Women’s work

As well as managing their household, women were employed both in service to middle-class families and in factory work. The range of commerce in Camden Town ranked from large factories and warehouses to small workshops.

Large commerce

The Dalziel Brothers, engravers and printers, were pre-eminent in Camden Town for quality. Examples of their work are in the British Museum. Among the artists whose work they engraved were Leighton, Millais, Foster and Houghton. They cut the illustrations for Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense and Tenniel’s for Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

Charles Goodall started in business printing playing cards and message cards in Soho, central London, in the 1820s. Larger premises in 1830s were found in College Street and again in 1868. Products included stationery, games and toys, pens and toilet paper, and employed men and women across a range of skills of design, printing, production and distribution. The company produced most of the 2 million packs of playing cards sold by the turn of the century and created the design of court cards still used.

GoodallGoodall’s card manufactory, nineteenth century

Other substantial companies in Camden Town included the Aerated Bread Company, Associated Omnibus Company, British Automobile Traction Company, Dunn & Co, Idris mineral waters and Maples Depository.

Small commerce

“The crowded streets and mews of Camden Town – cardboard box makers, motor body builders, timber merchants, glass merchants, paint makers, wire-workers and general smiths, air-conditioning firms which made sheet metal ducting, manufacturing opticians …. The St Pancras Chamber of Commerce listed page after page of firms, small and large, all offering employment”                                                                         (Jack Whithead,

Employment for men in the first half of the nineteenth century included construction of housing, the canal and railways. The wharfs along on Regent’s Canal provided harboured builders’ materials and coal   Pubs along the High Street, Pratt Street and Camden Road would have acted as ‘houses of call’ for these working men.  In the later half of the century, the railways gave employment both for the passenger and good services and in offices at the main termini.

Piano manufacture was widespread across Camden Town and included thWillisOrgane circular Willis’ organ factory (ex-Burford’s panorama-painting studio) in Rochester Place. The canal enabled wood to be brought from High Wycombe and iron from the Midlands, and heavy finished products transported to the London docks.

Furniture-making, although mainly centred on Tottenham Court Road, extended into Camden Town, as did coach-making firms. Oetzmann & Co, with their retail store near Tottenham Court Road, had their ‘works’ at 12 Camden Town High Street, and Maples had storage and deliveries in Camden Street. Furniture-makers also provided additional trades – cleaning, repairs and alterations; decorating and furnishing;  caretaking, house-letting and advertising for rental; and funerals – even tombstones.