Shoreditch Town Hall
[[Image:|240px|Shoreditch is located in ]]
Shoreditch shown within
|OS grid reference|
|- Charing Cross||WSW|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||EC1, EC2|
|Postcode district||E1, E2|
|UK Parliament||Hackney South and Shoreditch|
|List of places: UK • England •|
The etymology of 'Shoreditch' is debated. A legendary early tradition connects it with Jane Shore, the mistress of Edward IV who according to an ancient ballad died in the eponymous ditch....However as the place is attested as 'Soersditch', long before this, a more plausible suggestion is 'Sewer Ditch', in reference to an ancient drain or watercourse in what was a boggy area adjacent to the 'fens' of Finsbury/Fensbury to the west (Mander 1996). Possibly it refers to the headwaters of the river Walbrook which rose in the Curtain Road area.
The legendary associations of Jane Shore with the area are commemorated by a very large painting of that lady being retrieved from the ditch at Haggerston Branch Library and by a design on glazed tiles in a shop in Shoreditch High Street, showing Edward IV meeting her at the goldsmith's establishment her husband kept. This shop was formerly 'The Jane Shore' tavern (Clunn 1970: 312, 493).
The medieval parish of Shoreditch (St Leonard's), was originally part of the county of Middlesex until 1889 when it became part of the new County of London. The parish vestry was the local unit of administration until the creation of the Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch in 1899 in the same area. Shoreditch town hall can still be seen on Old Street. It has been restored and is now run by the Shoreditch Town Hall Trust. The Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch was made up of three main districts in all: Shoreditch, Hoxton and Haggerston. The whole Metropolitan Borough was incorporated into the much larger London Borough of Hackney in 1965.
Though now part of the inner city, Shoreditch was previously an extramural suburb of the City of London, centred around Shoreditch Church at the crossroads where Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland Road are intersected by Old Street and Hackney Road.
Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland road are a small sector of the Roman Ermine Street and modern A10. This, known also as the Old North Road, 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 Colchester, bypassing the City of London to the south (Sugden n.d.).
Shoreditch church (dedicated to St Leonard) is of ancient origin and features in the famous line: 'when I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch', from the 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 (Wood 2003).
In 1576, on the site of the Priory, James Burbage built the first playhouse in England, known as 'The Theatre' (commemorated today by a plaque on Curtain Road, and excavated in 2008, by MoLAS). 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'. In 1599 Shakespeare's Company literally upped sticks, and moved the timbers of 'The Theatre' to Southwark, at expiration of the lease, to construct The Globe. The Curtain continued performing plays in Shoreditch until at least 1627 (Shapiro 2005).
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: 126)
During the 17th century, wealthy traders and Huguenot silk weavers 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. However the area declined, along with both textile and furniture industries, and by the end of the 19th Century, Shoreditch was a byword for crime, prostitution and poverty. This situation was not improved by extensive devastation of the housing stock in the Blitz during World War II and insensitive redevelopment in the post war period.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Shoreditch was a centre of entertainment to rival the West-End and boasted many theatres and Music halls:
Sadly, none of these places of entertainment survive today. For a brief time, Music hall was revived in Curtain Road, by the temporary home of the Brick Lane Music Hall, this too, has now moved on.
The historic heart of Shoreditch is Shoreditch High Street and Shoreditch Church. In the past the area of Shoreditch was defined by the borders of the parish of Shoreditch which later defined the borders of the Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch. Since 1965, when the latter unit of local government was dissolved, it has been more fuzzily defined. Contemporary Shoreditch is often seen as the area bordered to the north by Old Street, to the east by the northern end of Brick Lane, to the south by Old Spitalfields market and to the west by Old Street Station. However, Hoxton to the north of Old Street was historically part of Shoreditch parish and borough and is still, often, conflated with it resulting in the names "Hoxditch" or "Shoho" sometimes being applied to the whole.
Shoreditch has, since around 1996, become a popular and fashionable part of London. Often conflated with neighbouring Hoxton, the area has been subject to considerable gentrification in the past twenty years, with accompanying rises in property prices.
Recently – During the second 'dot-com' boom the area has become popular with London based web technology companies who base their head offices around Old Street. These include Last.fm, Dopplr, Songkick, SocialGO and 7digital – who tend to gravitate towards Old Street roundabout, popularising the term 'Silicon Roundabout' to describe the area.
Formerly a predominantly working class area, Shoreditch and Hoxton have, in recent years, been gentrified by the creative industries and those who work in them. 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 further features of this transformation. However, to the north, east and south, poor quality housing and urban decay is still prevalent. Other traditions of working class entertainment survive on Shoreditch High Street where the music halls of yesteryear have been replaced by the greatest concentration of striptease venues in London (Clifton 2002). On Commercial Street to the South, prostitution was still rife (Taylor 2001: 61) in 2001, but since the development of Shoreditch High Street railway station and other amenities this has declined markedly.
|Old Street||Bethnal Green|
|City of London||Bishopsgate||Spitalfields|
In the mid-1960s, the main streets of Shoreditch 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" and "a block to economic recovery" . Following a lengthy campaign, 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.
In 2005 funding was announced for the East London Line Extension which would extend the existing line from Whitechapel tube station bypassing Shoreditch tube station (which closed in June 2006) and creating a new station titled Shoreditch High Street at the site of the old Bishopsgate Goods Yard which was demolished in 2004.