Minutes of the Local History group meeting on 19 November 2021

At the home of Vivienne in Willes Road.

Present: Vivienne , Sara, Harriet, Trish, Mary, Martin, David (minutes)

Thanks to Vivienne for her hospitality, wine and nibbles.

Sara started us off with a review of her work and resources. See below. 

She explained that she had been interested in working on family history for some years and had subscriptions to various resources. During lockdown she became interested in doing local research, especially in Ryland Road for the newsletter.

She accessed the census records for the whole street which are available for 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911. In addition there is a quasi census in 1939. 

She was able to identify who lived in each house and noticed a great deal of movement because they were not owner occupiers but renting. She filled in gaps using the electoral registers, school attendance records, church records but all of these can be patchy. She accessed all of the above on ancestry.com.

She also used the British and newspaper archives and followed up individual names “which can lead you down highways and byways”.

She also referenced the Society of Genealogists who have online lectures and referred us to the free sites.

She mentioned the inspiration of David Olusoga with his Homes through Time series.

She’s ended up with detailed records of each of the 36 houses in the street but they are handwritten in a notebook and are not easily transcribable. 

We also did ask to what extent it would necessarily be of great interest to others although it might be possible to make connections across the area and see some social trends and even the creation of family connections.

Martin talked about doing research at National Archives in Kew –  on South African subjects and currently on a fascinating and unknown piece of history with Barbery pirates kidnapping over a million northern Europeans and enslaving them.

He told us that you can access an index of the National archives online but you then have to order the boxes to come up and they are completely random – some of them full of boring and useless stuff, others are goldmines. 

At the British Library there are other documents but some of them are so fragile that they can’t actually be used.

Sara told us that British Library have fire insurance maps which are very detailed but not complete.

Mary told us about the Camden Library; this is the Camden Archive and  Study Centre in Holborn.   They are very helpful. It has limited information on line but will answer telephone enquiries.  Worth looking at site for regular on line lectures on local history. 

Sara talked about accessing the census records for the home for aged governesses and was very struck by the fact that there are records of quite a limited number of actual residents with a lot of servants who looked after them.

Martin said he would be interested in following up with the fact that Windsor and Newton‘s headquarters were in Grafton Road and they may have records of who they supplied the oil paints  to – which allowed the Impressionists to work outdoors in their distinctive style.

Harriet mentioned that she would be interested in doing some research on Saint Patrick’s school where she volunteers. Apparently it started in Soho and moved up here later.

David raised the possibility of oral history and interviewing long-term residents such as Peter the builder in Alma St who remembers when the brick arches over the River Fleet which runs down Willes Road collapsed and had to be rebuilt.

Mary mentioned she had talked to a resident of Raglan Street  who lived there when he was a child, moved away and returned  few years ago.  He has written a brief summary of his memories and Mary will ask his permission to forward it to us, and possibly be interviewed for further information.   

She also mentioned she had approached the oldest resident of Raglan Street, now 90, to see if he would be interested in sharing his memories, but he was not interested.

Trish mentioned Peter Parker and Paddy in Ryland Road and two Black families who will have experiences of coming to this country which will be interesting to hear and record. Harriet mentioned the Asian family in Angus Lane and recording their experience of coming here. Martin extended that to discussing possible interviews with French people and their experience of coming to live in England. Trish said that she would consider speaking to people in Ryland Road about that. 

David said that he would interview the people at Bartlets., the glaziers and Chris at MAP. 

Trish said that she had done a study of local cinemas which was used in the Ryland Road newsletter and said that this could be posted on the website and shared with us. She was also interested in the history of theatres in Camden.

Sara said that her record of Ryland Road indicated that a lot of theatrical people lived there at different times.

Talk about cinemas triggered off a discussion about the fact that the new Curzon cinema has opened down in Hawley wharf which has a very strange arrangement with a number of separate small cinemas of only 30 seats under individual railway arches but is expensive at £17.50.

Mary showed us a very handsome map of the area which she said was 1862. Several people expressed an interest in having a copy and Harriet said that she would speak with the people in KallKwik to see if it could be scanned in and copies produced.

David took a photograph of the relatively small part of a map which is actually our very local area and will post that on the website.

Mary mentioned that she could not do any research, but that has a large collection of articles, books and publications that she would be happy to share with members of this group.  Also to be contacted if any topic they were interested in what was mentioned in her literature.

Mary told us that for the 2012  Olympics in London, she was enrolled by Camden to become a volunteer London Greeter covering  Kentish Town.  She took individuals or families on 2 hr walks around the neighborhood finishing in Map Cafe.  She did this for a couple of years and now another local resident who lives in Prince of Wales Road,  continues this service.  She will contact him to see if he would be interested in joining this group.  Free walks can be booked via www.londongreeters.org.   or worldwide the International Greeter Association.  She has done walks in Chicago, San Francisco and Brighton.  

SARA’S Local history research notes

Subscription/pay as you go

Ancestry www.ancestry.co.uk

Annual subscription. Indexing sometimes inaccurate, but a wealth of online facsimile records, and some of local interest eg school records, church records, electoral rolls, street directories as well as census, birth, marriage and death.

Find my Past www.findmypast.co.uk

Similar to Ancestry- both sites have their own strengths and weaknesses. This site will have the 1921 census available (charge for copies). Some access to newspapers from BNA.

British Newspaper Archive www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Wealth of titles/areas/dates

National Archives www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Research guides and online lectures

Free record searches but pay for copies

Society of genealogists www.sog.org.uk

Membership but also a series of interesting online lectures payable individually


Hansard https://hansard.parliament.uk

Records of debates etc

The Gazette www.thegazette.co.uk

Records from 1665. Includes insolvency records from 1712, merchant navy certificates, military awards and appointments, official change of name

Victorian web www.victorianlondon.org

Eclectic collection of articles within the ‘dictionary’ section. Good for browsing for atmosphere

Graces Guide www.gracesguide.co.uk

Guide to British industrial history- some local firms

Booth notebooks www.booth.lse.ac.uk

Poverty maps and visitation notes 1898


Slavery database www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs

Legacies of British slavery. Maps show individuals who claimed compensation for loss of slaves they owned. Some in Camden Town area.

British library www.bl.uk/learning/online-resources