
But to marry a milkman she didn’t feel inclined.
She was as pretty as a butterfly and proud as a queen
Was pretty Polly Perkins of Paddington Green.
In six months she married, that hard-hearted girl,
But it was a Mi-Lord and it was not an Earl,
It was not a “baronet” but a shade or two wuss,
It was a bow-legged conductor of a two-penny bus.’
Polly was a real local resident, Annette Perkins, who was a maid in one of the large houses on the green, and marred a local man, Mr Steele.
The song as I say was a huge hit and anyone called Perkins joining the Army or Navy right through to WW2 was immediately christened “Polly”. A slightly different version “Abington Green” was sung by Union troops in the American Civil War, and there are also Australian versions.
My family on my Mum’s side provide my link to Paddington. My Great-Grandfather William Impey came from Foxton in Cambridgeshire and joined the Royal Marines in 1889.
On leaving the Marines in 1901 he moved to Paddington and eventually set up a small general and tobacconist shop in Torquay Street, right next to the railway line from Paddington, next to the steps to the footbridge that now connects the 5-a-side football pitches below the Westway to Westbourne Villas.
This proved to be the family home until the whole area was demolished in 1963 to make way for the A40 (M) Westway. Torquay Street and ‘The Bell’ Public House, Hampden Road, Alfred House, and the houses and alleyways all disappearing, either completely under the Westway, or under the new Tower Blocks on Alfred Road.
I was born in that house in Torquay Street and have happy memories of playing in the garden and waving every morning to the steam engines pulling the Cornish Riviera Express out of Paddington Station.
Also of chasing my Grandad’s chickens back into their coop when they got out into the garden and started scratching about on top of the Anderson shelter left over from the Blitz.
My Grandfather, also William, started to go to Rangers as a boy and continued either side of the War, attending games with his brother George. I have his Supporters Club lapel badge, which must date to the late 40’s or early 50’s.
Sadly my Grandfather died when I was 7, just 9 months before the ’67 League Cup Final. So he spent most of his time following Rangers without success and in the lower levels of the Third Division. I was also just too young to remember his stories from that time and to get taken to the football by him.
The Impey and Bartlett (Grandmother’s family from Notting Dale), families, all being staunch Rangers fans.
Why was Paddington such a staunch QPR area back then? Well, they were the local team, Droop Street and St. Judes Hall being only half a mile or so up the Harrow Road.
Kick-off in those days I am told was 3.15 every Saturday, so that working men, and Paddington was very much a poorer working class area, would have time to work in the morning and bolt a quick lunch, plus get a few pints in before kick-off. The pubs shut at 3.00pm and they had 15 minutes to get to the ground!
By ’67 I was hooked, trained by my Mum and Uncle to sing ‘Rodneee’ at every opportunity. I was deemed too young to go to Wembley for the League Cup Final, but remember waking up of a morning to little hand-written notes telling the score from the qualifying rounds, and pacing around at home while the final was played.
My Uncle worked in the bank at Shepherd’s Bush that handled Rangers’ account and he started to give my Dad and I the odd freebie ticket he got and was unable to use.
My Dad was from North London and a Spurs fan, but sensing that he was outnumbered and always having enjoyed the game for itself (he was a goalkeeper for the Army in the War), he took me to my first game in September 1967. I remember it clearly, a one-nil home defeat to Derby County, the only home defeat of the season.
Derby spent the entire game kicking Rangers off the pitch, and employing every dirty trick in the book. I guess I had my warning, my first game being a defeat, but it didn’t put me off. Rangers’ fans have to get used to both defeat and a healthy degree of cynicism!
I then attended about 5 or 6 games a season until the 1972/73 Promotion season. As a pupil at Edward Wilson Primary School on the newly built GLC Warwick Estate, where we moved when our house was demolished for the Westway, there was the odd Arsenal or Man Ure fan, but the rest of us split pretty much 50/50 Rangers or Chelsea.
As did my friends with whom I seemed to spend every spare minute kicking a ball about on Westbourne Green, which was laid out on the former construction site for the huge wedge-shaped pieces of the Westway, pre-built out of concrete, and moved by a massive crane on railway tracks into position as the elevated road made its slow progress to join up with the Marylebone Flyover.
