Paddington: Trains, buses and bears

Paddington is a former borough of London, now incorporated into the City of Westminster. In the pre-Norman days of London, it was a farmstead belonging to a man named Padda, on the banks of the River Westbourne. Today it is a highly built-up area of central London, best known for its Brunel-designed Railway Station and associations with Michael Bond's popular cartoon character Paddington Bear.


The marmalade-loving bear has his own statue beneath the impressive vaulted arches of Brunel's station and is often almost invisible among the crowds who come to see him. The area surrounding the station was also the setting for an ingenious 1930s hoax, based around the fake houses of Leinster Gardens and the terminus for the Royal Mail's private tube system Mail Rail.


Historically the Borough of Paddington included the notorious area of Tyburn, were criminals were publicly executed. Consequently, the station entered prominently into London slang, with ‘dancing the Paddington frisk' a euphemism for being hung, and a ‘Paddington fair day' being a day of public executions. These gruesome events were a form of mass entertainment and often accompanied by a carnival-like atmosphere.


Also included in the borough's boundaries was Paddington Green, the starting point for London's first omnibus in 1829. This service pre-dated the railway here by nine years. Paddington Green is now a small conservation area. Just outside this area is Paddington Green Police Station, a high security police station which has held most of London's high-profile terror suspects over the last few decades.


Paddington Basin is nearby to the station and home to the world's only curling footbridge. Designed by artist Thomas Heatherwick as part of a 2004 regeneration project, it curls up into a ball every Friday at noon.