Beachcroft then produced a new idea.

The Polytechnic

He proposed that a Polytechnic for North West London, including a large lecture hall, library, gymnasium, workshop, and swimming baths, should be erected on part of the ground. Despite a vigorous appeal by Lord Randolf Churchill, the M. P. for £100,000 (half for the ground and half for the Polytechnic buildings) the response was lukewarm. A systematic house to house collection raised £5,000. A large public meeting, attended by the Prince of Wales, aroused the Vestry to offer to pay up to half the purchase price once the rest had been secured by public appeal. Lord Rothschild offered the last £1,000 when the other £49,000 was secure, but these two sums were a long way off the total required. Beachcroft's tenancy of the ground was coming to an end. The £5,000 already spent on buildings and layout would be lost if the builders were allowed to move in and build on the Recreation Ground. The less urgent Polytechnic scheme was held over, but an acre of land was secured for five years in the hope that it would materialize.

Since people from Kilburn, Queen's Park, North Kensington, Hampstead, and Maida Vale, used the Recreation Ground, £8,000 was raised from these local Vestries. £13,000 came from private individuals and eventually, after two years of persistent hard work, promises and subscriptions exceeded E50,000. It was a high price in the 1890's for a few fields, but this was prime building land which had to be bought by the foot, not the acre. In 1893, the Paddington Recreation Ground Act was passed.

Beachcroft's plan for a Polytechnic on the site has, in fact, come about in a curious, roundabout way. Maida Vale High School for Girls, in Elgin Avenue, was on the edge of the Recreation Ground. When local education was re-organized in the 1980s, the building became surplus and City of Westminster College moved in. Thus Beachcroft finally has his Recreation Ground and his Polytechnic, at least for a few years. City of Westminster College has now moved out.

In about 2005 Westminster College was on six local sites. A larger new building was planned, so the college was selling off the sites. Some of these local developments are discussed elsewhere. By 2010 the new College building on Paddington Green had been built. Beachcroft would be amazed.

++NEW PICTURE OF WESTMINSTER COLLEGE TO BE TAKEN

'The Rec' is now taken for granted, with the dramatic struggle for its creation largely forgotten, but the Beachcroft and Churchill Gates are reminders of some spirited people who fought long and hard to achieve it all.1

Refurbishing Paddington Recreation Ground in 1990

1987 was the Centenary of the Recreation Ground and was marked by a four million pound Improvement Scheme. The sports improvements included a new synthetic football pitch; a new athletic track; upgraded and new tennis courts; and two five-a-side areas.

Passive recreation benefited from increased natural grass on the open spaces; landscaping; rose gardens; new gates and entrances; a new cafe and staffed children's play areas.

However, the Cycling Track, which appears on the 1901 plan and played a large part in the early popularity of the grounds, disappeared. The Council considered an ultra modern Velodrome, but decided that this would have been too large and expensive a project on a very restricted site.

Footnote

  1. Information from 'The Playground of Paddington: how we secured it and to whom we owe it, by James Bates, 1902.

 

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Updated October 25, 2011