27 January 2023

Wood block paving in Camden (Part 4 in a series)

You might have already seen my posts about remnants of wood block paving still in situ in today's roads. See here. This kind of surface was implemented to minimise the clippity-clop noise of horses' hooves back in the days before the motor car, yet here and there on today's Tarmac'd streets you'll see small patches of this old surface type, though mostly within man hole covers or on private forecourts.

I'd been told there are some examples hiding in plain sight in Camden, and so last week, on a walk from Hampstead to Mornington Crescent, I kept an eye open for them. 

Heading down Chalk Farm Road, the first cover plate I found with rectangular blocks within it was between the railway bridge and Regents Canal adjacent to Camden Lock Market, shown above looking north. 

I then found a second one on the other side of the canal, this next pic is also looking northwards:

There are more cover plates along that western side of the road, almost evenly spaced, between the canal and the tube station. 

Another woodblocked example can be found on the corner of Inverness Street, viewed here from outside Offspring shoe shop:

I thought I'd found four examples, but when I got home and looked at my photos it seems I only took pics of three of them. Camden is always so busy, it's hard to see where you are going, let alone go on a woodblock hunt. 

The man hole at the end of the road, opposite the tube station, almost at the junction with Parkway, is infilled with Tarmac. I did a quick search around the junction in the hope I might find some others but, no.  

I'm sure there are more to find in this busy zone. After all, with the amount of distribtuition going on in this vicinity, plus Gilbey’s stabling and tunnels linking the various buildings, today converted into subterranean market spaces, there surely must be many more pockets of wood paving here are there. Woodblocks would have been prevalent here to assuage the noise of all those horses’ hooves. In due course, I’ll go for a wander around the market areas as I am bound to find something. I'll update you if and when I find more evidence.


Update August 2023: I have set up a London A-Z Directory of Woodblocks. If you can add to the list, please leave a comment under this blog post or email me at jane@janeslondon.com

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