Shoreditch is a district located in the
Central London and East London, and is in the East End. It is divided between the of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. It was historically was in the county of Middlesex until 1889, and a historic entertainment quarter since the 16th century, today it hosts a number of pubs, nightclubs and bars
The area straddling the quarter is Old Street, Shoreditch High Street and Brick Lane, it includes Shoreditch Church, Boxpark and Brick Lane Market. The district itself lies immediately to the north and north east of the City of London and Spitalfields and south and west of Bethnal Green.
History and features
Toponymists believe that the name comes from Old English
"scoradīc", i.e. shore-ditch, the shore being a riverbank or prominent slope.
One legend holds that the place was originally named "Shore's Ditch", after Jane Shore, the mistress of Edward IV, who is supposed to have died or been buried in a ditch in the area. This legend is commemorated today by a large painting, at Haggerston Branch Library, of the body of Shore being retrieved from the ditch, and by a design on glazed tiles in a shop in Shoreditch High Street showing her meeting Edward IV.
[Clunn, H.P. (1970) The Face of London. Spring Books: London. pp. 312, 493]
But the area was known as "Soersditch" long before Jane Shore lived. London County Council Survey of London (v. 8) attests to at least thirty deeds between 1150 and 1250 CE which refer to Shoreditch.
Another suggested origin for the name is "sewer ditch", in reference to a drain or watercourse in what was once a boggy area.
[Mander 1996, p. 13.] It may have referred to the headwaters of the Walbrook, which rose in the Curtain Road area.
In another theory, antiquarian John Weever claimed that the name was derived from Sir John de Soerdich, who was lord of the manor during the reign of Edward III (132777).
Though now part of Inner London
, Shoreditch was previously an extramural
suburb of the City of London, centred on Shoreditch Church at the old crossroads where Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland Road
are crossed by Old Street
and Hackney Road
Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland Road are a small sector of the Roman Ermine Street and modern A10. Known also as the Old North Road, it was a major coaching route to the north, exiting the City at Bishopsgate. The east–west course of Old Street–Hackney Road was also probably originally a Roman Road, connecting Silchester with Camulodunum, bypassing the City of London to the south.
Shoreditch Church (dedicated to St Leonard) is of ancient origin. It is featured in the famous line "when I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch", from the English nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons".
Shoreditch was the site of a house of canonesses, the Augustinian Holywell Priory (named after a Holy Well on the site), from the 12th century until its dissolution in 1539. This priory was located between Shoreditch High Street and Curtain Road to east and west, and Batemans Row and Holywell Lane to north and south. Nothing remains of it today.
In 1576, James Burbage
built the first playhouse in England, known as "The Theatre
", on the site of the Priory (commemorated today by a plaque on Curtain Road, and excavated in 2008, by MoLAS
[ Shakespeare's Shoreditch theatre unearthed Maev Kennedy, The Guardian, Thursday, 7 August 2008]
Some of Shakespeare's plays were performed here and at the nearby Curtain Theatre
, built the following year
and to the south (marked by a commemorative plaque in Hewett Street off Curtain Road). It was here that Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
gained "Curtain plaudits", and where Henry V
was performed within "this wooden O". Shakespeare's Company moved the timbers of "The Theatre" to Southwark
at the expiration of the lease in 1599, in order to construct The Globe Theatre
. The Curtain continued performing plays in Shoreditch until at least 1627.
The suburb of Shoreditch was attractive as a location for these early theatres because it was outside the jurisdiction of the somewhat puritanical City fathers. Even so, they drew the wrath of contemporary moralists, as did the local "base tenements and houses of unlawful and disorderly resort" and the "great number of dissolute, loose, and insolent people harboured in such and the like noisome and disorderly houses, as namely poor cottages, and habitations of beggars and people without trade, stables, inns, alehouses, taverns, garden-houses converted to dwellings, ordinaries, dicing houses, bowling alleys, and brothel houses".
[Middlesex Justices in 1596; cited in Schoenbaum 1987, p. 126.]
