Londons districts in the last century were defined by their workers and prominent industries had their own meeting places; hubs that provided conversation, socialising and even a platform for change. The Boatmens Institute
in Paddington Basin, Central London, was one such place after it was built and incorporated in 1827. In its heyday the Boatmens Institute hosted up to 250 canal workers every day. Working the Grand Union Canal was devoid of glamour and its boatmen were hardy souls who welcomed the respite of a good meal and conversation. The beautiful architecture and detailing of the building that these activities took place in was probably lost on them.
When it was built, like a lot of waterside architecture in London the Boatmens Institute was strongly influenced by Dutch design. The deep red brick, pitched roofs, gable end detailing and vast vaulted ceiling rooms were an homage to the close trading links with the Benelux countries and the Dutch barges that were so widely used on the canal network for transportation and as residential homes.
Originally sold in 2007 after many years as a varied commercial space, the property was converted into a luxury house of over 3,000 sq ft. Restoration engaged a number of specialist craftsmen whose remit was to future proof the building in an environment that was fast changing. The quiet hub that was once Paddington Basin is no more and today the area has become one of the largest redevelopment projects in Central London encompassing hundreds of square feet of new commercial and residential spaces and buildings by several key note architects. Correctly establishing the Boatmans Institute in its newly defined setting would secure the building for years to come whilst preserving a piece of the past.
To create a space that could become a single dwelling involved a complete overhaul of the internal areas as they stood. Inverting the living area to the first floor capitalized upon the natural light and made the most of the prized vaulted ceilings, wide timbered floors and ornate ironwork supports. The ground floor, the propertys original kitchen and washroom has become a secure hidden state of the art media and recording studio. Whilst elsewhere the purity of the architecture has been retained even through the inclusion of bedrooms, bathrooms and other living areas.
The Boatmans Institute is now for sale and is a prized, preserved example of a property that while commonplace a century ago, is now a rarity.