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LOCAL INTEREST

Local authors, local history, locally set novels – the best books about Kentish Town and North London. Contact us by email at owlbookshop@gmail.com to purchase these items.

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Streets of Kentish Town

£10.95

Ten walks take the reader through Kentish Town (east of the Overground railway line) and Dartmouth Park. Although most of the streets date from after 1830, Kentish Town developed from a roadside medieval village into a Georgian country town famed for its healthy air. It then became a Victorian industrial suburb blighted by the grime and smoke from its factories and railways. Also available

 

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Love Nina

£8.99

In 1982 Nina Stibbe, a 20-year-old from Leicester, moved to Camden Town to work as a nanny for a very particular family. It was a perfect match: Nina had no idea how to cook, look after children or who the weirdos were who called round. And the family, busy discussing such arcane subjects as how to swear in German or the merits (or otherwise) of turkey mince, were delighted by her lack of skills. Love, Nina is the collection of letters she wrote home gloriously describing her ‘domestic’ life, the unpredictable houseguests and the cat everyone loved to hate.

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Gloucester Crescent

£8.99

William Miller’s memories of a childhood coloured by his parents’ circle of left-wing, idealistic celebrity friends from across the sixties, seventies and eighties provides the foundation for this memoir, featuring revealing appearances from Alan Bennett, Clare Tomalin, Martin Amis and many others.

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At the Pond

£9.99

Tucked away along a shady path towards the north-east edge of Hampstead Heath is a sign: Women Only. This is the Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond.

Floating in the Pond’s silky waters, hidden by a canopy of trees, it’s easy to forget that you are in the middle of London. On a hot day, thousands of swimmers from eight to eighty-plus can be found waiting to take a dip before sunbathing in the adjoining meadow. As summer turns to autumn and then winter, the Pond is still visited by a large number of hardy regulars in high-vis hats, many of whom have been swimming here for decades.

In these essays we see the Pond from the perspectives of writers who have swum there. Esther Freud describes the life-affirming sensation of swimming through the seasons; Lou Stoppard pays tribute to the winter swimmers who break the ice; Margaret Drabble reflects on the golden Hampstead days of her youth; Sharlene Teo visits for the first time; and Nell Frizzell shares the view from her yellow lifeguard’s canoe.

Combining personal reminiscence with reflections on the history of the place over the years and through the changing seasons, At the Pond captures fourteen contemporary writers’ impressions of this unique place.

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Hampstead Heath – The Walker’s Guide

£9.99

A walkers guide to Hampstead Heath that contains information regarding the geology, ecology, and history of the terrain.

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Kentish Town & Camden 1870

£3.00

London Sheet 38.1 Kentish Town & Camden 1894 – Covers an area stretching from Primrose Hill eastward to Camden Square and Marquis Road; from Leighton Road southward to Preatt Street. These are very busy maps covcering much of Kentish Town, Camden Town and the old St Pancras borough. There are many railway features including the approaches to St Pancras, with Kentish Town and Camden Road stations; the approaches to Euston, including Chalk Farm station, Camden Goods station and engine shed; the North London Railway, with Kentish Town and Camden Town stations; and the GNER engine sheds. Other features include tramways, the Regents Canal, part of Primrose Hill, Maitland Park, Camden Brewery, and countless streets of housing. Streets include Prince of Wales Road, Haverstock Hill, Camden Road, Kentish Town Road, High Street and many more.

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Camden Town & Kentish Town

£12.99

This series of archive images evocatively recreates the Camden and Kentish Towns of the past. The majority of the photographs, postcards and ephemera are from private collections, presented here for the first time in a single volume.

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Camden Town & Kentish Town Then & Now

£12.99

The transformation from fields to streets in Camden Town and Kentish Town began in the eighteenth century. This book covers many aspects of life in these adjacent neighbourhoods of Northwest London. The area was crossed by railway lines that provided much local employment. Camden Town was also a notable centre of the piano making industry. While public houses proliferated, some originally coaching inns, the residents spiritual needs were well served by churches and chapels. Theatres and cinemas provided entertainment and almost anything, including talking parrots, could be bought in the shops on or close to Camden High Street and Kentish Town Road. More recently, the area around Camden Lock on the Regents Canal has become one of Londons leading tourist attractions, famous for its vibrant atmosphere, restaurants and shops. Post Second World War redevelopment replaced large areas of Victorian housing: this book shows while much has changed amazingly, much has survived.

