Tolmers Village

Tolmers Village, Camden

An urban community in West Euston, centred on Tolmers Square

Hidden London: Tolmers Village, Square Tavern

Tolmers Square was laid out with housing from 1861 to 1864 on land belonging to the New River Company, and named after a Hert­ford­shire manor near the river’s source. The square’s site had previ­ously been filled with water: latterly in the form of a reservoir, which the New River Company had created from a large, pre-existing pond.

The prop­er­ties of Tolmers Square were built to a standard that was designed to attract the middle classes, but with its close proximity to the noise and grime of Euston station (and a foundry behind the houses on the south side) this was an irre­deemably poor quarter, and the homes were soon subdi­vided for multiple occupation.

By 1871 5,000 people were crammed into a twelve-acre area, which continued to evolve in piecemeal fashion with many prop­er­ties under­going several changes of use. The square’s central chapel became a cinema in 1923.

Greeks and Cypriots came here after the Second World War, followed a few years later by the first Asians, who began to open restau­rants on Drummond Street.

From the late 1950s the neigh­bour­hood attracted the interest of property devel­opers who saw the potential for the replace­ment of houses with offices, and residents began a long campaign of resistance.

In the early 1970s the struggle to save Tolmers Village – as it was dubbed – became a cause célèbre with the left, and students from nearby Univer­sity College joined with squatters and trade unionists in resisting evictions.

The activists failed to prevent the destruc­tion of much of the original housing, but succeeded in persuading Camden council to compul­so­rily purchase the site from the property company Stock Conver­sion. Plans to construct half a million square feet of commer­cial space were abandoned and Tolmers Square was rebuilt with council flats, plus one small office block with a pub on the ground floor. Orig­i­nally called Tom Tiddler’s Tavern, it is now The Square Tavern, a Young’s house.

Postal district: NW1
Further reading: Nick Wates, The Battle for Tolmers Square, Routledge, 1976 (reissued in hardback 2012, paperback 2014)