What's it all about?
Immediately north of the City of London, Shoreditch represents the best of inner city living and its central location gives it an irresistible lure for those working in the City and the creative industries that thrive on the doorstep. But the area was once outside the City boundaries and beyond the limits of the puritanical lawmakers therein. It was a place where actors, poets, prostitutes and spies lived and made merry. The first playhouse in Britain was built here in 1576, and some of Shakepeare's most famous plays were first shown here. It was an infamous spot for drinking, dancing and ‘play making’, and some would say that things haven't changed – much. Shoreditch High Street has an astounding array of bars and restaurants, still patronised by people in the arts community. Venture into backstreets and Dickensian alleyways however and you’ll find a more sophisticated side to Shoreditch. Designer shops sell everything from speciality coffee to exquisite antiques and hand made shoes, while hip hotels and rooftop bars cram in around the increasingly upmarket galleries. With the arrival of Shoreditch House and the Ace Hotel, Shoreditch has grown up slightly, but it is unlikely to lose its reputation as a pleasure seekers’ paradise, nor would its residents want it to.
- In 1605, Guy Fawkes's Gunpowder Plot was exposed in a house in Hoxton Street.
- The TV series Rev is filmed at St Leonard's Church, and the story is based on the real life vicar there. The church is also referenced in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons, 'When I am rich, say the bells of Shoreditch'
- Alfred Hitchcock made his first films at Gainsborough Studios – they've now been turned into canalside flats.
Architecture and property
Despite rumours of a medieval place of worship that dates back to the crusades buried under St Leonard's Church, there's no real evidence of the gambling dens, bowling houses or Tudor theatres that gave Shoreditch its notorious reputation in the 16th century. There are, however, many beautiful Georgian buildings and streets, converted glass ceiling factories and French street names; all evidence of the Huguenot silk weavers who moved to the area in the 17th century and established a textile industry around Spitalfields that exists to this day.
Like many parts of London, Shoreditch was hit hard by the war, but the cityscape has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Derelict industrial buildings have been converted into fashionable loft apartments and new building work taking place at pace. It’s these contrasts that give Shoreditch its distinctive character. On some streets one doesn't have to imagine very hard to believe that you've stepped onto the set of a period drama – yet around the next corner you’re confronted with gleaming tower blocks and views of the Shard.
Shoreditch proper might be fairly small, but the old town boundaries would have stretched to Hoxton and Haggerston too, where you'll find parks and traditional East End markets among London's typical Victorian terraces. Classic London townhouses, warehouse and office conversions, as well as both ex-council and housing association flats are available in and around the area, the most desirable of which are the red brick buildings around Arnold Circus. Dating back to 1896, it was the first social housing scheme to be built by the British government and today the houses and bandstand are Grade II listed.
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Eating: Living in Shoreditch means being able to eat almost anything at any time, whatever your budget. Mother Clucker is just one of a cluster of brilliant street food stalls in the car park of the Truman Brewery, and the curry houses of Brick Lane and Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road are internationally renowned. These days there's much more posh nosh available too, Prescott & Conran have both The Albion and The Boundary on Boundary Street and Mark Hix has Tramshed on Rivington Street. The Clove Club was awardedtheir first Michelin Star in September 2014, and is located in Shoreditch Old Town Hall.
Drinking: The choice of pubs, bars and clubs is almost overwhelming, but off the main drag things are more manageable. Most of the pubs around here have a history, from The Carpenter's Arms, which was once owned by the infamous Kray twins, to The Ten Bells, where Jack the Ripper stalked his victims. The delightful Lounge Lover serves out of this world cocktails and has the accolade of having hosted Madonna's 48th birthday party.
Shopping: Redchurch Street has been reborn as a place of upscale shopping, including fashion, interiors, beauty and foodie stores. Head to Brick Lane for unique fashion and vintage and a busy Sunday market. Calvert Avenue remains a somewhat secret destination for stylish shoppers and there are frequent pop ups and sample sales in the Truman Brewery.
Culture: The theatres may be gone, but there's a handful of excellent cinemas in the area. Notting Hill's Electric has moved in, there's a cinema and arts space at Rich Mix, and Dalston's Rio is just up the road. They all show a mix of independent, art house, and carefully curated blockbuster films. There are galleries along Redchurch Street, which has a very popular First Thursday event, where over 150 galleries in East London come together to host events.
Heritage: The Geffrye Museum pays homage to the area's heritage as a furniture making district and has 11 period rooms, a stylish cafe and a herb garden.
- Shoreditch lacks a full sized supermarket, with Tesco Metro and Sainsbury’s Local the order of the day. There are a couple of Waitrose supermarkets nearby, including on Whitecross Street and Angel. The Grocery on Shoreditch High Street sells local, organic and fairtrade food, and there's a popular Asian supermarket, Longdan, on Hackney Road.
- Ironmonger Row baths, features a swimming pool with gym, spa and Turkish bath facilities.
- Shoreditch House East is a private members' club with a rooftop pool. The Ace Hotel has free wifi, and a friendly downstairs space where people can drop in for a coffee and work for the morning.
- Brick Lane's Sunday market has become a tourist attraction of late, but Hoxton Market remains an authentic East End experience selling food, fashion and household goods.
- The sheer number of good bike shops here reflects the transport choices of the residents. Cafe/bar Look Mum No Hands sells cycling accessories and has a workshop on site.
- Leila's grocery store on Calvert Avenue always has a pretty display of seasonal fruit and veg and there's excellent bread for sale at St John Bread and Wine. The 24 hour Brick Lane Beigel Bake is justly famous for salt beef bagels.
There is so much development happening, with the whole area around Old Street roundabout being overhauled. The Overground network has transformed this part of London, and more changes are coming. 'Shoreditch Village' is soon to open on either side of the Overground viaduct, and will house a new food market, retail spaces and coffee shops, as well as residential apartments.
Tube: Many people who live in Shoreditch also work in the area, but Hoxton, Haggerston and Shoreditch High Street stations are all part of the Overground network. Old Street and Liverpool Street also serve the area and are five minutes from Kings Cross and nine minutes from Oxford Circus respectively.
Bus: The area is well connected by bus too – the 55 and 48 head into the city centre. The 149 goes to London Bridge in one direction and Stoke Newington and Edmonton in the other, and the 47 goes to London Bridge, then to Surrey Quays, Deptford and Lewisham. The 242 takes you to Tottenham Court Road and 78 to Nunhead.
Train: Trains from Liverpool Street serve the south east of England, and also go to Stansted airport.
There is a selection of schools in the area from nursery to primary and beyond. Central Foundation Boys School has a strong reputation for producing musicians, including Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet, Ronnie Scott and Trevor Nelson. The Dulwich Estate, which also supports the famous Alleyn's school in Dulwich, is a major benefactor of the school.
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