Secret Histories: #1. Our Black Heart, Greenland Place

This new series uncovers the stories of off-the-beaten-track places we love. First, the backstreet music pub a stone’s throw from Camden Town tube

Top beer, an atmospheric interior and nightly live music: Our Black Heart. Photo: Oliver Halfin

1. Dickens woz ‘ere. Sort of

Situated on pleasant backwater Greenland Place, a respite from kerazy central Camden, Our Black Heart overlooks what would have been author Charles Dickens’ old house. In fact, in 1823, when the author lived on Bayham Street (a plaque records it at what is now no.141), he used the word “wretched” to describe the view. Poor lamb.

2. The silent movie years

Dickens woz 'ere. A stone's throw from the pub
The plaque on Bayham Street
Houses sprung up in the mid-19th century where Our Black Heart now stands. By the 1890s, these were replaced by industrial buildings, as the street became synonymous with the piano-making industry. An early tenant at nos 2-3 was movie production company Ernest Moy & Co. The team even shot a film on the roof in 1897 called The Policeman’s Drink. What larks!

3. Shagging sheep

In the 20th century the site mutated variously as offices and a restaurant. Then, for a decade from 1999, it became the Camden Tup (did you know, incidentally, a “tup” is the word for a male sheep copulating with a ewe?) Not quite as fashionable as the ‘Heart, it followed the 90s trend of jokey moniker, All Bar One-style interior and comfy sofas. But it was always still, er, rammed.

4. Hipster heaven

And in 2014? Our Black Heart has sorted things out admirably, making quite a name for itself in recent years. Boasting an ace live music schedule (think post-rock aggression or psych-noise), lots of craft beer (and Camden Hell’s, of course), with a mix of funkateers and locals, there’s also a regularly changing streetfood kitchen (right now it’s Smoke ‘n’ Roll). Expect booths, candle light, and plenty of shrines to the Virgin Mary. And, trivia fans, is there another London pub with a first person plural pronoun in its name?

This is box title
Find Our Black Heart at 2-3 Greenland Place NW1. Source material: Streets of Camden Town, published by Camden History Society (£5.95)

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  • Jon Simmons

    I love this pub, but some of their draught beers are north of £6!