Camden Market - THE STORY - OPEN SINCE 1974
CAMDEN MARKET IS A DIVERSE COMMUNITY OF CREATIVE SELLERS, STREET FOOD TRADERS AND INDEPENDENT STORES NEXT TO THE REGENT’S CANAL. OPEN EVERY DAY, WE HAVE OVER 1,000 PLACES TO SHOP, EAT, DRINK AND DANCE IN OUR HISTORIC CENTRAL LONDON LOCATION.
IT ALL STARTED WITH 16 STALLS
Camden Market started off as a small arts and crafts fair in the backyard of Dingwalls. Originally it was temporary and only open on Sundays, however its popularity grew fast. Today we’re the largest market in London, open seven days a week.
Today Camden Market is one of London’s busiest retail destinations so it’s quite difficult to imagine that just a few decades ago the market didn’t even exist. The trading history of Camden can be traced back to the early 70s, and more specifically, to the 30th March 1974 when a brand new Saturday market was opened in Camden Town. The newly-born market housed a total of 16 traders, selling antiques, jewellery and arts and craft. Now Camden Market is a home to hundreds of small businesses bringing to the area the multicultural diversity that we’ve all come to love.
But the historical heritage of Camden goes far beyond retail. An interesting fact about Camden Market that you might not be aware of is that back in the 19th century the whole area, from Camden Lock all the way to the Roundhouse, was an industrial site of distilleries and warehouses all dedicated to producing world-renowned gin. But as we know, change is the only constant so over the past two centuries Camden Town has been transformed into retail and leisure destination losing its initial industrial purpose in the process, and although some of the old buildings still exist the area’s traditions in gin distilling were all but long forgotten.
That was until 2014 when Mark Holdsworth introduced to the world Half Hitch Gin, a bespoke blend of gin, distilled in Camden Market and unique for its additional key ingredient – Malawian black tea and Calabrian bergamot. On the market for little over a year, Half Hitch Gin has already received a gold medal from Gin Masters and the brand can be found in high profile venues and establishments across the capital, such as Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, and the Aqua bar in The Shard. Guests of prestigious London hotels such as the Bulgari, the Ham Yard and St. James can now also enjoy the uniquely exotic taste of Half Hitch Gin.
DINGWALLS: A ROCK 'N' ROLL LEGACY
FROM PACKING TIMBER TO PACKED OUT GIGS
Dingwalls is an iconic Camden Town landmark located inside the market. Its colourful heritage can be traced all the way back to June 1973 when Dingwalls Dance Hall was officially opened and its legacy lives on today as one of London’s most famous live music venues.
The early 70s were times of change in Camden. In 1972 childhood friends, business partners and founders of Northside Developments Limited, Bill Fulford and Peter Wheeler bought the Dingwalls site, an area we now know as Camden Lock Market. Armed with a plan to create workshop spaces for artists, designers and craftspeople, the duo transformed the site previously functioning as a timber yard into one of London’s first crafts and antiques markets. And the changes didn’t stop there.
In 1973 a wine merchant called John Armit and his business partner Tony Mackintosh approached NDL with an idea: to transform the ‘run-down packaging warehouse’ along the canal into Dingwalls Dance Hall. Dingwalls was designed to have a very long bar (in fact, it had the longest bar in London at the time) and it was open until 2am, as opposed to most pubs and bars which closed at 11pm. It featured live performances a few nights a week and became very famous for spotlighting up-and-coming musicians.
The formula turned out to be successful and Dingwalls Dance Hall quickly became a favourite hangout for the likes of Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones, Dave Gilmore from Pink Floyd, jazz legend George Melly and artists David Hockney and Lucian Freud. Some of the legendary nights at Dingwalls saw performances by The Clash, The Sex Pistols and The Ramones. Britain’s top punk band The Stranglers played there years before they released their first album, and Dingwalls hosted Blondie’s debut in the UK – a gig that went down as one of the wildest nights in the venue’s history.
As punk legend has it, The Stranglers – or bass guitarist Jean-Jacques Burnel more specifically – took on The Clash and The Sex Pistols in a punch up outside Dingwalls in 1976. The fight made newspaper headlines all over Britain and funnily enough, this little piece of punk rock history was in part what put Dingwalls Dance Hall on the map. You know what they say, bad press is good press.
In more recent years the likes of Noel Gallagher, the Foo Fighters, The Strokes and Mumford & Sons have graced the Dingwalls stage.
Dingwalls is probably best described by photographer Roger Morton who remembers it as London’s top venue for new music: ‘The music was not the main thing, however. It was a great place to meet people, both old friends and new friends… Musicians were there not just to play, but to enjoy the place. It was low and dark and full of life.’