Camden Market is the collective name given to several markets that operate in Camden Town, and is reported to be the fourth most popular attraction in London with around 250,000 visitors each week.
There are supposed to be six markets here altogether: The first one started out around 1900 in Inverness Street selling fruit and veg but by 2013 all the original stalls had vanished thanks to the influx of supermarkets. There are still some stalls here selling a few bits and pieces, but from my experience you shouldn’t feel cheated if you managed to miss it.
If you’ve arrived by tube at Camden Town Station Inverness St is over on the left-hand side of the street, but if you stay on the right-hand side you’ll see an emporium, for want of a better word, that advertises itself as Camden Market. My advice is don’t fall for it because a) it’s not the Camden Market people come here to see, and b) the merchandise is of dubious quality. The official name of this outlet is Buck Street Market.
Between the tube station and Buck St Market is the Electric Ballroom which has been a nightclub since the 1950’s but is open during the day on weekends as an extension to Buck St Market.
If you head up Camden High Street you’ll come to the Regents Canal and Camden Lock, but before we walk across the road to Camden Lock Market it’s worth mentioning that the modern development taking place down by the canalside used to be the former Canal Market which burned down in 2008. It re-opened in 2009 as Camden Lock Village but is now being developed as Hawley Wharf.
So far, we’ve walked up Camden High St and passed four of the six markets, and unless you’ve had a desire to get a tattoo or piercing done, you wouldn’t have even needed to put your hand in your pocket – but just as a word of warning – you want to make sure that nobody else has either.
Across the road is the unmistakable Camden Lock Market – unmistakable because it’s right next to Camden Lock – and here’s another tip: A much better way to arrive here is to take the canal boat from Little Venice in Paddington which takes just under an hour and stops off at London Zoo. It’s not expensive, and of course, you can do the trip the other way around if you prefer.
Camden Lock Market opened on 30th March 1974 on a derelict site formerly occupied by warehouses and other premises associated with the canal. To start with it was just a small weekly crafts market that operated every Sunday from just sixteen stalls.
It gradually expanded to include Saturdays – selling food, clothes and music – and although the market is now open throughout the week, it’s worth knowing that it gets extremely busy on a weekend, as you would probably expect.
Another thing that probably won’t come as any great surprise is that there’s been a gradual shift away from the nitty gritty life of the old market to a more mainstream affair and a new market hall was opened in 1991, which, it has to be said, was at least done in a Victorian style in brick and cast iron.
There are even bigger plans with a £20m makeover, which the developers are saying will return it to a traditional arts and crafts centre.
Camden Lock Market as it stands at the moment seems to me as a place to come to eat street food, and there’s nothing wrong with that of course, but if you want to do some serious market shopping then it’s best to head next door to the Stables Market.
This is the largest of all the Camden markets and was the former stables and hospital for the horses that pulled Pickford’s barges and vans.
It has to be remembered that although horses were extensively used to pull the canal barges, they were also used when the introduction of the railway made Camden Goods Yard a major intersection between canal, rail, and road.
Pickford’s (who were agents for the London & Birmingham Railway Company) used 200 or so horses, and for their safety created a passageway under the railway, as well as underground stables, and a horse hospital.
At one point there were some 420 horses here, but nowadays the stables and the adjacent railway arches are used as retail outlets selling all manner of stuff.
Just like the Camden Lock Market, the Stables Market started out with temporary stalls, but has expanded into a much more permanent affair, and will be (or should be) the market where you will spend most of your time if shopping is your thing. It’s interesting as well as different, even for somebody like me who finds shopping an alien experience.
Talking of aliens, I felt like one when walking into ‘Cyberdog’ where it’s all flashing neon lights and PVC clothes. If Goth or Steampunk is more your thing then perhaps you might like to try ‘Tainted Prince’, or if walking around as one of the undead isn’t quite your thing then perhaps you may like to visit the ‘Modfather’ for a bit of nostalgia, and talking of which, opposite is the Doc Marten warehouse which not only sells their trademark boots in all sorts of styles, but is also a veritable museum for those who thought they looked good walking around in a pair of ‘Bovver Boots’.
The Stables Market isn’t confined to fashion by any means, and there’s enough here to keep any shopper happy for hours, and if you’ve taken my advice and not wasted your hard-earned cash in Buck Street Market, or even Camden High Street, then you just may be able to afford that unusual item that you’ve not seen anywhere else.
It has to be said that Camden Market(s), or even Camden Town, may not be to everyone’s taste – but it’s different, and that’s what makes it such an interesting place.
As redevelopment and gentrification gathers momentum, Camden could easily become what I call ‘sanitized’, but as far as I’m concerned, the world be a duller place without people who want to dress up like a zombie during the daytime, or wake up feeling like one the next morning. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry, and if Camden were to change too much, I, for one, think that would be a great shame.