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First Camden Tour Guides walk

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Standing on the spot the first parachutist landed in 1802

This month (May 2015) the Camden Tour Guides are treating us to tours about the democratic history of Camden. This month is incredibly poignant for Camden50 to be looking back at its political history as this week sees election fever take over the press, the streets and conversations as it is the General Election 2015 tomorrow.

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Democratic History of Camden walking tour starts at The Town Hall

The tour started at the Town Hall, originally St Pancras' Town Hall and now Camden's. More about the creation of Camden can be found HERE. We were led by Dave Brown who shared some of his personal highlights of this tour in his article A History of Democracy in Camden. He talked to us about the history of Camden and how it was built but private developers making spaces and housing for the public, in particular by Sir Andrew Judd and the Cartwright Estate. The tour then snaked round some back streets of the Bloomsbury area with a walk past the (claimed) first shopping centre in the world on Dukes Road in the Duke of Bedford estate.

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The worlds first shopping centre? Dukes Road

Then across Euston Road into Somers Town, past the Leatherworks, a venue now home to warehouse style offices it was originally the Leather warehouse where the seat covers in the Houses of Parliment were made.

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The Leatherworks in Somers Town

We were then taken into Somers Town for a closer look at their diverse housing estates. Here we learnt about the incredible history of Camden's housing plans, Father Basil Jellicoe (and his ornate and decorated housing), St. Pancras Housing Association, Sydney Cook and more!

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Looking at Father Basil Jellicoe's ornate social housing

We were also told about Oakshot Court, the last example of housing built by Camden Council (which at the time in 1965 a 3rd of the members were under 40 years old!) and was finished in 1977 by Peter Tabori. Prior to being Oakshot Court this site was home to The Polygon, a Georgian building that contained 32 homes. It's legacy lives on in Camden however as it was home to William Godwin and his wife Mary Wollstonecraft, the parents of 'Frankenstein' author, Mary Shelley. Godwin's legacy also lives on in Camden as UCL was founded by three of his former student.

The tour then looped through Old St Pancras Church Yard (where the first parachutist in 1802 landed!) via Camley Street Nature Park (which was almost turned into a coach yard) and into the new Kings Cross development (a contemporary development for the public owned by private developers - which linked back nicely to the beginning of the tour). We ended at 5 Pancras Square looking at the Camden logo which you can find out more about HERE and the amazing Mark Titchner artwork with the Camden motto 'Not For Self, But For All' above our heads.

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The end of the tour looking at the Camden logo

It was an insightful and fun way to spend a slightly soggy Sunday morning!

Article by Camden50 curator, Charlie Levine

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Camden Tour Guides Dave and Neil who are running the Democracy tours