The Camden Lock you see today was once T.E. Dingwalls timber yard. Timber was unloaded from large river barges to the smaller narrow boats that plied the inland canals of Britain. As more efficient forms of transport grew the canals began to decline, and the site closed in 1971 signalling the end of an era, but the beginning of another.
In 1973 Camden Lock was opened by Northside Developments Ltd as the original arts and crafts market; a makeshift collective of workshops and traders set against a rich industrial heritage. The early development revolved simply around the old wooden sheds and cobbled yards. As the first Market in Camden, it immediately stood out from London’s other markets for its eclectic mix, and soon attracted the vital group of entrepreneurs and artists that first generated the Camden Town ‘buzz’.
For young artists, the Lock studios offered a new opportunity to rent a space where they could sell their work, and for customers the chance to see their goods being made – a rare thing in modern London. Goods are still designed and made on-site today and studios are open to the customers.
During the 1980s Camden Lock’s vitality began to spread. Shops up to Camden Town Tube Station, which were previously let at peppercorn rents, began to become very desirable.
Camden Lock didn’t stand still either. 1991 saw the opening of the Market Hall, a glass-roofed arcade designed to merge with the surrounding Victorian architecture that met with high praise from the architectural press. In 1999 the Market Hall was extended, and in 2003 the East Yard was covered with a Victorian-styled steel and glass canopy. Also in 2003 the West Yard wharf, one of the original areas first redeveloped in the 1970s was further opened up and refurbished, and the first floor walkway extended to form a terrace overlooking the wharf.
Today Camden Lock stays true to its original principles and attracts both Londoners and visitors from all parts of the globe, eager to come face-to-face with some of the capital’s most creative people.