The Roundhouse – A short history

Everyone has heard of the Roundhouse – a Camden landmark, where many great musical acts have played over the years.

Inside, it has a distinctive shape, and gives everyone a good view of the performers and allows flexible fitout for different types of show, from circus performers, to rock bands, to theatre performances.

The Roundhouse was built in 1846 as a place for trains to be turned around, and the tracks can still be seen in the floor. The building was from a design by Robert Stephenson, son of George Stephenson (of “Stephenson’s ‘Rocket'” fame).

Etching of the Roundhouse as a turntable shed

After only about 10 years the trains got too long, so it stopped being used as a turntable engine shed. In 1871 it started to be used by local wine & gin merchants W & A Gilbey as a warehouse (you can still buy Gilbey’s Gin – the distillery used to stand on the site of Gilbey’s Yard near Morrison’s supermarket).

Gilbey's Gin Estate - Camden
Gilbeys’ Gin Estate – Camden

[Walter Gilbey deserves a post all by himself. After serving in the Crimean War, he set up W & A Gibey with his brother Arthur. Walter eventually became a baronet, and was an expert in horses, with a particular interest in shire horses. A relative, and employee of W & A Gilbey, invented what would become SodaStream.]

In the middle of the 20th century the building fell into disrepair, despite being listed, but was re-opened in 1966 as an arts venue. Pink Floyd performed at the opening concert.

All Night Rave lineup – Roundhouse 15 October 1966

During the late 80s/early 90s the venue fell into disrepair again, before being refurbished and re-opening as an arts centre in 2006. Since then it has resumed its role as a space for community and cutting-edge performance, as well as big-name bands.

https://www.roundhouse.org.uk/

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