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Camden has long been the place the cool kids go to in London, ever since the 1970s when Camden became the place for Punk music and Rock n Roll. But Camden is more than mohicans, fancy shop fronts and Amy Winehouse. Camden, like everywhere around us holds a rich past and Unarchived is helping locals and tourists alike to see places as they’ve never thought of them before.
1. Charles Dickens was here!
Charles Dickens will long be a powerhouse in English literature around the world; but before worldwide acclaim he was a youngster who had just moved to the busy streets of Camden from the countryside of Kent. Charles’ time spent in London wasn’t easy with his father being imprisoned and Charles having to support the family by working in a factory at the age of 12. Today if you wander down to Bayham Street you can find a plaque remembering the famous author’s years spent living in Camden.
2. The Railway…where it all started
Some might say that without the railways linking London to Birmingham in the Midlands, Camden wouldn’t be the place we know it today. It was thanks to the railways that Camden became a major stopping point along the route and naturally traders were attracted to this, leading to an expansion of the area. Today the brightly coloured railway bridge dominates many Camden photos, but few know the importance the railway holds.
3. Camden serves up a famous Murder Mystery!
Don’t we all love a good murder mystery? Well a murder took place in Camden almost 110 years ago and the mystery surrounding it rivals that of the infamous Jack the Ripper. The Camden Town Murder of 1907 was ranked by the Discovery Channel as the 3rd most famous unsolved murder in the UK. It was a huge talking point at the time, with the murder on the front pages of all the national papers. It caused quite a stir when the only suspect, Robert Wood gave evidence on his own behalf something which was not allowed before the Criminal Justice Bill of 1905. Subsequently Mr Wood was found not guilty and the mystery continues to this day.
4. Freedom Fighters who are part of history
At the time of the swinging sixties there was a not-so-ordinary family moving into 13 Lyme street. Joe Slovo and Ruth First were fleeing the Apartheid Government of South Africa and lived in this house for 12 years raising their young family. Friends to Nelson Mandela, Joe maintained his relationship with the African National Congress and was eventually able to return to his homeland in 1990 once a ban on the ANC had been lifted. Mandela returned to the house to unveil this blue plaque for the brave couple.
5. Camden Cemetery errrr…..Gardens
Today St Martin’s Gardens may look like a picturesque oasis in the middle of the busy streets of Camden, but these gardens weren’t always so green and lovely. In another life this was Camden Cemetery and you can spot glimpses of its past with tombstones woven between trees on along the North wall.
6. Home to a Communist scientist
Another blue plaque can be found on Albert Street. This one is remembering the scientist John Desmond Bernal who once lived here. John was a controversial figure in his time, despite working alongside many scientists who went on to win Nobel Prizes for their work John never got his own despite his capabilities.
7. Electric Ballroom that has hosted the greatest!
This music venue plays a central part in making Camden the place we know and love today. Originally playing Irish Folk Music, in the 70s it was transformed and has since gone on to be one of the greatest venues for rock music in the country. Countless big name bands have played here including Oasis, The Clash, Iggy Pop and U2.
8. Camden comes alive at Camden Market
Camden Market is now the heart and soul of Camden and is one of the busiest attractions in all of London! But it wasn’t always like this; after the decline of the canal trade there were many vacant warehouses and workshops surrounding the canal. There were plans to construct a main road straight through the site, but in the 70s a few locals got together and started a market with just 16 stalls. It became so popular that a few years later plans for the road were scrapped and Camden Market went on to become the full-fledged space we all know today.
9. Camden Lock- your own Venice in Camden
Camden Lock sits on Regent’s Canal and is often the first spot tourists head to, to get a great photo. Camden’s lock is now unique along this stretch of water as it’s the only twin lock to remain after all the others were replaced by single ones. You can still find people travelling through the locks in their narrowboats and you can even book a boat ride down to Little Venice found in Paddingtons basin.
10. Of the keys and music!
This wonderful circular shaped building can be found on Oval Road just behind the busy Lock and markets. This used to be the home of piano manufacturing giants Collard & Collard and if you’d peered through the windows in the 19th Century, you’d have seen people busy at work fitting together parts of pianos and hauling them up through the hole in the middle. The piano making industry thrived in Camden thanks to great transport links with the canal and rail nearby.
So this was Camden through my eyes- a place that revels in its rich history and where every place has a story to tell. If you have been to Camden do let me know if there is something we missed or just about the experience in the comments below.
How to reach
There are several options to reach Camden. Fly to London and take a tube from London Victoria station to Camden Town. Its an 8 min ride. You can also hail a cab, hire a car or what the hell, have a long walk!
Where to stay
To stay close to camden we highly recommend Holiday Inn London-Camden Lock. You may also choose :
Other options to stay around Camden are:
See the sights around you in a new light. You never know what historical stories might inspire you! Unarchived hopes to make local history more accessible to everyone and are in the process of creating a podcast and mobile app of local history trails that you can go on when you visit the UK. Join Unarchived on a local history tour in London this summer, where they’ll take you a guided walk like a local. Tickets available here.