Sharing History in Shoreditch and Hoxton
Some areas on the fringes of the City of London provide rich pickings for those who like to discover the history of a place that can easily be overlooked. There are plenty of gems to find in the South Hackney Conservation area which is why the recent LONDON FOOTSTEPS walk proved so popular and rewarding.
It was also a chance to see how London is constantly growing and spreading beyond the traditional City limits. New office blocks, pedestrianized streets, restaurants and bars are catering for the media and technology industries which now populate the area. The warehouses and furniture workshops have been converted into modern, adaptable premises.
It was Charles Booth in his Life and Labour of the London Poor who wrote that “The character of the whole locality is working-class. Poverty is everywhere with a considerable mixture of the very poor and vicious”. He was not alone in condemning the way people were forced to live in such appalling and unhealthy conditions.
That was just over 100 years ago when the music halls of Hoxton were playing to full houses; when the newly-created London County Council was clearing away the Old Nichol slum to make space for the model homes of the new Boundary Estate. And let’s not forget that in Tudor times Shakespeare was beginning to make a name for himself in the theatres of Curtain Road. Later came Robert Aske, the successful City merchant who rose from a draper’s assistant to become Master of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers and used his wealth to start the Haberdashers’ Aske’s School in Hoxton.
History and progress deserve equal recognition in places like Hoxton and Shoreditch. Maybe we should look more closely at these areas on the fringes of the City and appreciate why the past has made such a vital contribution to London’s reputation and prosperity.