May 17

Westbourne Green: a retrospect

By W. L. Rutton, F.S.A. Reproduced from The Home Counties Magazine (1902)

Westboune Farm, 1830s

Westboune Farm, 1830s

The Westbourne Green residences, to which reference is made in the article, are:

1. WESTBOURNE PLACE or HOUSE, built circa 1745, by the architect Isaac Ware. Its subsequent occupants were Sir William Yorke, Bart.; the Venetian Ambassador; Jukes Coulson, iron merchant; Samuel Pepys Cockerell, architect; and Viscount Hill, General Commanding-in-Chief.

2. WESTBOURNE FARM, occupied 1805-1817, by Mrs. Siddons, the great actress, and 1845-1848, by Charles James Mathews and Mrs. Mathews (Madame Vestris) comedians.

3. DESBOROUGH LODGE, occupied 1814, by Charles Kemble, actor (brother of Mrs. Siddons) and his family.

4. “THE MANOR HOUSE,” occupied by John Braithwaite, eminent as a mechanical engineer, who died here 1818; afterwards by his son, of the same name, distinguished as a civilengineer; by Wrilliam Charles Carbonell, of the firm of wine merchants in Regent Street; and lastly by Sir John Humphreys, senior coroner for Middlesex.

5. BRIDGE HOUSE belonged to John White, architect to the Duke of Portland, and owner of property at Westbourne Green, including Westbourne Farm.


Westbourne Green ” a name almost lost, or found only in old maps and books ” applied seventy years ago to a district now absorbed in “London,” but then distant from the turmoil and pollution of town, and sought for quietude, rest, and pure breathing. A century back it was described as “one of those beautifully rural spots for which the parish of Paddington, although contiguous to the Metropolis, is distinguished.

The rising ground commands a pleasing view of Hampstead and Highgate ; the village of Paddington with the elegant new church produces a pretty effect when viewed from hence; and as no part of London can be seen, a person disposed to enjoy the pleasures of rural retirement might here forget his proximity to the busy hum of men.” Looking through the portfolios of the Grace Collection at the British Museum, we find more than one picture of the scene so refreshing, yet so regretful to look back to. Such is a “View near Paddington, with Kensington Gardens in the distance”.

Westbourne Place, a handsome, three storied mansion, the chief residence of the locality, stands in its own grounds, some distance back from the Green. The Green itself fills the fore-ground, unenclosed, unbroken sod, studded with trees and bushes in natural beauty, the home, as we readily imagine, of the rabbit, the linnet, and the lark. The pure West Bourn flows through it, and the rustic road to Harrow winds over the common, and up the same quickly rising hill which to-day demands the service of the extra horse to help the ordinary team of the loaded ‘bus toiling up the street, now hemmed in with houses and shops and noisy with population and commerce.

In our picture of circa 1790, there is but one coach, heavy and stately, with its two horses and servants, conveying, perhaps, the master of Westbourne Place, Jukes Coulson, the eminent iron merchant, who is returning home from his business house in Thames Street, London. And besides the rich man’s coach there are two or three pedestrians, just to put a little life into the scene, and to mark the course of the road. In the distance is seen Kensington Palace, probably introduced after the manner of old pictures to indicate the vicinity of the royal building, although perhaps scarcely ” visible to the naked eye.” Yet the distance was but a mile,’ and at that time no objects intervened save trees. By the road-side near Westbourne Place, appear some buildings.

Two or three other houses existed, though not within the limits of the picture, and these, with the principal mansion just mentioned, and their occupants, will have our special attention; but previously a brief reference to the more remote history of the locality seems demanded.

The name Westbourne, taken from one of the three principal brooks which descended from the hills north of London to the Thames ” the other two being the Fleet and the Brent ” seems to have been applied to the district west of the brook, and which after the formation of the parish of Paddington became its western moiety. The early history of the district, now that parish, is obscure, indeed but a matter of conjecture.

Domesday, in so many cases the Alpha of topography, making no mention of it, it is supposed by some to have been comprehended in the manor of Tybourne which has mention. So also has Lilestone (now written Lisson), a manor apparently westward of Tybourne Manor, and divided from it by the stream of that name. Thus Lilestone may have intervened between Tybourne and the area afterwards known as Paddington.

Tybourne, however, gained an unenviable notoriety by becoming at an early time ” as far back at least as the reign of Edward III. ” the place of public execution, and as London expanded, the gibbet was moved westward, carrying with it the name of the locality where it had been originally planted. Latterly, as we know, the name “Tyburn,” synonym for the gallows, had been carried to the southern end of the Edgware Road, and the name there found seems to have * The old maps of Middlesex, e.g., those of Norden, 1593, Speed, 1610, Morden, 1730, Seller, 1733, Rocque, 1757, show but the three streams, the Fleet, the Westbourne, and the Brent. The Tybourne being” of less volume is not figured, although it was important at an early period, as from its springs a supply of water was conducted to London, as it gave its name to a manor, and as the lower part of its course formed the ancient boundary of the Westminster Abbey estate.

That boundary, indeed, has been disputed, and Robins, in “Paddington Past and Present,” contends that the names Tybourne and Westbourne were given to the same brook, and that the Westbourne, as now known, limited both the Abbey estate and the manor of Tybourne.

