Spotlight on...

Adelaide Road

Tudor Allen, Senior Archives Officer at the Camden Archives
As part of the Adelaide Road project, Aoife Mannix is hosting various workshops in the Camden Archives Centre to inspire writers with the historical artefacts. Tudor Allen, the senior archives officer, has been supervising these workshops and providing interesting accounts on the history of Adelaide Road.


Could you tell us about what the Camden Archives Centre does and what your job entails?
Well in a nutshell, we're all about history, local history: the history of the area which is today the London Borough of Camden. We have a wealth of historical resources that we care for: photographs, archives, maps, just to name a few. We make these resources available to anyone: researchers, students and family historians, as well as making our own expertise about the area, our collections and how to interpret them.

In terms of my own job, as the Senior Officer of the Archives, this involves a range of duties, there is the 'front line' side - dealing with the public and enquiries which can come from all over the world. There is also the 'behind-the-scenes' work which involves a lot of cataloguing and ensuring the material is properly preserved and packaged. Then finally there is taking in new material because we don't stay static, we are constantly expanding our collection and taking in new archives.


Why do you think it is important for the community to be in touch with their historical background?
A number of reasons. I believe in the inherent interest of history - that's why I do my job! But I also think that the knowledge of a local history adds to the meaning of a locality – so for example, when you walk around an area, your experience is enriched if you know something of what was there before or what has happened there in the past.

As said by one of the Adelaide Road workshop participants, London can tend to feel quite unconnected but, I think, through these workshops and by learning about the history of the place, one is able to see connections across the city and to the past.

I think it is important for a community to be in touch with their history as it gives them a sense of identity, making you feel a part of the history. It can give you a sense of belonging, enhancing the feeling of 'community.'


How has the Camden Archives Centre worked with the local community before?
Well, in a sense, every day we are working with the local community, we deal with local people and local organisations very often – we give talks at schools, we put on free exhibitions about local history.

In the last year, we have had a couple of workshops with Aoife Mannix, when she was the writer-in-residence for Camden. I put out a range of historical items and then the participants would choose an item to work with. I believe the writers respond really well to having an artefact to trigger off ideas, to stimulate their creativity. We also ran a poetry competition of this nature and exhibited the top entries with the historical item alongside it, which was quite nice to see the poem next to the inspiration.


What do you think people on the Adelaide Road project will get out of participating in it?
I come from a background where creativity has always been highly valued – my father was a landscape painter, my mother and sister are also artists – they taught me that you don't need to be the next Michelangelo to get pleasure out of creating. It is the same with writing; you don't have to be the next Shakespeare to get pleasure out of writing.

On the historical side, I hope they'll learn about interesting aspects of local history and they'll realise the wealth of historical resources we have here. Specifically, I think they'll learn to look at history in a different way and see its potential for stimulating creativity and their imaginations.


Are there any interesting anecdotes or artefacts on Adelaide Road that you have come across in the archives?
Yes certainly. An interesting aspect of Adelaide Road is its connection with Eton College. Eton owned the land on which Adelaide Road sits and the surrounding area for centuries, from the days of Henry VI. That's why so many streets in that area have names that are connected to Eton College, such as Eton College Road, Eton Avenue and Oppidans Road. It was Eton College who started building Adelaide Road back in 1830, named after the newly crowned queen of King William IV.

On a separate note, an interesting connection between Adelaide Road and As You Like It: in the play, Orlando decorates the Frest of Arden with poems to Rosalind but on the real Adelaide Road there is a 1970s development called Beaumont Walk that has pathways inscribed with famous poems. An interesting link I think.

There are lots of interesting documents of Adelaide Road, I've even brought out for the workshops some material relating to the Roundhouse and to Hampstead theatre. We have a lovely collection of posters from the Roundhouse, including one of a circus visiting and an excellent collection of photographs from Hampstead theatre productions which includes photos of the original production of Abigail's Party.

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