Camden, London, England. It’s where it all started for us. So it makes sense it’s where we kick-off our 25th Anniversary blog celebrations in earnest.
That means it’s time for a whistle-stop tour of the sights, sounds and places around our lovely borough – and how they’ve changed (or not) since we first opened our storage unit doors 1993. There’s plenty to look at – landmarks, past and present, events and incidents and the changes we’ve witnessed in technology and transport.
Camden Market in Camden Town – which is actually a collection of distinct adjoining retail areas around the Regent’s Canal – has been offering traders a pace to sell their wares since long before we were around. Most of the 20th Century in fact. When we opened in 1993, the Markets were hugely popular as they were allowed to trade on Sundays – unlike shops which weren’t permitted to open on the Sabbath until the introduction of the 1994 Sunday Trading Act.
The Roundhouse is another Camden Landmark that you’ll almost certainly have heard of. Playing host to some of the greatest musical acts on the planet – including Coldplay and George Michael. It has hosted the Apple Music (formerly iTunes) Festival 8 times – before the cancellation of the event in 2017. But if you thought The Roundhouse was a permanent cultural fixture, you’ll be intrigued to know it was closed when ABC Selfstore first opened our doors on York Way. The former Railway Turntable building was closed as an entertainment venue in 1983 due to lack of funds at then owners Camden Borough Council. It didn’t reopen until 2006 – after undergoing a £300million redevelopment – having been purchased 10 years previously by the Norman Trust.
The Borough’s two Parliamentary constituencies – Hampstead and Kilburn, and Holborn and St. Pancras – are both Labour. Our York Way store pre-dates both of them too. Both were first contested in 2010 – following Electoral Commission boundary reorganisation, when the number of constituencies in the Borough was reduced from 5 to 4. Even when the shape of the constituencies was different, Camden remained a staunch Labour Borough.
Not long before we opened our doors – in February 1993, the IRA detonated a litter bin bomb not far from Camden Lock, injuring 12.
When we opened in 1993 there was no congestion charge anywhere in the capital and the original 1954 Routemaster was the stalwart of London’s Bus Fleet – in fact – it would remain in service until our twelfth birthday in 2006! The Smartphones we’re all familiar with and services like Uber were 15 and 16 years away respectively – so if you were lucky enough to afford a black cab rather than go by bus, you had to stand in the street and hail one. When it turned up it most likely would have been an Austin FX4, another London Icon – the black cab produced between 1958 and 1997.
Walking the residential streets of the Borough, you’d have been most likely to see Ford Escorts – which had been the best selling car in the UK in 1993 – with 122,022 registrations nationally. The most up to date motorists would have plumped for et newly launched Ford Mondeo which replaced eth aging Sierra. But we all knew it was really still a Cortina.
The London Underground was still the transport mode of choice for our Capital’s masses. The tube carries a staggering 1.37 Billion passengers a year. If you’d traveled on the Tube to rent storage with us 1993, you’d have been using trains built between 1956 and 1972. In 1997, by the time we were opening our third store, Northern Line trains were being replaced with the ‘1995 stock’ which is still in service today.
By far and away the biggest change over the past 25 years has been technology. Back in 1993, if you wanted to make a phone call whilst you were out and about the majority of us needed a phone card and a phone box. Whilst it was on the cusp of mass-consumerism, the mobile phone was still the preserve of the lucky wealthy few. The next best thing was the Rabbit – if you were within 100m of a building showing the Rabbit sign (of which you could make a call with a portable handset. A bit like free WiFi these days. Rabbit launched the year before ABC Selfstore in 1992, but was short lived. The fast-moving GSM technology meant it was obsolete almost as soon as it was launched and it was closed just 20 months later. It cost Hutchison Telecom (later owners of Orange and Three) a reputed $183 million.
We’ll be taking a much more in-depth look over the next couple of months at how London’s moved on over the past 25 years. No one can predict the future (who foresaw Donald Trump becoming POTUS?), but we might also have a finger-in-the-air ponder at what’s likely to happen during our next 1/4 century.