The Independent London Newspaper

Letters

Paddington fans look to the wrong address

Windsor Gardens as it is now. Inset: The author Michael Bond with Paddington Bear

Published: 21 June, 2013
EXCLUSIVE by WILLIAM McLENNAN

WHEN a lost little bear from darkest Peru arrived at Paddington station more than 50 years ago he was greeted by the loving Brown family.

But when fans of the Paddington Bear stories go in search of the eponymous hero’s London home they are met by nothing but confusion.

For years, residents of Windsor Gardens off Harrow Road have been bumping into bewildered tourists looking for the home of Paddington’s adopted family.

In the stories, penned by Westminster resident Michael Bond, the family live in a grand townhouse at number 32 Windsor Gardens, but bear-spotters are often disappointed to find that no such home exists.

It is widely believed that the street in Westbourne Green was the inspiration for Paddington’s home, but this week the author’s daughter, Karen Jankel, dismissed the claims.

She told the West End Extra: “Unfortunately, despite what many people believe to be the case, my father didn’t actually name Windsor Gardens after the road of the same name. I’m not even sure whether the current Windsor Gardens even existed back in the 1950s when he wrote the first book. Or, at least, if it did my father was unaware that it did.”

Residents had been expecting to receive formal recognition as the geographical home of the famous bear and were hoping to win funding from Westminster Council to erect a plaque in the street.

But Ms Janken put paid to the idea, adding: “Although having a plaque is a lovely idea, in theory, it would actually be very misleading and would compound the misinformation that currently exists.”

She said: “The problem is that the real Windsor Gardens doesn’t look anything like the one as described in the books which, in my father’s mind, was slightly further south – possibly Westbourne Grove if I remember correctly – just round the corner from the Portobello Road which also features a lot in the stories.”

Simon Daniels, who chairs the Ascot and Windsor Residents’ Association and was hopeful a plaque would be installed, said: “Often people come round and they want to show their children or grandchildren the place where they read all their stories.

“But things looks quite different and we’re not the Victorian Terraces that are in the book and people are quite disappointed actually.”

Reacting to the news that the identical names were merely a coincidence, Mr Daniels said: “Well I suppose that’s fair enough. We haven’t got a number 32 Windsor Gardens anyway.

“The closest we’ve got is John at number 23. We were hoping if we could push this forward we could convince Westminster Council to build us nice Victorian terraces.”

He added: “The tourists are still going to turn up and we’re thinking about setting up a tea stall selling marmalade sandwiches.”

Cllr David Boothroyd, who represents the area, said: “I think the point is that people do happen on the map and think there is a connection. Isn’t it worth a notice pointing out that it’s just a coincidence and possibly directing people towards the statue in Paddington Station or the new statue of Michael Bond on St Mary’s Terrace, both of which are within walking distance.”

Just like the Queen, Paddington Bear has two birthdays each year and fans will be celebrating his summer birthday on Tuesday June 25.

Paddington is the official mascot of children’s charity Action Medical Research, who are calling on fans to wish him happy birthday on Twitter via #PaddingtonBear

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