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Camden Area Guide

Camden Area Guide

Author: Julie, 21/07/2016

Camden Town, often shortened to Camden  is an inner city district of London, 2.4 miles (3.9 km) north-northwest of Charing Cross. It is one of the 35 major centres identified in the London Plan.

Laid out as a residential district from 1791 and originally part of the manor of Kentish Town and the parish of St Pancras, London, Camden Town became an important location during the early development of the railways and is also located on the London canal network. Its industrial economic basis has been replaced by retail, tourism and entertainment, including a number of internationally known markets and music venues that are strongly associated with alternative culture.

Camden Town is named after Charles Pratt, 1st Earl of 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 which 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 have grown since then and attract many visitors all week. Camden Lock Village, then known as Camden Lock market, suffered a major fire, but no injuries, on 9 February 2008.

From the end of the twentieth century entertainment-related businesses and a Holiday Inn started moving into the area. 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 close by to the markets, on Camden High Street and its side streets, Parkway, Chalk Farm Road and Bayham Street. The plan to re-develop 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 is well known for its markets. These date from the 1970s 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, leaving only touristy stalls. Camden Lock market started in a former timber-yard in 1973, and is now surrounded by four other 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 and services of all types, including fashion, lifestyle, books, food, junk/antiques and more bizarre items.

Camden Town Tube station is near the markets and other attractions. It is a key interchange station for the Bank, Charing Cross, Edgware and High Barnet Northern line branches. Chalk Farm and Mornington Crescent tube stations also serve the area.

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 on the Olympic site in the East. The nearest National Rail station is Kentish Town station on the Thameslink route.  The area is a major hub for London Buses. Most night buses in north London stop in Camden Town.

The Regent’s Canal runs through the north end of Camden Town. Canal-boat trips 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 which 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 operate 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 months, heading westwards 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 locomotive engine roundhouse constructed in 1847 for the London and Birmingham Railway. It later had various uses and eventually became derelict. It was converted to a theatre, arts centre and music venue in the 1966, later closed, and re-opened in 2006 as a theatre and music venue.

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