former camden piano factories

A visual tour of Camden’s former piano factories today

Lust after the luxury flats or envy the industrial chic offices

Back in the 1870s, Camden was the centre of the world’s piano manufacturing business, at a time when every good home wanted to own one. The happy confluence of canal, road and rail in the area meant transportation of raw materials and bulky finished products was relatively easy, leading to over 100 piano works establishing themselves in the industrial hotspot stretching between Camden Town and Tufnell Park.

While the entire industry collapsed in the face of the gramophone, two world wars, cinema, radio and ultimately electronic keyboards, it left behind some really rather handsome factories and solid Victorian infrastructure. 

Of those that remain, their big windows, wrought iron pillars and high ceilings have proved most desirable for penthouse makeovers, airy gyms and plush offices in recent years. So join us here, as we take a Google Streetview-assisted gander around some of the more iconic remaining local piano works, and find out what #propertyporn lies within today.

Grab hold of a Streetview image to move about and see the surrounds, go full screen (icon top right) or click to view where it is on a map (top left).

Collard & Collard, Oval Rd

Let’s start with one of the most celebrated of local Camden piano works, even though it is now a rather dull collection of offices. This is the Grade I-listed former home of Collard & Collard, completely rebuilt after a fire destroyed the original in 1851, and designed around a central yard from which pianos could be winched up and down to various floors for specific elements of their manufacture. 

Triyoga, Jamestown Rd

When it was established in 2000 just over the railway tracks in Primrose Hill, leading yoga studio Triyoga swiftly attracted the celebs, including the likes of Kate Moss, Jude Law and David Walliams. But eviction from its original converted warehouse threatened to throw the whole enterprise off balance. Luckily, a big piano works just off Regent’s Canal turned out to be an even more popular long-term home for these now globally acclaimed studios.

Chappell Lofts, Belmont St

You may have spotted the lush hanging gardens atop this magnificent industrial building, built in 1867 for piano-makers Chappell & Co. They built instruments here for the likes of Beethoven, Strauss and Sibelius. The factory was also later famous for housing Chalk Farm Photographic Studios, a hub for artists, photographers and models back in the area’s swinging cultural heyday. Most recently, it has been converted into a collection of outrageously luxurious loft apartments, complete with swimming pool, club lounge and industrial chic design that you can ogle here.

Imperial Works, Perren St

Heading up towards Kentish Town, a little back alley opens up to some more, fabulous former piano-making buildings. Our Streetview is of 1 Perren St, which originally specialised in manufacturing pianolas, and today is a beautiful five-bedroom live/work space profiled in detail by The Modern House.

Imperial Works itself lies just behind (pictured below) and is best viewed from the nearby Overground platform. It’s used as a big office development today, and was formerly home to cycling clothing dons Rapha.

The Brinsmead, Ryland Rd

A stone’s throw from Imperial Works lies the equally huge Brinsmead, another factory with the vaulted ceilings and windows that have made it ripe for luxe urban living conversion. You can take a peek inside the penthouse, via another gushing profile and gallery on The Modern House website.

You can also read more about the impressive Brinsmead family piano business empire.

Hurley Apartments, Highgate Rd

Tucked behind the historic Bull & Gate pub is a former Camden piano works that has also been converted into flats, which you can take a look at here.

The buildings sit alongside the Midland Main Line, which would have been ideal for whisking pianos up to customers in the North of the country. 

Piano Yard, Highgate Rd

Just over the road, down a very modest little alleyway behind a carpet shop next to the local fire station, sits this collection of cool offices and homes. The original poano factory seems to have been flattened, and in its place a New Orleans pastiche of pastel clapboard and decorative ironwork. It’s a lot nicer than the Google Streetview angle, so we’ve added it below. 

Piano Works, Fortess Rd

More posh apartments just across the way, in this imposing conversion on the main stretch up to Tufnell Park. 

We’re not sure which piano company was based here, but you can read loads more about Camden’s once-thriving piano industry in this feature on the fascinating website Local Local History.

Down to Earth, Brecknock Rd

Another yoga studio making great use of the open-plan spaces the area’s many piano factories left behind, Down To Earth offers all the usual classes, trainings and treatments from another little courtyard just opposite Tufnell Park tube. 

Heckscher & Co, Bayham St

We’re back down in Camden Town for the final stop on our Google Streetview tour of Camden’s former piano industry, at Heckscher & Co. They were the last remaining piano company in the area, lasting until 2017, offering parts and repairs from a warehouse the Ham & High called ‘Dickensian’. We’ve wound back to a Streetview image from that year to show the place just before they moved out (going online only), marking the end of a era, but one that has left a massive legacy on the built environment all around us.

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