The best way to approach Paddington is from its underground station. You struggle through the crowded low-ceilinged anonymity of the subways and through the ticket barrier: stairs and an escalator loom ahead. Suddenly the ceiling ends; there is an arched roof high above and, as you ascend, the whole tremendous interior reveals itself at once. You are standing in the middle of the broad central span: on a fine day light floods in from the Lawn roof behind and the delicate tracery at the far end is silhouetted. The milling crowds, the long perspective, the waiting trains and the light in the distance produce an atmosphere of expectation - the experience of travel heightened here in a way that few other British stations can match. It is one of the great interiors of London. Paddington, the Great Western Railway and their principal designer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, are at the heart of railway history. Railways were one of the defining phenomena of Victorian Britain and one of Britain's many great gifts to the world, so the building of the GWR has a place in world history. This history forms the background to this book. It is an account of the building that best epitomises the GWR and its operations, a living railway station that is also a masterpiece of Victorian architecture.
Author: Steven Brindle
Publisher: Royal Commission on Historical Monuments
Publication date: April 2006