Hoxton: Wikis


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Coordinates: 51°32′04″N 0°04′27″W / 51.534557°N 0.074279°W / 51.534557; -0.074279

Hoxton is located in Greater London

 Hoxton shown within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ335835
    - Charing Cross 2.7 mi (4.3 km)  SW
London borough Hackney
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district N1
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Hackney South and Shoreditch
London Assembly North East
List of places: UK • England • London

Hoxton is an area in the London Borough of Hackney, immediately north of the financial district of the City of London. The area of Hoxton is bordered by Regents Canal on the north side, Wharf Road and City Road on the west, Old Street on the south, and Kingsland Road on the east.

Hoxton is also a ward, electing 3 councillors to the borough council. It forms part of the Hackney South and Shoreditch constituency.


Historical Hoxton


'Hogesdon' is first recorded in the Domesday Book, meaning an Anglo-Saxon farm (or fortified enclosure) belonging to Hoch, or Hocq.[1] Little is recorded of the origins of the settlement, though there was Roman activity around Ermine Street, which ran to the east of the area from the 1st century. In medieval times, Hoxton formed a rural part of Shoreditch parish[2]. It achieved independent ecclesiastical status in 1826 with the founding of its own parish church dedicated to St John the Baptist, though civil jurisdiction was still invested in the Shoreditch vestry.

In 1415, the Lord Mayor of London "caused the wall of the City to be broken towards Moorfields, and built the postern called Moorgate, for the ease of the citizens to walk that way upon causeways towards Islington and Hoxton"[1] - at that time, still marshy areas. The residents responded by harassing walkers to protect their fields. A century later, the hedges and ditches were destroyed, by order of the City, to enable City dwellers to take their leisure in Hoxton.[1]

Tudor Hoxton

By Tudor times many moated manor houses existed to provide ambassadors and courtiers country air close to the city. This included many Catholics, attracted by the house of the Portuguese ambassador,[3] who, in his private chapel,[4] celebrated the masses forbidden in a Protestant country.[5] One such resident was Sir Thomas Tresham, who was imprisoned here by Elizabeth I of England for harbouring Catholic priests. The open fields to the north and west were used for archery practice[6], and on September 22, 1598 the playwright Ben Jonson fought a fatal duel in Hoxton Fields, killing actor Gabriel Spencer. Jonson was able to prove his literacy, thereby claiming benefit of clergy to escape a hanging.

Hoxton contained public gardens that were a popular resort from the crowded city streets on holidays, and are reputed to have gained their name of Pimlico from the publican, Ben Pimlico,[7] and his particular brew.

Have at thee, then, my merrie boyes, and beg for old Ben Pimlico’s nut-brown ale.[8]

The gardens appear to have been situated near Hoxton Street, known at that time, as Pimlico Path. The modern area of Pimlico derives its name from its former use in Hoxton.

Gunpowder, treason and a letter

On 26 October 1605 Hoxton achieved notoriety, when a letter arrived at the home of local resident William Parker, Lord Monteagle warning him not to attend the Parliament summoned by James I to convene on 5 November, because ... yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow, the Parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them.. The letter may have been sent by his brother-in-law Francis Tresham, or he may have written it himself, to curry favour. The letter was read aloud at supper, in front of the company of prominent Catholics, and then he brought it personally to Robert Cecil at Whitehall. While the conspirators were alerted, by the public reading, to the existence of the letter they persevered with their plot as their gunpowder remained undiscovered. William Parker accompanied Thomas Howard, the Lord Chamberlain, in his visit to the undercroft of parliament, where Guy Fawkes was found in the early hours of 5 November.[9] Most of the conspirators fled on the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, but Francis Tresham was arrested a few days later at his house in Hoxton. A commemorative plaque is attached to modern flats on the site of Parker's house in Hoxton Street.

Almshouses and madhouses

By the end of the seventeenth century the estates were being broken up. Many of the existing large houses were used as mad houses, with almshouses being built on the land between by City benefactors and guilds. Hoxton House, for example, became a private asylum in 1695. It was owned by the Miles family, and expanded rapidly into the surrounding streets being described by Coleridge as the Hoxton madhouse.[10] Here fee paying 'gentle and middle class' people took their exercise in the extensive grounds between Pitfield Street and Kingsland Road;[11] including the poet Charles Lamb.[12] Over 500 pauper lunatics resided in closed wards,[13] and it remained the Naval Lunatic Asylum until 1818.[10] The asylum closed in 1911; and the only remains are by Hackney Community College, where a part of the house was incorporated into the school that replaced it in 1921. Askes almshouses were founded on Pitfield Street in 1689 from an endowment from Robert Aske for 20 poor Haberdashers and a school for 20 children of freemen.

