By Christina Latham
Having recently moved to Camden, the same lovely borough in which half of Fitzrovia lies, I have developed an interest in area names and the history alongside them. As most of us know Fitzrovia is likely to be named after the Fitzroy Tavern which is situated on the corner of Charlotte Street. The naming of Fitzrovia after a public house is rather excellent and echos back to the bohemian era that it was once submerged in.
Therefore, I thought it was interesting to discover the reasoning behind ‘Camden’. Who or what was worthy of having a whole borough named after them? The answer is: the borough was named after Charles Pratt, the first Earl of Camden. A man whose life was rather more fortunate than his name.
Camden was an English lawyer, judge and Whig politician and an all round interesting character. Although, interesting he was not essentially a popular figure.
During his career as a politician, Camden was involved in the ‘Forty Days of Tyranny’. The poor harvest of 1766 led to a public outcry due to expected rise in grain prices and inevitable starvation for those who could not afford them but parliament was prorogued and could not renew the export ban. Despite this Camden ordered that no further action was taken before parliament met and because of this action he was accused of Tyranny.
Throughout Camden’s political career he was heavily involved in the American War on Independence and The Boston Tea Party. Camden was well known for openly criticising taxes that had led to such American protests.
It is said that toward the end of his career Camden’s opinions were less valued as he seemed to move in circles and support those who could help his thirst for power. It is perhaps because of this nature that he rather impressively managed to serve under the terms of five prime ministers.
In 1788, Camden obtained an order allowing him to develop land in the North of London. In 1791 he constructed 1,400 houses and thus Camden Town was born. However, that is not all, this egotistic character also had a number of towns named after him in Georgia and Missouri due to his involvement in American politics.
So, there we have it, should someone ask you where you live and why it may be called such, you can tell them you are living in the dream community of a power hungry, disloyal and inhumane Pratt. Alternatively, tell them that you are proud to live in the exciting and history soaked Borough of Camden.