Bayswater is principally a residential area, and this walk includes visits to some of the many quiet mews, such as the one above, which is Hyde Park Gardens Mews.
The area was countryside until the nineteenth century, and characteristic late Georgian housing is seen in Connaught Square (dark London brick) and Gloucester Terrace (white stucco). In addition there are meaner streets which escaped demolition between the wars (Star Street) and others which did not and were rebuilt (Gloucester Square).
There are also flamboyant Victorian red brick mansion blocks. In living memory, they were divided into bedsits which smelt of cabbage and cost a few pounds a week. Now they contain luxury flats which sell for millions.
One of the earliest post war council estates features too, and if at first sight it looks a little ordinary, that’s because it was so widely copied, although often without the attention to detail which makes this one suitable for human habitation. The walk starts in Oxford Street to the east, skirts Hyde Park on the south, strays into Paddington on the north, and ends at Notting Hill on the west.
Marble Arch was originally built as an entrance to Buckingham Palace, but was moved here because it was too narrow for carriages and caused traffic jams. The current site has a grim history: as Tyburn Cross, it was the place for public executions for 400 years until 1783.
Connaught Square, built in the eighteen twenties, is the height of restrained Georgian design. A former Prime Minister lives nearby, which explains the presence of armed police in the square.
The stuccoed terraces of Stanhope Place (below, with the entry to Frederick Close), and the exclusive shops in Connaught Street (below right), epitomise the elegant residential areas which give London its atmosphere.
Hyde Park Square’s Regency-style pillared porches are classic London, redolent of Pimlico, Kensington and elsewhere.
Just round the corner in Radnor Place and environs, houses were demolished and rebuilt in the nineteen twenties and thirties as the leases expired. Heights and materials were controlled so the new buildings weren’t too obtrusive, but they’re pretty dull compared with the old. Elsewhere you can see some larger post war blocks.
North of Sussex Gardens, the proximity of first the Grand Union canal and then the railway kept the area more functional and less grand, and if you make forays off Norfolk Place you can detect this.
Look out for Arabic on shops and restaurants. Many Arabic speakers live in the area of the walk.
St Mary’s Hospital is the UK’s leading hospital for treating trauma from major injury; it was also the birthplace of members of the Royal family including Princes William, Harry and George. It bears a plaque, because it was here that Alexander Fleming accidentally grew penicillin in an unclean dish. You’ve probably done the same, but he was clever enough to recognise it as the first anti biotic, valuable in fighting illness, whereas you weren’t.
You will pass Paddington Station, or might pop in to admire Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s great train shed. The hotel on Praed Street still bears the letters GWR; the Great Western Railway came here in 1838 and the first underground line terminated here from 1863.
Praed Street, and Spring Street which is next on the walk, are good places to find a café for lunch or refreshment.
Sussex Gardens is packed with hotels, once tending towards the seedy but now sharing London's inexorable and worrying rise towards the unaffordable. Talbot Square (left) is unusual in that it doesn't have roads from the corners, but is open only at the Sussex Gardens end.
Sussex Place is pictured on the right, and it leads to Hyde Park Gardens Mews. On the walk, you cross the Mews to reach a passageway, but I wandered along the mews amongst horse droppings to take the heading picture.
Once through the passageway, you are in Hyde Park Gardens. (Don't get confused by the similar street names). The houses here are back to front, with their stuccoed fronts facing Hyde Park, and their grand porches on the back in this service road.
Look out later on for the white bow fronted houses in Gloucester Terrace, an attractive variation on the Regency style.
The Hallfield Estate was designed by influential modernist architects Drake and Lasdun in the post war period when huge quantities of council housing were erected to address an appalling housing shortage. The basic design is cubist but there are pleasing patterns in the layout of the facades, and the estate road meanders through grass and trees. There's none of the brutality which disfigured so much of the architecture which followed.
Whiteleys is a shopping centre built in an old department store. The interior is spectacular but strangely empty and lacks vibrancy, or even a sign telling you what shops are there.
You might expect an orthodox church in Moscow Road to be Russian, but St Sophia (above) is a Greek Cathedral and the location is mere coincidence. Striking outside, the interior is even more so, if you find it open.
