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Social and industrial history

Coal duties go back to medieval times and are responsible for a large part of the infrastructure of London with which we are familiar today. They should be a well-recorded archive of coal movements by sea, road, rail and canal, but access to such an archive remains elusive.

Victorian London remained dependent on horses for the movement of goods and people despite the steam engine taking over ever-more functions. Victorian traction became a competition between horse, man and machine in which the horse more than held its own until the First World War. Most horses were employed in the movement of both goods and people, complementing the railways, the largest users of horses, in transport of goods and competing in transport of people. The railway sheds of the major companies, which facilitated the transhipment of goods between road, rail and canal, were a busy throng of horse drawn vehicles delivering and collecting. Camden Town's locational advantages for transhipment enabled it to become a centre of the piano industry.

Large volumes of beer were transported to North London by rail from the Midland breweries at Burton upon Trent, and the beer trade saw a rapidly increasing number of public houses built from the mid nineteenth century to meet the thirst of workers. 

Coal duties

Victorian traction: horse versus man and machine

Goods transhipment

Beer trade

Piano manufacture