The Arrival of the Paddington Canal in 1801
In the eighteenth century networks of canals had grown up in the Midlands and North connecting coal fields, mines and factories. They carried bulk goods like minerals, building materials, timber and foodstuffs, in a world completely different from Paddington with its semi-rural, fashionable life. At this time Paddington and Westbourne were still villages in a sea of farmland; favourite dwelling places for ladies, gentlemen and artists, who may, or may not, have been either. There was the elegant new St Mary's Church built in 1791, a few new houses facing it across the Green, and Paddington Alms Houses on the Harrow Road. It was the edge of the country, with ponds, waste land and clean air, sweetly away from the pollution of London.
However, in 1793, two years after the new church had been built, an Act of Parliament was passed to link the network of industrial canals in the Midlands, to London, at Paddington. The Vestry (the local Parish Council) did not want it. Their whole way of life would be upturned. Into their rural peace would come a ravening army of navvies, with a fearsome reputation.