Bayswater is one of London’s most cosmopolitan areas, home to a diverse local population augmented by a high concentration of hotels. It is predominantly a residential ward with attractive green streets and garden squares lined with Victorian stucco terraces, mostly subdivided into smaller dwellings.
In 2016 the population of Bayswater reached 11,591 (5% of Westminster). 11% of the population is 65 or older and 16% are under 18. 5,650 of the population is female and 5,941 are male. 24% of residents are from the EU and 6% are from the Commonwealth. 64% of households speak English as their first language. The top 3 foreign nationalities living in Bayswater are French, Italian and Irish. Bayswater is one of the most cosmopolitan areas of London with most nationalities represented.
Bayswater’s local economy hosts 3,665 jobs and there are 856 businesses in Bayswater.
History of Bayswater:
The land now called Bayswater belonged to the Abbey of Westminster when the Domesday Book was compiled; the most considerable tenant under the abbot was Bainiardus, probably the same Norman associate of the Conqueror who gave his name to Baynard’s Castle. The descent of the land held by him cannot be clearly traced: but his name long remained attached to part of it; and, as late as the year 1653, a parliamentary grant of the Abbey or Chapter lands describes “the common field at Paddington” as being “near a place commonly called Baynard’s Watering.” The water was provided by the Westbourne river. It is assumed that this watering-place now takes the abbreviated name Bayswater.
Bayswater was first recorded in 1659, when just a handful of houses stood here, close to present-day Lancaster Gate. Apart from some tea gardens, a lying-in hospital and the inevitable inn or two, Bayswater remained almost entirely undeveloped in the 18th century.
Speculative builders began to grab the land here in 1809, led by Bond Street printmaker Edward Orme. Single and paired villas with gardens were initially the favoured types of dwellings but tree-lined, terraced avenues, squares and crescents rapidly extended the district in the 1840s and 1850s. A ‘splendid new town’ had come into existence by the time Bayswater station opened in 1868.
Artists and writers came here when the district was still semi-rural but were soon succeeded by more conventional members of the upper classes.
Bayswater was nicknamed ‘Asia Minor’ in 1885 and Indian fruits and vegetables were on sale in the local shops, but the customers were military and administrative professionals with south Asian experience rather than immigrants from the subcontinent.
Greeks and Jews also settled here, establishing their own places of worship on Moscow Road and St Petersburgh Place respectively.
Late in the 19th century some of the earliest houses were rebuilt, while others were replaced with flats. Hotels and mansion blocks made up the lion’s share of replacement building between the wars.
From the early 1960s some new hotels were added, while older ones were converted into flats and bedsits. At this point in time swathes of Bayswater were bedsits populated by drugs dens and prostitutes and it became a centre point for Bohemian London (watch a House in Bayswater, 1960), as well as connections with the Krays and their associates. Also around this time an open-air art market began on Bayswater Road. Nowadays more than 150 artists display their work every Sunday from 10am to 6pm (see the photograph at the top of the page). Bayswater was designated a conservation area in 1967, constraining subsequent redevelopment. From the 1980s onwards Bayswater underwent significant and snowballing regeneration.
Bayswater forms part of the route of the Notting Hill Carnival, the largest street festival in Europe with 2 million visitors a year, originating in the late 1960s and early 1970s it celebrates the Caribbean heritage in the area.
References in Fiction
- In John le Carré‘s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Liz is a member of the Bayswater South Branch of the Communist Party.
- In le Carré’s Smiley’s People, the retired Russian major lives in a dingy flat on Westbourne Grove.
- Many of the characters in Samuel Selvon‘s novel The Lonely Londoners live in Bayswater.
- The Alfred Hitchcock film Frenzy was filmed in the area.
- In Martin Amis‘s Success, the two main characters live together in a flat in Bayswater, which he calls ‘the district of transients.’
- In Oscar Wilde‘s The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell indicates that the perambulator (carrying Jack, as a baby) was found “standing by itself in a remote corner of Bayswater”.
- In Saki‘s short story “Cross Currents” (1909), Vanessa Pennington lives on a “Bayswater back street” but would have preferred “smarter surroundings.”
- In Evelyn Waugh‘s novel Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder’s father lives in Bayswater.
- Whiteleys is frequently seen in film, e.g. Love Actually, Closer, and was referred to in My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle is sent “to Whiteleys to be attired” in Pygmalion. It also has Princess Productions‘ studios on the top floor.
- Scenes in Alfie (1966) were filmed around Chepstow Road.
- The main character in Iris Murdoch‘s novel A Word Child, Hilary Burde, has a “flatlet” near Bayswater Tube Station.
- Scenes in The Black Windmill refer to, and were filmed around, the area.
- In the Italian comics series Dylan Dog the main character lives in Craven Road.
- Nick Jenkins meets Uncle Giles for tea at the Ufford Hotel, “riding at anchor on the sluggish Bayswater tide”, in The Acceptance World (1955), volume three of A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell.
- The Poisonous Seed a novel by Linda Stratmann is set almost entirely in Victorian Bayswater.
- In Lauren Willig‘s Pink Carnation Series, her character Eloise Kelly lives in Bayswater while writing her doctoral thesis.