Hoxton is an area in the London Borough of Hackney, England. As a part of Shoreditch, it is often considered to be part of the East End – the historic core of wider East London. It was historically in the county of Middlesex until 1889. It lies immediately north of the City of London financial district, and was once part of the civil parish and subsequent Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, prior to its incorporation into the London Borough of Hackney.
|OS grid reference|
|• Charing Cross||2.7 mi (4.3 km) SW|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
"Hogesdon" is first recorded in the Domesday Book, meaning an Anglo-Saxon farm (or "fortified enclosure") belonging to Hoch, or Hocq. 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. 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. The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers remains Patron of the advowson of the parish of St John's.
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" – 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 partake in leisure at Hoxton.
By Tudor times many moated manor houses existed to provide ambassadors and courtiers country air nearby the city. This included many Catholics, attracted by the house of the Portuguese Ambassador, who, in his private chapel, celebrated the masses forbidden in a Protestant country. 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 frequently used for archery practice, and on 22 September 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.
Have at thee, then, my merrie boyes, and beg for old Ben Pimlico's nut-brown ale.
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.
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, before prominent Catholics, and then he delivered 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, at his visit to the undercroft of Parliament, where Guy Fawkes was found in the early hours of 5 November. 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 at the site of Parker's house in Hoxton Street.
By the end of the 17th century the nobility's estates began to be broken up. Many of these large houses came to be used as schools, hospitals or mad houses, with almshouses being built on the land between by benefactors, most of whom were City liverymen. Aske's Almshouses were built on Pitfield Street in 1689 from Robert Aske's endowment for 20 poor haberdashers and a school for 20 children of freemen.
Hoxton House, was established as 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. Here fee-paying 'gentle and middle class' people took their exercise in the extensive grounds between Pitfield Street and Kingsland Road; including the poet Charles Lamb. Over 500 pauper lunatics resided in closed wards, and it remained the Naval Lunatic Asylum until 1818. The asylum closed in 1911; the only remains are by Hackney Community College, where a part of the house was incorporated into the school that replaced it in 1921.
In the late 17th Century, Hoxton Square and Charles Square were laid out, forming a popular area for residents. Non-conformist sects were attracted to the area, away from the restrictions of the City's regulations.
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.
In the 1860s Hoxton Square became home to the Augustinian Priory, school and Church of St Monica (architect: E. W. Pugin) built 1864-66 and the first Augustinian House in England since the Reformation era.
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.
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 3,000-seat theatre, designed by Finch Hill. Together with the nearby Pollock's Toy Museum, it was destroyed in Second World War 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. In 2018 construction started on a refurbished cinema (operated by Curzon Cinemas) keeping the style of the original facade but expanding vertically to include residential properties. Planning permission for the refurbishment took a considerable time due to local opposition to the design. The cinema plans to open in 2019.[clarification needed]
The National Centre for Circus Arts is based in the former vestry of St Leonard Shoreditch Electric Light Station, just to the north of Hoxton Market. 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. Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Balcon, Ivor Novello and Gracie Fields all worked at the studios, and films including The Lady Vanishes and The Wicked Lady were shot there. The studios operated there from 1924 to 1951, and were demolished in 2002, replaced by a modern apartment block, also named Gainsborough Studios.
With a new-found popularity, large 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. Some parts of Hoxton, however, remain deprived, with council housing dominating the landscape.
The geographical distinction between Hoxton and Shoreditch is often confused. 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 incorporated into the newly created London Borough of Hackney in 1965, but old street signs bearing the name are still to be found 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 centres around Hoxton Square, a small park bordered mainly by former industrial buildings, as well as the elegant 19th century parish church of St John's.
The northern half of the district is more residential and contains many council housing estates and new-build private residences. Residents are typically older and the unemployment and crime rates, with the exceptions of drug offences, robbery and theft, are relatively high compared to some parts of the borough. Hoxton Street Market is the focal point of this end of the district. The market sells a wide range of household goods during the week and specialises in independent fashion, art and design products on Saturdays. Nearby is the Geffrye Museum and Hoxton War Memorial.
Property prices have continued to rise steeply since the early years of the 21st century as property developers have moved to cash in on the area's trendy image, central location and transport links. Some 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 (now called The Shoreditch Trust), to buy local buildings and lease them out as community facilities and housing. The extension of the East London Line (completed in 2010), has provided the local rail access which was lost when the line from Broad Street closed to services.
Hoxton Market, which is now in Hoxton Street rather than its original site to the west of Hoxton Square, was founded in 1687. This market was the cornerstone of the local community but, from the 1980s onwards, changed from a thriving market to one that lost its trade to the move towards supermarkets and away from the traditional street market meeting all of the community's needs. In 2013 the local business community, working with the council, started work to revive the market and this has attracted great attention and increased trade, complemented by new shops opening along the length of the market.
Hoxton is a National Rail station on the East London line of the London Overground network. In the southwest 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 Govia Thameslink Railway.