The Camden Markets are a number of adjoining large markets in Camden Town near the Hampstead Road Lock of the Regent's Canal (which is usually called Camden Lock), often called collectively "Camden Market" or "Camden Lock". The stalls sell crafts, clothing, bric-a-brac, fast food, and other things. It is the fourth most popular visitor attraction in London, attracting approximately 100,000 people each weekend. It began in its present form in 1974 when the Camden Lock crafts market was formed. There was a small local food market in Inverness Street long before that; as of 2008 this market retains only three fruit and vegetable stalls in addition to stalls like those in the other markets.
Camden Lock Market is situated by the Regent's Canal on a site formerly occupied by warehouses and other premises connected with the canal. By the early 1970s the canal trade had ceased. At the time there was a proposal to build an urban motorway through the site, which made any major redevelopment impossible, so in 1974 a temporary market was established instead. By the time the motorway proposal was abandoned in 1976, the market was flourishing, and on its way to becoming the best known feature of Camden Town. Camden Market as a whole is now so popular that Camden Town tube station operates special entrance and exit rules on Sundays.
Camden Lock Market was originally a craft market, occupying some outdoor areas by the canal and various existing buildings. It attracted large numbers of visitors partly due to stalls being open on Sundays, while shops were not allowed to trade on Sundays until the 1994 Sunday Trading Act. Nowadays the range of goods has widened, with stalls selling books, clothing, second hand clothing and jewellery, but it is still the most craft-focused of the Camden Markets. There is a large selection of fast food stalls outside. A three-storey indoor market hall designed by architect John Dickinson opened in 1991. It is built of brick with a large amount of cast iron work in a traditional style, and is almost indistinguishable from the 19th century industrial architecture and housing in the area.
As of 2006 a large indoor market hall is under construction in a yard between the Camden Lock Market and the Stables Market, which was previously used for open air stalls.
In November 2007, a large part of the Stables Market was demolished as part of a long-tem redevelopment plan for the area. However the market is still going strong and still a thriving shopping area year-round.
The Stables Market was the largest section of Camden Market. The market had been built in the former Midland Railway stables and horse hospital which served the horses pulling barges along the canal. Many of the stalls and shops were set into huge arches in railway viaducts.
It was a mixture of indoor and outdoor shops and stalls, some of them permanent, others hired by the day. Chain stores were not permitted. Like most of the other Camden markets the Stables Market had many clothes stalls. It was also the main home of furniture stores in the Markets, and many household goods and decorative items were also sold, many of them hand-made, and often ethnically influenced. Some of the goods were second-hand or twentieth-century antiques.
Another focus is on clothing and art pieces for alternative sub-cultures such as goths and cyber-goths. Two of the more famous of these shops are Black Rose, which cater for goths, with items for sale such as coffin-shaped handbags, and Cyberdog, which houses a huge range of cyber style neon PVC and rubber clothing. Other longstanding stores include;
Whilst the Stables Market, and the Camden markets generally, have their roots in alternative sub-cultures, visitor numbers has became so high that Camden Town tube station is available only to incoming passengers on Sunday afternoons to prevent dangerous overcrowding of the platforms. Although both Chalk Farm and Mornington Crescent stations also give easy access to the market.
During the weeks leading up to Christmas in 2004, the high-profile radio DJ and TV presenter Chris Evans made use of a stall in the Stables Market to sell many of his possessions, ranging from sofas to TVs and crockery.
In the October 2006 a large indoor market hall was built in a yard between the Stables Market and Camden Lock Market which was previously used for temporary open air stalls.
In the summer of 2007 the back of the Stables Market is being redeveloped. This redevelopment will consist of two new four-storey buildings that will house shops, food outlets, offices, workshops and storage facilities as well as an exhibition space.
Through the redevelopment, there will be a new pedestrian route through the rear of the Stables Market exposing 25 of the existing railway arches. Pedestrian walkways - in the style of the existing historic ramp and bridge system - will open up the site and make it much more accessible to visitors. A glass roof and cycle parking spaces will be added.
Numerous rumours about popular chains such as Topshop, H&M and Starbucks moving in to replace existing independent traders have sparked a petition to the UK government and protest groups on social networking site Facebook. Public objections to the application from local residents, as well as deputations (supporting and opposing it) were presented to Camden Council. The Facebook protest and petition has caused a number of market traders to request more clarity. Rumours that the market is being demolished to be replaced by a shopping centre are feared to be damaging trade.
Many of the objections have ignored agreed restrictions on the size and design of the shop units. These restrictions were intended to suit independent traders and discourage high street retailers. Also the design of the scheme and the materials aims to ensure that the re-development complements the industrial nature of the site's existing Victorian buildings.
Cllr Dawn Somper, Chair of the Development Control Committee, Camden Council said: "We absolutely support the desire to preserve the independent and alternative attraction and feel of Stables Market - rather than it looking like a typical high street - and also its economic importance to the Camden Town area. On balance the committee felt that the design, size and heritage considerations of this application were a significant improvement on the previous consented planning permission."
There are a few stallholders who design their own wares though at the weekend these designs are more likely to be found in the Electric Ballroom market.
The Electric Ballroom is one of Londons most famous night clubs and has been around since the 1950s. Many great names have played there. On Saturdays and Sundays this historic venue is open during the day to host an indoor market. Situated moments from Camden Town Tube station it is the 1st Market most people encounter on their visit to Camden. The Market attracts a wide range of traders selling an eclectic mix of day wear, clubbing wear, accessories, records, CDs, jewellry, retro and vintage fashion, arts, crafts, gothic and punk fashions, leathers, and unique designer items. The management pride themselves on attracting traders who have more to offer than the mass produced imports which have now come to dominate many of the other markets in Camden.
As of 2006 a large indoor market hall is under construction in a yard between the Stables Market and Camden Lock Market previously used for open-air stalls.
The Camden Market area is famed as the stamping ground of many well known musicians, including Madness who bought their loafers at the British Boot Company, the first distributors of Doc Martens in the UK. Between 1976 and 1979 The Clash lived and rehearsed in one of the market's Mongool warehouses. There are several well known music venues nearby.
On February 9, 2008 at around 7:20 p.m. a large fire broke out in the Camden Canal Market area on the north side of Chalk Farm Road. After crossing the railway line, the fire badly affected the rear of the Hawley Arms on Castlehaven Road, a pub in which Amy Winehouse made her name. Camden Lock Market and the Stables Market were unaffected by the fire and remained open. Winehouse mentioned the fire in her acceptance speech for Record of the Year at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. There were no casualties.
Railway services running above the market were disrupted. The fire was extinguished during the night, but the cause is still being investigated. Arson has officially been ruled out as a possible cause
The Comics Journal website noted that the London Underground Comics stall escaped the fire. The fire was so intense that smoke and an orange glow in the night sky could be seen from the lower end of Arlington Road, about 250m away.