My first QPR kit was bought from a Sports Shop in Church Street Market and aged 10, I imagined myself as a sort of mini Rodneee as my school played football every Friday afternoon, having been bussed up to the pitches in Regents Park.
In truth, I had no real co-ordination and ended up playing in goal like Dad had, and only ever made the school team on a couple of occasions, both of them sound beatings by local rivals Queen’s Park Primary and Our Lady of Dolours Primary.
I still have a signed photo of the 1972/73 Promotion team hanging on my wall. “To Paul from all, G J” it says.
My dad worked as a butcher at Smithfield Meat Market with Gordon Jago’s Father-in-Law, and brought me home this photo with every player’s signature on it and that of the newly signed Dave Thomas added across the top.
We used to stand on the terrace under the South Africa Road Stand, to the School End side of the tunnel. And then the following season I would sometimes stand in the Loft. Saturdays at 3 o’clock had become a must-do for me. Sometimes with Dad and my Sister, but increasingly on the Loft with a little gang of friends who would congregate on the green by Bourne Terrace on the Warwick Estate before heading off to Royal Oak and the Ham and City line to the Bush.
In 75/76 we gathered in increasing anticipation as the season wore on. By now I was a 5th Form pupil at St Marylebone Grammar School and had discovered a previously unknown talent on the rugby pitch.
Saturday mornings were spent playing games either at the playing fields in Sudbury and dashing home to get to the Rangers, or travelling back from matches all over North and West London, desperately looking at the watch and on occasions jumping from the school bus at the lights as it passed White City to get to the Rangers before kick-off.
I progressed through trials for Middlesex and London Schools, but turned down all the Games Master’s requests to go play for Saracens and Wasps youth teams as I feared I would never make the Rangers in time to stake my place on the terrace a good hour before kick-off.
A serious injury while taking part in a Middlesex versus South of England trial put me out of the game for over a year and off rugby, except as a spectator on the TV, for good.
I made a banner from an old white sheet, which read ‘QPR The Only Religion!’ and it got it’s first airing at the early kick-off that Easter morning against Arsenal, and was down behind David Harvey’s goal for the Championship winning game against Leeds.
Some of my friends went to Rangers one week and then Chelsea the next if they were at home, but I could never bring myself to do that, it didn’t seem right. You either hated Chelsea, or you didn’t properly support Rangers.
Other memories that season – standing on the Clock End during a two-nil defeat at Highbury at Christmas. Stupidly waving at the QPR team coach on a packed Seven Sisters Road on the way to the three-nil victory at White Hart Lane and then having to hide from hordes of Spurs hooligans who had seen us wave.
We compounded it by standing on the Shelf for that game too, but to be fair most of the Spurs fans around us that day just purred about the football we played and said how they admired Francis and Bowles.
The following season a group of us lads persuaded Joe who ran the Stowe Boys Club on the Harrow Road to use the club mini-bus to take us up to Villa Park for the League Cup semi-final second-leg.
I was supposed to be captaining a school rugby team that afternoon but managed to bunk off school, pretending to be sick. We all piled into the mini-bus and set off for Villa Park.
Arriving near the Holte End hours before kick-off we were surprised to see an enormous queue at the turnstiles all turn to look at us and some break ranks to run menacingly towards us.
Then we realised that the mini-bus had ‘Stowe Boys Club London W2’ on the side, and poor old Joe could not accelerate away fast enough. We did several laps of Spaghetti Junction, hid in a Service Station and returned later, this time to the away end.
Anyway, as Peter Eastoe’s late, late equaliser in extra time hit the back of the net for a 2-2 draw, ITV’s cameras panned the away crowd to pick out me standing with my banner on a crash barrier, celebrating the goal. It was seen by most of my schoolmates, but fortunately not any of the Masters and I somehow got away with bunking off to the game.
The less said about the replay at Highbury the better! Also, that season I had to have much of the Cologne UEFA Cup game described to me as it happened, as a smack in my good eye while playing rugby at school meant that I could only make out vague shapes through my very dodgy left eye.
As the 70’s turned into the 80’s, my mates and I would drink in ‘The Royal Saxon’ in Alfred Road or the ‘Earl of Derby’ in Amberley Road. Prior to going onto ‘Fangs’ night club which then became ‘Reflections’ under the Great Western Hotel, Praed Street, or a rather seedy disco under ‘The Kings Arms’ in Edgware Road, forget the name, was it ‘Toffs’, anyone out there remember?
