Charles Dibdin was buried in the St Martin’s burial ground in 1814: he had lived the last part of his life in Arlington Road, on the west side of Camden High Street.  Dibdin was both a performer and composer – first for the Italian Opera, Covent Garden and later in one-man shows where he sang his own songs, played the piano and added percussion with his feet – a predecessor music-hall act. His songs were often nautical, including Tom Bowling for which he was best known.[1]  Professional players could readily get from Camden Town to the West End, to perform in pit orchestras or concerts halls.

Samuel Wesley was from 1824 organist to the new Chapel in Camden Town and had lived earlier in Arlington Road.[2]  Wesley was the greatest organist of his day and unrivalled as an extemporaneous performer on the instrument. He was a composer, close friend of Novello the music publisher.  Mrs. Vincent Novello, the wife of one of his most intimate friends: ‘I knew him [Wesley] unfortunately too well. Pious catholic, raving atheist; mad, reasonable; drunk and sober. The dread of all wives and regular families. A warm friend, a bitter foe; a satirical talker; a flatterer at times of those he cynically traduced at others; a blasphemer at times, a purling Methodist at others’ (Addit. MS. 31764, f. 33). (Dictionary of National Biography volume 60.djvu/325)

John Baptiste Calkin between 1853 to 1884 he held appointments successively at Woburn Chapel (Bloomsbury), Camden Road Chapel and St Thomas’s Church in Wrotham Road. In 1883, he became professor at the Guildhall School of Music and concentrated on teaching and composing. Calkin wrote in many forms but his sacred music (settings) is best known.

Charles Fitch Furtado (1816-1898) Lived at 71 Saint Augustine’s Road in the 1880s. Furtado was a teacher of music in London and composer of ballads.

John Addison (c. 1765 – 30 January 1844) was born, lived, and died (at Camden Town) in London. He wrote six operettas for Covent Garden, including ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (1805) and the ‘Russian Impostor’ (1809), as well as  Sacred Drama, Elijah and Songs and Glees. He also authored a book on singing instruction, Singing Practically Treated in a Series of Instructions (1836). Addison’s song, “The Woodland Maid” was included among sixteen entries in William Alexander Barrett’s fifth volume of Standard English Songs. He played the double bass for many years at the opera, and at the Ancient and other concerts

AddisonPortrait (after Joseph Slater) Royal Collection, (RCIN 650089)

Music was a form of leisure in both public and private settings. At the corner of Camden Street with King Street was Camden Hall. In the year of the Great Exhibition, 1851, there was advertised a concert by ‘G Field and M Morgan of Royal Italian Opera’, with ‘25 person Chorus’. The fare would include a ‘selection of oratorios from The Messiah’, as well as glees, madrigals, duets – held in the Large School Room, King Street. Tickets were on sale at Barratt’s Music Warehouse, High Street, Mr Hart’s Classical and Commercial Academy, King Street and Mr Morgan, 25 Kings Road.[4]

In 1812,  Mrs Kenney advertised a school at 6 Camden Street for young ladies. Frances, her daughter, ‘who was several years the pupil of Clementi, superintends the musical accomplishment’.[5]  There were opportunities for private singing advertised in the music press.6]

And there was street music. Theodore Fontane, who lived in St Augustine’s Road, wrote of his ‘Summer in London’: ‘Having got up, and unprepared for any surprise attack, I sit having breakfast and reading The Times. Then a twanging and strumming approaches … It is the povero italiano … he is a devoted soul, as devoted and unchanging as his tunes…’[8]

Music hall saw Camden Town light-heartedly. The first verse for Frank Bell’s Camden Town starts:

One Monday morning I went out and knew not where to go,

The idea flashed across my mind to toddle off to Bow;

To the Railway station I went and took a ticket down,

In the same compartment was a nice young Girl;

That was going to Camden Town…

Frank BellCover for Frank Bell’s music ‘Camden Town’ [9]


Charles Whittington  Responses: arranged for the liturgy of the new church by Charles J. Whittington, organist of Camden Road Church, London.   London, James Speirs, 1876

George Worgan. Gems of sacred melody: psalms and hymn tunes, chants. for the congregation of Camden Chapel, Camden Town. Published at 12 Camden Street South.

Music publishing:   “My old woman” : a musical comedy, in three acts / by George Macfarren … music by G.H. Rodwell …London: John Cumberland, 6, Brecknock Place, Camden Town, [1829?]

LMA: E-CAM/0041:  27 Rochester Road: lease to Henry Gamble ‘professor of music’. From Grove’s Dictionary: Gamble, born 1811, and one of the first pupils at the new Royal Academy of Music, was one of the most distinguished of English violinists, and for upwards of thirty years occupied the position of concerto player and leader in all the best orchestras. He died, after a lingering illness, 1872.

LMA: MS 11936/552/1228313   Insured: John Bond, 5 King Street Camden Town, dealer in musical instruments, 28 July 1836

TP/9/1/14 Chamber Music Concerts. The Maurice Hall, The Working Men’s College, Crowndale Road, Camden Town.      (Royal Northern College of Music)

Pub music – see Laurence Senelick. Tavern singing in early Victorian London: the diaries of Charles Rice for 1840 and 1850. London: Society for Theatre Research, 1997


[1] ODNB: ‘Charles Dibdin’

[2] Philip Olleson, The letters of Samuel Wesley: professional and social correspondence 1797-1827, Oxford 2001.

[3] ODNB, ‘John Addison’.

[4] CLRAC, Heal:A/8/38.

[5] The Times 9 July 1812:1.  Clementi’s reputation as a performer and teacher was second only to Joseph Haydn. He worked with piano-makers Collard & Collard, who were for a period at 6 High Street, Camden Town.

[6] The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 1858;8:165-166.

[7] LMA, ‘John Bond’:MS11936/552/1228313.

[8] Theodore Fontane, translated by John Lynch, A Prussian in Victorian London [‘The music-makers’, 22 July 1852], London 2014:78.

[9] Frank Bell, Camden Town, London 1864: permission of British Library, shelf-mark H.1772.c.(9.)