Early Camden Maps
Ogilby’s 1672 map of Middlesex names Hampstead, Childe Hill and Highgate, all remote villages far outside London, while Camden Town was nothing but an open space. It has been marked with a C in this map. London and Westminster are clustered as separate cities on the north bank of the Thames. Tottenham Court was a large house set in a private estate, in the fields to the north.
In 1804, well over a century later, Tompson’s Parish map of St Pancras (printed on page 2) shows the Fleet River coming down from Hampstead in two tributaries, which meet just north of Camden Town. The river flowed under Kentish Town Road, through the fields east of Great College Street and past the Veterinary College to King’s Cross. The centuries old roads to Hampstead and Highgate are shown and Parkway is called The Crooked Lane. Camden Road had not been cut at this time. A modest network of five streets had been laid out behind the High Street and a few houses erected. Before this could be done, the streets laid out and money borrowed to lay drains etc., an Act of Parliament was required. As Camden Town did not yet exist and Kentish Town was a very old village indeed. The new Camden Town houses were built under the Kentish Town Act of 1788. Camden Town was to be a New Town, laid out by a speculator who hoped to sell building lots and harvest ground rents, but the leases he could offer were for only forty years.
Builders had no inducement to erect expensive houses on those terms because, after forty years the houses would become the property of the ground landlords. Therefore they built only modest houses, most of which have not survived but a few can still be seen at the High Street end of Pratt Street. Nos. 4, 6 and 8 show an extraordinary array of doorways. The first has the original round-headed doorway and transom of about 1800; the second was given a ‘gothic’ entrance, probably in the 1860s; while No. 8 is fronted with a formidable iron-work grille - our 1990s way of welcoming strangers.
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By 1804, Gloucester Place had been built on the site of what is now the Camden Theatre, in Crowndale Road. There were houses on either side of the High Street, some of which survive as shops, but the site where Waterstones now stands was still a brickfield making bricks from the local clay. Originally they were very simple three-storey houses, but their front gardens have long been built over to form single-storey shops. There was also a tiny development around what is now Camden Tube Station, and the corner by the Midland Bank was then the village pound.