Mare Street

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Mare Street is a street in Hackney. It has existed since the 15th century, when it was one of the first roads at the centre of the parish. It was then known as Merestret. The word mere was either the Old English mǣre meaning a boundary — referring to the boundary with the parish of Stepney — or mere, a large pond which was fed by Hackney Brook.[1][2][3]


Mare Street runs north-south through the centre of Hackney. It starts at the junction of Dalston Lane with the Lower Clapton Road and runs south to the Regent's Canal. The northernmost section is a largely traffic-free shopping street, known as The Narroway.

South of the North London Line at Hackney Central railway station, Mare Street follows the A107 to the canal, where it becomes the Cambridge Heath Road.


Mare Street was established by 1593 when the Flying Horse Inn was a staging post for travellers. By 1720, it was the most populous part of Hackney.[4]

In the 18th century, St Thomas’ Hospital was developed on Mare Street, followed by a Congregational chapel. The Great Eastern Railway came to Mare Street in 1872, bringing more residential development, as well as institutions including Morley Hall, later the Electric Cinema,[5] Lady Eleanor Holles School (on the site later used by Cordwainers College) and St Joseph’s hospice.

After the First World War, the area became more industrial, and after World War II, a mixture of bomb damage and slum clearance led to building of housing estates and Hackney Technical College.[4]

In 1945, the Cordwainers' College moved from Clerkenwell to 182 Mare Street (formerly Lady Holles's School and the Dalston county school).[6]

Mary Wollstonecraft, author of 'A Vindication of the Right of Women', pioneer of women's rights and mother of Mary Shelley, lived at what is now 373-375 Mare Street in 1784.[7]

Notable buildings[edit]

The 14th century St Augustine's Tower on the Narroway, is a remnant of Hackney parish's medieval church which was replaced by the present St. John at Hackney church in 1797.[8]

The Hackney Empire is at 291 Mare Street. Built by Frank Matcham in 1901 as a music hall, it was later used as a television studio and a bingo hall, before reopening as a theatre in 1986.[9]

Next to the Hackney Empire is Hackney Town Hall, a stone-faced 1930s art deco building, set back from Mare Street with a landscaped forecourt.

The London College of Fashion is at 182 Mare Street, having incorporated the former Cordwainers' College.[10]


  1. ^ John Wittich (1996), Discovering London Street Names, p. 80, ISBN 0747803099, Mare Street, E8 A large pond fed by the Hackney Brook caused constant trouble to coaches and their passengers in the eighteenth century. Because of its low-lying nature the area around Mare Street was a marsh and the street is called Mere (marsh) Street on early maps. 
  2. ^ Why Mare Street? A Short Index of Street Names, Hackney Public Libraries, 1967 
  3. ^ David Mander (1989), The London Borough of Hackney in old photographs before 1914, p. 23, ISBN 9780862996772, The name Mare Street is derived from the Middle English Meare, meaning a boundary and referring to the original settlement... 
  4. ^ a b T.F.T. Baker (Editor) (1995). "Hackney: Mare Street and London Fields". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney. Institute of Historical Research. 
  5. ^ "Morley Hall". Cinema Treasures. 
  6. ^ T.F.T. Baker (Editor) (1995). "Hackney: Education". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney. Institute of Historical Research. 
  7. ^ "Plaque: Mary Wollstonecraft - E8". 
  8. ^ "History and heritage". London Borough of Hackney. 
  9. ^ "History of the Hackney Empire". Hackney Empire. 
  10. ^ "UAL - London College of Fashion". University of the Arts.