Report - - Camden Lock Underground Vaults (The Winding Chambers) - London, March 2020 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Camden Lock Underground Vaults (The Winding Chambers) - London, March 2020


On the astral plane
28DL Full Member
Constructed beneath the streets of Camden, and designed by railway engineer Robert Stephenson, this set of underground vaults under Camden Lock were used to house stationary winding engines to haul locomotives along the railway line above the vaults.
The stationary winding engines started service on 14 October 1837, and for the following 7 years, trains of up to 12 coaches weighing about 60 tons were worked from Euston up Camden Bank along the incline by an endless rope that ran around a 20 ft driving wheel and other large sheaves and pulleys within the underground chambers.

However, after encountering numerous problems with the system in place, a second well was dug 30ft further back, where the rope then entered the sheave room where it encountered the return wheel.


However, after just 7 years, the chambers were stripped of their winding machinery due to developments of the steam engine, effectively making the need for rope haulage redundant. The abandonment of the vaults subsequently led to flooding from the nearby Regents Canal, and with no real urgency to pump water out, they were left unattended.
Despite the constant flooding, and a few feet of silt and mud lining the floors of the 3 main chambers. The engine house vaults have survived relatively well, excluding the partial collapse in the northeast boiler room.
And till this day, the vaults remain hidden from the public eye, as many people wander the streets of Camden totally oblivious to what lays beneath the lock. The site is now due to cross paths with the HS2 scheme, as the main line is set to pass directly above it, just as trains passed above the vaults almost two centuries ago...

The Vaults Under Construction - 1830s


The Explore:
I've explored the nearby Camden Rathole more times than I can count, but never thought to venture into the flooded chambers which join into the small tunnel network on the surface level.
I first encountered the flooded vaults in late November last year, but with the water being at a depth too great for even waders, I had no choice but to let it go. Fortunately, what I presume must either be the local council or network rail, have obviously been extracting a large quantity of sludge along with the majority of the water in preparation for HS2, making it just about possible to wade through.
Once my mate and I had straddled along the edge of one of the vaults, whilst clinging to a row of flimsy conduit, we reached what would've been the main engine room, which at one point housed the pulley system for the locomotives.
Unfortunately, not all of this place was as accessible and I would've hoped. The 3 main vaults were for the most part still quite severely flooded, and at first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of underground reservoir. However, with the water being relatively clear in some parts, we were able to judge the depth and step carefully in some of the more shallow sections.
This was certainly one of the more impressive 19th-century structures I've had the privilege to explore. However, with work on HS2 temporarily on hold due to current circumstances, I have no doubt the chambers have since refilled to a deeper level making access a lot more... damp. Upon exiting this unique location, I couldn't help but think about just how much lays beneath the streets, and just how much there is not just under London, but under towns and cities across the world.
Well and truly worth getting soaked trainers and damp jeans for this place.

1. The Main Engine Room


2. Facing Towards The Western Boiler Room


3. The Rope Tensioning Room (Right)


4. The Central Passage


5. The Sheave Room


6. Second Tensioning Room


7. The Eastern Boiler Room


8. The Coal Store


9. Looking Into Both Sheave Rooms


10. Facing Back Towards The Engine Room


11. The Second Coal Store


12. Exit Of The Coal Store


- Thanks For Looking -
Last edited:

Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
Very nice, it is always a surprise to see what lays beneath our feet. Good job there. nicely researched too. :thumb


Stay in, save lives.
Regular User
#10 facing back to the engine room,
What the metal work in the top left? Are they spars, pipework or somthing else like a crane rail maybe?

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