All these places were frequented by Paddington Boys, and welcoming and seemingly trouble-free for local faces like us.
As the last days of Punk turned to ‘The Specials’ and more political music like ‘Stand Down Margaret’ and ‘This Town Coming Like A Ghost Town’, we would nurse our pints talking football, girls and then football again, before staggering to the taxi rank by Paddington Station and eating huge burgers with a fried egg on top.
We would inevitably have had a pizza and a couple of pints of ESB in ‘The Crown and Sceptre’ just after the game on a Saturday, or gone straight to ‘The Earl of Derby’ from the football special from an away game.
In those days they all seemed to leave from Queen’s Park or Wembley Central Station??? Then in later seasons get moved to the usual Kings Cross or Euston. Virtually no coaches to games in those days, unless they were really close, like Luton.
Living as I did by the canal, my journey to ‘The Earl of Derby’ pub meant going over the old Metropolitan Borough of Paddington footbridge from the junction of Lord Hills Road/Delamere Terrace to the top of Formosa Street. This bridge dated back to the very early 1900’s and was an enclosed steep-stepped bridge that turned at a sharp right angle at the top of the stairs.
Painted a civic magnolia and beige and with the old Paddington Borough Council logos, it was covered in graffiti and had a reputation for being a muggers paradise. A particularly nasty murder of a French student in the mid-80’s saw its days numbered and it was a sad day for me when in 1990 it was replaced with a spiral access ramp, open-plan bridge.
Why so sad? Amongst the graffiti in large letters right in the centre of the bridge was one that made me smile every time I passed: ‘QPR TO WEMBLEY 1982’. I wonder who painted that?
Paddington has changed so much in my lifetime. All bar two of the pubs I frequented have gone, and one of the two that remain, one ‘The Waterway’, formerly ‘The Paddington Stop’, is so far up its own arse I would not be seen dead in it! Oh for the evenings playing darts or ‘Space Invaders’ under a sign saying ‘please do your drug deals outside.’
Not everyone has a glass of chilled Chablis while eating ducks livers en croute under a gas heater outside in bloody February!
‘The Bridge House’ I can still tolerate, but only after the bell has rung to get all the ‘Canal Caf√© Theatre’ goers upstairs for the cabaret and leave the pub (much of which is still as I remember from nearly 40 years ago), to me and the remaining folks sipping a pint of Portobello Pale Ale. Although having said that, I don’t go there much now either.
If my Grandad, or my Great-Grandad could see Paddington now they would not believe it! The majority of the working class close-knit QPR community has gone.
I still see the odd familiar face walking to the station on a Saturday heading off to Loftus Road. But local kids don’t play football on the green. Thankfully most of the terraced housing was pulled down, but who’s to say that it couldn’t have been saved and renovated like Notting Hill has been. But then no one could have afforded to stay.
Paddington has become a transient place. Maggie’s (the cow!) right to buy policies, lead to the sell-off of Council properties where I live, and, although it gave many the means to own their own place.
They are now mostly short-term lets for students, City business types etc. The old dust wharves on Paddington Basin are now a glass and concrete canyon of offices and luxury flats, all of which will be shabby and need re-doing within 30 to 40 years.
Not like the stucco-fronted houses built circa 1840 still going strong and looking beautiful. As Peter Ackroyd said ‘don’t worry about the new luxury flats, in 50 years they will be slums.’
Maybe then Paddington will have turned full circle and returned to what it used to be, tatty, cheap, cheerful, but with a sense of community again.
Paul Niddler (Paddington Paul)
(The top image is a drawing (from Mr Crace’s collection) depicting Paddington Green in 1750 and comes from a 1882 magazine: ‘Old and New London Illustrated – The Western Suburbs’ by Edward Walford.
The middle pic features Warren’s Saddlery on the corner of Westbourne Park Road by Richmond Road (Chepstow Road) circa 1904, as used on the cover of Brian Girling’s superb book: ‘Images of England ‘ – Paddington’. Interestingly, you can just make out the notice (behind the man with the dog) for a QPR Practice Match.
The bottom one shows Gordon Jago with Terry Venables, Don Givens and Stan Bowles.)