horse statue

New Life for Old Stables

The Camden Stables Market is a rabbit warren of old historic buildings which houses hundreds of shops among its stables, warehouses, arches and other structures.  Housed in the old Victorian Stables, the buildings’ history is fascinating and a glimpse into the rapid expansion of Georgian London.

stables plaque

Although Camden started out as a sleepy English village, by the 19th century the nearby Grand Union Canal and the railway system had made it a major transport centre.  The trains brought goods from the Midlands which were then delivered by barge around the city and then by horse and cart to specific addresses.  When Euston train station was built nearby in 1837, Camden grew even bigger with the efficient use of rail, road and canal.  You can only imagine how busy the place was because the Georgians were the original conspicuous consumers.  No doubt they would have approved of all the shopping being down in the market today!

industrial plaque

Pickfords was the company that transported goods to and from Camden yard.  They had over 200 horses which worked in the yard.  At first the trains and the horses moved on the same level which was very dangerous for the horses.  Many horses were injured or died before the underground tunnels were built under the railway.  One passage went to the horse hospital and another passage went to the stables.  Horses could be allowed to pass back and forth unattended because they were safe from the trains.

With some of its buildings dating from 1854, the Stables claim to be the finest example remaining of industrial stabling in England.  The horse hospital is Grade II listed and used to take care of horses injured pulling barges on the canal.  The Catacombs section has stores in the Victorian brick arches under the former horse tunnels built under the railway.

The Stables were converted into a market in 1973.  They have more than 40 million visitors every year and is the fourth most visited tourist attraction in London.  The website has more information on opening hours and a good detailed map.  Part of the fun though is wandering and discovering something cool and unexpected in one of the tucked away shops!

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