At this time Hoxton Square and Charles Square were laid out, forming a fashionable area. Non-conformist sects were attracted to the area, freed from the restrictions of the City.[1] Hoxton Market, founded in 1687, was a once thriving market that lost its status to neighbouring markets such as those at Bethnal Green and Dalston. Student flats have now been built on much of the site. A small square remains.

Victorian era and 20th Century

Hoxton Hall, still an active community resource

In the Victorian era the railways made travelling to distant suburbs easier, and this combined with infill building and industrialisation to drive away the wealthier classes, leaving Hoxton a concentration of the poor with many slums. The area became a centre for the furniture trade.[1]

Charles Booth in Life and Labour of the People in London of 1902 gave the following description:

"The character of the whole locality is working-class. Poverty is everywhere, with a considerable admixture of the very poor and vicious … Large numbers have been and are still being displaced by the encroachment of warehouses and factories … Hoxton is known for its costers and Curtain criminals, for its furniture trade … No servants are kept except in the main Road shopping streets and in a few remaining middle class squares in the west"[1]

LBH heritage plaque, now attached to modern flats

In Hoxton Street, a plaque marks the location of the Britannia Theatre. This evolved from the former Pimlico tea gardens, a tavern and a saloon, into a 3000 seat theatre, designed by Finch Hill. Together with the nearby Pollock's Toy Museum, it was destroyed in World War II bombing. Hoxton Hall, also in Hoxton Street, which survives as a community centre, began life in 1863 as a 'saloon style' music hall. It remains largely in its original form, as for many years it was used as a Quaker meeting house. There was also the 1870 Varieties Music Hall (by C. J. Phipps) in nearby Pitfield Street, this became a cinema in 1910, closing in 1941, and appears to have been demolished for housing in the 1980s.

In the former Vestry of St Leonard Shoreditch Electric Light Station, just to the north of Hoxton Market, is based The Circus Space. Inside, the "Generating Chamber" and "Combustion Chamber" provide facilities for circus training and production. The building was constructed by the Vestry in 1895 to burn local rubbish and generate electricity. It also provided steam to heat the public baths. This replaced an earlier facility providing gas-light, located in Shoreditch.

Gainsborough Studios were located in a former power station, in Poole Street, by the Regents Canal. The film studios operated here from 1924 to 1951.[14] An historical plaque is attached to the building, a modern apartment block, that occupies the site since the studios' demolition in 2002. The plaque reads

London Borough of Hackney
The Gainsborough Film Studios 1924-1949
Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Balcon, Ivor Novello, Gracie Fields, “The Lady Vanishes”, “The Wicked Lady” worked and were filmed here

With a new found popularity, parts of Hoxton have been gentrified, this has inevitably aroused hostility among some local residents, who believe they are being priced out of the area. Much of Hoxton, however, remains deprived with council housing dominating the landscape.

Hoxton Square. The White Cube Gallery is in the background to the right. (January 2006)


Hoxton and Shoreditch are often deliberately or unwittingly conflated. The two districts have a historical link as part of the same manor, and in the 19th century both formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch. This was subsumed into the London Borough of Hackney in 1965, but old street signs bearing the name still occur throughout the area.

Manufacturing developments in the years after the Second World War meant that many of the small industries that characterised Hoxton moved out. By the early 1980s, these industrial lofts and buildings came to be occupied by young artists as inexpensive live/work spaces, while exhibitions, raves and clubs occupied former office and retail space at the beginning of the 1990s. During this time Joshua Compston established his Factual Nonsense gallery on Charlotte Road in Shoreditch and organised art fetes in Hoxton Square. Their presence gradually drew other creative industries into the area, especially magazines, design firms, and dot-coms.

By the end of the 20th century, the southern half of Hoxton had become a vibrant arts and entertainment district boasting a large number of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and art galleries. In this period, the new Hoxton residents could be identified by their obscurely fashionable (or "ironically" unfashionable) clothes and their hair (the so-called "Hoxton Fin", as exemplified by Fran Healy of Travis). The excesses and fashion-centricity of Hoxton and Shoreditch denizens have been satirised in the satirical magazine Shoreditch Twat, on the TVGoHome website, and in the sitcom Nathan Barley. This fashionable area is centred on Hoxton Square, a small park bordered mainly by former industrial buildings.

By contrast, the northern half of the district consists primarily of council housing estates. Residents are predominantly older and the unemployment and crime rates are high even compared to the rest of the Borough.[15] Hoxton Street Market is the focal point of this end of the district. Nearby is the Geffrye Museum.

As property developers moved in to cash in on the area's trendy image, prices rose steeply in the early years of the 21st century. Many galleries have, as a result, moved to nearby Shoreditch, or have relocated further afield to cheaper districts such as London Fields or Bethnal Green. In response, the local council formed a not-for-profit corporation, Shoreditch Our Way (ShOW), to buy local buildings and lease them out as community facilities and housing. The extension of the East London Line (completion in 2010), will again provide local rail access, which was lost when the line from Broad Street closed to services.

