- Somers Town, London
infobox UK place
country = England
map_type = Greater London
official_name= Somers Town
constituency_westminster= Holborn and St. Pancras
Somers Town, named after the Somers family who owned the land, is an area of
Londonsouth of Camden Town. Historically, the locality known as Somers Town was the whole of the triangular space between the Hampstead, Pancras, and Euston Roads. Modern Somers Town is generally regarded as being the area bounded by Euston Road, Eversholt Street, Crowndale Road, Pancras Road and the railway approaches to St Pancras Station; that is to say, the general vicinity of Chalton St. Vehicular through traffic is not heavy, and is confined by traffic calming and other measures to a few North/South arterial throughways.
The area has been largely influenced by the three mainline north London railway termini: Euston (1838), St. Pancras (1868) and Kings Cross (1852), together with the
Somers Townrailway and canal goods depot (1887), where the British Librarynow stands.
Somers Town ward used to include a number of hospitals including Elizabeth Garret Anderson, National Temperance and St. Pancras Hospital (formerly "the St Pancras
Workhouse"). They have all closed since 1980. The large forbidding red brick building complex to the north of St. Pancras Gardens which was St. Pancras Hospital has, more recently, housed non-resident UCL Hospital nurses, and is now the HQ of Camden Primary Care NHS Trust. It also accommodates parts of Islington Primary care Trust, St. Pancras Coroner's Court and a small 'day hospital'. St. Pancras Old Churchis adjacent to 'the workhouse' and is one of the oldest churches in London. Within the churchyard are many memorials to Victorian dignitaries.
In 1784, the first housing was built at the "Polygon", now the site of a council block of flats called "Oakshot Court". The development was not entirely successful and the land was subsequently sold off in smaller lots which attracted people escaping from the French Revolution until overcrowding became manifest.
Mary Wollstonecraft, writer, philosopher and feminist, lived on this site.
Improvement of the slum housing conditions was first undertaken by St. Pancras Council in 1906, and by the St. Pancras House Improvement Society (subsequently the St. Pancras and Humanist Housing Association) which was established by a Church of England priest, Father
Basil Jellicoein 1924. The Society's Sidney Street Estate incorporated sculpture panels of Doultonware designed by Gilbert Bayes, and the Drummond Estate had ornamental finials for the washing line posts designed by the same artist (they have now been replaced by replicas). Further social housing was built by the London County Council, which began construction of the Ossulton Street estate in 1927. There remains a small enclave of older Grade 2 listed houses.
Sir William Collins school, established in the 1890s and later renamed
South Camden Community School, is the main state secondary schoolin the area. A large sports centre, [http://www.stcsc.co.uk/ Somers Town Community Sports Centre] was built on part of the school playground. The building is leased to a charitable trust which is jointly managed by the school and University College London Union, based just south of EustonRoad. It is used for 17% of available hours by UCLU's sports teams for training and home matches and for recreational sport by UCL students. As part of Building Schools for the Futureplans to expand the school, it is probable that the sports centre will be reintegrated back into the school campus.
In addition to the large secondary school, there are three primary schools, Edith Neville (state), St. Aloysious (state-aided Catholic) and St Mary and St. Pancras (state-aided Church of England). The latter has been rebuilt, beneath four floors of
University College London(UCL) accommodation units. UCL is based a few hundred yards to the south of Euston Road and is a major employer of local residents.
In the 1980s, some council tenants took advantage of the 'right to buy' scheme, and bought their homes with a substantial discount, later moving away from the area into the outer suburbs of North London. This led to an influx of young semi-professional people, resulting in a changing population and a more diverse place to live.
Somers Town Market has a flourishing open street market, held in Chalton Street, every Friday. A festival is held every year in July on the site of the market.
Major construction work along the eastern side of Somers Town is nearly concluded at the time of writing in 2008, as redevelopment for the Channel Tunnel rail terminal at St. Pancras has been completed.
An area of land at Brill Place that was left over after the British Library redevelopment was scaled back, and which was subsequently used partly as the site offices for the Chunnel terminal development, and partly to allow for excavation of a tunnel for the new Thameslink station, has been chosen as the site for the
UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation(UKCMRI). [ [http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page13977 PM backs groundbreaking medical research centre] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7127980.stm Deal secures £500m medical centre] ] The joint promoters of the project, the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Foundationand University College Londonhave promoted the site as a vital centre for both fundamental research and related translational researchthat can be commercially exploited by the British pharmaceutical and biotechnologyindustries. However, the project is deeply contentious and was contested by both local councilors and a large group of Somers Town residents.
In 2008, Somers Town became the title and subject of a film by British director
Shane Meadowsfunded by Eurostar. Filming took place almost entirely in and around Phoenix Court, a low rise council property in Purchese Street.
Joe Cole, England footballer, hails from Somers Town
Francis Aidan Gasquetwas born in Somers Town on 5 Oct 1846
Jimmy McDonald, boxer, also lived in Somers Town
Fred Titmuswas born in Somers Town
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin(Mary Shelley), most famous for her novel Frankenstein, was born at 29 Polygon Square, Somers Town, in 1797.
Charles Dickenslived in the Polygon and also in nearby Bayham Street in Camden Town.
Guy-Toussaint-Julien Carron, French priest who fled the French Revolution and established the chapel of St. Aloysius and other institutions in the area.
John Addison, Cambridge professor of music, lived in Camden Cottages until his death in 1844.
Antonio Puigblanch(1775-1840). Author of "The Inquisition Unmasked", London, 1816.
Transport and locale
;Nearest Railway stations
King's Cross railway station
St. Pancras railway station
Euston railway station
* [http://pages.britishlibrary.net/altcamden/ an inside view]
* [http://www.somerstown.org.uk Somers Town Community Association]
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