17th and 18th Centuries
During the 17th century, wealthy traders and French Huguenot
silkweavers moved to the area, establishing a textile industry centred to the south around Spitalfields. By the 19th century, Shoreditch was also the locus of the furniture industry,
now commemorated in the Geffrye Museum
on Kingsland Road. These industries declined in the late 19th century.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Shoreditch was a centre of entertainment to rival the West End and boasted many theatres and
The National Standard Theatre, 2/3/4 Shoreditch High Street (1837–1940). In the late 19th century this was one of the largest theatres in London. In 1926, it was converted into a cinema called The New Olympia Picturedrome. The building was demolished in 1940. Sims Reeves, Mrs Marriott and James Anderson all appeared here; also performed were programmes of classical opera and even Shakespeare, with such luminaries as Henry Irving. There was considerable rivalry with the West End theatres. John Douglass (the owner, from 1845) wrote a letter to The Era following a Drury Lane first night, in which he commented that "seeing that a hansom cab is used in the new drama at Drury Lane, I beg to state that a hansom cab, drawn by a live horse was used in my drama ... produced at the Standard Theatre ... with real rain, a real flood, and a real balloon."
The Shoreditch Empire, also known as The London Music Hall, 95–99 Shoreditch High Street (1856–1935). The theatre was rebuilt in 1894 by Frank Matcham. the architect of the Hackney Empire. Charlie Chaplin is recorded as performing here, in his early days, before he achieved fame in America.
The Royal Cambridge Music Hall, 136 Commercial Street (1864–1936), was destroyed by fire in 1896, then rebuilt in 1897 by Finch Hill, architect of the Britannia Theatre, in nearby Hoxton. The Builder of 4 December 1897 said "The New Cambridge Music Hall in Commercial Street, Bishopsgate, is now nearing completion. The stage will be wide by deep. The premises will be heated throughout by hot water coils, and provision has been made for lighting the house by electric light."
None of these places of entertainment survives today. Music hall was revived for a brief time in Curtain Road by the temporary home of the Brick Lane Music Hall.
This too has now moved on.
A number of playbills and posters from these music halls survive in the collections of both the Bishopsgate Institute and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Decline and Blitz
The area declined in conditions, as did both textile and furniture industries with competition elsewhere and, by the end of the 19th century, Shoreditch was a byword for crime, prostitution and poverty.
This situation was exacerbated by the extensive devastation of the housing stock in the Blitz
during the Second World War, and by insensitive redevelopment in the post-war period.
Formerly a predominantly working-class area, since around 1996 Shoreditch has become a popular and fashionable part of London, particularly associated with the creative industries. Often conflated with neighbouring Hoxton, the area has been subject to considerable gentrification
, with accompanying rises in land and property prices. Former industrial buildings have been converted to offices and flats, while Curtain Road and Old Street are notable for their clubs and pubs which offer a variety of venues to rival those of the West End. Art galleries, bars, restaurants, media businesses and the building of the Hackney Community College campus are features of this transformation.
More recently, during the second "dot-com" boom, both the area and Old Street have become popular with London-based web technology companies who base their head offices around the East London Tech City district. These include Last.fm, Dopplr, Songkick, SocialGO and 7digital. These companies have tended to gravitate towards Old Street Roundabout, giving rise to the term "Silicon Roundabout" to describe the area, as used by Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech in November 2010.
As a result, the name of Shoreditch has become synonymous with the concept of contemporary "hipsterfication" of regenerated urban areas. As a pioneer among similar transformations across the UK, various phrases have been coined, from "Shoreditchification" to "Very Shoreditch".
In September 2015, a demonstration against gentrification in London took the form of a protest at Cereal Killer Cafe, a hipster café on Brick Lane which serves cereal.
South Shoreditch has undergone an enormous transformation. Several five- or six-storey buildings have been knocked down in the area of Shoreditch that borders the City of London. In their place will be erected a variety of very tall buildings, mirroring the architectural styles in the City.
The developments will result in more residential units being available for sale in Shoreditch than were produced by the Olympics athletes' village.
One landmark development is the Principal Tower in Worship Street, designed by the architects Foster and Partners,
[Principal Tower, Worship Street, London EC2A 2BA: New Developments - Principal Tower, Worship Street, London EC2A 2BA, accessdate: 29/08/2014] and next to it is Principal Place, also designed by Foster and Partners. In July 2014, it was reported that the internet retailer Amazon.com was close to signing a lease to move its UK headquarters there. The project had been on hold since January 2012, when the anchor tenant, the law firm CMS Cameron McKenna pulled out. Soon after, the developer Hammerson sold its interest in the scheme to Brookfield. [Building: Amazon interest could revive Principal Place tower | Online News | Building, accessdate: 29/08/2014]
Shoreditch covers a wide area, but its historic heart lies south of Old Street, around Shoreditch High Street and Shoreditch Church. The districts of Hoxton
have been historically part of Shoreditch since the medieval period and occupy the north-west and north-east of Shoreditch respectively; however, their extent has never been formally defined.
