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Little Venice

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A canal intersection and its pretty, if flawed, vicinity on the border of Paddington and Maida Vale. A pool was created here in the 1810s at the meeting point of the Regent’s Canal and the Paddington arm of the Grand Junction (now Grand Union) Canal, and was originally known as Paddington Broadwater. A small island with willows and wildfowl makes a kind of roundabout at the junction, which was always intended as a spot for pleasure boats. The neighbouring area was built up in a piecemeal but harmonious fashion from the second quarter of the 19th century, especially with terraces and pairs of three-storey stuccoed houses. In her 1934 detective novel Death of a Ghost, Margery Allingham gave the name ‘Little Venice’ to a house overlooking the canal. The name caught on with estate agents after World War II and is still much used for the pricey properties in the locality. Any echo of Venice is very faint indeed, and the incongruous 1960s flats on Warwick Crescent mar its charm, but the jolly houseboats moored along the canalsides create a picturesque appearance. Artists’ studios on the east side of the pool were demolished and replaced by a small park, named Rembrandt Gardens in 1975 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the founding of the city of Amsterdam, the ‘Venice of the North’. Public walkways were opened on both sides of the pool around this time. Most of Little Venice was part of the Maida Vale estate belonging to the Church Commissioners, who offered the freeholds for sale in the 1980s, when a number of houses were bought by property companies and converted into flats. More than half the adult residents of Little Venice are qualified to degree level or higher.

The poet Robert Browning, short-story writer Katherine Mansfield, playwright Christopher Fry, novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard and Icelandic chanteuse Björk are among those who have had homes in Little Venice.

Little Venice
click for area map (opens in a new window)
This is a picturesque waterside spot and the canal banks are seldom overcrowded with walkers

Postal districts: W2 and W9
Population: 8,100
Further reading: James Dowsing, Little Venice: Quiet Canals and Gorgeous Villas, Sunrise Press, 2001

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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