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Curious Camden Town

£9.99

The psychedelic concerts at The Roundhouse probably marked the moment that Camden became cool, long before Amy Winehouse became the local diva who died much too young. Both are locally well-known, but what about the spiritualist temple that Sherlock Holmes helped build or the folk dance revival that started in a Camden Hay Market or the site of the Camden Town Murder? Camden might have the best eels and mash shop in North London but it was also the home of a local priest who was deported as a political undesirable and of a Black revolutionary who was known all over the world. Curious Camden Town explores thirty or so locations across this lively locality and brings to life the remarkable stories attached to them.

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How Hampstead Heath Was Saved

£14.95

The first campaign to save Hampstead Heath was at the centre of the great 19th century conservation movement that saw the creation of the National Trust, the Commons Preservation Society (now the Open Spaces Society) and the Hampstead Heath Protection Society (now the Heath and Hampstead Society). Extensive research has uncovered fresh information about this story of Britain’s conservation movement and the remarkable people who played a part in the battle to save London’s commons. This book reveals the political and social upheavals, the rise of town planning and the cultural developments that led to a new understanding of the value of open space.

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Falling Angels

£9.99

Queen Victoria is dead. In January 1901, the day after her passing, two very different families visit neighbouring graves in a London cemetery.

The traditional Waterhouses revere the late Queen where the Colemans have a more modern outlook, but both families are appalled by the friendship that springs up between their respective daughters. As the girls grow up, their world changes almost beyond measure: cars are replacing horses, electric lighting is taking over from gas, and emancipation is fast approaching, to the delight of some and the dismay of others…

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Hampstead Heath

£25.00

Hampstead Heath, London’s Countryside, is a hardcover book with over 120 stunning photographs of the wildlife and landscapes of Hampstead Heath.

“Nature photography has taken me to some of the most beautiful national parks and wilderness areas in the world – I’ve witnessed the great migration in east Africa, humpback whales breaching in the Pacific Ocean and observed primates at close quarters in the rain forests of South America.

Photographing the wildlife and landscapes of Hampstead Heath has been equally exhilarating. This 800 acre ancient park is just 5km from the London city centre and boasts an incredible variety of plants and animals. Over the last four years it has been my mission to capture the beauty and diversity of this special green space and through a beautiful collection of images I have achieved this.”

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Camden Town

£10.00

Camden Town perfectly embodies the cultural mix for which London is famed. Alongside the buzzing Lock market, the pubs and music venues and the eclectic shops, there is another Camden – impossible crowds, shameful poverty, bad housing, gang fights, murders…This book takes five landmarks as the starting point for a series of journeys into the layers of history and culture that make Camden Town. The World’s End pub existed in various forms before Camden began.

The Regent’s Canal Bridge is where today’s crowds flock to the locks and market, while Arlington House, just a block away, belongs to a parallel Camden of immigration and new beginnings, poverty and homelessness. No. 8 Royal College Street represents how, even with the first buildings of nineteenth-century Camden Town, social outsiders were attracted to the area.

Meanwhile the Roundhouse, an engineering curiosity, was to become the revered centre of Camden’s cultural scene.

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Curious Kentish Town

£9.95

This elegant publication visits over thirty remarkable locations within twenty minutes’ stroll of Kentish Town station, and tells their curious stories. Anarchists, poets, exiles, artists, African revolutionaries, 1930s fascists, all have left their mark in and around NW5. Do you know about the North London rent strike that inspired a Peggy Seeger song … or the horse tunnels built under the canals … or the spot where the long lost Fleet river breaks cover? This book brings you the last hurrah of the ‘beanfeast’ … a contemporary echo of the Crimea … the most touching of First World War memorials. You can follow in the tracks of the old piano industry, come across the craziest of London’s parish churches and hunt down a beery elephant’s head. The artist-designed map encourages readers to follow in the authors footsteps, across Kentish Town and around, from Regent’s Park to Tufnell Park, from Camden Town to Dartmouth Park, exploring hidden nooks and crannies and the memorable tales attached to them. All the locations are brought to life by stunning photographs, new and old, with expert design and layout throughout.

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The Metal Mountain

£10.00

“The Metal Mountain is a compelling novel by the author of the excellent The Grass Arena. It draws a visceral portrait of the post war struggle of Irish immigrant families in north London. This is a beautifully written family drama underpinned by themes of inequality, division and prejudice. John Healy has created a powerful historical tale which in equal parts evokes a bygone Britian and speaks urgently to our current divided state.” Reader reviews.

