Pictures show transformation of Camden Town Hall as refurbishment project gets underway

Following the council’s decision to pause construction due to Covid-19, the restoration of Camden’s historic Town Hall is back underway as the project enters a new phase, which will see the building’s democratic services, community and civic facilities modernised – generating local jobs and leading the way for the borough’s economic recovery.

Plans set out by the council for the Town Hall will see it bolster Camden’s local economy both during this construction phase, beyond completion and over the next century.

Jobs, which include at least 22 apprenticeships and six work placements during construction, are to be made available to Camden residents first with further opportunities available once the building opens.

Local people working on the refurbishment will play a vital role in preserving the 80-year-old grade II listed building while transforming the interior into modern community, civic and democratic spaces alongside new affordable working space for Camden’s small businesses.

Half of the Town Hall will be used to provide work space in the heart of the growing knowledge quarter – with 20% available at half of market rents - to support and encourage Camden’s small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Businesses from across science, tech, engineering, art and entertainment industries have expressed recent interest in securing working space at the Town Hall.

It is expected that the new working hub will not only support the economic recovery of Camden - by creating new jobs and apprenticeships for residents - but also support the refurbishment of the Town Hall to be self-financing.

Tackling climate change

The council recently altered its constitution to include environmental stewardship in a commitment towards tackling climate change and that pledge will be reflected throughout the Town Hall’s refurbishment.

The updated building is designed to achieve an excellent BREEAM rating – an industry standard grading for how environmentally friendly a building is, the previous gas heating will be removed and replaced with electric air source heating, CO2 output will be reduced by 335 tonnes (60%) a year and the running costs of the building will be halved.

The building will also be free from cars, single-use plastic and fossil fuels with biodiversity features added to the roof to help support local bird and bat populations.

Protecting Camden’s heritage

The overarching aim of the Town Hall refurbishment is to preserve the building’s history and cultural heritage while making it more accessible for everyone.

Behind the Town Hall’s iconic stone façade lays a steel frame, as seen in pictures from its construction during the 1930s, a contemporary choice for an otherwise classical designed building chosen by the Architect, Albert J Thomas.

Essential repairs are being made to both the steel frame and stone façade, which requires intrusive and extensive works throughout the building.

The stone roof slates are to be replaced, and all non-original features will be stripped away, restoring the retained features to their former glory.

As the refurbishment nears completion residents will be invited to contribute to a time capsule that will be placed within the building – as a way of marking the start of a new chapter in the Town Hall’s history.

Improved democratic and civic services

Council meetings will become more accessible to residents – both digitally and physically – through new webcasting and electronic voting technologies and there will be improved access in the Town Hall itself, including new wheelchair spaces in the Chamber and clearer signage throughout the building.

The council plans to renew the Town Hall as a base for Camden’s communities, with a mixture of free and subsided meeting and event spaces, facilities and services made available to local groups and charities.

In addition, the Camden Centre and registry offices will both be fully refurbished and three new wedding suites will be available to residents for key moments in their lives.

Our Town Hall has been our principle democratic and civic space since the 1930s – and we are now starting the major restoration and repair it urgently needs to fully serve our residents, businesses and communities in the 21st century and beyond.

The pause in construction we decided to take to as lockdown restrictions were introduced gave us additional time to refine our designs and complete further intrusive surveys throughout the building. We now have a better picture of the extent to which the current building’s utilities and infrastructure require a complete overhaul and we have prepared a programme of works that will generate local jobs and play a leading role in the borough’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

We have agreed that a Camden workforce will drive the refurbishment of the Town Hall. As part of the contract, all new construction jobs and work placement opportunities will be advertised exclusively to Camden residents first, while we will offer apprenticeships in a variety of roles including hospitality and finance once the space is fully operational.

Furthermore, after nearly a decade of austerity, which has seen the council’s budget cut in half since 2010, we are absolutely clear that despite increased costs, this refurbishment must and will be self-financing. The rent we receive from businesses based at the Town Hall and the newly refurbished event space will pay for the cost of the restoration and ensure the Town Hall’s future sustainability.

And there is exciting, innovative work for us to do to achieve our ambitions for the building’s sustainability in response to the climate crisis – we want it to achieve an excellent BREEAM rating and to significantly reduce its carbon emissions. We are increasing our upfront capital spend on the works, so we can tackle these types of issues now while the building is empty and save money in the long-run.

The refurbished Town Hall marks a pioneering, greener future for Camden’s communities, businesses and democracy and we look forward to welcoming residents back from autumn 2022
Councillor Richard Olszewski, Cabinet Member for Finance & Transformation

Albert J Thomas and St Pancras Town Hall

St Pancras Council began constructing the Town Hall in 1934 - before the boroughs of Holborn, Hampstead and St Pancras joined together to form the borough of Camden.

The council wanted a classically designed building and commissioned Albert J Thomas to be the Architect of the Town Hall. Thomas had previously spent 25 years as a Senior Architect for Sir Edwin Lutyens, considered to be one of Britain’s greatest classical architects.

It was Thomas who decided to build with a contemporary steel frame and to place the entrance to the Town Hall on Judd Street - away from the busy Euston Road, and it was on a trip to Italy that he encountered the white marble that would be used for the Town Hall’s central staircase, which has since become an iconic backdrop for generations of wedding photos.

Thomas went on to design notable council homes across Camden including the Brookfield, Somers Town and Torriano Estates.