For decades, literary tourists have been arriving at number 32 Windsor Gardens in London looking to pay homage to Paddington Bear.
In the stories, Paddington’s adopted family live in a grand townhouse at the Westminster address, a short distance from the railway station the polite bear arrived at from darkest Peru more than 50 years ago – and is named after.
But instead of the imposing Victorian building resided in by the Browns, bear-spotters are greeted by a block of council flats.
Now, the widely assumed fact that the street in Westbourne Green inspired Michael Bond, the author and Westminster resident, has been debunked by his daughter, Karen Jankel.
She told local newspaper West End Extra: “Unfortunately, despite what many people believe to be the case, my father didn’t actually name Windsor Gardens after the road of the same name. The name was effectively fictitious, inspired by the fact that his parents lived in Winser Drive in Reading and my parents lived in Arundel Gardens.”
Residents had been expecting to receive formal recognition as the home of the famous bear, and were hoping to win funding from Westminster Council to erect a plaque in the street.
But Ms Jankel put paid to the idea, adding: “Although having a plaque is a lovely idea, in theory, it would actually be very misleading and would compound the misinformation that currently exists.”
She added: “The problem is that the real Windsor Gardens doesn’t look anything like the one as described in the books which, in my father’s mind, was slightly further south – possibly Westbourne Grove if I remember correctly – just round the corner from the Portobello Road which also features a lot in the stories.”
Simon Daniels, who chairs the Ascot and Windsor Residents’ Association, said: “Often people come round and they want to show their children or grandchildren the place where they read all their stories.
“But things looks quite different and we’re not the Victorian terraces that are in the book. We haven’t got a number 32 Windsor Gardens anyway. The closest we’ve got is John at number 23. We were hoping if we could push this forward we could convince Westminster council to build us nice Victorian terraces.”
He added: “The tourists are still going to turn up and we’re thinking about setting up a tea stall selling marmalade sandwiches.”
Councillor David Boothroyd, who represents the ward, said: “I think the point is that people do happen on the map and think there is a connection with Paddington Bear. Isn’t it worth a notice pointing out that it’s just a coincidence and directing people towards the statue in Paddington Station or the new statue of Michael Bond on St Mary’s Terrace, both of which are within walking distance?”
Fact vs Fiction
Paddington’s 32 Windsor Gardens
Described as a large semi-detached house with a garden at the back. It is a short walk from Portobello Road Market where Paddington becomes a regular customer.
No 32 doesn’t exist. The street is a small cul-de-sac leading to a medical centre with a block of low rise Sixties council housing on one side and a wall of the Windsor Castle Pub on the other.