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The Grass Arena

£9.99

John Healy’s The Grass Arena describes with unflinching honesty his experiences of addiction, his escape through learning to play chess in prison, and his ongoing search for peace of mind. In his searing autobiography Healy describes his fifteen years living rough in London without state aid, when begging carried an automatic three-year prison sentence and vagrant alcoholics prowled the parks and streets in search of drink or prey.

When not united in their common aim of acquiring alcohol, winos sometimes murdered one another over prostitutes or a bottle, or the begging of money. Few modern writers have managed to match Healy’s power to refine from the brutal destructive condition of the chronic alcoholic a story so compelling it is beyond comparison.

John Healy (b.1943) was born into an impoverished, Irish immigrant family, in the slums of Kentish Town, North London. Out of school by 14, pressed into the army and intermittently in prison, Healy became an alcoholic early on in life. Despite these obstacles Healy achieved remarkable, indeed phenomenal expertise in both writing and chess.

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The Fields Beneath

£12.99

This is one of a precious handful of books (such as Montaillou and Akenfield) that in their precise examination of a particular locality open our understanding of the universal themes of the past. In this case it is Kentish Town in London that reveals its complex secrets to us, through the resurrection of its now buried rivers and wells, coaching house, landlords, traders, and simple tennants.

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London Born

£10.99

An extraordinary memoir from a man in his nineties who remembers everyday life in a North London now long gone: the hardships and deprivations of a life of poverty but also the resourcefulness and fortitude of a community determined to survive between the wars. ‘When I look back, I can picture the old gels chinwagging on their steps in the Bay like it was yesterday. Little did they think that young Sid, passing by with his arse out of his trousers, would one way publish his memoirs!’ ‘Ordinary’ people do not write their stories, believing their lives to be unremarkable.

Some, like Sid, cannot write at all. But, with the aid of his granddaughter Helen Day, Sid has produced an extraordinary memoir of a city and a way of life now lost forever. `London Born’ is a book that has appeared against all the odds – as Sid says, ‘When me granddaughter Helen Day said she wanted to record the story of the first half of me life and turn it into a book I was astonished.

I thought to meself, Well, I’ve done a lot of things, but I never dreamt I’d get into the book game. You see, I can’t write more than me own name.’ In `London Born’, Sid remembers the city that emerged from the First World War and recreates the daily life of the people living in the notorious street known as ‘Tiger Bay’. He describes the drinking and merrymaking, the poverty and unemployment – and the ‘villainry’.

With relish he relates how youthful high spirits and a refusal to accept the hardship of the times sometimes put him and his friends on the wrong side of the law. He goes on to tell of the wartime mayhem endured by Londoners and his determination to survive. His story closes with demobilisation when he returns to his wife and young family – ‘the only thing that ever counted’.

This is a memoir from a warm and cheeky voice; from someone who remembers, as if it were yesterday, parading down Archway in his fifty-bob suit, or running rings around Ernie Costen, the local policeman.

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Cook’s Camden

£45.00

The housing projects built in Camden in the 1960s and 1970s when Sydney Cook was borough architect are widely regarded as the most important urban housing built in the UK in the past 100 years. Cook recruited some of the brightest talent available in London at the time and the schemes – which included Alexandra Road, Branch Hill, Fleet Road, Highgate New Town and Maiden Lane – set out a model of housing that continues to command interest and admiration from architects to this day. The Camden projects represented a new type of urban housing based on a return to streets with front doors.

In place of tower blocks, the Camden architects showed how the required densities could be achieved without building high, creating a new kind of urbanism that integrated with, rather than broke from, its cultural and physical context. This book examines how Cook and his team created this new kind of housing, what it comprised, and what lessons it offers for today.

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Brutal London

£15.99

A photographic exploration of the post-war modernist architecture of London. This collection of unique and evocative photography of Brutalist architecture by Simon Phipps casts the city in a new light. Arranged by inner London Borough, BRUTAL LONDON takes in famous examples such as the Trellick Tower, the Brunswick Centre and the Alexandra Road Estate, as well as lesser known housing and municipal spaces.

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Camden Changing

£7.50

Camden History Society

Views of Kentish, Camden and Somers Towns, 1960s and ‘70s