Although Shoreditch has been consistently defined, perceptions have blurred in recent years; something that became possible after the Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch amalgamated with some of its neighbours to become the southern part of the London Borough of Hackney in 1965.
The location of the former Shoreditch tube station (closed 2006), 400 metres outside Shoreditch proper, near Bethnal Green, influenced this shift. Its replacement, Shoreditch High Street station, straddles the borough boundary.
More significant has been the gentrification of the Shoreditch area since the millennium, leading to a marked increase in the area's prestige, which has led businesses in the Bethnal Green and Spitalfields areas of Tower Hamlets to include the name Shoreditch in their company's name and marketing material. This is also seen to a lesser extent in the St Luke's area of the London Borough of Islington.
Shoreditch was an administrative unit with consistent boundaries from the Middle Ages
until its merger into the London Borough of Hackney in 1965. Shoreditch was based for many centuries on the Ancient Parish of Shoreditch (St Leonard's), part of the county of Middlesex
Parishes in Middlesex were grouped into Hundreds, with Shoreditch part of Ossulstone Hundred. Rapid Population growth around London saw the Hundred split into several 'Divisions' during the 1600s, with Shoreditch part of the Tower division. The Tower Division was noteworthy in that the men of the area owed military service to the Tower of London - and had done even before the creation of the Division
[The London Encyclopaedia, 4th Edition, 1983, Weinreb and Hibbert] - an arrangement which continued until 1899.
The Ancient Parishes provided a framework for both civil (administrative) and ecclesiastical (church) functions, but during the nineteenth century there was a divergence into distinct civil and ecclesiastical parish systems. In London the Ecclesiastical Parishes sub-divided to better serve the needs of a growing population, while the Civil Parishes continued to be based on the same Ancient Parish areas.
For civil purposes, The Metropolis Management Act 1855 turned turned the parish area into a new Shoreditch District of the Metropolis, with the same boundaries as the parish. The London Government Act 1899 converted these areas into Metropolitan Boroughs, again based on the same boundaries, sometimes with minor rationalisations. The Borough's areas of Central Shoreditch, Hoxton and Haggerston were administered from Shoreditch Town Hall, which can still be seen on Old Street. It has been restored and is now run by the Shoreditch Town Hall Trust.
In 1965, Shoreditch was merged with Hackney and Stoke Newington to form the new London Borough of Hackney.
The Hackney borough part of Shoreditch is part of the Hackney South and Shoreditch constituency, represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2005 by Meg Hillier
of the Labour Party and of the Co-operative Party
The eastern part of Shoreditch, in Tower Hamlets, lies within the constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, represented since 2010 by Rushanara Ali of the Labour Party.
Notable local residents
Andrew Weatherall, DJ, producer, and remixer
Anissa Helou, cookbook author, teacher and chef specialising in the cuisines of the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa
Barbara Windsor, comedian, film and television actress was born there.
Bill Meyer, printmaker and artist
Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan era Playwright lived in Norton Folgate, the southern continuation of Shoreditch High Street, and wrote plays for the Shoreditch theatres.
Damien Hirst, artist; instrumental in the development of the area's art scene in the early 1990s
Emmanuel Ray, TV presenter/socialite
Henry Hate, celebrity tattoo artist; clients include Boy George, Alexander McQueen, Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty
Hetty King, a famous male impersonator of the music hall, was born here. Her father, William Emms, was a local comedian known as William King.
Hoxton Tom McCourt, influential in the late 1970s and early 1980s mod and oi/punk scenes and founder of the band, the 4-Skins, was born in Shoreditch in 1961.
James Burbage, Tudor period actor and impresario: built The Theatre; buried in Shoreditch church
Jem Smith, bare knuckle prize fighter
Jon Kortajarena, Spanish model and actor lives here
John Appold, FRS (1800–1865), a pioneer of the centrifugal pump
Joshua Compston, curator & founder of Factual Nonsense; instrumental in the development of the area's art scene in the early 1990s; lived & died in Charlotte Road.
