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Shoreditch Street, also called Sewersditch, was a continuation of Bishopsgate Street, passing northward from Norton Folgate to the small town of Shoreditch, a suburb of London in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for which the road was likely named. Shoreditch first appears in manuscripts in 1148 as Scoreditch, meaning "ditch of Sceorf [or Scorre]" (Weinreb and Hibbert 807).
There is not much information about the importance of Shoreditch Street itself, though it would have been a well travelled road, as were all the roads leading in and out of the city gates. The Shoreditch settlement that the road leads to has been the site of several important sites and events. The street was lined "all along a continuall building of small and base tenements, for the most part lately erected" (Stow 2:74). The village itself grew at Kingsland Road and Old Street, which dated from Roman times (Weinreb and Hibbert 807).
Shoreditch and the areas immediately surrounding it were a lightning rod for dramatic activity. Because the area was outside London’s boundaries, the Lord Mayor had no control over the activities that took place there. In 1576, James Burbage founded The Theatre just off Shoreditch; it was London’s first dedicated playhouse. In 1577, The Curtain was erected on Shoreditch Street. Many actors lived in the area, and some were buried at St. Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch. In 1598, playwright Ben Jonson fought a duel with Gabriel Spencer in Hoxton Fields, located nearby; Jonson killed Spencer (Weinreb and Hibbert 807).
Shoreditch is now amalgamated with Hackney (Weinreb and Hibbert 807).
- Stow, John. A Survey of London. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. Ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. Print. [Also available as a reprint from Elibron Classics (2001). Articles written before 2011 cite from the print edition by volume and page number.]
- Weinreb, Ben, and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopaedia. New York: St. Martin’s, 1983. Print.