West Hoxton Walk (1 mile)

1/17 West Hoxton: a self-guided Hackney history walk for the current times. Start at St Johns Church, Pitfield St, to saunter through ‘New Hoxton’ to Shepherdess Walk Park. Whereas ‘Hochestone’ village, mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book, was centred on Hoxton Street, the open land to the west was not built up until the 19th century.

2/17 St John’s church was built in 1826 for the growing population in the western part of Shoreditch parish. The churchyard was closed in 1857 for burials. Over 31 yrs 27,000 people were buried here; 16% of them during the 1854-5 cholera epidemic. In 1882 the churchyard was opened to the public as one of the few open spaces in Shoreditch. The gravestones were removed in 1900.

3/17 Opposite the church porch, 27 New North Rd, built in 1904, was the Shoreditch Constitutional Club. Later it became the HQ of Dotteridge Brothers founded in 1835. Dottridge’s was perhaps the UK’s most important funeral suppliers: coffins, handles, wheel biers, embalming fluids, etc. In 1913 the company employed 320 people and had 115 horses and 3 motor hearses

4/17 Walk up the road to the junction with East Road. The shop on the corner was the Sturt Arms where Charles Dickens met a salesman of Sarson’s Wine Vinegar Works at Old St on whom he based the character of Mr Micawber. New North Road was laid out in 1823 to connect Highbury to the City and open up the Sturt’s land for development.

5/17 Cross the road and walk left down East Road. On the other side of road was Dorset Works, where Samuel Dotteridge founded his funeral business which had been a sideline to building and contracting.  Continue down the road and turn right into Nile St, named after the British victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

6/17 Go up Nile St. On the left at the junction with Provost St, the  innovative Shoreditch parish built London’s 1st non-LCC London local authority public housing, now demolished. Provost St is named for the title of the head of the Company of Moneyers who leased 4 acres of their land here, previously used for grazing, for building in 1809.

7/17 Continue up Nile St and turn left into Westland Place. No 15 was the restaurant opened in 2002 by 26 yr old The Naked Chef  star Jamie Oliver. No 1 Westland Place is one of few remnants of the area’s 1st houses built in area. Westland Place Studios claim to be the longest established artists’ community in the area, since 1993

8/17 Turn right at City Rd, laid out in 1761 connecting Euston Road to the City. Turn right and walk up City Road to Shepherdess Walk, once a country lane to Islington.  The Eagle Pub (remember the nursery rhyme ‘half a pound of tuppeny rice……in and out the Eagle) was originally the ‘Shepherd and Shepherdess’ serving frumenty, cakes and tea.

9/17 The Eagle’s pleasure gardens and Rotunda, seating 700, offered concerts, balloon ascents, wrestling, an aviary, fireworks. After it closed the Salvation Army briefly moved in. The Salvation Army angered locals by not using the licence under the terms of the lease to serve alcohol. They soon moved out to Clapton and the venue became a Music Hall where 14 yr-old local girl Marie Lloyd made her debut in 1884.

10/17 The Police Station next to The Eagle closed in 2017. Opposite are the walls of the workhouse built for the neighbouring St Luke’s Parish, not Shoreditch or Hoxton. The Shoreditch parish workhouse was between Hoxton Street and Kingsland Road, now St Leonard’s Hospital. On 7/8/1854 the workhouse infirmary had 489 inmates. In 1869 it became a hospital under the Holburn Union (viz. HU). It was renamed St Matthew’s general hospital in 1937, with 626 beds in 40-bed wards. In October 1940 the hospital was bombed, killing 83 patients and 3 nurses, one of the worst incidents of the bombing of a hospital in WWII. By 1952 the hospital  was criticised as a ‘dump for the chronic sick.’ Retrace your steps up City Road and in the gates you can see SM for St Matthew’s.

11/17 Walk up Shepherdess Walk and turn right into Underwood Street. This was the site from 1672 to 1898 of Lady Lumley’s almshouses for 6 people from two City parishes. It was one  of  18 almshouses built in Shoreditch. Underwood Street is now perhaps the area’s most complete surviving road of industrial buildings,  built in the early 20th century after the initial 1820s houses, which  covered the once open fields, had been demolished

12/17 100 yrs ago Underwood Street must have noisily bustled with the business of stick, fancy box, robe, down-quilt, handbag, children’s frock and card index manufacturers, Rothman’s cigarette makers, wholesale stationers, bookbinders, and printers. Now it is a quieter home to apartments and IT/consultants’ offices

13/17 Follow the street to return to Shepherdess Walk and turn right. The William IV pub on the other side of the road further up dates from 1838. On the left is Micawber St. named after Mr Micawber who gave lodgings to David Copperfield in Charles Dickens’s novel of that name in his house in Windsor Terrace, further down the street on the left.

14/17 At the traffic lights turn right down Murray Grove to the Wenlock Barn Estate on the left,  built by Shoreditch Metropolitan Borough in 1949 and designed, not by nationally known architects (as some estates were in Hackney Metropolitan Borough), but by the borough’s surveyors. ‘Wenlock Barn’ could derive from the ‘borough of Wenloc’, a 13th century priest of St Paul’s Cathedral, who held land here.  This is as far as Hoxton New Town extended north  by 1819.

15/11 Turn left down Bletchley Street. On the left is the Holy Trinity vicarage, church and school building. Notice Henry Dodd’s name on the plaque on the wall of the school building. Known as ‘The Golden Dustmen’ for his fortune made collecting and selling waste, Henry Dodd is said to be the  model for Noddy Boffin in Charles Dickens’s ‘Our Mutual Friend.’

16/11 Walk to the front of Holy Trinity Church. This building was designed in 1848 with a tall tower to dominate the surrounding streetscape by William Railton, who also designed Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Sq (just the column, not the statue). On the other side of Shepherdess Walk notice the Georgian terrace; its rescue from compulsory purchase was an early campaign success of the Hackney Society.

17/17 Walk up the  road to Shepherdess Walk Park. In 1871 this was the site of houses with a swimming pool and metropolitan baths amidst them. On the north side Windsor House is the site of the canal-side City Saw Mills which supplied raw materials to Shoreditch’s main industry: furniture. Admire the Roman-like mosaics in the north-east corner of the park commemorating the 2012 London Olympics.


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