|A Hoxton & Shoreditch Walk
Route & what to see
Hoxton had began as an area with large houses, fashionable squares and numerous almshouses but from the late 18th century was overwhelmed by industrial development and the large number of people, many of them poor, who came to live and work in the area. Much of the industry has now gone and the slum housing, some of it bombed in WWII, has been cleared. Remnants of both prosperous and hard times remain but the area is likely to see big changes. As you walk its streets you can see the City looming, old buildings taking on new uses and new developments. There is the opportunity to view a number of theatre sites. Plenty of cafes and pubs on the route. Cafe and picnic facilities available at the Geffrye Museum.
This 3¼ mile walk is circular from Liverpool Street Station and passes the Geffrye Museum (details below). The route is based on the walk leaflet (No 4) produced by the Hackney Society.
From Liverpool Street
Station cross Exchange Square into Primrose Street and go left.
Go right into Appold Street
In Worship Street to the left are some workshops/houses designed by Philip Webb in 1862-3.
Continue along Curtain Road
Between Hewitt Street and Holywell Lane on the right (now NSPCC) would have been the Curtain Theatre built in 1577 just beyond the city precincts. Disused by 1625 it was destroyed in the Great Fire. At numbers 86-90 are plaques recording Holywell Priory and the Theatre (built 1576), associated with Shakespeare, that stood on its site. This building was dismantled and taken across to Southwark to be rebuilt as the Globe in 1599. A little further along is the former Curtain Road School.
Continue across Great
This street was cut through in the 1870s. Just beyond it on the right small workplaces at 7-13 New Inn Yard have been redeveloped.
Left into Rivington Street
On the left is an electric sub-station for trams built in 1907
Right through Chapel Place
The New Tabernacle Congregational Chapel is now offices and has a spring beneath
Go right at Old Street then
left through Rufus Street into Hoxton Square. Walk
There are a mixture of buildings in this square. Number 32 has been restored whilst 31 & 37 retain traces of the 1680s original houses. The north side is taken up by a primary school, the convent & church of St Monicas and a former National School. A new development has been constructed in the NW corner which was the site of St Peter's Church. Its vicarage remains at number 10 next to former furniture workshops. There is a blue plaque at number 1 to Dr James Parkinson (of Parkinson's disease). The central garden was made into a public park by 1916.
Exit at the SW through
Coronet Street bearing right into Hoxton Market
The market was set up 1687 but was unsuccessful. A Christian Mission founded in 1881 moved to the east side in 1886, was enlarged in 1905 and refronted in 1915. Here local children would be given free dinners and boots.The interior was destroyed in 1941 and it is now in commercial use. The Shoreditch Vestry Refuse Destructor and Steam Generating Station of 1897 had offices, destructor hall, storage bins, 3 engines & an 80' stack. It generated power from local waste which was used for street lighting and in the neighbouring baths. The premises are now occupied by Circus Space [website].
Exit at the SW through Boot
Street and cross Pitfield Street into Charles Square
The original buildings of 1685 have been lost but number 16, a mid 18th century house which became the Magistrates Court & Registry Office, remains. The central garden became a public park in 1898.
Return to Pitfield Street
Numbers 18-20 were at one time the Variety Theatre, associated with the White Horse pub. The whole site was rebuilt in 1994.
Go left along Pitfield
The street has two pubs of note - the Hop Pole and the George & Vulture (both c1900). The former is no longer in pub use [pix]. Askes was founded in 1689 by Haberdasher Robert Aske who gave some £20,000 to be invested to provide almhouses for 20 poor and a school for 20 poor sons of Freemen. It was rebuilt in 1827, altered in 1873 and transferred to the LCC in 1898. Houses in Buttesland Street alongside were built in 1810-35. The grand Public Library (undergoing redevelopment) was built in 1893-6 with a Passmore Edwards grant. Baths were opened alongside in 1899 but these were demolished by NCP in 1962 after war damage. A sympathetically designed building now stands on the site. Haberdasher Street further along on the left has terraces with roof railings. Beyond this is the former Hoxton Cinema of 1914 awaiting redevelopment.
Go across to St Johns Church
Hoxton was within the parish of St Leonard's Shoreditch but in 1826 gained its own church when St John the Baptist was consecrated. This was built by the Church Commissioners and seated 2000. A school was built in New North Road for 600 pupils in 1843. The London School Board School which replaced it is now a primary school. The churchyard became a public park in 1882 and has been upgraded.