Luke Evans, Welsh singer, musical performer and film actor lives here
Matt Monro, singer dubbed "the singer's singer" and "the British Sinatra", famous for singing the title songs of the films Born Free, From Russia with Love, and 'On Days Like These' from the film The Italian Job
Miquita Oliver, T4 presenter
Nat Wei, Baron Wei, youngest non-hereditary peer ever upon entry to the House of Lords and government advisor on Big Society
Noel Fielding, comedian, film and television actor
Paul Galvin, Irish fashion designer and former Gaelic footballer
Richard Burbage, actor in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, Shakespeare's own Company. Renowned for his performance of Shakespeare's greatest roles: Hamlet, Richard III, etc. Buried in the church.
Richard Tarleton, Elizabethan era comedian. Shakespeare's Yorick is believed to be a homage to his memory. Buried in Shoreditch church.
Russell Brand, actor and comedian
Szabotage, graffiti artist and designer
Thomas Fairchild (gardener),the first person who succeeded in scientifically producing an artificial hybrid
William James Blacklock, British landscape artist, was born in Shoreditch in 1816
William Orbit, musician, composer, and record producer, was raised in Shoreditch.
William Sommers, Henry VIII's jester; buried in Shoreditch church.
In the mid-1960s, the main streets of Shoreditch (Old Street, Shoreditch High Street and Curtain Road, Great Eastern Street) were formed into a mile-long one-way system, which became associated with traffic congestion, poor conditions for walking and cycling, high speeds, high collision rates, and delays for bus services. The gyratory system came to be seen as "the main factor holding back the cultural regeneration of South Shoreditch"
[Teo Greenstraat of The Circus Space, quoted in More Light, More Power, No. 6, Autumn 2000.]
and "a block to economic recovery".
[Michael Pyner of Shoreditch New Deal Trust, quoted in More Light, More Power, No. 6, Autumn 2000.]
Following a lengthy campaign,
[ The long road back to a two-way Shoreditch Hackney Cyclists, 2002.]
the then newly formed Transport for London agreed to revert most of the streets to two-way working, a project which was completed in late 2002.
Shoreditch High Street itself once formed a segment of the Roman Empire Roman roads called Ermine Street (the original Common Brittonic and Latin language names for the route remain unknown.) which ran directly north from London ( Londinium) to Lincoln ( Lindum Colonia) and York ( Eboracum).
provides all local bus services across the district: routes 8, 135, 205, 388, and N8 and N205 on Great Eastern Street and Bishopsgate; routes 26, 35, 47, 48, 67, 78 and night route N26 on Shoreditch High Street; and routes 55, 149, 242, 243 and night route N55 on Old Street.
In 2005, funding was announced for the East London Line Extension, to extend the existing tube line from Whitechapel tube station bypassing Shoreditch tube station (which closed in June 2006), and to create a new station named Shoreditch High Street closer to the centre of Shoreditch. This is now served by London Overground services on part of the site of the old Bishopsgate Goods Yard, which was demolished in 2004.
The station was built on a viaduct and is fully enclosed in a concrete box structure. This is so future building works on the remainder of the Bishopsgate site can be undertaken keeping the station operational.
London Overground began running 24-hour trains on Friday and Saturday nights between Dalston Junction and New Cross Gate which called at Shoreditch High Street from 15 December 2017.
but bypasses Whitechapel and continues on to Shadwell due to ongoing construction work for Crossrail (Elizabeth line) until 2019.
Shoreditch has no access to the London Underground since 2006, when Shoreditch tube station on the East London line closed down.
There has since been some consideration of creating an interchange with the Central line between Liverpool Street and Bethnal Green at Shoreditch High Street, where the line runs almost underneath the station. However, this could not be seriously contemplated before the completion of the
A south-west to north-east tube line called the Chelsea-Hackney line was proposed in 1970 by the then London Transport Board's London Rail Study as the next project after the completion of the Victoria line and the Fleet line (now the Jubilee line) and would have had a new tube station near Shoreditch Church if built.
- Disused stations
Shoreditch railway station (closed 1940)
Shoreditch tube station (closed 2006)