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The hidden portal behind this classic pub

The railways continue to define local life

Google Maps 3D image, zooming in above the hidden Primrose Hill Portals

A chat with the manager of beloved Primrose Hill boozer The Lansdowne this week - spurred on by an Instagram post featuring a historic photo of the pub that now hangs on their wall (see below) - had us thinking about the railway infrastructure that still dominates so much of this part of the world.

Built in the 1861, The Lansdowne traditionally opened first thing in the morning to refresh railway workers coming off the early shift, since there was direct access down a flight of steps right next door, leading to the sizable engine sheds servicing the West Coast Main Line.

Work on the locomotives here used to throw huge volumes of soot and dust across the neighbourhood daily, leading to a general decline in the social fabric of the terraces, villas and mews that had ambitiously also sprung up in the fields all around.

Local website Primrose Hill History reports that as late as the 1960s there was a midday striptease at The Lansdowne, which back then had ‘heavy velvet curtains and girls on trestle tables.’ 😳

It feels hard to believe today, but even into the 1980s Primrose Hill was still a rather rundown and forgotten little triangle of London, cut off from Camden’s more desirable streets on all sides by the railway tracks, the canal and the parks.

In 1992, and hot on the heels of Farringdon’s The Eagle, (widely credited as being the first ‘gastro’ pub, which had only opened a few months earlier), The Lansdowne relaunched with a similarly foodie-focused offering, trailblazing the kind of destination boozer formula that’s so familiar all over the country today, just as the area’s fortunes (and house prices) we’re also skyrocketing.

The Lansdowne then and now: the iconic Charrington’s Brewery tiling and styling still remains today

Though the railways had a declining impact on the neighbourhood as the associated lusty workers, engine noise and clouds of airborne particulates waned, its legacy continues to shape local life dramatically even today.

A whole new district is rising right now just across the tracks on the defunct former Camden Goods Yard land, while controversial new line HS2 burrows deep beneath the existing rails on its costly, unfinished journey northwards.

And if you look a little more closely, there’s plenty more to see.

Just up the tracks from the pub, if you peer behind the bushes at the top of King Henry’s Road, you can glimpse Primrose Hill’s long-forgotten tourist attraction; the grand (Grade II listed, no less) Western Portals of London’s first ever railway tunnel.

Yes, those handsome-but-hidden structures pictured via the Google Maps image at the top of today’s newsletter, that back in the 1800’s famously drew in the day-tripper crowd from miles around, here to behold the railway’s latest engineering miracle.

🍺 Saturday is Independent Pub Day - hooray!

While Dry January may be behind us, the crisis for cherished hospitality businesses sadly is not.

The precipitous drop in the number of drinking and dancing venues (over 40% have been lost over the last two decades) is a national cultural disaster, and skyrocketing operational costs combined with a cost of living crisis are only making things worse.

Which is why our friends at City Stack and London Pub Explorer have put out the call for Saturday 10th of Feb as support an independent pub (or two) day.

The premise is really most simple - go to your fave local indie boozer and spend some money with them, having a lovely convivial time in the process.

If you take a CityStack beer mat with you’ll get £10 off your bill, too. We’ll see you at the bar… 🍻

Help us to continue promoting culture from all corners of Camden

Upgrade to Camdenist Premium for less than £1.50 a week and we’ll send you £100 of independent pub discounts in a CityStack pack as thanks…


👕 All change ‘on the high street’

Gibson Guitars flagship store is landing in Fitzrovia

👖 As previewed on Camdenist a few weeks ago, the excellent CharitySuper.Mkt opens up in the recently shuttered Fenwick's of Bond Street this afternoon (Fri 9th), offering a ticketed (but free) chance for a ‘first rummage’ if you are quick.

🧥 In another shift in the positioning at King’s Cross curated shopping hub Coal Drops Yard, rumour has it that affordable Japanese casual clothing and practical undergarment chain Uniqlo are eyeing up a move into the recently vacated Wolf & Badger store. It remains to be seen who will occupy the top floor restaurant that was reluctantly vacated by Hicce at the same time.

💡 Just opposite, the legendary Tom Dixon Warehouse Event kicks off for 2024 today, with a chance to get his industrial luxe furniture, lighting and accessories at up to 80% off - all you have to do is register for a free ticket - runs daily until the 18th, with stock replenishment every day.

