Paddington Basin Buildings, Demolished in 1999
By 1999 all the buildings at the head of Paddington Basin, from Harbet Road (Irongate Wharf Road) to the St. Mary's Hospital car park in Praed Street, had been totally demolished. The site was protected by hoardings decorated with pictures advertising the new flats which Regalian, the development company, planned to erect in the next few years. The site guard, sitting there in a portacabin, the sole commander of absolutely nothing, gave me permission to go in. For an hour I was free to wander on the site with the Goad Insurance map of 1891 (below) in my hand.
I was reminded of a time when the archaeologist Flinders Petrie, came to an Egyptian site which had been leveled and destroyed by robbers. Anything saleable had been stolen and the rest smashed to pieces. He collected the pottery fragments, as valuable to him for dating purposes as complete pots, and swept the site. There he found the original foundation lines, set out by the builders millennia earlier and could measure them Using these sizes and with his knowledge of mud brick buildings elsewhere, with the dimensions of foundations required for walls of different heights, Petrie was able to calculate these various wall heights and draw the lost buildings.
The Basin site was equally bare, mostly leveled and with a few dangerous pits boarded over for safety. The roof of the old loading shed had been carefully dismantled and stored, ready for re-erection at the far end of the Basin as part of a new Facilities Building. All other buildings had suffered a rougher fate - bulldozed to rubble and carried away.