Royal Oak

Royal Oak, Westminster

An ‘improving area’ (according to estate agents) situated in the locality once known as Westbournia

The Porch­ester when it was the Royal Oak

The Royal Oak public house stood at the southern end of what is now Porch­ester Road (formerly Celbridge Place) from at least the 18th century.

In the late 1830s the Great Western Railway line split this part of the Paddington district into northern and southern halves, rein­forcing an existing distinc­tion between the wealth of Bayswater to the south and the relative depri­va­tion of West­bourne Green’s canalside streets to the north. The land here was owned at that time by one William Penney, who made a high compen­sa­tion claim for his loss.

A little-served railway halt at Royal Oak brought some more industry and poor housing to the vicinity. There were pleasure gardens at the Royal Oak in the 1840s and most of the neigh­bouring locality was built up around this time.

Completed between 1855 and 1858, Porch­ester Square was one of the last parts the area to be developed. The Porch­ester name derives from one of the Hampshire estates of the Thistle­waite family, who had been among the chief lessees of the bishop of London’s land in Paddington for more than a century.

The Hammer­smith & City Railway came through here in 1864 and its Royal Oak station was built on the site of William Penney’s house seven years later, whereupon Great Western Railway services were withdrawn.

In 1929 the construc­tion of the hall, library and Turkish baths at what is now called the Porch­ester centre provided a valuable amenity and raised the tone of the area. Unusually for what is now styled an ‘events venue’, Porch­ester Hall has performed much the same role throughout its existence – though it presently hosts more weddings than whist drives. The centre’s Historic England listing was upgraded from II to II* in 2019.

Paddington borough council bought Porch­ester Square gardens and opened them to the public in 1955. The construc­tion of the elevated section of the Westway compounded the area’s north–south division in the mid-1960s.

At the corner of Bishops Bridge and Porch­ester Roads, the rebuilt Royal Oak pub has been renamed the Porch­ester. Having acquired a very rough repu­ta­tion under its former identity, the pub is now described by its manage­ment as bright and colourful, with “a hint of old Victorian playfulness.”

A Costain–Skanska joint venture constructed the Royal Oak portal in 2010-11 as the western tunnel entrance for Crossrail. The first two tunnel boring machines, Phyllis and Ada, began tunnelling from Royal Oak towards Farringdon in 2012.

The novelist Thomas Hardy lived briefly at No.4 Celbridge Place (later Porchester Road) in the early 1870s.

The Royal Oak murals were painted in 1976–7 beneath the Westway, just north of Royal Oak tube station, by David Binnington and Desmond Rochfort. Blogging for the London Mural Preservation Society, Ben Kaufmann declares that they “stand as testaments to a not so distant (but rather short lived) age of large scale, ideologically charged, political murals.”

Postal district: W2
Station: Circle and Hammersmith & City lines (zone 2)