From the roundabout go along
There are industrial buildings at numbers 5 & 6 (1880) and 8 & 9 (1897)
At the end go left into
Opposite was a burial ground for Jews and then Hoxton House Asylum founded in 1695 and enlarged in 1784 & 1814. It became an LCC school then Hackney Community College. On the left a plaque marks the site of the Britannia which was a tea garden, tavern, saloon and then a theatre. Rebuilt in 1856-8 and seating 3000 it was destroyed in WWII bombing. The premises of Pollock's Toy Museum at number 73 (marked with a plaque) were also destroyed as was the Academy at number 91 which had transferred from Hoxton Square in 1814. There is a plaque relating to the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot on modern flats. Numbers 124 & 126 were artisan's houses of c1730 next to the Queen Mary Hostel at number 128. Hoxton Hall was opened in 1863 as a Music Hall but became a temperance establishment under the Quakers. It now serves as a community venue which can also be viewed from Wilks Place. The Pimlico Pleasure Gardens were sited at present day Bacchus Walk. There are attractive shops including Hayes & English Funerals (148), Cooke's Eel & Pie shop (150) and Brooks Fruit & Florist (194-6). On the right is the Community Garden with a cupula from Homerton Hospital and toilets designed for an oil rig! Numbers 173 - 5 have been restored as houses and number 237 was an artisan's house of 1700-30. On the right are the former offices for St Leonard's Workhouse (see Nuttall Street) built in 1863. On the left is St Anne's Church of 1870 which never raised the funds for its proposed bell tower. The road alongside this leads to Shoreditch Park and the Britannia Leisure Centre.
Return to and go along
The workhouse was opened in 1777 and rebuilt & modernised in 1849 but was replaced with a new workhouse and infirmary in 1861-3. The workhouse building has been replaced by the Mary Seacole nursing home but the infirmary buildings are part of the present St Leonards Hospital. St Columba Church of 1869 on the corner with Kingsland Road was a slum mission centre with a clergy house and school. The Whitmore Estate on the left was built by the LCC in 1924-37.
Right along Kingsland Road
There is a plaque on the hospital to Edith Cavell who was an assistant matron. Graeae Theatre Company has a fully accessible rehearsal space in former stables. The Geffrye Almshouses were built for the Ironmongers in 1712-4 and have housed a museum since 1914. To the north were almshouses of the Framework Knitters and to the south those of the Drapers.
There is the option of visiting the museum (see below) and buses return to Liverpool Street Station from outside
To continue carry on along
Kingsland Road and detour right into Old Street
Shoreditch Station was positioned on the North London Railway here. On the left is the old Shoreditch Vestry & Town Hall (now run by a Trust) and on the right the former Magistrate's Court. This street was the location of several almhouses.
Return to the main road and
go over to the church
Shoreditch had a Medieval church but in 1736 the new St Leonards designed by George Dance the Elder was completed. The Clerk's House is contemporary. Features of interest include the old stocks & whipping post, a loud bell and a creepy crypt! It has associations with Elizabethan theatre people.
Walk via Austin Street and
Hocker Street into Arnold Circus
This is the centre piece of the Boundary Estate which in the 1890s replaced notorious slums.
Leave via Calvert Avenue and
go left along Shoreditch High Street
There is a mixture of buildings along here including industrial and warehouse premises. It was also a popular thoroughfare for theatres. The Shoreditch Empire was located at numbers 95-99 (replaced with a hotel). On the right just beyond Holywell Street was the Standard and the Alhambra. Beyond Commercial Street on the left was the former Bishopsgate Station. The East London line is to be extended northwards with new stations here and at Hoxton, Haggerston & Dalston.
Continue along the road
which becomes Norton Folgate and then Bishopsgate back to
Liverpool Street Station
Between Worship Street and Primrose Street on the right was the City of London Theatre.
The BISHOPSGATE INSTITUTE on the left has a library with a good London collection which is open to the general public [more info].
GEFFRYE MUSEUM 136 Kingsland Road E2. Tel 020
A series of period rooms set out in the attractive former Ironmonger's Almshouses. A restored almshouse is open some Wednesdays & Saturdays (charge - limited numbers). Also period and herb gardens are open in the summer. Programme of changing exhibitions and events. Shop & cafe. Closed on Mondays. Groups should book as space is limited. Free admission. This is curently closed until 2010
A General History of Shoreditch and South Hoxton [PDF file]
Hoxton Architecture and history over five centuries by Christopher Miele - Hackney Society (out of print)
Survey of London Vol VIII
Charles Dickens gives an account of a visit to the Britannia Theatre in the 'Uncommercial Traveller'
© london-footprints.co.uk 2007
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