Such a conclusion, however, is opposed to the opinion of almost all who have studied the question; but the point is beyond the scope of this article, and reference must suffice to Mr. J. G. Waller’s paper on the Tybourne and Westbourne (Transactions oflthe London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, Vol. VI.) Mr. Waller affords an excellent delineation of the two streams, and of their sources and created the opinion that the manor of Tybourne had extended over the Paddington and Westbourne district.* But, indeed, the more probable reason for that district being unaccounted for in Domesday is not that it was comprised in the Tybourne manor, but that at the time of the survey it was unreclaimed from the great Middlesex Forest. A small clearance in the forest on the banks of the Westbourne may have been made by a conjectured tribe of Psedings long before the Norman Conquest; and in a Saxon charter of the reputed date 959, there is mention of a little farm, “prsediolum in Padintune,” claimed by the Abbot of Westminster t ; but if existing at the time of the survey, the farm seems to have been over-looked, or perhaps escaped register by its insignificance.

However, taking the little farm as the germ of Paddington, we easily imagine the gradual spread of cultivation and population during the progressive centuries.

A hundred years after the making of Domesday Book, we have record of a sale of land in Padinton by William and Richard de Padinton to the Abbot, this in 1185. In 1222 it became necessary to adjudicate between the claims of the Abbot and another ecclesiastical power, the Bishop of London, and then, as previously in 951, the Tybourne is stated to be the western limit of the Abbey estate, the northern limit being the strata regia or Saxon herestreet, now Oxford Street; “but,” continues the decree, “beyond these limits are the villa of Knightsbridge, Westbourne, and Paddington with its chapel and appurtenances. “” The above appears to be the first mention of Westbourne, and its being named with Knightsbridge is interesting from the fact that three centuries later than the decree of 1222, Knightsbridge and Westbourne, formerly extra Abbey lands (i.e., not Robins (Paddington Past and Present, p. 11), supports this view by reference to an Act of 1734, in which messuages and lands at Westbourne are described as being “parcel of the manor of Tyburn, and called Byard’s Watering Place ” or Bays water.

We will pass on to the reign of Edward VI., when the parish of Paddington became divided by the West Bourn into two estates, the eastern division being assigned to the Bishop of London, the western to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster as successors to the old regime of the Abbot. This latter estate, now administered by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, is at the present time termed in our leases, ” the manor of Knightsbridge with Westbourne.”

The earliest map affording details (e.g., the buildings) of the London district in past time, is that of the Frenchman Jean Rocque ; for which reason his excellent survey, published in 1746, is constantly used and reproduced by those who write on London topography. There are many older maps of great value, but only of general character and small scale, whereas Rocque, with his fine scale of five inches to the mile, gives us the very houses in which we are interested, and for his work merits our constant gratitude.

So turning to his survey we find the state of Westbourne Green in 1746. Its connection with the old highway to the west (held to have been the Roman strata and now generally known as the Uxbridge Road), is by ” Wesborn Green Lane” , a track of varying width, fields on its western border, and on its eastern border common or waste land, with a large pond, perhaps an old gravel-pit, at one place.

The lane leads to the rustic ” Royal Oak,” progenitor of one of the best known ” public houses ” and omnibus stations of the London of our own day. By the inn there is an orchard, and here from the lane turns off eastward, a footpath which leads through the fields to the village of Paddington ; the footpath was then called “Bishop’s Walk,” it has become Bishop’s Road. About 300 yards east from the inn the path crosses a pure stream bordered with elm * A picture of the old Royal Oak accompanies an interesting account of the district by Henry Walker, F.G.S., in the Bayswater Annual, 1885. trees, the West Bourn, which gives its name to the locality, and from this point the Green (judging from the writing ” Wesborn Green,” on the plan and such fences as are shown), extends north-westward about three-quarters of a mile, but it is without definite limits. Following the lane northward, about a quarter-of-a-mile from the Royal Oak, it joins the high road to Harrow coming from the village of Paddington, half-a-mile eastward; and by the side of the road shortly before junction with the lane, and just before crossing the West Bourn, is ” The Red Lion ” an inn or ale-house which is yet represented 130 yards eastward. At the junction of Westbourne Green Lane with “the Harrow Road,” as the highway is called, is the entrance-gate to Westbourne Place (or Westbourne Park as on our map), the country-house of Isaac Ware, the eminent architect, the first house which will have our attention; and a quarter-of-a-mile further towards Harrow is Westbourne Farm, the second house claiming our notice. Close to it is another inn, “The Spotted Dog,” also represented by a modern house, so we may think that with “The Royal Oak,” “The Red Lion,” and ” The Spotted Dog,” the thirst of the traveller over Westbourne Green was well provided for. Beyond Westbourne Farm there was not, in 1746, another house until Kensal Green was reached, or if there were it is omitted in Rocque’s survey.

Maps ranging in date between 1746 and 1834, show the gradual and very slow increase of houses. The canal opened in 1801 gave rise to building around the wharves at Paddington, but caused no change at Westbourne Green.

In 1808, Wesborn Green Lane, had not yet a house along it; in 1819 it had only some small houses on the western side; in 1828 a few had been built on the eastern side, and the lane was called ” Black Lion Lane ” from an old inn (still represented) at the south-east corner, in the Uxbridge Road. Pickering Place and Terrace, named apparently after a curate (we should now say vicar) of Paddington, were complete in 1828, and seem to have been commenced circa 1824, they are now the most venerable dwellings in the neighbourhood.

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