Paddington Station

Part of the Paddington Station pediment, by John Thomas.

Paddington Station was built as the London terminal of the Great Western Railway, which ran to Bristol. Brunel and Wyatt were the architects, working in 1852-4. The hotel (Great Western Hotel) was the work of P. C. Hardwick. It was added in 1868-74, and is a large white building with two stubby towers and a central pediment with classical figures facing Praed Street and the underground station across the road. There are 10 main figures and a couple of putti. The striking aspect of this group is the balance and harmony, despite the fact that there is one more figure to the left than to the right of the central figure. The lefternmost figure has a globe and machinery (to do with railways?), and one of the semidraped figures on the right is accompanied by a horse and elephant, presumably indicative of the enticements of travelling to Africa starting with Great Western Railways. The sculptor was the always-competent John Thomas.

Inside, the structure of the arched interior of the station is a most impressive example of Victorian engineering - being built so soon after the Great Exhibition of 1851, it was one of the earliest buildings to take advantage of this new style of architecture, and the whole edifice has a greenhouse feel to it. Look out for the almost art nouveau style leaf and insect-wing patterns, the raised balconies, and above the ticket office, complex leaf designs.The huge train sheds and the ironwork are best appreciated not from the front end, but looking back from the walkway at the far end (where the trains exit). There is always a faint haze (heat? pollution?) and this adds to the feeling of depth and size.

By the entrance to the underground system is a statue of Isambard Brunel, presented in 1982; a competent seated figure by John Doubleday with a modernish treatment notable, for instance, in the shoes. Half way down platform 1 is a combined World Wars 1 and 2 Memorial with a large, solid-looking figure of a cloaked soldier in full battle gear. The sculptor was C. Seargent Jaggers.

William Powell Frith chose Paddington for his famous painting The Railway Station.

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