As a piano tuner whilst travelling around London doing my work, I really like looking into the history of music so let me share with you what I know about Camden and its past. Did you know for example that it was once the heart of piano building?
The piano was first demonstrated not anywhere else but here in London by Charles Dibden, who lived in Camden Town and is buried in the churchyard between Bayham Street and Camden Street. Strangely enough the piano industry should later have grown up in his own back yard.
At that time Camden Town was a very suitable centre for piano manufacture and the Regent’s Canal could be used for transporting heavy and bulky goods like pianos cheaply. Camden Town was also near the rail-heads of King’s Cross, Euston and St Pancras, so transport conditions by water and rail were ideal. Soon the area became a centre of the piano industry.
In the golden days besides manufacturers there were small-part makers, such as french polishers, makers of piano castors, piano stool makers, piano movers, piano tuners and of course salesmen. All of them earned their living in and around Camden Town and long the Canal.
Sadly in the 1900s German competition became very tough and by 1912, German exports of pianos and piano parts were sixty-five times as large as Great Britain’s. Germany dominated the piano industry rather as Japan was to dominate the electronics industry after the Second World War.
In the 1960s, the Koreans had begun to make pianos and started using modern machining accuracy. They were machining parts to 3 microns, so that every part fitted first time and the skill and time of the fitter were no longer required as pianos could be assembled, not fitted. The drop in production costs was enormous. Soon even the Royal Academy of Music began buying Korean pianos.