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Shoreditch town hall3.jpg
Shoreditch Town Hall
Shoreditch is located in Greater London
Shoreditch shown within Greater London
OS grid referenceTQ325825
• Charing Cross2.5 mi (4.0 km) WSW
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLONDON
Postcode districtEC1, EC2
Postcode districtE1, E2
Postcode districtN1
Dialling code020
EU ParliamentLondon
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°31′34″N 0°04′41″W / 51.526°N 0.078°W / 51.526; -0.078Coordinates: 51°31′34″N 0°04′41″W / 51.526°N 0.078°W / 51.526; -0.078

Shoreditch is a district in London, England. It is within Central and East London and located in the East End, and is divided between the boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Islington. An historic entertainment quarter since the 16th century, today it hosts a number of nightclubs and bars to the west, while the east is primarily residential.

In Tower Hamlets, a small part of Shoreditch is a small exclave separated by Bethnal Green from the rest of the district, it is considered part of the district due to the now-closed Shoreditch tube station location.[1][2] The district itself lies immediately to the north and north east of the City of London while the exclave lies north and east of Spitalfields and south and west of Bethnal Green.



Toponymists believe that the name comes from Old English "scoradīc", i.e. shore-ditch, the shore being a riverbank or prominent slope.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] 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 (1327–77).[6]


Shoreditch church

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 Colchester, bypassing the City of London to the south.[7]

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.[8]

Elizabethan theatre[edit]

Memorial to Elizabethan actors buried in Shoreditch church

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).[9] Some of Shakespeare's plays were performed here and at the nearby Curtain Theatre, built the following year[10] and 200 yards (183 m) 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. The Curtain continued performing plays in Shoreditch until at least 1627.[11]

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".[12]

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,[13] now commemorated in the Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road. 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.[10] 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.

Victorian entertainments[edit]

1867 Poster from the National Standard Theatre
1907 Hetty King sheet music, expressing a concern of modern residents
The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Shoreditch

In the 19th and early 20th 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 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."[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • 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 41 feet [12.5 m] wide by 30 feet [9.1 m] 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.[16] 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.

Contemporary culture[edit]

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 land and property prices.

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 new tech district East London Tech City. These include, 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.[17]

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.

In fact, the word Shoreditch is now 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".[18]

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.[19]


1755 Stow's Map of Shoreditch
Part of Charles Booth's poverty map showing the Old Nichol slum, including Bethnal Green Road
Districts within the London Borough of Hackney.

Shoreditch covers a wide area, but its historic heart lies south of Old Street, around Shoreditch High Street and Shoreditch Church. The sub-districts of Hoxton and Haggerston have been 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.

To the south, Shoreditch borders Bishopsgate and adjacent side streets. The northern end of Commercial Street acts as the southern border with Spitalfields, and within the Tower Hamlets exclave to the very southeast boundary shared with Spitalfields on Buxton Street and Allen Gardens.

The more residential parts of Shoreditch as well as Shoreditch High Street that fall under E1 and E2 are in the East End of London, while the rest of Shoreditch including Old Street falls under EC1 and EC2 and are regarded as a part of Central London.


A map showing the wards of Shoreditch Metropolitan Borough as they appeared in 1916.

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 (aka Tower Hamlets). 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[20] - 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

In eastern Shoreditch which is in Tower Hamlets, it falls under the constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, represented since 2010 by Rushanara Ali of the Labour Party, while


South Shoreditch is currently undergoing 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.[21] The developments will result in more residential units being available for sale in Shoreditch than were produced by the Olympics athletes' village.[21]

South Shoreditch undergoing reconstruction in 2015

Notable local residents[edit]



Private transportation[edit]


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"[22] and "a block to economic recovery".[23] Following a lengthy campaign,[24] 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.

