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The Interchange on North Side of Grand Union Canal Including the Horse Tunnel and Stairs, Vaults and Canal Basin

A Grade II Listed Building in Wembley, London

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Latitude: 51.5411 / 51°32'27"N

Longitude: -0.1472 / 0°8'49"W

OS Eastings: 528589

OS Northings: 184093

OS Grid: TQ285840

Mapcode National: GBR C1.4Q

Mapcode Global: VHGQS.DJKG

Plus Code: 9C3XGVR3+C4

Entry Name: The Interchange on North Side of Grand Union Canal Including the Horse Tunnel and Stairs, Vaults and Canal Basin

Listing Date: 14 May 1974

Last Amended: 28 January 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1113238

English Heritage Legacy ID: 477688

Location: Camden, London, NW1

County: London

District: Camden

Electoral Ward/Division: Camden Town with Primrose Hill

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Camden

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Silas the Martyr with Holy Trinity Kentish Town

Church of England Diocese: London

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Warehouse. Built 1901-5 but incorporating 1850s dock basin, vaults and horse tunnel. Warehouse converted into offices in 1989.


Interchange Warehouse
Four-storey block built directly over the canal basin with the ground floor supported on a line of octagonal steel columns running down the centre of the basin. Built of orange stock brick laid in English bond with blue engineering brick dressings and red brick used for the dentil cornice and the heads of the window arches. The building consists of a rectangular block with the long east and west elevations of 24 window bays and with six window bays to the north and south elevations. The east elevation has segmental arched windows with multi-light metal frames to the upper three storeys (the lower storey to both elevations has modern panelled and glazed infill inside the supports of the original steel frame). The western elevation is similar except that three of the bays have loading bays on each floor rather than windows. The south elevation fronts onto the canal and has round window arches on the ground floor and segmental arches on the upper storeys. The north elevation has a prominent water tower with blind arches and corbelling rising above the roof line of the central two bays. Either side of the building along the canal frontage are the end walls (each with three round arched windows) of single-storey blocks, originally with glazed canopies which ran the length of the building and on the east enclosed railway tracks and platforms, while the western side was used for distribution by road.

Interior: retains its brick-arched fireproof construction to the ground and first floors. The floors above are wooden, constructed of thick joists abutting each other.

Basement vaults and dock basin
The below-ground elements of the Interchange Warehouse include the canal basin, the 1901-5 vaults running down the eastern side of the building, the 1854-6 vaults to the west under the present forecourt and the horse tunnel which adjoins these vaults to the north and west.

The canal basin is roofed with brick jack arches supported on steel joists and the octagonal steel columns running down the centre of the basin. The basin is linked on its eastern side to the 1901-5 vaults. These have brick jack-arch vaulting on steel beams, supported on brick encased steel columns, and connected to the basin through four narrow doors which originally had self-closing iron fire doors. The surviving part of the 1854-6 vaults is approximately 55m long by 28 m wide. The main vaults run east-west and are about 3.7m wide and about 2.9m high from the floor to the crown of the vault. The segmental transverse arches in the vaults are only about 1.8m in height and vary in width from 3.4 to 4m. (The extension of the vaults west along the canal, now under 30 Oval Road, have been largely demolished and incorporated into the modern fabric of the building. They are not of special interest and are not included in the listing)

Horse tunnel and stairs
The Eastern Horse Tunnel runs along the northern edge of the vaults. At the north-eastern end it is blocked but extends beyond this in a north-eastern direction to Stables Yard (where it is now incorporated into the Horse Tunnel Market). A later spur, which continues into what was originally the western part of the goods depot, is also blocked. The original tunnel turns south at this point, along the western side of the vaults, and exits via a section of horse stairs under what is now 30 Oval Road (the above-ground elements of 30 Oval Road are modern and are not included in the listing). The tunnel is of round-arched brick construction with damp-proof cavities in the walls draining to a 15cm pipe below the setted floor. The tunnel is 3m wide and 2.7m high to the crown of the arch. Cast-iron ventilation grilles are placed about 3m apart in the roof of the tunnel and would have originally provided the only light source.


The complex of railway and canal structures in the vicinity of Camden Lock represents one of the best preserved examples of C19 transport infrastructure in England.

The Camden Goods Depot was originally constructed as the London terminus for goods traffic on the London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR), the capital’s first inter-city main line railway and the largest civil engineering project yet attempted in the country. The site was chosen by Robert Stephenson (1803-59), the company’s engineer, since it allowed interconnection for freight with the London docks via the Regent’s Canal, built between 1812 and 1820.

Work started on a 25-acre site north of the canal purchased from Lord Southampton in January 1837 and the goods depot opened to traffic in 1839. The site included the stationary winding engine house for pulling trains up the incline from Euston to Camden (listed at Grade II*); a locomotive house; 18 coke ovens for making smokeless fuel for locomotives; two goods sheds and stabling for 50 horses; stores and a wagon repair shop. There were also cattle pens and offices. The sidings, the locomotive shed and No.1 Goods Shed were all constructed on brick vaults. Further goods sheds and stabling was subsequently built for the public carriers, such as Pickford & Co, who had rights to the distribution of goods on the L&BR until 1846 when the L&BR decided to carry out the carriage of goods through their own agents – the same year L&BR merged with other lines to become the London and North-Western Railway (LNWR). The Pickford goods shed was built in 1841 (enlarged in 1845) by William Cubitt (1791-1863) on the south side of the canal and linked to the goods yard by a wooden rail bridge and was the first such rail, road and canal interchange building

In 1846-8 due to the rapid growth in passenger and goods traffic and the increase in locomotive size, the Goods Depot was overhauled to the designs of the Resident Engineer, Robert Dockray (1811-71). New buildings were constructed including two engine houses, notably that for goods engines (now the Roundhouse – listed at Grade II*) to the north of the main line tracks, and one for passenger engines to the south (demolished in 1966). There was also a construction shop for repairs to the north of No. 1 Goods Shed and other structures including a second wooden railway bridge to the former Pickford & Co warehouse.