In contrast to the white stucco dominating the Bayswater area, Moscow Road and neighbouring Palace Court display the Victorian love of red brick and terracotta. Did Victorian exuberance replace Georgian refinement? Not in society perhaps, but certainly in architecture.
Don't worry if the effect is too rich for you, because in Pembridge Square (right) we have unusual linked detached houses, built in Victorian times, but very much in the Regency tradition.
Distance 5.8km / 3.6 miles.
1. Start at Marble Arch underground station. (Leave via Exit 1, Oxford Street North Side).
2. Turn right from the exit, noticing the Marble Arch opposite.
3. Continue across Great Cumberland Place and take the next right, up Edgware Road.
4. Take the first lights controlled pedestrian crossing on the left, by a crossroads.
5. Go straight on from the crossing into Seymour Street.
6. At the corner of Connaught Square, turn left into Stanhope Place, and right into Frederick Close to have a look.
7. Retrace your steps by turning left out of Frederick Close into Stanhope Place.
8. Turn left into Connaught Square. At the corner of the square, you have to go right.
9. Turn left into Connaught Street. Pass exclusive shops.
10. Turn left into Albion Street.
11. Turn right onto Bayswater Road.
12. Turn right into Hyde Park Street.
13. Turn left into Hyde Park Square.
14. Turn right at end of square, go straight on to leave square, and turn right onto Gloucester Square.
15. Turn first left into Radnor Place.
16. Go straight across Sussex Gardens into Norfolk Place. (Might want to divert to look at Southwick Mews, Norfolk Square and Star Street as you walk along Norfolk Place).
17. At the end, look at St Marys Hospital directly opposite. Penicillin was discovered here (a plaque is on the hospital, to the right).
18. Turn left onto Praed Street. Pass Paddington Station on your right.
19. Turn left into Spring Street.
20. Turn left into Sussex Gdns. Pass Talbot Square on your left.
21. Turn right into Sussex Place.
22. Continue to the very end into Hyde Park Gardens Mews. Almost opposite is a passageway, take it.
23. Turn right into Hyde Park Gardens (Note the Regency house backs).
24. At the end, turn left for a few steps to look at Brook Street and Hyde Park Gardens.
25. Turn round and go straight across Stanhope Terrace to the far side of Sussex Square, where you turn left onto Bathurst Street.
26. Look right into Bathurst Mews; you might see horses.
27. Continue on Bathurst Street; at the end turn right into Westbourne Terrace.
28. At a busy road junction with traffic around a green triangle, cross and turn left into Westbourne Crescent just beyond St James’s Church.
29. Turn right into Gloucester Terrace.
30. Turn right into Craven Road.
31. Turn left into Gloucester Mews.
32. Turn left into Chilworth Street, and stay on it as it crosses Gloucester Terrace.
33. Turn right into Cleveland Square, straight through Cleveland Gardens and cross the road to enter the Hallfield Estate. (Drake and Lasdun).
34. Turn left round the estate road. Follow it as it turns right past Tenby House.
35. Where the road turns right again, you go straight ahead along a footpath.
36. Look ahead to a pedestrian ramp leading up to a main road. Go up the ramp.
37. Turn left onto Bishop’s Bridge Road. Continue across the junction with Inverness Terrace.
38. At traffic lights, go straight over a pedestrian crossing then turn left down Queensway.
39. Pass the corner entrance to Whiteleys shopping centre (which is on your right) and reach the main entrance with florid statues beside the doors. Pop inside Whiteleys to look up at the dome, then leave and continue down Queensway.
40. Turn right into Porchester Gdns.
41. Reach Prince's Square and turn left away from the square. The street sign still says Prince's Square but the road continues into Ilchester Gardens.
42. Turn right into Moscow Road. (But look first down St Petersburgh Place at the terrace on the left and St Matthew’s Church on the right).
43. Walk on the left side of Moscow Road and look down Palace Court at the high Victorian buildings.
44. Go straight on into Pembridge Square. (Notice the unusual linked-detached houses).
45. Turn left into Pembridge Gardens. At the end, Notting Hill Gate Station is on your right.
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