Camden Town (// (listen)), often shortened to Camden, is a district of northwest London, England, 2.5 miles (4.1 km) north of Charing Cross. Historically in Middlesex, it is the administrative centre of the London Borough of Camden, and identified in the London Plan as one of 34 major centres in Greater London.
Camden High Street, near where it becomes Chalk Farm Road (facing towards Chalk Farm)
|Population||24,538 (Camden Town with Primrose Hill and Cantelowes wards, 2011)|
|OS grid reference||TQ295845|
|• Charing Cross||2.5 mi (4.0 km) SSE|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||NW1, NW5|
|Dialling code||020 (London)|
Laid out as a residential district from 1791 and originally part of the manor of Kentish Town and the parish of St Pancras, Camden Town became an important location during the early development of the railways, which reinforced its position on the London canal network. The area's industrial economic base has been replaced by service industries such as retail, tourism and entertainment. The area now hosts street markets and music venues that are strongly associated with alternative culture.
Camden Town is named after Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden. His earldom was styled after his estate, Camden Place near Chislehurst in Kent (now in the London Borough of Bromley), formerly owned by historian William Camden. The name, which appears on the Ordnance Survey map of 1822, was later applied to the early-20th-century Camden Town Group of artists and the London Borough of Camden, created in 1965.
Camden Town stands on land that was once the manor of Kentish Town. Sir Charles Pratt, a radical 18th-century lawyer and politician, acquired the manor through marriage. In 1791, he started granting leases for houses to be built in the manor. In 1816, the Regent's Canal was built through the area. Up to at least the mid-20th century, Camden Town was considered an "unfashionable" locality. The Camden Markets, which started in 1973 and have grown since then, attract many visitors. A 1993 bomb blast injured 18 people on Camden High Street. On 9 February 2008, Camden Canal market suffered a major fire, but there were no injuries. It later reopened as Camden Lock Village, until closed in 2015 for redevelopment.
Camden Town was contained within the Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras between 1900 and 1965, when it became part of the new London Borough of Camden, of which it is the namesake and administrative centre.
Camden Town is contained in the following political constituencies for different purposes, listed with some incumbents as of 22 May 2019:
- Camden London Borough Council: London Borough of Camden. 54 councillors, Labour control
- UK Parliament: Holborn and St Pancras. Keir Starmer, Labour Party
- London Assembly: Barnet and Camden. Andrew Dismore, Labour Party
Camden Town is on relatively flat ground at 100 feet (30 m) above sea level, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) north-northwest of Charing Cross. To the north are the hills of Hampstead and Highgate. The culverted, subterranean River Fleet flows from its source on Hampstead Heath through Camden Town south to the River Thames. The Regent's Canal runs through the north of Camden Town.
At the end of the 20th century, entertainment-related businesses began moving into the area, and a Holiday Inn was built abutting the canal. A number of retail and food chain outlets replaced independent shops, driven out by high rents and redevelopment. Restaurants with a variety of culinary traditions thrived, many of them near the markets, on Camden High Street and its side streets, Parkway, Chalk Farm Road, and Bayham Street. The plan to redevelop the historic Stables Market led to a steel and glass extension, built on the edges of the site in 2006, and increased the market's capacity.
Camden street markets
Camden is well known for its markets. These date from 1974 or later, except for Inverness Street market, for over a century a small food market serving the local community, though by 2013 all foodstuff and produce stalls had gone and only touristy stalls remained. Camden Lock Market proper started in a former timber yard in 1973, and is now surrounded by five more markets: Buck Street market, Stables market, Camden Lock Village, and an indoor market in the Electric Ballroom. The markets are a major tourist attraction at weekends, selling goods of all types, including fashion, lifestyle, books, food, junk/antiques and more bizarre items; they and the surrounding shops are popular with young people, in particular, those searching for "alternative" clothing. While originally open on Sundays only, market activity later extended throughout the week, though concentrating on weekends.
Camden Town tube station is near the markets and other attractions. It is a key interchange station for the Bank and Charing Cross branches of the southbound Northern line, and the Edgware and High Barnet branches of the northbound Northern Line. The station was not designed to cope with the volume of traffic it handles since the area increased in popularity. It is very crowded at weekends, and, as of 2011, is closed to outbound passengers on Sunday afternoons for safety reasons.
London Underground has made many proposals to upgrade the station. In 2004 a proposal requiring the compulsory purchase and demolition of 'the Triangle'—land bordered by Kentish Town Road, Buck Street and Camden High Street—was rejected by Camden Council after opposition from local people; of 229 letters, only two supported the scheme. Chalk Farm and Mornington Crescent tube stations also serve the area. It was later planned to redevelop the station entirely between 2020 and 2024/5, with less demolition than proposed previously, but the redevelopment was postponed in December 2018 by TfL "until we have the funds we need".
Camden Town tube station is exit-only at times when market-related traffic would cause dangerous overcrowding on the narrow platforms; as of 2018 on Sundays from 13:00 to 17:30. At these times, alternative stations within walking distance are Mornington Crescent, Chalk Farm, and Kentish Town.
