diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 28, 2010

The River Westbourne
5) Westbourne Green

Westbourne Grove and Westbourne Park, mainstays of the Notting Hill Carnival Zone, sound precisely like the sort of place where the Westbourne might have flowed. But no, they're much too far west, and they're not even directly named after the river. The central section of this now-lost stream was originally known as the Bayswater Rivulet, and it formed the dividing line between the Manor of Paddington to the east and the Manor of Westbourne on the opposite bank. West of the river, Weste-burn, simple as that. And then the river got named after the parish to its west, becoming the Westbourne. It's all so delightfully historically circuitous.

In medieval times there were tiny settlements at both Westbourne Green and Paddington Green. Both hamlets were linked through rolling meadows by the Harrow Road, which crossed the stream via a single-arched brick bridge. A more direct footpath, called Bishop's Walk, ran across fields to the south via a footbridge much loved by local anglers.

Westbourne Green's genteel charm survived unperturbed until the arrival of the Paddington branch of the Grand Junction Canal in 1801 [photo]. Canals and perpendicular rivers don't mix, so the Westbourne was forced underneath this new artificial waterway, approximately where the footbridge west of Little Venice crosses over today [photo] [photo below ground]. Far more drastic were the tracks carved through the area in the 1830s by the Great Western Railway Company. Their steaming chasm divided the neighbourhood, severing the old footpath close to the terminus at Paddington station. This required construction of a considerably heftier span [photo], and soon humble Bishop's Walk had become bustling Bishop's Bridge Road.

As for Westbourne Green today, any resemblance to a preserved patch of medieval turf is purely illusory [photo]. That undulating patch of grass beside the Harrow Road was, as recently as the 1970s, one of the major building sites for the adjacent A40 Westway [photo]. Re-landscaping may have restored some semblance of rural charm for surrounding residents to enjoy, but in truth poor old Westbournia has been comprehensively despoiled.
Following the Westbourne: Regent's Canal, Lords Hill Road, Bourne Terrace, Westway, Royal Oak station, Porchester Terrace, Gloucester Terrace, Bishop's Bridge Road.

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