Public transportation[edit]


London Buses provides all local bus services the district, 8, 135, 205, 388, and N8 and N205 on Great Eastern Street and Bishopsgate, 26, 35, 47, 48, 67, 78 and night route N26 on Shoreditch High Street, 55, 149, 242, 243 and night route N55 on Old Street.[25][26][27]

London Overground
The railway bridge on Kingsland Road – an essential part of the East London Line extension. (September 2005)

In 2005 funding was announced for the East London Line Extension which would extend the existing tube line from Whitechapel tube station bypassing Shoreditch tube station (which closed in June 2006) and creating a new station titled Shoreditch High Street closer to the centre of Shoreditch, this is now served by London Overground services at the site of the old Bishopsgate Goods Yard which was demolished in 2004.

London Underground

Shoreditch has limited access to the London Underground, with the Northern line at Old Street tube station at the extreme edge of Shoreditch. And before it closed in 2006, Shoreditch tube station on the East London line was the only tube in Shoreditch, there has since been discussions of creating an interchange with the Central line between Liverpool Street and Bethnal Green at Shoreditch High Street which runs almost underneath the station. However, this would not be able to happen until after the Crossrail 1 project is complete, due to extreme crowding on the Central line during peak hours.

Disused stations

Nearest places[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "London's Places" (PDF). London Plan. Greater London Authority. 2011. p. 46. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Clunn, H.P. (1970) The Face of London. Spring Books: London. pp. 312, 493
  5. ^ Mander 1996, p. 13.
  6. ^ Timbs, John (1855). Curiosities of London: Exhibiting the Most Rare and Remarkable Objects of Interest in the Metropolis. D. Bogue. p. 729.
  7. ^ Sugden n.d.
  8. ^ Wood 2003.
  9. ^ Shakespeare's Shoreditch theatre unearthed Maev Kennedy, The Guardian, Thursday, 7 August 2008
  10. ^ a b "The Shoreditch You Never Knew - Made in Shoreditch Magazine". 15 September 2014.
  11. ^ Shapiro 2005.
  12. ^ Middlesex Justices in 1596; cited in Schoenbaum 1987, p. 126.
  13. ^ Cleaver, Naomi (5 August 2005). "Roving eye: Shoreditch". The Daily Telegraph.
  14. ^ "Shoreditch Theatres and Halls". Arthur Lloyd. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  15. ^ "Shoreditch Empire" (PDF). Over the Footlights. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Brick Lane Music Hall".
  17. ^ Duncan Geere. "Transcript: David Cameron sets out Britain's hi-tech future". Wired.
  18. ^ "Why this 'Shoreditchification' of London must stop". The Daily Telegraph.
  19. ^ Feargus O'Sullivan (30 September 2015). "Breakfast of Gentrifiers How a London café that specializes in cereal became the latest flashpoint in the city's ongoing gentrification debate". CityLab. Retrieved 30 September 2015. When Londoners talk about regeneration, gentrification and the supposed cascade of bars, beards and real estate bubbles they bring in their wake, they typically talk about the café’s home neighborhood of Shoreditch.
  20. ^ The London Encyclopaedia, 4th Edition, 1983, Weinreb and Hibbert
  21. ^ a b "Three More Shoreditch Skyscraper Proposals". Londonist. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  22. ^ Teo Greenstraat of The Circus Space, quoted in More Light, More Power, No. 6, Autumn 2000
  23. ^ Michael Pyner of Shoreditch New Deal Trust, quoted in More Light, More Power, No. 6, Autumn 2000
  24. ^ The long road back to a two-way Shoreditch Hackney Cyclists, 2002
  25. ^ "Shoreditch High Street Station". Transport for London.
  26. ^ "Shoreditch High Street Station". Transport for London.
  27. ^ "Shoreditch Town Hall". Transport for London.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Shoreditch". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 1003.
  • 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.
  • Harrison, P. (1985) Inside the Inner City: Life Under the Cutting Edge. Penguin: Harmondsworth.
  • Mander, David (1996). More Light, More Power: An Illustrated History of Shoreditch. Stroud: 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[edit]

Districts of the London Borough of Islington