The history of Paddington Street, Marylebone

The history of Paddington Street, Marylebone

Like those of the high street and Marylebone Lane, the footprint of Paddington Street predates the 18th century redevelopment of the area, its route springing not from the fresh pages of one of the Great Estates’ expensively-commissioned architects but from a rough and long-established track that set off from just south of the parish church and ran, as the name suggests, to Paddington. It can be seen meandering off to the left in John Rocque’s 1746 map of London, when all around it was still fields.

When Rocque was drawing his map, the first glimpses of development were in evidence: between 1724 and 1726, a few houses had been constructed at its junction with the high street. In 1730, a new burial ground was acquired by the parish, a space later converted into Paddington Street Gardens. This addition to the landscape gave extra impetus to the development of Paddington Street, as did the nearby construction in 1738 of John Castles’ famous grotto—a spectacular display of shellwork.

In the 19th century, this was not the most salubrious corner of Marylebone. After the grotto had gone, the space it occupied evolved into a warren of tightly-packed slum houses, filled to bursting with some of the area’s most desperate residents. While Paddington Street was by no means as deprived as the streets directly behind it, nor was it especially grand. 

The Hellenic Centre building dates back to 1911

Distinctive shopfronts
A few Georgian houses remain, none of them particularly notable, but most of the street’s properties—primarily retail units with flats above—date from a burst of redevelopment in the 1860s, after the original leases had expired. Several of the current shopfronts, some of them distinctive in appearance, date from this period and are occupied by an eclectic mix of retailers, one of which—the James Taylor & Son shoemakers—has been there since 1954.

Established 1954

The Church of the Good Shepherd dates back to the 1890's

Paddington Street’s most impressive property was built in the late-1890s. The Mission Church of the Good Shepherd, designed by Thomas Harris, was both a place of worship and a social club, with bedrooms, a dining-room, library, games room and soup kitchen. The building, whose construction was part-funded by the Dowager Lady Howard de Walden, would later function as a youth club, then as a branch of Pineapple Dance Studios, before being taken over by Regent’s University.

The Howard de Walden Estate’s investment in Paddington Street continued with the opening in 1911 of a Swedish gymnastics institute, commissioned by Allan Broman, a Swede who believed passionately in the benefits of training young men in gymnastic techniques. After the outbreak of the first world war, the building became a hospital for injured British soldiers run by the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, then in 1920 was taken over by the London County Council, which used it as a training college for PE teachers. It is now home to the Hellenic Centre, an institution devoted to Greek and Cypriot culture.

BLUE PLAQUES
François-René de Chateaubriand (French statesman and writer)

LANDMARK BUILDING
The Mission Church of the Good Shepherd, now used by Regent’s University, has a striking red brick and terracotta façade, broadly in the Arts and Crafts style, with a sculpture of the good shepherd at its centre.