Camden Town through History

These page present the history of Camden Town and argue its contemporary relevance in conservation and urban planning. [The site is in early stage of development]

Camden Town started in fields in the late eighteenth century and is now part of London’s inner suburbs.

Camden Town Estate boundaries
Camden Town 2018

In 1682 the Jeffreys family bought 220 acres of land (leased from the Church of England) in the parish of St Pancras just to the north of London.  By 1780 there were three tenant farmers, an inn (the Mother Red Cap), some barns (formerly the manor) and roads running northwards from London to Kentish Town and Highgate along the River Fleet valley.

Rocque map 1765. Orange - Cantlowes demesne; Red - houses; Blue - River Fleet
Rocque map 1765.  Orange-Jeffreys estate; red-houses; blue-River Fleet

Charles Pratt, Lord Camden, inherited the land through his wife Elizabeth Jeffreys and gained an Act of Parliament in 1788  to build houses. A Georgian suburb just outside London, it became known as Camden Town.  Through a further Act of Parliament in 1813 the land ownership was shared two-thirds to Lord Camden and one third to the Church of England.

Earlier development of terraced housing was in the south. The Regent’s Canal was built under five road bridges, opening in 1820. Camden Road extended development to the northern portion, with villas and squares as well as terraces.

1834 map showing Camden Town Estate (no 18)
1834 map showing Camden Town Estate (no 18)

Smaller terraces housed working class families, artisans and tradesmen; in larger villa houses were  middle classes. There were churches – both Anglican and dissenting – and schools for boys and girls.

Camden School girls
Camden School girls

Camden Town became mentioned in literature and a residence for people in the arts, sciences and in music. As well as skilled trades such as engraving and making musical instruments, there was employment at the canal wharves and the railways and in factories for printing in College Street and Camden High Street.

Goodall card factory, College Street
Goodall card factory, College Street

The London Borough of Camden – including the former boroughs of Holborn, St Pancras and Hampstead – was created as one of 32 London boroughs in 1965.  But the Borough has served Camden Town poorly in its administration. Neither the Borough’s political ward boundaries, nor the areas set out as conservation areas, take account of the historical pattern.

Camden ward boundaries (mauve) and conservation areas

These pages present the history of Camden Town and argue for its contemporary relevance. The findings are drawn from work for the Dissertation for the MRes in Historical Research at the Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Studies, University of London, 2018.