Individuals associated with Hoxton

  • Charles Bradlaugh was born in Hoxton.
  • Alfred Hitchcock began his career at the Gainsborough Studios
  • Reggie & Ronnie Kray - East End gangsters born in Stene Street Hoxton (1933)
  • Marie Lloyd - Music hall star, was born Matilda Alice Victoria Wood here on February 12, 1870. The eldest of nine children. She, and her sisters longed to go on the stage, and haunted the local Royal Eagle Tavern, Music hall, on City Road (where their father also worked, as a waiter). Seven of her siblings went onto professional stage careers, adopting the surname Lloyd, apart from Daisy, who had a successful career as Daisy Wood.
  • Lenny McLean, actor, bouncer, bare-knuckle boxer and 'hardest man in Britain' was born here
  • Jamie Oliver opened the original Fifteen restaurant in Hoxton in 2002
  • James Parkinson (physician and researcher on Parkinson's Disease, was a resident of Hoxton Square)
  • Abraham Rees, (editor and Unitarian minister was a tutor at Hoxton Academy)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (social reformer, writer, mother of Mary Shelley, born and lived early years here)
  • Hoxton Tom McCourt , influential in the late 1970s and early 1980s mod and oi/punk scenes and founder of the band, the 4-Skins
  • Peter Dean, who played Pete Beale in EastEnders from 1985 to 1993, was born at Hoxton in 1939.
  • Jason Pierce, of the band Spaceman 3 and Spiritualized lives in Hoxton.
  • Post war variety star comedian Charlie Smithers was born in Hoxton.
  • The Stage newspaper columnist Tommy Kane was born in bygone Harman Street Hoxton on 24 March 1933. In his column headed "Raising Kane", which ran from 1965 to 1981, he featured many unknowns who became famous. Amongst these were Charlie Smithers, Lennie Peters, Mike Reid, Grace Kennedy, Carol Lee Scott (Grotbags), Michael Barrymore, and Ray Donn, who became famed for his successful Publand Variety Shows from 1966 to 1980.



Districts within the London Borough of Hackney.
Nearest stations

To the south-west of the district, the nearest London Underground station is Old Street on the Northern Line. The station is also a stop on National Rail's Northern City Line, operated by First Capital Connect. To the east of the district, and opening in June 2010, the nearest London Overground station is Hoxton.

See also

References and notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f A General History of Shoreditch and South Hoxton (Hackney Archives) accessed 28 May 2008
  2. ^ Historical introduction: General, Survey of London: volume 8: Shoreditch (1922), pp. 1-5. accessed: 28 September 2009
  3. ^ The ambassador was possibly Anthony de Castillo, who was linked to the Tudor spymaster Francis Walsingham through the Portuguese double agent, Dr Hector Nunes. "Toleration" of the chapel may have been linked to this flow of intelligence. in Turmoil: The Abject Life of a Portuguese Alien in Elizabethan England, by Charles Meyers accessed: 23 Nov 2006
  4. ^ The Embassy Chapel Question, 1625-1660, William Raleigh Trimble, Journal of Modern History, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jun., 1946), pp. 97-107
  5. ^ On 24th October 1568, the Portuguese Ambassador's chapel was searched for recusants by Raffe Typpinge of Hoxton. Raffe, and the Tipping family would subsequently feature in the arrest and death of Christopher Marlowe. (see Seaton, "Marlowe, Poley and the Tippings" in Review of English Studies [1929] os-V, p.273-287)
  6. ^ Map of Hoxton Fields - showing archery marks from Historical introduction: Hoxton, to the west of Hoxton Street, Survey of London: volume 8: Shoreditch (1922), pp. 72-88. accessed: 28 September 2009
  7. ^ British History on-line, disagrees on this point, and considers the derivation lost in the past; it is however probable that it refers to an individual.
  8. ^ Newes from Hogsdon (1598) in E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898
  9. ^ Houses of Parliament factsheet on event accessed 6 March 2007
  10. ^ a b West London asylums in 19th century literature Andrew Roberts (Middlesex University) accessed 19 December 2009
  11. ^ Historical introduction: Hoxton, between Kingsland Road and Hoxton Street, Survey of London: volume 8: Shoreditch (1922), pp. 47-72. accessed: 19 December 2009
  12. ^ Charles Lamb (Biography) - from December 1795. Accessed: 19 December 2009
  13. ^ The Mad-house Keepers of East London, Encyclopaedia Britannica
  14. ^ Visiting Hackney accessed 10 May 2007
  15. ^ Hoxton Ward Profile (LB Hackney) accessed 28 September 2009

External links

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