Taking a time machine back to the Second World War, Paddington would have been a very different place. JULIET EYSENCK stepped into the past with a guided walk around 1940s Paddington.
TRAVELLING with us through time was Paddington's answer to Dr Who, the official City of Westminster guide David Evans.
He set the scene by explaining that while the area did not suffer as badly from bombing as other parts of the country, between 200 and 300 bombs per acre still fell on Paddington during the Second World War.
The council - at the time for the borough of Paddington - had 16 public air raid shelters, together with Anderson and Morrison shelters in people's homes, which would have been enough for half the population.
"This was quite good for the time," added Mr Evans.
One victim of the bombing was St Michael of the Angels church, in Star Street, which was damaged but not destroyed.
Although it was repaired, the church was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a playground for children.
Eastbourne Terrace was also heavily bombed, and many beds at nearby St Mary's Hospital, in Praed Street, were taken up by victims of air raids.
But it was not all bad news for Paddington folk, according to our guide.
"The authorities tried to close down establishments in the area which were only for 'short stay' visitors and exclusively for American servicemen to bring their women.
"That kind of business flourished in Paddington at the time," he explained.
Restaurants also managed a roaring trade. The government officially allowed customers to order no more than two courses, and to pay no more than five shillings per meal.
"But the restaurants tried to get around this by introducing charges to put flowers on the table or costs to pay for a live band," Mr Evans added.
During such a time of crisis, people sought relief at theatres and cinemas, such as the Metropolitan Theatre in Edgware Road and the Grand Cinema near Church Street.
To find out more about what was going on in the rest of the world, an evening may have been spent at the World News Theatre, in Praed Street.
Now known as Mimet House, news reels would have been on display to visitors, showing details of air raids which had taken place across the country.While Paddington has changed much in just a few decades, our knowledgeable guide pointed out that there are signs of the past all around - it's just a matter of knowing where to look.
Hidden treasures can be found on many other free guided walks, taking place throughout the rest of the year.
Topics include Paddington's famous residents over the last 200 years or the history of shopping, focusing on William Whiteley and the Bayswater arcade named after him.
* For a full list of free walks arranged by Paddington Business Improvement District (BID) and Paddington Waterside Partnership, see www.inpaddington.com or call 020 3145 1200.