The Engraving of Camden Goods Yard from the North 1889.

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This steel engraving comes from the same ‘Complete List of Wines etc’, but looks from Chalk Farm Road, with the enormous block of Gilbey’s ‘A’ Shed in the distance, on the other side of the Canal. The picture was drawn at the end of the nineteenth century, when Gilbey’s already owned much of the site, but were yet to develop the Oval Road area. ‘A’ Shed stands between Oval Road Bridge (now Pirates’ Bridge)  and the Southampton Road Railway Bridge. The barges are probably delivering barrels of wine from France or Spain.

The drawing must have been made over several days, probably from the top of the piano factory in Ferdinand Street, or perhaps from the roof of The Lock public house, in Chalk Farm Road.

In the foreground, the high yellow buttress wall ran unbroken from the railway bridge by Camden Lock Place to the Roundhouse. Today it has been breached to make way for the new road under the North London Railway line, to Safeways and for the petrol station, while all the goods lines have disappeared. The W.A.Gilbey’s Bonded Store parallel to the road is now part of the Stables Market, but the triangular Bottle Store was destroyed by fire in October 1980. The modern Interchange building had not then been built. On the site is the earlier single-storey train shed with its pitched roof and open sides. The wharf basin below cannot be seen, but it had been cut long before. Indeed the wharf was shown on the 1834 Parish Map. Goods would have been transferred from canal to rail and vice-versa from the earliest times, but the storage of goods was in separate warehouses. Bringing transfer and storage together later in the one building must have been a great saving of time and space.

Horses and carts are seen on the site. Most would have pulled Gilbey’s, Pickfords, or Midlands Railway vans, moving goods to and from the railway wagons. They all competed in the horse shows. Gilbey’s in particular were famous for their horses, breeding prize-winning Shires and winning many prizes. Indeed the horses dictated the site design for years. For example, the semicircular windows in the wall along Chalk Farm Road are stable windows built above the mangers inside.

Mr L. King, now an elderly man, wrote to me saying:-

“As young lads we used to go up to the railway stables and the carters would give us rubbing brushes. After a day’s work those horses would be tethered, watered and fed and we made their coats shine. Or we went to the Barracks in Albany Road. We got in there too. The sentries let us in and sometimes we used to be lucky when the horses came back. They used to do ceremonial guards at Buckingham Palace and all that sort of place. The soldiers came back and dismounted and again they let us help to clean the horses and feed them and give them their nosebags. We did work hard. They were really well treated, those horses. It was VIP treatment for them.”

Immediately above the Roundhouse are the eight bays of Camden Goods Station, with their ridge and furrow roofs and Samuel Allsopp & Sons’ Beer tore in the brick arches below.  Beyond the canal are Gilbey’s old Oval Road buildings, lying between the canal and Jamestown Road. Bewley Cliff Wharf has not yet been filled in and there is a timber yard behind the Gilbey buildings. Later Gilbey’s will acquire the complete block, fill in Bewley Wharf and William Huck will build his new Bottle Store in Jamestown Road. This engraving is two complete building periods into the past. We will deal with these later in the book.

The Horse Tunnel

Early on, horses and trains were on the same level, moving almost at random on the site. Indeed it was so dangerous and so many horses were killed or injured by moving trains, that the railway company built a horse passage through the catacombs, below the railway tracks. One can still find it. At the end of some of the vaults which are now used as shops in the Stables Market, is a narrow cross passage.. It used to run from the end of vault 15 and the tunnel under the Canal, through all the vaults, to the Horses Hospital and stables. It is shown on the Stables Market map further on. Thus horses were able to walk back to their stables safely and unattended, day after day.

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This may be the section of the main tunnel which ran from Oval Road to Gilbey’s bonded warehouses in Stables Market. If not, it is similar. The elaborate cess pit system would have extended the full length if the tunnel.

The Underground Structures at Camden Lock

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Compiled from the  Greater London Industrial Archaeological Society
plan of Eastern Stables and British Rail Structural Survey Maps.
London Borough of Camden, 1990.  Updated 1997

The plan of the underground structures at Camden Lock was made by the Greater London Industrial Archaeological Group (GLIAS) and shows the position in 1990. The plan was modified later when the developers demolished the western branch of the horse tunnel,  from the T junction to the former goods shed (all shaded).

They also demolished the vaults on the southern side of the North London Railway, although the parts of the vaults to the north of the railway remain and now form part of the Stables Market.1

The vaulted brick basement below the London North Western Railway Goods Shed was also filled in and Gilbey’s Yard built on it. Areas demolished have been tinted.

The Stephenson Vaults and the tunnel under the canal remain as shown. Many of the other buildings on the map, such as the Horse Hospital, are referred to in the text.


A photograph of the Camden Town horse-tunnel,
showing the lighting openings in the roof.

 


Footnote

  1. Ruth Blum. Camden Planning Department

Walter and Alfred Gilbey

The Bottle Warehouse
by William Hucks, 1894