Down the lock

Camden LondonThe lock in question being, of course, Camden Lock, as in canal lock. Camden Town, which is just a few minutes by bus from our house, is famous for its markets – six of them – which draw in so many visitors at weekends (approximately 100,000) that they are reckoned to be the fourth most popular visitor attraction in London.

Although I go to or through Camden fairly regularly (we have a church there) it’s a few months since I have been round the markets and there have been huge changes since I was last there. The controversial redevelopment of the ‘arches’ part of the Stables Market has continued apace and where there used to be a row of disused railway arches there is now a four storey building.

New development within Stables Market

New development within Stables Market

I have to say, I think the new building works better on the outside than the inside. There is a commendable amount of ironomongery and brick, which links the new development in with the remaining older buildings. Where I don’t think it works so well is inside on the ground floor, where old timbers and new ironmongery have been used to create what it supposed to be converted stables. Look up to the ceiling and you will see cabling and ducting and what is obviously a modern construction. It’s also rather gloomy. Personally I find the whole thing rather fake.

You don't find benches like this in the park

You don't find benches like this in the park

I also find the liberal use of (bronze? fibreglass?) horse statues, including some quite out of proportion giant horse heads, rather annoying. It’s as if they’ve been randomly plonked down any old place. On the other hand, there are some wonderfully quirky bits of street furniture, which are quite fun.

Contrast the Stables to the newly renovated Canal Market, now confusingly renamed Camden Lock Village. This was the Cinderella of the Camden markets, and its future was in doubt after a devastating fire in 2008. However the site has been rebuilt and opened right up. The stalls are mainly housed in little wooden units resembling seaside bathing huts. I read on one website that there are 500 shop-units, which is surely an exaggeration, but certainly the market has been enlarged and tidied up. One of its quirky features is the long row of seats in front of a canalside dining counter, in the shape of the rear half of an old fashioned scooter. This market seems to have diversified too, beyond stalls selling mainly tourist tat and T-shirts.

Fine canalside dining in Camden Lock Village

Fine canalside dining in Camden Lock Village

In both markets most of the stalls were open, despite it being a Friday (Camden is busiest at weekends) and Sophia tells me that stall holders that she talks too have found business struggling since Christmas. I wonder whether between the six markets there is over-capacity – a lot of the stalls are selling the same things. However, come the warmer weather I wouldn’t be surprised if Camden’s markets are as busy as ever.

A few more photos here.

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About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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