Camden Town, London offers one of the most interesting tourist attractions.
While walking near the London zoo, turn the corner and the neighborhood becomes a sea of shops and people. Within the shops is “The Camden Stables Market in London, which consists of a group of 19th century horse stables, horse hospital, workshops, warehouses and vaults, all connected by cobbled lanes, with it’s various levels connected by ramps.
International traders offer and sell their wares in well lit shop units, which are housed within the old catacombs and railway arches of the viaduct, giving the whole area a Victorian England feel about it.
Intensifying this Victorian feel is the widespread positioning of magnificent bronze sculptures of the horses, their handlers and farriers of those long past years, and the former use of the area, which arouse hidden memories of those bygone days.
It all started in 1854 when, due to the increase in rail freight, more and more horses were required to supplement the already considerable number of animals, which were being used to haul the Pickford distribution wagons around the streets of London and to tow the heavy barges, up and down the Regents Canal in North London.
The first buildings were no more than one and a half storeys high, but with the developement of the nearby railway, larger two and three storey brick buildings were constructed, leaving with what is now, the finest group of industrial stabling left in England.
In the previous century, Camden had been a sleepy little country village, consisting of nothing more than just a few houses and farms, aligned alongside a main route out of London to the north and surrounded by fields and trees.
The only form of road transport at the time was horsepower and the rapidly expanding goods yard had to rely heavily on horses, not only as the sole form of road transport to and from the goods yard for the distribution of goods, but also within the goods yard itself. This was still the case until well after the Second World War.
Before the advent of the railway, horses had been used exclusively to tow the fully laden barges along the canal. At one time, some 420 horses were stabled there and it became necessary to build stables, a horse hospital, blacksmith forges, saddlers workshops, wagon stores and several warehouses within the yard.
A company by the name of Pickfords, were agents for the London and Birmingham Railway Company, the owners of what was still the only major railway line running north out of the capital.It handled freight from as far and wide as Carlisle and Tynside bringing it to and from London, with Pickfords handling the movement of these goods to and from the yard, employing well over two hundred horses for this purpose.
Initially both horses and trains were able to work on the same level, but this scenario eventually became far too dangerous, due to the busy rolling stock.In order to raise the level of the tracks, the railway company constructed a viaduct with special horse passages running through the huge arches and catacombs which carried the viaduct.
It was in these arches and catacombs that the various stables, blacksmiths forges etc. were accommodated. They still remain there to this day and can be found at the end of the vaults which are now used as shops.There were now safe routes for the horses to travel, even unattended. One passageway led to the stables and another one led to the horse hospital, they were now able to come and go without fear of injury or even death from moving trains.
Further expansion took place in the early 1880’s when additional levels were constructed, all linked together by ramps and bridges and which are still very much in evidence today.
However, it is now people, rather than horses, who walk easily around the whole site, bartering, purchasing, eating, drinking or simply just browsing, but certainly enjoying themselves as they take in the wonderful atmosphere of this very picturesque, Camden Stables Market.”