12 Oddities To Spot In Camden Town

By M@

Last Updated 20 February 2024

12 Oddities To Spot In Camden Town
The shop signs of Camden Town, a riot of colour and 3-D fibreglass models

Camden Town is one big oddity. It's impossible to walk more than a few paces without something catching your eye. Often it's the people. The market still attracts colourful characters, despite all the "Camden isn't cool anymore" naysayers. But the buildings, streets and waterways also offer endless novelty for anyone who pays attention. Here are just a few of the oddities to look out for next time you're walking down the high street.

A map of camden town showing oddities

1. Music walk of fame

A pavement plaque to Soul II Soul

For our first oddity, look to your feet as you emerge from Camden Town tube's right-hand exit. Embedded in the pavement are a series of discs, pacing out a (very short) Music Walk of Fame along both sides of the High Street. At time of writing, the sequence includes just five artists: Madness, The Who, Soul II Soul, David Bowie and (inevitably... we're going to meet her again on this walk) Amy Winehouse. But it's a relatively new project, and more plaques should be forthcoming.

2. Wood-block paving

A roundel of wooden block paving surrounded by cobbles

While you're scanning the pavement, keep your eyes peeled for these rare samples of wood-block paving. Many decades ago, much of London's road surfaces were made from tarred wooden blocks. Almost all have now been replaced by tarmac, but you can still see rare survivors here and there. We've clocked two patches in Camden — one near the station and the other further along near the Camden Town rail bridge.

3. Deep-level shelter

A graffiti spattered brick building with a drum-shaped front - a former deep level shelter

Take a short diversion down Buck Street to admire the copious street art. But look out also for this peculiar building. It was built in the early 1940s as the portal to a high-speed underground railway, but instead ended up as a bomb shelter. It was just one of 13 such buildings dotted along the Northern line (see our in-depth guide to spotting them). After the war, the money wasn't there to complete the railway. The deep level shelters have since found other purposes, such as document storage and subterranean farming.

4. The shop signs

A Camden Town shop sign, with an animated ferris wheel on a blue background flanked by Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty

The High Street has been a riot of colourful signs for decades. We did a bit of an audit a few years back and already many of these have changed. Even KFC now has a bespoke facade. One of the signs — an American Candy store — is even animated.

5. Elephants on parade

Two elongated elephant sculptures over Camden lock

These elongated pachyderms stand guard over the canal bridge, along with another pair at the northern end. They're part of a city-wide project called 'Elephanti Sunt Personne' (elephants are people). The installations are the work of a Hackney-based street art collective, who want us to think of elephants as our equals, and deserving of the same rights and respect.

Incidentally, the bridge they inhabit is the same one that was trashed in Marvel's Eternals.

Incidentally 2, you can find several other elephants in Camden, including the Elephant's Head pub and a relief sculpture of an elephant on Hawley Crescent.

6. Breakfast Eggcups

An eggcup shaped finial on a stepped roof, with a seagull perched on top

For any Brit over the age of 40, this rooftop eggcup will stir cherished memories. This was the symbol of TV-AM a pioneering breakfast show that ran on ITV for much of the 1980s, and was broadcast from this lockside location. The building was designed by Terry Farrell's architectural practice. The client wasn't too keen on the rooftop eggcups and agreed only to include them if Farrell paid for their installation.

7. Padlocks ahoy

Loads and loads of padlocks, clamped onto the metalwork of Camden Lock canal

A relatively recent phenomenon in Camden Town is the accumulation of signed padlocks along the ironmongery of the canal towpath. You may have seen this modern tradition practiced outside Shoreditch station and on the Thames opposite St Paul's, but the Houdini-fication of Camden outshines them all with sheer weight of numbers. Carry on to the small pedestrian bridge (over the left shoulder of the photographer in the snap above), and you'll find a tranche of guerrilla knitting woven round the bars.

8. Dead Dog's Hole

The canal tunnel known as Dead Dogs Hole in Camden Town

The red-brick Interchange Building has been a Camden landmark since the early 20th century. This vast warehouse was a hive of local industry, built over the place where canal met railway. The canal entrance still exists and is spanned by a recently refurbished pedestrian bridge that carries the towpath off towards Regent's Park. The space beneath is known informally as Dead Dog's Hole, on account of the unfortunate animals whose fate it was to wash into its maw. It was once possible to kayak into this aquatic cavern and gain access to an extensive network of abandoned horse tunnels, but a barrier now prevents such urbex adventures.

9. Camden Town bridge

The famous Camden Lock railway bridge

OK, OK, it's a very well-known landmark. But we can't leave out the famously decorated rail bridge that spans the high street. The iconic bit of placemaking dates back to the 1980s, when John Bulley was commissioned to spice up the bridge. The two painters are based on John's co-workers, as he explains in this interview with KentishTowner.

10. Street art... everywhere

A bit of street art showing Brian from family guy next to a sign saying Urgh Street Art

The other really obvious oddity around Camden is the street art. It's bally well everywhere, and helps make the place what it is. Some of the best areas can be found in the streets close to the Camden Lock bridge, including this long-standing mosaic of Brian from Family Guy looking down his nose at the art form.  

11. Amy Winehouse statue

Sculpture of Amy Winehouse in Camden Town

A whole article — possibly a whole website — could be devoted to the oddities lurking within the labyrinth of Stables Market (and the caverns you can explore are but a small part of the historic horse tunnels). But we need to say hello again to Amy Winehouse, whose much photographed statue is towards the northern end of the market. Amy once had plenty of bronze playfellows. When Stables Market was revamped in the late Noughties, it was absolutely riddled with statues of horse and their handlers — seemingly more than the market knew what to do with. Their number is now greatly tamed, though you can still find the odd lurker here and there.

12. Rooftop Gormley

Antony Gromley sculpture of a human form standing on a building

And finally... take a short walk up Chalk Farm Road to the magnificent Roundhouse. It's one of London's best known music venues, but how many people notice the Antony Gormley statue sticking up from the roof? It's been here since the late Noughties.

To finish the walk, just continue a few paces further along Chalk Farm Road, and there's Chalk Farm tube.