Camden Town, often shortened to Camden (ambiguously also used for the much larger London Borough of Camden of which it is the central neighbourhood), is an inner city district of London, 2.4 miles (3.9 km) north of the centre of London. 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, 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 The area's industrial economic base has been replaced by service industries such as retail, tourism and entertainment.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 which 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 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 and have grown since then, 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. It has since recovered.
Camden Town, previously in the Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras, became part of the London Borough of Camden when it was created in 1965.
Camden Town is contained in the following political constituencies for different purposes, listed with some incumbents as of 2012:
Camden London Borough Council: London Borough of Camden. 54 councillors, Labour control.
Camden Town with Primrose Hill (ward), returns three Borough councillors (all Labour as of 2015)
UK Parliament: Holborn and St Pancras. Keir Starmer, Labour Party
London Assembly: Barnet and Camden. Andrew Dismore, Labour Party.
European Parliament: London. Returns eight MEPs. Four Labour, two Conservative, one Green, one UKIP.
Camden Town is on relatively flat ground at 100 feet (30 m) above sea level, 2.4 miles (3.9 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 Thames. The Regent's Canal runs through the north of Camden Town.
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 a little away from 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 street markets
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 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.
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. 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 2 supported the scheme. Chalk Farm and Mornington Crescent tube stations also serve the area.
Camden Town tube station is exit-only at times when market-related traffic would cause dangerous overcrowding on the narrow platforms; as of 2014 on Sundays from 13:00 to 17:30. At these times, TfL advises tube users to use the nearest alternative station, Mornington Crescent, instead.
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 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. Most night buses in north London stop in Camden Town. 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. Illegal unlicensed "taxis" tout for business on the street, particularly late at night.
The 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 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 Theatre
The Roundhouse is a locomotive engine roundhouse constructed in 1847 for the London & North Western 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.
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
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
The Carreras Cigarette Factory (now Greater London House), 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.
Arlington House, a hostel for the homeless, one of the Rowton Houses.
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.
8 Royal College Street, the house of the French poets, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine.
Bedford Music Hall: Used to stand on Camden High Street.
Since 2015, Camden Collective have been using the National Temperance Hospital ahead of its likely demolition for HS2 at Euston.
Greater London House, a former Egyptian Cigarette factory and now the Global Headquarters of ASOS.com
Richard Ryan lived in Camden Town from 1819 until his death in 1849.
Charles Dickens's second London home was in Bayham Street, Camden in 1822.
Charles Dickens later moved to 112 College Place, Camden. It was here in College Place (then known as Little College Street) that 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.
Physicist, mathematician, and engineer Oliver Heaviside was born in Camden Town.
The author and journalist Bernard Levin grew up in Camden, in 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 entitled collectively 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.
Julian Clary Comedian
Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals used to live on Hawley Road.
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay singer Chris Martin have homes in Belsize Park Gardens and College Place in Camden.
Gary Lightbody singer with Snow Patrol lives between Camden Town and Primrose Hill.
Singer Amy Winehouse lived in Camden Town, first on Prowse Place and then on Camden Square where she was found dead in July 2011.
Hip-hop trio N-Dubz are from and grew up in the area.
Music Band Madness are also from and grew up in the area and surrounding areas.
Actor Freddie Highmore was born in Camden Town in 1992.
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 cover the London Borough of Camden.
Author Charles Dickens, a one-time 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.
John Betjeman's poem Business Girls is set in Camden Town.
The climax of John le Carré's 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.
The 1986 cult comedy film Withnail and I is set in Camden Town in 1969.
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 and lived there for 15 years.
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 Copperhead Road, 1988.
The Song "Midnight Kiss" by Propellers, 2013
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