A lively evening

The talk for Camden History Society ‘Reclaiming Camden Town’ gained an audience of 60 – reckoned a good turn-out by Tudor Allen, the Camden archivist.  I am grateful to the Ruth and David Hayes for allowing me to join the Society’s speakers and to Gillian Tindall as distinguished Chair.

Gillian was pleased that I had referenced Donald Olsen as one of my sources – she remembered him as a vigorous and scholarly American.  In his book The growth of Victorian London (Peregrine, 1979:119) he observes that ‘within a circle of Temple Bar, and even of Regent’s Circle, the great mass of the residents are lodgers who occupy a story, a set of rooms, or a single appartment in a house planned as a single residence’.  This helps thinking about the changing composition of Camden Town’s houses.

Perhaps because my final slide was about Lord Camden, several questioners took up the name Pratt.  One asked ‘Where to dance in Pratt Street?’, to which I suggested perhaps the Paving Commission’s offices (No. 57), where the Camden Town Literary and Scientific Society had rented rooms for a while; but another answer could have been Camden Hall, on the corner with Camden Street.

Society member Lester Hillman asked whether, if Lord Camden had not had his illustrious career, we would now be living in Pratt Town. Well possibly, or even in Jeffreys Town, as Charles Pratt did not finally take over the land from his wife’s family until 1785.  And one audience member confided that, when he lived in the fire station family quarters on the corner, he always gave his address as St Pancras Way rather than Pratt Street.

The talk was commended by Secretary Ruth Hayes for giving a presence to women in Camden Town. The final ‘Camdens’ slide had included the portrait of Frances Molesworth that is in the Huntington Gallery, California, and the link with Molesworth Place at Jeffreys Street was discussed. It was a suitable time to promote my article coming in this year’s Camden History Review.