In 1854-6 another major upgrading of the site was undertaken following the addition of the tracks of the rail link to the London docks (East and West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway, renamed the North London Railway (NLR) in 1853) in 1851, and further increases in goods traffic which required a larger marshalling yard. The NLR lines were repositioned to the north of the site and the recently built construction shop dismantled (leaving its vaults) to make way for this. Sidings were extended to the edge of the canal either side of the interchange basin which was realigned and enlarged to its present size. As a result of these changes in layout a new stables yard was constructed between the NLR tracks and the Hampstead Road. This contained four new stable ranges with a horse tunnel (the Eastern Horse Tunnel) linking them to the marshalling yards to the south. At the same time further stables were built on the western side of the mainline tracks off Gloucester Road (now Gloucester Avenue) and linked to the goods depot by the Western Horse Tunnel.

Further changes to the site took place in the later C19 including the construction of the LNWR goods shed in 1864, then the largest in the country (enlarged in 1931 and subsequently demolished). Additional stabling was built in 1876 to the north of Gloucester Road and linked to the Western Horse tunnel by the still existing horse stairs. The stables were demolished in 2000. The goods depot itself closed around 1980.

The surviving elements of Camden Goods Yard, along with the Roundhouse, stationary winding engine house, Primrose Hill Tunnel Eastern Portals (also listed at Grade II*) and Regent’s Canal represent a particularly important concentration of C19 transport and industrial buildings illustrating the development of canal and rail goods shipment.

The Interchange Warehouse
In 1845, following the construction of Pickford's interchange building on the south side of the canal in 1841, LNWR agreed to purchase the freehold of Semple’s Wharf on the north side of the canal adjoining the goods yard to provide interchange facilities of their own. A towpath bridge was built over the entrance of the basin by 1846 (listed at Grade II). The sale of the freehold was completed in 1847 and the 90 ft (27m) long basin was enlarged by the addition of a 60ft (18m) long dock to the north and a rail link from the goods depot provided. On the east side of the basin was a single-storey wooden shed and two cranes with a further two on the western side.

In the 1854-6 changes to the goods depot, the basin was rebuilt to a size of 210ft (64m) long by 45ft wide (14m) and realigned, enabling it to take six barges. On the western side of the basin the land level was raised by a set of vaults in an L-plan running along the side of the basin and canal built to provide storage for Alsopp’s ales and beers. This resulted in the demolition of the 1839 coke ovens. An open-sided single-storey shed in three spans was built over the basin and the vaulted area to the west. An extension of this building ran along the canal to the west which was partly replaced in 1860 by two two-storey office blocks. These were later raised to three storeys and became the main offices for the LNWR. Some of the elevations survive in the 2007 30 Oval Road development.

The current Interchange Warehouse which replaced the 1860s warehouse was probably built around 1901-2 since the building is shown in a LNWR plan of 1903. The building opened in 1905, straddling the canal basin and included railway tracks and platforms on the east side of the building with access to the barges in the basin via trap doors. However, since by 1905 canal transport had greatly declined in importance, the building was mainly used for transferring goods to road transport and as a storage warehouse.

The 1854-6 vaults to the west of the building were augmented by a further vaulted basement on the east side which was used from 1906 by Gilbeys, who had a gin distillery on the opposite bank of the canal, as a bottle store. Gilbeys had a long association with the Goods Depot and in 1869 had occupied the Roundhouse where they matured whisky and brandy, and had a number of other buildings in the Goods Depot including bond stores and bottle stores in Stables Yard.

The Interchange Warehouse was refurbished and converted to offices in 1989 and further restored in 2007 when many additions were removed. It is now known as The Interchange.

The Eastern Horse Tunnel
The Eastern Horse Tunnel was constructed during the 1854-6 remodelling of the goods depot to enable horses to get from Stables Yard to the marshalling yards. It also connected to the vaults to the west of the interchange basin built at the same time. Between 1856 and 1866 two spurs were added to connect the earlier 1839 vaults under No.1 Goods Shed and a large goods shed constructed in 1864 to the west of the site. These spurs were probably used for moving beer barrels by barrows rather than horse-drawn vehicles.

Reasons for Listing

The Interchange including the associated vaults, dock basin and horse tunnel and stairs, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: a good example of a large-scale, late-Victorian warehouse with a prominent water tower, bold detailing and fire-proof construction;

* Historic interest and group value: a key component of the Camden Goods Depot, one of the most complete examples of Victorian railway buildings in the country. It is of particular interest as a link between the railway and the earlier canal system. The horse tunnel and stairs illustrate the continuing importance of horse-drawn transport within the railway system.

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