Right now, there’s a corner of Camden Town that perfectly captures the restless momentum of a city. Revealing how the hard-edges of our seemingly immovable landscape of concrete, brick and steel are, in fact, constantly shifting. Step just off the main tourist drag for a last glimpse of Hawley Wharf before the bulldozers move in later this month. You’ll find an explosion of creativity: a temporary canvas with splashes of colour ahead of the destruction, and inevitable regeneration to follow.
Georgian villas and early Victorian cottages have proved no match for the march of progress. While businesses that have operated from the crumbling railway arches for decades – the Citroen repair shop, the famous Scar recording studios – have also had to move aside. A wander through these abandoned streets, with their glorious, fleeting street art gallery and pregnant, unsettling silence is well worth a moment of your time. But you’ll need to be quick.
Within days, this tiny, yet remarkable blip on the timeline and history of this delapidated backwater will be flattened. The Hawley Arms will be marooned in a sea of rubble, only the pub, the railway arches and one wonky, listed villa spared from the levelling. It’s easy to feel sentimental, and the previous demolition of the area’s heritage still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many, yet there’s no denying Hawley Wharf is in need of a slice of the regeneration spending spree going on across London. Eight years ago, fire ravaged the parts of Camden Market that border the canal here. Since then the site has changed hands a couple of times, plans have been drawn up and rejected. Rumours circulate. Soon we will see how years of wrangling plays out.