In London, the Moorfields were one of the last pieces of open land in the City of London, near the Moorgate. The fields were divided into three areas, the Moorfields proper, just north of Bethlem Hospital, and inside the City boundaries, and Middle and Upper Moorfields to the north.
After the Great Fire of London in 1666, refugees from the fire evacuated to Moorfields and set up temporary camps there. King Charles II of England encouraged the dispossessed to move on and leave London, but it is unknown how many newly impoverished and displaced persons instead settled in the Moorfields area. In the early 18th century, Moorfields was the site of sporadic open-air markets, shows, and vendors/auctions. Additionally, the homes near and within Moorfields were places of the poor, and the area had a reputation for harbouring highwaymen, as well as brothels and public cruising areas for gay men. James Dalton and Jack Sheppard both retreated to Moorfields when in hiding from the law. Much of Moorfields was developed in 1777, when Finsbury Square was developed; the remainder succumbed within the next few decades.
In 1780 it was the site of some of the most violent rioting during the Gordon Riots.
The district was once the site of The Foundry, a centre of Wesleyan Methodism.
A fashionable carpet manufactory was established here by Thomas Moore (c. 1700 - 1788) in the mid-eighteenth century. Moore's carpet manufactory at Moore Place made a number of fine carpets commissioned by the architect and interior designer, Robert Adam, for the grand rooms he designed for his wealthy clients. Thomas Moore lived at his home on Chiswell Street until his death. His Moore Park factory remained in operation until 1793, when his daughter, Jane, and her husband, Joseph Foskett, sold the lease to another carpet manufacturer.
Today the name survives in the names of Moorfields Eye Hospital (since moved to another site); St Mary Moorfields; Moorfields the short street (on which stands the headquarters of the British Red Cross) parallel with Moorgate (and containing some entrances to Moorgate station); and Moorfields Highwalk, one of the pedestrian "streets" at high level in the Barbican Estate.
- Rictor Norton. Mother Clap's Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830. (London: 1992) pp.71-90.
- "List of publications published or distributed at the Foundry". Copac. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
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