Paddington & its transport systems – 2

The canal – Brunel’s bridge:

This was an early Brunel structure, predating the major works at Paddington Station by several years. The castings were made in Deptford and put together on site in 1838 and the structure officially opened in 1839. It was moulded within a new brickwork structure in 1906 and forgotten until the 21st century. Steven Brindle – Inspector of Ancient Monuments from English Heritage discovered documents relating to the bridge which described load bearing tests on it. He realised that he bridge was an unique iron built structure by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and steps were put in place to ensure the bridge was not demolished as part of the Paddington redevelopment.

The bridge was a very unusual example of a structure that relied on gravity to hold it together and no other examples were built by Brunel. The advantage of this design was that it was not bolted together and could be dismantled easily. This was done carefully in 2004 and the structure put into store at English heritage’s Portsmouth depot. Here’s a detailed account from Paddington & Madia Vale Waterways Society on the history and rescue of the bridge by Steven Brindle. One wonders if the iron arches were brought by river and canal to Paddington, it seems quite logical.

The GJCCo Water Company

The canal company established its own waterworks company in 1811, and built a series of reservoirs around the Paddington area for drinking water. It supplied water to a substantial part of London and had its own pumping station at Kew (now the Kew Bridge steam museum.) Between 1842 and 1851, the three reservoir sites were given over to development. The old St Mary’s hospital buildings are on the site of the Northern reservoir. Norfolk Square was where the southern reservoir stood. Part of this now forms the open air section of Paddington (Circle and District Lines) station. The third, and smallest reservoir, is now Talbot Square. They are shown below in this extract from the Topographical Survey Of The Borough Of St. Marylebone 1834. The later Metropolitan Underground Railway of 1863 passed under the short bit of canal that is seen stretching from Paddington Basin to the top edge of South Wharf Road.

Proposals for the waterworks in 1810. Right: The canal’s reservoirs in 1834.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel is buried at the Kensal Green Cemetery, which is adjacent to the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal.

Coach and omnibus services to the City

Upon arrival at Paddington travellers on the express boat service had the choice of a walk to the City or the use of privately operated coaching service eastwards. One of these was a single coach run by a Mr Miles from about when the canal opened and clearly some decades before George Shillibeer even thought of his service. Miles charged outside seated passengers 2 shillings whilst those inside the coach were charged 3 shillings. It wasn’t a terribly efficient service for Miles also delivered parcels to various establishments and he sometimes took up to three hours to reach the City of London. Other spurious notables operated similar dodgy and unreliable services. It was much quicker to walk!

The other service, introduced by George Shillibeer and said to be the first UK timetabled bus service, was a short walk from Paddington Basin. This service began on 4th July 1829 using three coaches carrying 22 passengers apiece. The fare was 1 shilling to Islington or 2 shillings to Bank. Buses started at 9am, 12, 3, 6 and 8pm from Paddington and commenced from Bank an hour later. Travellers on the Paddington packet could use Shilibeer’s service from 1829 to 1830 when both transport modes overlapped. Unfortunately at this time the Paddington Packet was almost at the end of its days, whilst the Omnibus service was just beginning its. The service was operated by George Shillibeer from the Yorkshire Stingo Inn, near the present Edgware Road station, along the ‘New Road’ through Euston and Kings Cross to Bank. Although the Yorkshire Stingo has long gone, the road in which the horses and carriages were stabled still exists and is now known as Shillibeer Place.

The Yorkshire Stingo Public House

There does not seem to be any record of when the Yorkshire Stingo was built, although it was certainly sometime in the mid 18th Century. The name seems quite strange but it is explained by the fact that stingo was old slang for very strong beer. An admission charge was made to visitors, thereby excluding the poor from using it. Ironically in 1786, the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor made the Yorkshire Stingo one of its major centres for distributing alms to the many Black and Asian people who had worked on the East India Company’s ships as servants, and then had been left stranded in London. In 1790 the pub became the temporary home of a cast iron bridge designed by Thomas Paine (he who write Rights of Man and other celebrated political works.) The structure was cast in Sheffield and brought down to the pub for erection in its grounds. Thomas Paine had several prospective buyers but eventually the project fell through due to lack of funds. The parts of the bridge that had been cast ended up as part of a bridge across the River Wear. The public house had gardens added later and it became the terminus for the first omnibus service in the country (as detailed above.) Little is known of its history over the next hundred years or so but it finally closed in 1964.

The Yorkshire Stingo featured on the Plan Of The Intended New Road From Paddington To Islington January 1756 and Cary’s New And Accurate Plan Of London And Westminster 1795 (middle.) The Stranger’s Guide Through The Streets Of London & Westminster 1814 (right) shows the existence of the new canal basin at right but no Yorkshire Stingo. However the Inn was modified and lasted until the 20th Century, finally closing in 1964. Bell Lane still exists and is adjacent to the Edgware Road (Bakerloo Line) station. On the latter map one will spot the green area that is entitled cricket ground. This was the early site for the MCC in Dorset Square before it moved to nearby Lisson Grove. The building of the Regents Canal forced it further north to its present location at Lords.

The Yorkshire Stingo (shown above) was strongly associated with the canal from its earliest days, for this is where the Grand Junction Canal Company held its inagural dinner on 10th July 1801.

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The modern red building on Old Marylebone Road (first picture) is where the Yorkshire Stingo was sited. Just behind this building is Shillibeer Place (second image) where the horses and omnibuses were stabled.

Next: Paddington & its transport 3