Remarkable pictures of Camden’s town hall under construction in the 1930s

PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 October 2020

Masonry work being done. Picture: AJ Thomas Archive

Masonry work being done. Picture: AJ Thomas Archive

AJ Thomas Archive

With work on the refurbishment of Camden’s town hall back under way, photos of its original construction have been released.

Work began on Camden Town Hall in 1934. The roof being constructed. Picture: AJ Thomas ArchiveWork began on Camden Town Hall in 1934. The roof being constructed. Picture: AJ Thomas Archive

St Pancras Council began constructing the building in 1934 - before the boroughs of Holborn, Hampstead and St Pancras joined together to form the borough of Camden.

The council wanted a classically designed building and commissioned architect Albert J Thomas, who previously spent 25 years as a senior architect for Sir Edwin Lutyens, considered to be one of Britain’s greatest classical architects.

It was Thomas who decided to build with a contemporary steel frame and to place the entrance to the Town Hall on Judd Street - away from the busy Euston Road.

On a trip to Italy he encountered the white marble that would be used for the central staircase, which has since become a backdrop for generations of wedding photos.

The north elevation. Picture: AJ Thomas ArchiveThe north elevation. Picture: AJ Thomas Archive

Thomas went on to design notable council homes across Camden including the Brookfield, Somers Town and Torriano Estates.

The current work, which has seen costs rise due to the coronavirus pandemic, will see repairs are being made to the steel frame and the stone façade. The stone roof slates will be replaced, and all non-original features will be stripped away.

As the refurbishment nears completion residents will be invited to contribute to a time capsule that will be placed in the building.

The town hall’s democratic services, community and civic facilities will be modernised, and local jobs generated.

Work on the basement. Picture: AJ Thomas ArchiveWork on the basement. Picture: AJ Thomas Archive

Half of the town hall will be used to provide work space, with 20% available at half of market rents - to support and encourage Camden’s small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The updated building is designed to achieve an excellent BREEAM rating – an industry standard grading for how environmentally friendly a building is. The previous gas heating will be removed and replaced with electric air source heating, CO2 output will be reduced by 335 tonnes (60%) a year and the running costs of the building will be halved.

Cllr Richard Olszewski, cabinet member for finance and transformation, said: “Our town hall has been our principle democratic and civic space since the 1930s – and we are now starting the major restoration and repair it urgently needs to fully serve our residents, businesses and communities in the 21st century and beyond.

“The pause in construction we decided to take to as lockdown restrictions were introduced gave us additional time to refine our designs and complete further intrusive surveys throughout the building. We now have a better picture of the extent to which the current building’s utilities and infrastructure require a complete overhaul and we have prepared a programme of works that will generate local jobs and play a leading role in the borough’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

Steelwork. Picture: AJ Thomas ArchiveSteelwork. Picture: AJ Thomas Archive

“We have agreed that a Camden workforce will drive the refurbishment of the town hall. As part of the contract, all new construction jobs and work placement opportunities will be advertised exclusively to Camden residents first, while we will offer apprenticeships in a variety of roles including hospitality and finance once the space is fully operational.

“Furthermore, after nearly a decade of austerity, which has seen the council’s budget cut in half since 2010, we are absolutely clear that despite increased costs, this refurbishment must and will be self-financing. The rent we receive from businesses based at the town hall and the newly refurbished event space will pay for the cost of the restoration and ensure the town hall’s future sustainability.

“And there is exciting, innovative work for us to do to achieve our ambitions for the building’s sustainability in response to the climate crisis – we want it to achieve an excellent BREEAM rating and to significantly reduce its carbon emissions. We are increasing our upfront capital spend on the works, so we can tackle these types of issues now while the building is empty and save money in the long-run.

“The refurbished town hall marks a pioneering, greener future for Camden’s communities, businesses and democracy and we look forward to welcoming residents back from autumn 2022.”

A council ceremony. Picture: AJ Thomas ArchiveA council ceremony. Picture: AJ Thomas Archive

You may also want to watch:

The foundation stone. Picture: AJ Thomas ArchiveThe foundation stone. Picture: AJ Thomas Archive

Steelwork. Picture: AJ Thomas ArchiveSteelwork. Picture: AJ Thomas Archive

Picture: AJ Thomas ArchivePicture: AJ Thomas Archive

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ham&High. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Hampstead Highgate Express