Where did Karl Marx actually live in Kentish Town?


Here’s where to find the domiciles of NW5’s most famous resident



Who's behind the red door?
Clue: it was behind the red door.
There are three locations in West Kentish Town with stories to tell about our most famous inhabitant. And no, we don’t mean her from 80s girl band Bananarama.

This inviting red door is 46 Grafton Terrace (formerly no.9), part of a stretch of ten houses with interesting curved steps and arched upper windows, originally called Fitzroy Road. As so often in Kentish Town, by the turn of the 20th Century it was considered ‘rough’, due to the ‘many disturbances in the street’.

Marx, his wife Jenny and their daughters, all delightfully called Jenny too, moved to No.46 from Soho in 1855. (You may recall they had fled to London in 1849, after the publication of The Communist Manifesto.) Somewhat impoverished, Karl was forced to slum it as European correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune, and so they relied on wealthy pal (and co-author of The Communist Manifesto) Friedrich Engels for a bit of moolah. Well, he did live in Primrose Hill after all.

The Maitland Park plaque
The Maitland Park plaque

But no.46 was, at least, a bargain: only £36 to rent per annum, with the downside that it was ‘not easy to get to…[with] building going on all around…and it was dark in those wild districts.’

Things improved for the Marxes in 1864. After an inheritance, the family moved upmarket to No.1 Maitland Park Road (rebuilt in 1900 as imposing red-brick mansion block The Grange). With more cash and a bit of flexitime, Karl could now trot off to the British Museum every morning to do a 12 hour stint on Das Kapital, the first volume of which was published when they lived here. Meanwhile, his daughters were causing something of a stir themselves, once throwing a party for 50 guests until 4am. Not appropriate behaviour, apparently, for the edge of Haverstock Hill. And where for heaven’s sake was their mother?

If you might be wondering if all this stinks rather of capitalism, you’ll be pleased to hear that Marx and co agreed. Well, kind of. The house was, according to one sister Jenny, a ‘veritable palace,’ and by 1875 the penny had finally dropped: the family were all living way beyond their means. Yes, there are probably ironies there.

Just 11 attendees at his funeral: Marx
Just 11 attendees at his funeral: Marx

Forced to downsize again, the Marxes moved back into deepest West Kentish Town: No.41 Maitland Park Road, a porcelain doll’s throw from their first gaff in Grafton Terrace.

It wasn’t a council estate then, silly, although the spot is commemorated by a brown plaque from Camden Council (the owner of No.46 won’t let them put one up, apparently).

Here the story ends. Karl’s wife Jenny died of liver cancer in 1881, and the bearded one followed two years later, apparently slipping away in his favourite easy chair.

Only eleven mourners accompanied his coffin, the death of the father of revolutionary socialism, in England at least, going largely unnoticed. Until the erection of his tomb, of course. But let’s save that yarn for another day.

This is box title
Source: Camden History Society’s Streets Of Gospel Oak. Buy yours from Owl Bookshop (£8.50).

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  • Serafina Day

    Hey Kentishtowner, how strange to find this article as we are just about to move to Grafton Terrace and wondered why on earth there is no blue plaque to the Big Man. Can we convince the owner you think? Would inevitably and ironically raise the property price though for any incumbent capitalist property owners. Looking forward to becoming a Kentishtowner myself even more now!

  • Spike Williams

    I have long argued that erecting a proper monument to Herr Marx in Maitland Park Road could attract some of the millions of tourists that visit the nearby Stables market and inject some badly needed cash into the local economy (sounds like capitalism, hmmm). Vast numbers of Chinese and Russian tourists pay good money to visit his monument (which is not the site of his grave btw) in Highgate Cemetery. The rather pathetic ‘Red Man’ sculpture near the brown plaque may be a nod to the old man but surely Camden Council are missing a trick here… I wonder why?

  • Judy Buckley

    Mention of Grafton Terrace remind me to ask of anyone has any information about a dairy business at No.18 c.1866-1874?

    1865 London Street Guide gives these businesses on Grafton Terrace, Maitland Park, Haverstock Hill (NW) No.18: Charles Death (dairyman)

    1871 2 April No. 18 Grafton Terrace, Kentish Town RG10/240 p.66
    Evans, John 50 Dairyman born Wales (Cardigan)
    Evans, Jane 49 Wife born Wales (Dinas)
    Evans, Kate 14 Daughter Scholar born Surrey

    Yours hopefully, Judy Buckley

    and an 18 year old servant called Sarah born St Pancras.

    1874 Middlesex Directory: John Evans Dairyman 18 GraftonTerrace, Maitland Park. There was also a john Evans, bootmaker, at No.9 Grafton Terrace, which may or may be the same man.

  • The Black Rabbit of Inlé

    Marx lived at no. 9 Grafton Terrance, not no.46.

    Source: 1861 London Census.

    • Kentishtowner

      It was originally no 9 as it’s the oldest stretch of the street. But it’s now 46.

      • Shirley Moth

        My family lived at No. 13 from 1915 until the late 1950s. Would the numbering have changed for No. 13 from the time that Marx lived there. Also Dickens’ mother lived at No. 4 in the 1860s – what number would that be now? Thanks. SFB

  • Theloneous Honk

    do they mean Friedrich Engels?