Dave the Taxi Driver's


Guide to London

Bayswater Pub

Orme Court Bayswater, London

Leafy Ave Bayswater London

St Sophia Bayswater

Bayswater (W2)

Bayswater .……….presents itself to the world along the tree-lined boulevard of the Bayswater Road which runs from Marble Arch to Notting Hill Gate. Attractive apartments and hotels overlook Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. As you gradually move away from the main road there is an air of faded glory. Majestic mansions, once the homes of the successful middle and upper classes stand silently in the shady streets and terraces.

On Sundays the black iron railings of the park are bedecked with paintings and other creations( all original works) in order to attract the tourists who flock there, that is if they are not already there, staying in one of the seemingly hundreds of hotels in the area.

Bayswater’s high street is Queensway which runs north from the Bayswater Road. Queensway has two Tube stations, Queensway(Central Line) and Bayswater Road (District Line). Westbourne Grove is to the left at the other end just beyond Whiteley’s Shopping and Cinema Complex. The whole area has many and varied restaurants. Westbourne Grove has become particularly popular and trendy. Bayswater is not regarded as a place of entertainment, it is somewhere that you stay and then go to the other parts of London to see the well-known sights.

The Bayswater Road used to be a turnpike road. It started life as the Roman military road which led out to the west country. In those far off times Bayswater was a place of gravel pits, streams and springs. Watercress used to be grown here. In 1439 permission was given by Westminster Abbey, who owned the land, for a conduit to be built which would supply fresh water to the City of London. This was in use until 1812.

It seems to have been decided that the name Bayswater derives from Middle English meaning ‘Bayard’s watering place, a ‘bayard’ being a bay horse which would have taken water from the springs by the River Westbourne. This was crossed here by the Roman road, which in turn became the road to Oxford. There is usually an alternative opinion. In this case there was a belief that Bayswater took its name from Bainardus (Ralph Baynard) a friend of William the Conqueror who had built Castle Baynard near where Blackfriars Bridge is now. For centuries Bainardus and his family were tenants of the land where Bayswater would eventually be built. It would therefore make sense that his name became synonymous with the area, particularly since he owned cattle and horses who watered and grazed there and especially if he owned a horse that was a ‘bayard’. That would tie in nicely. Whatever you think go with it. It was a long time ago.

Two of the lost rivers of London flow (ed )through here, the Westbourne, before it entered Hyde Park and the western split of the Tyburn. The eastern flow of the Tyburn crossed what is now Oxford street, by Stratford Place.

Although Bayswater would not exist for several hundred years it is linked with the infamous Tyburn gallows as part of its history. Before the Tyburn gallows however, executions were carried out by hanging and/or drawing and quartering criminals from the elm trees on the banks of the River Westbourne, near where stands the Swan Public House (1775). In 1388 the executions were moved to the Tyburn Tree, near where Marble Arch is now. In fact the tree was situated by what is now number 49 Connaught Square.

Bayswater itself was born only in the 1800s as Tyburnia, now known as the Hyde Park Estate which is bordered by the Edgware Road, Sussex Gardens and Westbourne Terrace. It soon became a desirable place in which to live. The City could be reached by carriage or Hackney Cab in a short time. Business owners and the well-to-do moved into Tyburnia. The Tyburnia Estate was named after the River Tyburn and Latinised in order to adorn its reputation. It was originally intended to rival Belgravia but although it became popular with the middle and upper classes, it never quite reached the heights of its competitor in SW1.

As I have said elsewhere London started to grow tremendously in the 1800s and accordingly Bayswater spread westwards. It displays a wide variety of architectural styles. Originally more modest brick houses were built. Later large houses and stucco faced classical terraces and mansions transformed the area. Its tree-lined terraces and leafy streets with tranquil mews hiding behind them gives Bayswater a quiet, stately feel away from the busy Queensway.

It has also attracted various international communities, Greek, French and Arabic close to the Edgware Road. The French Eglise Reformee Evangelique used to be just off the Westbourne Grove before it became a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Hall.

The ornate Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St.Sophia was built in Moscow Road between 1877 and 1882. It was here in 1995 that Crown Prince Pavlos, the son of the deposed King Constantine of Greece was married with the support and blessings of the British Royal Family plus other royals from around the world. I imagined a conversation:

QueenOne is sorry one has lost one’s country Pavlos”
PavlosThank you Ma’am”
QueenI am sure those Greeks will realise their mistake by abolishing their Monarchy and embracing democracy. We don’t need to invade anymore. As you know we interbreed very well to maintain our Royal Superiority, third or fourth party, of course, although we do encourage some new blood. You will just have to be satisfied by marrying into the family of a billionaire until you are re-instated.”
PavlosI certainly hope so Ma’am. Efharisto poli” (Thank you very much)
QueenBitte” (You’re welcome)
PavlosEnschuldigen sie bitte. Ich habe forgessen” ( Excuse me, I forgot)
QueenWhen you are next in Britain please feel free to visit us. My husband Philip von Kerkyra ( Corfu) will make you feel at home with a lovely souvlaki or two.”
PavlosDanke schon Ma’am“. (Thank you very much)
QueenIf you really want to feel at home though what about bratwurst and sauerkraut?”
PavlosJawohl! Sehr gut.” (Yes indeed. Very good)

Bayswater might be thronged with tourists and in constant motion with the arrival and departure of coaches and the rolling grind of suitcase wheels along the pavement, but threaded within its character is also a darker side. When the heyday of the wealthy passed, a lot of the mansions and terraces went into decline. Many were divided into apartments and bed- sits. Behind the façade of the Bayswater Road secret agents found it an ideal place in which to operate, among them Stella Lonsdale who was active before and during the war years, Kim Philby and KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky. The Russian Embassy was and still is close by. Just a few minutes walk away into the secrecy of bed-sit land.

The Profumo Affair, the scandal the rocked the British Government in 1963 was partly played out in Bayswater.

This area lends itself to this kind of activity both in reality and fiction. Opus Dei, which featured prominently in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ as a secretive organisation, has its UK headquarters in Orme Court. Joseph Conrad‘s ‘The Secret Agent’ , Le Carre’s ‘The Spy who came in from the Cold’ and ‘Smiley’s People’ all feature Bayswater in their plots.

It has been the location for films such as ‘Alfie’ , ‘Love Actually’ and Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Frenzy’.

Bayswater has also had its share of famous residents, Winston Churchill, Guglielmo Marconi, and Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin. J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan lived at 100 Bayswater Road.

In a basement flat in Bayswater it is said that John Lennon and Paul McCartney first smoked marijuana. Just think, if that had never happened we might never have heard ‘I am the Walrus’.

The first house to be electrically lit in London, Number 2 Connaught Place, was owned by Lord Randolph Churchill.

The centre of the arrivals/ pack up your bags and leave identity Bayswater has acquired, does possess an aura of permanence and community, but not of one that knows its neighbour…an anonymity that puts the large girthed white -shirted Egyptian, sipping his dark coffee and reading his newspaper outside on a pavement chair, alongside the mid- european intellectual who is scrutinising his sheaf of papers, then suddenly standing and disappearing down into the Underground. The chic designers dine in Westbourne Grove. The tinkling piano of the lonely retired music teacher can be heard from the stairwell of a paint -flaked mansion block and on a rainy night, silhouetted against the headlights, a girl can be seen surreptitiously getting into a car.

Tube: Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate, Queensway, Bayswater, Royal Oak,  Paddington

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