Search

‘The great fires of Camden’: Blazes devastated Camden’s markets in 2008 and 1980

23:29 19 May 2014

Fire engulfs the Canal Market during the blaze of 2008 - dubbed

Fire engulfs the Canal Market during the blaze of 2008 - dubbed 'The Great fire of Camden'

Archant

As traders and residents watched huge plumes of smoke billow from the burning Stables Market in Camden Town tonight, it will have been a haunting reminder of similar scenes during the so-called ‘Great Fire of Camden’ of 2008 and a huge fire the devastated the Stables Market in 1980.

A firefighter by the burning market buildings during the blaze of 2008A firefighter by the burning market buildings during the blaze of 2008

Great fire of Camden, 2008

On the night of Saturday, February 9 a substantial fire that took more than 100 firefighters to control devastated the Canal Market in Camden Town - which lies opposite the Stables Market where fire broke out tonight at 8pm.

The 2008 fire left residents homeless and businesses in ruin.

The Ham&High reported at the time that the alarm was raised at 7.10pm and within minutes the first fire engine was on the scene in Camden High Street.

Fire engulfs the Canal Market during the blaze of 2008 - dubbed 'The Great fire of Camden'Fire engulfs the Canal Market during the blaze of 2008 - dubbed 'The Great fire of Camden'

But the flames quickly became a raging fireball fuelled by gas canisters.

More than 100 people were evacuated from their homes while police, security guards and firefighters drove a crowd of nearly 500 people away from the market.

The train line between Camden Town and Kentish Town West was closed and the gathering crowds could only watch as the flames engulfed the portion of the railway line behind the famous Hawley Arms pub.

Police sealed off the surrounding roads as people were ejected from nearby pubs and moved back from the danger area, where plumes of flames reached heights of 30 feet, blowing out glass from windows and scattering debris.

Firefighters from across london were called to a huge blaze which destroyed part of the world famous camden on October 7, 1980. Picture: Paul WoodFirefighters from across london were called to a huge blaze which destroyed part of the world famous camden on October 7, 1980. Picture: Paul Wood

Over the next three hours the blaze grew and spread to a number of shops and flats and engulfed the back of the Hawley Arms.

By 10pm the fire was surrounded on all sides by firefighters, but it was only finally brought under control the following morning. Officers stayed at the scene throughout the night hosing down deep-seated pockets of fire.

Val Shawcross, the chairwoman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority at the time, said: “London’s fire brigade demonstrated outstanding professionalism in bringing this difficult fire under control, preventing it from spreading further without a single casualty.

“Considering the fierce fire that crews found when they arrived at the incident we should recognise what a good job they did in bringing it under control so quickly.”

Firefighters among the wreckage of the Stables Market fire in 1980. Picture: Paul WoodFirefighters among the wreckage of the Stables Market fire in 1980. Picture: Paul Wood

The Stables Market fire of 1980

The Ham&High’s coverage of the 2008 disaster included a look back at a previous fire in the market area almost 30 years before.

A blaze in October 1980 caused widespread destruction and wiped out numerous small traders.

No lives were lost during the night-time fire but the financial costs to those involved were estimated to be substantial.

Camden historian Jack Whitehead, aged 92 in 2008, recalled the drama.

“There was a large industrial building which had previously been Gilbey’s bottle store,” he said.

“It occupied a triangular site on Commercial Place, between Camden Lock and the railway lines - near the Interchange building where the TV company is now.

“When Gilbey’s left Camden Town it was used for storage and individual craftsmen had workshops and stalls there.

“It was a building with a huge wooden floor supported by iron girders.

“When the fire started at night, the sprinkler system failed to work. So fireman were reduced to dowsing the flames from outside and dowsing neighbouring buildings to stop it spreading.

“Because the girders were made from cast iron, they expanded in the heat and pushed the walls out. The roof collapsed and the whole building came down.”

After the 1980 fire the site remained a derelict wasteland for years, until eventually it was redeveloped and became what is now the Stables Market.

Mr Whitehead recalled much speculation over the fire’s cause and great anger from those affected.

“This was a time when there were quite a lot of suspicious fires - very often people wanted to clear areas or claim insurance money,” he said.

“Nothing was ever proved about this fire in 1980, but people believed this sort of thing to be the motivation. The fact the sprinklers didn’t work only added to complaints.

“The individual craftsmen who had their workshops there lost everything.”

* For coverage of the fire in Camden’s Stables Market tonight, see the Ham&High’s latest news report

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

54 minutes ago
Crouch End Hill Food & Wine following stabbing

A mother has thanked her Crouch End customers for their “unbelievable” support after her son was stabbed during an attempted robbery at their family-owned store.

Yesterday, 17:25
Striking junior doctors outside the Royal Free Hospital during a national day of action 10.02.16.

Junior doctors protested on the picket lines of the Whittington and Royal Free hospitals today after staging a second walk-out.

Yesterday, 16:43
A basement excavation next door to AIR studios could leave  the famous recording venue out of action

Camden planners have made a U-turn by ruling that an 11,700-strong petition against a basement development next to AIR studios will not be ignored.

Yesterday, 16:30
Alex Lyons with her children Oscar, five, and Benjy, three.   Picture: Nigel Sutton

Haringey Council has U-turned on its plan to close a loophole allowing families to secure places for their children at some of the borough’s most popular primary schools even after moving miles away from catchment areas.

Yesterday, 16:07
Roundway

Day centres for autistic, vulnerable, and disabled people cannot be saved by using money raised from a proposed two per cent council tax rise, Haringey Council’s cabinet has ruled.

Yesterday, 10:30
Ergun Yasar will be sentenced next week

A man from Crouch End has admitted being part of a gang which cheated a casino in Paddington out of thousands of pounds by ‘card swapping’.

Yesterday, 09:35
Striking junior doctors outside the Whittington Hospital during a national day of action 10.02.16.

Junior doctors have walked out of the Royal Free and Whittington hospitals for the second time in weeks over contract disputes.

Tue, 21:05
Haringey Council Civic Centre

Haringey Council has U-turned on its plan to close a loophole allowing families to secure places for their children at some of the borough’s most popular schools even after moving miles away from catchment areas.

Most read news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Surface Pro 4

Technology is ever evolving. We are constantly being shown new technology that is innovative, revolutionary and designed to make life easier for us all. Gone are the days of dial up modems and computers so large you needed half a room to store it. We are in the age of smooth, small and sleek. Companies are all trying their best to create technology that is easy to transport and guaranteed to be user friendly.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe