infobox UK place
official_name= Shoreditch
map_type= Greater London
region= London
country= England
london_borough= Hackney
constituency_westminster= Hackney South and Shoreditch
post_town= LONDON
postcode_area= N
postcode_area1= EC
postcode_area2= E
postcode_district= N1
postcode_district1= EC1, EC2
postcode_district2= E1, E2
dial_code= 020
os_grid_reference= TQ325825
latitude= 51.525806
longitude= -0.089066

static_image_caption=Shoreditch Town Hall

Shoreditch is an area of London within the London Borough of Hackney. It is a built-up part of the inner city immediately to the north of the City of London, located convert|2.3|mi|km|1 north east of Charing Cross.


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.



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 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 nuns, the Augustinian priory of 'Halliwell' or 'Holywell' (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).

Tudor theatre

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). [ [ "Shakespeare's Shoreditch theatre unearthed"] Maev Kennedy, "The Guardian", Thursday, August 7 2008] Some of Shakepeare's plays were performed here and at the nearby Curtain Theatre, built the following year and convert|200|yd|m|0|lk=on 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.

Victorian entertainments

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:
*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 performed here; as well as programmes of classical opera and even Shakespeare, with such luminaries as Henry Irving. There was considerable rivalry with the West End theatres, in a letter from John Douglass (the owner, from 1845) to "The Era" after a Drury Lane first night, in which he says 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 in ....... "- and so on- "with real rain, a real flood, and a real balloon"."
*The Shoreditch Empire aka 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 December 4 1897, said "The New Cambridge Music Hall in Commercial Street, Bishopsgate, is now nearing completion. The stage will be convert|41|ft|m|1 wide by convert|30|ft|m|1 deep . The premises will be heated throughout by hot water coils, and provision has been made for lighting the house by electric light."

Sadly, none of these places of entertainment survive today. For a brief time, Music hall was revived in Great Eastern Street, 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.


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.

A former citadel of the working classes, Shoreditch and Hoxton have been colonised 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 is still rife (Taylor 2001: 61).

Notable local residents

* James Burbage - Tudor actor and impresario: built The Theatre; buried in Shoreditch church.
*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.
*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.
*Marie Lloyd - Born in Shoreditch, where she made her debut in the local music halls. Commemorated in the name of a local pub, where the Cockney songs she made famous ('My Old Man' etc) are still sung by the locals, to this day.
*Christopher Marlowe - Elizabethan dramatist lived in Norton Folgate, the southern continuation of Shoreditch High Street, and wrote plays for the Shoreditch theatres.

*Matt Monro - Singer (Born Terence Parsons on December 1st 1930) Dubbed "The singers singer" and "The British Sinatra") Famous for singing the 1st James Bond 007 hit "From Russia with love" and "On days like these" from the film "The Italian job"
*William Shakespeare - lodged in nearby Bishopsgate and wrote and performed plays for both The Theatre and Curtain Theatre. A small chapel in Hollywell Street commemorated his association with the area, but was destroyed in World War II. A pub sign that claimed that he drank in the White Horse on Shoreditch High Street has recently been removed.
* William Sommers - Henry VIII's jester; buried in Shoreditch church.
*Richard Tarleton - Elizabethan comedian. Shakespeare's Yorick is believed to be a homage to his memory. Buried in Shoreditch church.
*Barbara Windsor comediene, film actress and modern 'soap' star, was born here.
* William Fairman, the radio presenter, has lived in Shoreditch since 2001.
*Damien Hirst artist, was key to the redefinition of the area's art scene in the 1980s and 90s
*Tracey Emin also member of YBA scene still lives in nearby Spitalfields
*Hoxton Tom McCourt, influential in the late 1970s and early 1980s mod and oi/punk scenes and founder of the band, the 4-Skins born in Shoreditch in 1961


:"For details of education in Shoreditch see the Hackney article"


Nearest places

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.

* Bethnal Green
* City of London
* Clerkenwell
* Dalston
* Hoxton
* Haggerston
* Islington
* Finsbury
* Spitalfields

Nearest stations

Disused stations

* Shoreditch railway station
* Shoreditch tube station

ee also

* London art scene
* East London Line
* London United Basketball
* Hackney Community College Basketball Academy
* Hackney College
* Shoreditch Park


* Ackroyd, Peter (2000) "London: The Biography" . Chatto & Windus, London.
* Clifton, L. (2002) "Baby Oil and Ice: Striptease in East London". The Do-Not Press Limited: London.
* Clunn, H.P. (1970) "The Face of London". Spring Books: London.
* Harrison, P. (1985) "Inside the Inner City: Life Under the Cutting Edge". Penguin: Harmondsworth.
* Mander, D. (1996) "More Light, More Power: An Illustrated History of Shoreditch". Sutton.
* Schoenbaum, S. (1987)" William Shakespeare: a Compact Documentary Life",OUP.
* Shapiro, J. (2005) "1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare". Faber and Faber, London.
* Sugden, K. (n.d.) "Under Hackney: The Archaeological Story". FHA.
* Taylor, W. (2001) "This Bright Field". Methuen: London.
* Wood, M (2003) "In Search of Shakespeare". BBC Worldwide, London.

External links

* [ urbanpath guide to nice things in Shoreditch]
* [|A Tudor History of Shoreditch] (from "The National Archives")
* [ Shoreditch Town Hall]
* [ Shoreditch Trust]
* [ Shoreditch Spa Community Website]
* [ The Shoreditch Map]

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