Former Midland Hotel now named Paddington – but why?


By Geoff Courtney

THE former Midland Hotel is within yards of a main line and in a street named after a pre-Grouping railway. Not far away lie a rank of sidings that are still in very active use and a once-busy steam depot, all in a county town with two stations, one of which welcomes nearly four million passengers a year.

So the name of the 19th century building – The Paddington – that started life as a hotel more than 150 years ago and has been converted into bedsits, shouldn’t raise any eyebrows. But it surely does, even those of non-enthusiasts who would fail to distinguish between an A4 Pacific and an N7 tank.

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As it was: Bedford’s main railway station in June 1962 when it was named Bedford Midland Road. At the time it was immediately opposite the town’s Midland Hotel. The car park in this 56-year-old photograph provides a requiem to the once proud British car industry that is now largely just a memory. Nothing remains of this station following its demolition when a new station was opened 100 yards to the north in October 1978. BEN BROOKSBANK/CREATIVE COMMONS

For The Paddington isn’t within the GWR heartlands of west London, Bristol, Exeter or South Wales and isn’t close to any other part of the company’s former territory. It is in Bedford, deep in the operating stamping ground of the Midland Railway and LMS and directly opposite the site of the town’s first main railway station, which in 1978 was relocated 100 yards up the road.

And to compound the conundrum, the locomotive adorning the building’s sign has, if one is imaginative and allows for artistic licence, echoes of a GWR locomotive rather than a design from the pen of William Stanier or any of his predecessors or successors.

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