The Road North: Tottenham Court Road to Camden, a set on Flickr.
On September 3, 2012, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, inspired by a journey from Triton Square through Fitzrovia to Oxford Street and Soho Square that I had taken just three days earlier, I returned to central London, to the giant Crossrail project that has currently devoured the junction where Oxford Street and New Oxford Street meet Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road (known as St. Giles Circus), and cycled north, up Tottenham Court Road, across Euston Road and up Hampstead Road to Camden Town.
Photos of Camden, and of the journey I took along the Regent’s Canal from Camden to King’s Cross, will follow soon, but this set focuses on the great artery north, technically the A400, that takes its name from a manor house just to the north west of the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, which, during the time of Henry III (1216–1272), belonged to William de Tottenhall. By the time of Elizabeth I, it was known as Tottenham Court, and now, as Tottenham Court Road, it is a busy shopping street, with electronics shops at the southern end and big furniture stores further north, although, as with most things to do with the retail environment, these certainties are generally in flux, and shops come and go with the whims of fashion, the ludicrous ease of internet shopping (consigning young people to work in warehouses in the middle of nowhere), and the state of the economy.
Tottenham Court Road has been a part of my life for many years. As a teenage visitor to London, I would get off at Tottenham Court Road station and make my way to Denmark Street to visit Forbidden Planet, or Soho for arthouse cinemas and, at one particular point even earlier, an extraordinary comic shop called Dark They Were, And Golden-Eyed (from a short story by Ray Bradbury), in St. Anne’s Court (also see here and here). Later, after I moved to London as a 22-year old, I worked for a short period in Forbidden Planet, and I also worked in Fitzrovia for a while, drank in the neighbourhood and went to gigs at the Astoria (a prominent casualty of the Crossrail works), where I saw an little-known band, Nirvana, who were third on the bill at a gig of Seattle bands that also featured Tad, a giant ex-butcher, and Mudhoney, who once sabotaged one of their own gigs by insisting that they wouldn’t start until the entire audience was on stage with them.
I still find Tottenham Court Road interesting — although I have more time for the less hectic streets of Fitzrovia — but its continuation, known as Hampstead Road, which starts across Euston Road, heading up to Mornington Crescent and Camden, is generally a street I know less about, an artery that I only occasionally cycled in years gone by to get from central London to Camden and beyond, as I would often travel by Tube. Peppered with council estates, and with the railway and traces of industry, it is a far different beast, and one whose side streets and estates I will be visiting again when the opportunity arises.
For now, I hope you enjoy this journey, and that you’ll stick around for Camden Town and the canal at dusk!
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Irfan Iqbal wrote:
Very nice photography,when Will you be doing east London,my old stomping ground,i Will look forward to those as i no longer live in the busy city.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
Fine photos, Andy. I was in that area many times, between 71 and about 85. Brings back old memories. I’ll share it tomorrow.
Peter B. Collins wrote:
thanks for the tour, Andy! My brother used to work at Camden Lock, and I have wandered Camden and Kentish towns. Is the Town & Country still there–I saw a Dr. Feelgood show there in the early 90′s
Hi Irfan, George and Peter. Great to hear from you all. I have some east London photos, Irfan – of Commercial Road, Mile End, Shoreditch, Hoxton and Haggerston. It’s just taking me a long time to put photos up!
Glad you’re on familiar ground, George. Perhaps you’ll be in London again one of these days!
And Peter, wow, that took me back. It’s been called the Forum for so long now (since 1993) that the days of the Town & Country Club had almost slipped my mind. I used to visit a lot in the ’80s – more so than the Astoria, to be honest, and also, for smaller gigs, I used to trek out to the Mean Fiddler, which was way out in Harlesden. And when I was lucky – I lived in Brixton from 1985 to 1996 – there’d be a gig at the Brixton Academy. I saw a few blistering Pogues gigs there – once with Shane MacGowan, and then, when it was all too much for Shane, with Joe Strummer as the frontman, and the Pogues managing to be both the Pogues and the Clash!
Did you see Julien Temple’s documentary about Dr. Feelgood, Peter? It’s called “Oil City Confidential.” I haven’t seen it yet, but a good friend of mine recommends it very highly: http://www.oilcityconfidential.co.uk/
Peter B. Collins wrote:
cool! just watched the trailer. I interviewed Lee Brilleaux in SF about 85 (Sneakin Suspicion was released here, got some FM play) and caught them at Town & Country on a visit in about 89. I doubt he remembered me, but he was very nice. Will see if I can find the film over here. We should chat soon about Khadr and other developments cheers
Jennah Solace wrote:
Reflections 1 is my favourite
Happy to talk anytime, Peter. Just let me know when suits you.
And Jennah, yes, I thought you might like the more abstract photos.
Today was wet and, I thought, miserable, but after an early start and lots of work this morning, and then lunch and some socializing at my favourite coffee shop, I decided to brave the elements and was pleasantly surprised. I cycled first to Peckham Rye Park, which was extraordinarily lush after the rain, and then the sun began to appear flirtatiously around Lordship Lane in East Dulwich and around Nunhead Green. A nice ride, and hopefully some good photos, although I don’t know when I’ll get round to posting them. First I have to post the rest of the photos from the visit to Camden Town and my bike ride along the towpath of the Regent’s Canal to King’s Cross.
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