🎸 130-year-old Nashville-based guitar manufacturers Gibson are preparing to open the first flagship store outside the US when The Gibson Garage London opens in Fitzrovia, just off Oxford St a couple of weeks. Expect over 300 acoustic and electric instruments, accessories, gear and more.

☕As Starbucks and Costa seem to be retreating from absolute high street saturation, two upstart challengers are snapping up the prime spots. Locally founded but now globally expansive brand Black Sheep Coffee have just opened in the historic lock keeper’s cottage, right on the waterside at Camden Market. It’s a small location, but the best bit is the return of the Canal & River Trust’s exhibition all about this amazing stretch of Regent’s Canal.

☕ Meanwhile the exponential growth of the chain of minimalist to the point of calculated blandness aesthetic, Blank Street Coffee, has seen their latest stripped back branch just arrive at St Pancras Station.



Dog Pizza GIF

Last chance to tell us which joint does the very best Fiorentina, Margarita or ‘Nduja sourdough.

We’re putting together a comprehensive(ish) rundown of where across Camden does the very best pizza, based on the feedback of our thousands of local readers - make sure you have your say. 🍕🍕 

📊 This week’s 1-click poll

As Camden Market's Tomb Raider Experience closes down, is the future for the area really 'experiences'?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

🌈 More LGBT History Month

In all the excitement of a month-long programme of drag nights, LGBTQ canoeing sessions on Regent’s Canal and queer book clubs featured last week, we missed a few more notable things to go see.

🗣️ Swerve a sea of generic tables for two this Valentine’s night, and head instead to Ethical Matters: Marginalised Loves: An Intimate History of the Last Century, where author Luke Turner discusses the lusty sexual complexity of the Second World War, this Wednesday night at Conway Hall.

🖼️ Chalk Farm’s lovely art gallery and lifestyle store Adorn The Common is currently showcasing the rich tapestry of queer artistic expression with a show called Autonomous. It includes sculpture, ceramics, photography and mixed media pieces, forming a collective story, and runs until next Friday (16th).


The pick of the week’s upcoming live gigs

Yasiin Bey

🎶 Tonight at King’s Cross’ Jamboree venue there’s a Friday night of the toughest blues from Errol Linton Band, blasting out the blues and boogie, with Errol as talented on the harmonica as he is soulful on vocal duties.

🎙️ Saturday (Feb 10th) at the Green Note Basement Bar sees award-winning London-born jazz vocalist Deelee Dubé touch down for an evening of silky vocal artistry.

🥳 By all accounts The Pogue Traders last local gig (at nearby Dingwalls at Xmas) was a particularly poignant, yet suitably raucous affair following the recent death of Shane McGowan. Now their back for a joy-filled afternoon session at the Guinness-soaked Dublin Castle this Sunday (11th).

🎤 For the first time in the UK, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) will be performing his unique interpretation of the late, great MF DOOM’s music at the Roundhouse on Sunday night (11th), and there are still a few hot tickets left to grab.

🎻 Tuesday (13th) sees the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment back to their old tricks again, as their popular The Night Shift gig series returns, bringing chamber music back to a pub setting. This time it’s Mozart at The Water Rats.


Talk of the Town

The weekly column: reflections on living, working and playing in the borough…

MONDAY: Received a message from our friend Mike, founder of the TownSpot app, seeking a bit of press coverage around the growth of his innovative listings platform. Unfortunately his approaches to the main ‘legacy’ local media titles seem to have been ignored (which doesn’t sound very community-minded, but who knows, perhaps they’re swamped with good news stories about using tech to tackle loneliness?) As fans of living ‘n breathing Camden culture, we love what Mike and his project are doing helping people to get more from life in their neighbourhood. If you’re not already involved, TownSpot began as a WhatsApp group listing things to do every week in Kentish Town, but eventually outgrew a single message and became a website too. More recently, the service has expanded to cover Camden Town and Belsize Park too, launching as an app last year. “The organisation's main mission is to ease loneliness and connect people with where they live,” says Mike’s press release, “with 47% of users reporting to feel less lonely as a result of using TownSpot and 93.5% of people saying they feel more connected to where they live.” As a complement to the weekly magazine-style editorial we like to do here at Camdenist, the app is an ideal way of finding out about useful community events, social meet-ups or those secret pub comedy shows you might otherwise miss.

This section is where you’ll find all the extra benefits of being a signed-up member of the fast-growing Camdenist community.

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