Above: Looking east from the road bridge that crosses The Serpentine in Hyde Park.
Paddington at one time had the River Westbourne flowing through it. No evidence for the course of the river exists in Paddington today, but that is not to say that no evidence for the river exists in London. One very large piece of evidence for the Westbourne exists to the south of Paddington in the form of the Serpentine in Hyde Park.
We will briefly outline the total course of the Westbourne, It rises at Whitestone Pond, at Hampstead. From there its course follows today’s Kilburn Park Road and then south along Shirland Road. After crossing Bishops Bridge Road, the river continues more or less due south, between the present day Craven Terrace and Gloucester Terrace. At this point, the river was known until the early 19th century as the Bayswater rivulet and that gave rise to the area of Paddington known as Bayswater.
The Westbourne enters Hyde Park at what is now the Serpentine. The Serpentine was formed in 1730 by building a dam across the stream at the instigation of Queen Caroline, wife of George II, to beautify the Royal Park. The Westbourne ceased to provide the water for the Serpentine in 1834 because the culverted Westbourne had become the most convenient main sewer. The Serpentine is now supplied from three boreholes from the upper chalk underneath Hyde Park.
The Westbourne left Hyde Park (both before and after it had been dammed to form the Serpentine) at Knightsbridge which was originally a road bridge over the Westbourne itself. It then ran south – forming the boundary stream to the parishes of Chelsea and Westminster. It flows into the Thames at a point about 300 yards (270 m) west of Chelsea Bridge – near the site of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.