Camden Road is a London Overground station at the corner of Royal College Street and Camden Road. It is on the line from Richmond in the West to Stratford station in the East. The nearest National Rail station is Kentish Town on the Thameslink route on the Midland Main Line. St Pancras and Euston terminals are both within 20 minutes' walk of Camden Town.
The area is a major hub for London Buses. The following routes serve Camden Town: 24 (24 hour), 27, 29, 31, 46, 88 (24 hour), 134 (24 hour), 168, 214 (24 hour), 253, 274 and Night Bus Routes N5, N20, N27, N28, N29, N31, N253 and N279.
Parts of the A503 (Camden Road) and A400 (Camden High Street and Camden Street) are designated as red routes on which vehicles may not stop for any reason, managed by Transport for London rather than the borough. Black taxis ply for hire in the area and there are minicab offices.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, from about March 2020 roadworks were carried out to make many side roads more suitable for cycling and reduce vehicle traffic. This led to traffic jams described as "gridlock", and opposition.
Transport for London and Camden Council both provide and maintain cycling infrastructure in Camden Town. Segregated cycle tracks run alongside Royal College Street to the east of Camden Town, past Camden Road railway station. Royal College Street is also part of Quietway 1, which links Camden Town to the rest of London's cycle network at King's Cross, Covent Garden and Kentish Town.
The Regent's Canal towpath is a shared-use path maintained by the Canal and River Trust. The towpath links Camden Town to Angel and King's Cross to the east, and Regent's Park and Maida Vale in the west.
The London-wide Santander Cycles cycle hire scheme operates in Camden Town. There are several docking stations, including at Camden Road railway station (Bonny Street) and Camden Town tube station (Greenland Road).
Regent's Canal runs through the north end of Camden Town. Canal boat trips along the canal from Camden Lock are popular, particularly in summer. Many of the handrails by the bridges show deep marks worn by the towropes by which horses pulled canal barges until the 1950s, and it is still possible to see ramps on the canal bank designed to assist horses that fell in the canal after being startled by the noise of a train. Camden Lock is a regularly used traditional manually operated double canal lock operating between widely separated levels. A large complex of weekend street markets operates around the Lock. The towpath is a pedestrian and cycle route which runs continuously from Little Venice through Camden Lock to the Islington Tunnel. A regular waterbus service operates along the Regent's Canal from Camden Lock. Boats depart every hour during the summer, heading westward around Regent's Park, calling at London Zoo and on towards Maida Vale. Sightseeing narrow-boat trips run from Camden Lock to Little Venice.
- The Roundhouse is a former locomotive roundhouse constructed in 1847 for the London and North Western Railway. It later had various uses, including a corn and potato store, Gilbey's gin warehouse, and eventually became derelict until it was converted to a theatre, arts centre and music venue in 1966, later closed, and reopened in 2006 as a theatre and music venue.
- Camden Catacombs (see also Catacombs of London), not true catacombs but an underground area largely underneath the Camden markets, originally used as stables for horses and pit ponies used to shunt railway wagons. Not open to visitors due to danger of flooding.
- St Pancras Old Church
- Our Lady of Hal, Catholic church for the area
- The Camden Eye at 2 Kentish Town Road, was formerly known and as the Old Mother Red Cap, the Red Cap and Halfway House. It was also used as a prison.
- St Michael's Church, Camden Town
- Greater London House, formerly the Carreras Cigarette Factory and now offices housing several companies, a striking Art Deco Egyptian Revival building dating from 1926 to 1928, stands at Mornington Crescent and is distinguished by a pair of 8.5-foot (2.6 m)-high bronze statues of the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet.
- Jewish Museum London
- Arlington House, originally one of the Rowton Houses providing low-cost overnight accommodation, now housing a conference centre but still providing low-cost rooms and flats.
- The unusual Sainsbury's supermarket and flats on Camden Road were designed in a high-tech style by Nicholas Grimshaw and built on the site of the former large ABC Bakery.
- The Hawley Arms is a pub and music venue which became well known in the 90s as a hub for the indie and alternative music scene in London. It was Amy Winehouse's favourite pub when she lived in Camden Town, and she was rumoured to get behind the bar to pull pints and serve drinks.
- B. R. Ambedkar (social reformer, jurist and LSE graduate) lived at 10, King Henry Road, Camden Town, now known as Ambedkar House, in 1921 and 1922.
- Richard Ryan lived in Camden Town from 1819 until his death in 1849.
- Charles Dickens's second London home was in Bayham Street in 1822. He later moved to 112 Little College Street (now College Place), where he boarded with Elizabeth Roylance, a family friend, whom Dickens later immortalised as "Mrs. Pipchin" in Dombey and Son.
- Beryl Bainbridge lived in Albert Street from the 1960s until her death in 2010.
- Playwright Alan Bennett lived in Gloucester Crescent for many years. Margaret Fairchild (aka Miss Shepherd) lived in a van on his driveway
- Physicist, mathematician, and engineer Oliver Heaviside was born in Camden Town.
- The author and journalist Bernard Levin grew up in Camden Town's Plender Street.
- The boxer Tom Sayers lived in Camden, and died at No. 257 Camden High Street in 1865. The house now has a plaque.
- The painter Walter Sickert lived and worked as part of the Camden Town Group in Mornington Crescent. In 1908 he painted a group of four paintings collectively titled The Camden Town Murder, in reference to the notorious Camden Town Murder case of 1907.
- Poet Dylan Thomas owned a house at 54 Delancey Street from 1951 until his death in 1953. There is a plaque on the house today.
- Singer Amy Winehouse lived in Camden Town, first on Prowse Place and then on Camden Square, where she was found dead in July 2011. Winehouse was strongly associated with Camden Town. Since her death she has been entitled as "The Queen of Camden" and a bronze statue of her was placed in Stables Market on what would have been her 31st birthday, 14 September 2014.
- Hip-hop trio N-Dubz are from and grew up in the area.
- Music Band Madness are from and grew up in Camden Town and surrounding areas.
- Singer Eliza Doolittle grew up in the area.
- Jazz Musician Nubya Garcia was born and grew up Camden Town.
- Actor Freddie Highmore was born in Camden Town in 1992.
- The dancer and actress Donna King teaches at her studio in Camden Town.
- The journalist and novelist Sean Thomas lives in Camden.
- Songwriter and singer Dua Lipa grew up in Camden until she moved to Kosovo.
- Ashley Keane, former professional footballer for Torquay United F.C., was born in Camden in 1981.
To the north of Camden Town station and running along the canal is a modern pop art complex designed by Terry Farrell as the studios of the former TV-am, now used by MTV but retaining TV-am's eggcup sculptures along the roof line. Associated Press Television News has its head office in a former gin warehouse near Camden Lock called "The Interchange".
The Camden New Journal is a free, independent weekly newspaper that covers the London Borough of Camden.
In popular culture
- Author Charles Dickens, a onetime resident of Camden Town, placed various characters and places in his stories there as well: Bob Cratchit's family in A Christmas Carol (1843); the Micawbers in David Copperfield (1850); and in Dombey and Son (1846–1848), a description of the building of the London and Birmingham Railway, includes a trip through Camden Town.
- E. Nesbit's 1904 children's novel The Phoenix and the Carpet is set at 18 Camden Terrace, Camden Town.
- John Betjeman's poem "Business Girls" is set in Camden Town.
- The climax of John le Carré's 1974 spy novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy occurs in a safe house at 5 Lock Gardens in Camden Town, a fictitious address modelled after real-life St. Mark's Crescent.
In film and television
- The 1986 cult comedy film Withnail and I is set in Camden Town in 1969.
- The 1989 comedy film The Tall Guy stars Jeff Goldblum as the titular protagonist, who we frequently see bicycling to his flat set in Camden Town.
- The 2008 Mike Leigh film Happy-Go-Lucky largely takes place in Camden Town.
- The 2015 film The Lady in the Van tells the story of a homeless woman who parked her van in Alan Bennett's Camden driveway (in Gloucester Crescent) and lived there for 15 years.
- The 2015 film Amy, the documentary based on Amy Winehouse's life and death features footage and exclusive images of Winehouse in Camden during her life.
- The 2018 film Been So Long is set in Camden Town.
- The 2019 Disney animated series 101 Dalmatian Street is set in Camden Town.
- In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), a mission named "Clean House" is set in Camden Town.
- The second season of Peaky Blinders (2 October 2014) refers to Camden Town Gangs.
- The song "You Just Can't Win" by Them from the album The Angry Young Them references Camden Town (1965)
- The song "Camden Town" by Suggs (1995)
- The song "Come back to Camden" by Morrissey from the album You Are the Quarry (2004)
- The song "Johnny Come Lately" by Steve Earle from the album Copperhead Road, 1988
- The song "Guided Tour of Camden" by Charlie Sloth, 2007
- The song "Ladykillers" by Lush, 1996
- The song "Fame and Fortune" By The Libertines from the album Anthems for Doomed Youth
- The song "How Did It Come to This" by Take That from the album The Circus makes a small reference to Camden Town
- The song "So Close" by Matthew Good from the album Arrows of Desire mentions Camden High Street
- The song "Sorted for E's & Wizz" by Pulp from the album Different Class mentions Camden Town
- The song "One Better Day" by Madness refers to Arlington House, a hostel for the homeless in Camden Town
- The song "London Boy" by Taylor Swift refers to her enjoyment of "walking Camden Market in the afternoon"
- The song "Five Get Over Excited" by The Housemartins from the album The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death, 1987
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- Mills 2001, p. 37
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- "The Roundhouse". Camden Railway Heritage trust. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
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- Subterranean Britannica: Camden Catacombs
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- Remembering The Hawley Arms, the Pub That Became Indie's 2000s Hub
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