The earliest mention of the name Shoreditch occurs in the middle of
the 12th century in the form "Soredich." With a view to obtaining some
reliable basis for the determination of its meaning, the following list has been
compiled of all the instances of the name not later than 1260 discovered
in the course of the preparation of this volume. Except in the first three
cases, and those relating to Feet of Fines, all the instances are taken from
deeds contained in the MSS. of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. The
spelling given in endorsements, which may be much later than the actual
deeds, has not been taken into account.
Circ. 1148. "Soredich" (grant to Holy Trinity, see p. 91).
Circ. 1160. "Soredich" (mandate by bishop of London, see p. 91).
1183–4. "Soresdic" (charter of Gilbert Foliot, see p. 91).
1204. "Sordig" (charter of King John).
1204. "Soredich" (three grants by bishop of London, consequential on above).
1220–1. "Schoresdich" (Feet of Fines).
1235 "Shcoredich" (final concord between Ralph, son of Thomas, and Stephen le
1241–2. "Shordich" (Feet of Fines).
1246. "Soredich" (3 times) (charter of Alexander, son of Thos. Ballard).
1248–9. "Shoredich" (Feet of Fines).
1250. "Soresdich" (4 times) (agreement between Alan of Shoreditch, and Elias and
Peter de la Lane).
1250. "Soresdich" (3 times) (an agreement between Sir Thomas of Bassingburn
and the archdeacon of London).
1252. "Shoresdich" (twice) (charter of Alan of Shoreditch).
1252. "Shordich" (3 times) (fine between Alan of Shoreditch and the archdeacon
1255. "Shordich" (twice) (grant by Henry III. to Paulinus of Bampton).
1255. "Soresdich" (charter of Sir Thomas of Bassingburn).
Shortly after 1255. "Soresdich" (twice) (grant by Paulinus of Bampton to the archdeacon
1256. "Soresdich" (twice) (charter of Robert of Linsted).
1257–8. "Soresdich" (Feet of Fines).
1258–9. "Shordich" do.
Circ. 1260. "Schordich" (3 times) (quit-claim by Mary, widow of Sir Thomas of
1260–1. "Shordik" (Feet of Fines).
Before 1260. "Soredich" (4 times) (charter of Ralph, son of Thomas "ad ecclesiam").
Before 1260. "Schordichg" (charter of Richard of "Stratende" and others).
Before 1260. "Shoresdich" (assize of novel disseisin).
Before 1260. "Schordigh" (charter of David Sygar).
The earliest "literary" mention of the name does not occur until about
1380. In the B text of the Vision of Piers Plowman, reference is made to
"the souter of Southwerke, or of Shordyche dame Emme." (fn. 1)
From the above list it is clear that the proper form of the name was
either "Shoresdich" or "Shoredich," (fn. 2) and it may be assumed, as practically
certain, that in the 12th century this would have been pronounced in three
syllables. Such a conclusion, however, seems to be quite inconsistent with
the usual (fn. 3) interpretation of the name, which sees in the first half of the word
what was once a common, and is even now a recognised pronunciation, (fn. 4) of the
word "sewer." Although at the present time this word is generally used to
signify an underground channel for carrying away waste water or refuse, its
original meaning is an artificial watercourse for draining purposes. "Sewerditch," therefore, takes us back, it is suggested, to the time when the locality,
to a large extent, consisted of marshy land drained by open watercourses.
It is, however, very difficult to believe that the word "sewer," derived from
the Old French seuwiere, (fn. 5) was pronounced with an "o" in the 12th century,
and the pronunciation of "shore" or "shores" in two syllables renders a
connection with the French word hardly possible. Moreover, "sewerditch," two words meaning practically the same thing, seems, without some
qualification, hardly appropriate or even probable as a place-name.
For these reasons it is necessary to look askance on the commonlyaccepted derivation of the word, and to fall back on the suggestion that the
first element contains a qualification of the second, such as would be conveyed, for example, by an adjective, (fn. 6) or more probably the genitive of a
proper noun. (fn. 7)
Shoreditch appears to have originated in a settlement which grew up
at the junction of two important Roman roads, Kingsland Road and Old
Street. (fn. 8) From the fact that it gave its name to a parish which included
Hoxton and Haggerston, it seems probable that it was at least as ancient
as those. This constitutes a further objection to the usual interpretation,
for if, as is suggested, the settlement was given a name of which the first
syllable was French, it is impossible for it to date back much before the
Norman Conquest. (fn. 9)
A large proportion of the parish in mediæval times belonged to religious
foundations. The Augustinian Priory of Holywell was situated within
the parish, and owned a considerable estate therein. The Priory of St.
Mary Spital was just outside, but owned a portion of southern Shoreditch
east of the main road as well as the greater part of Haggerston. A slice
of land on both sides of the high road, south of the church, belonged to the
manor of Stepney, attached to the see of London, and the manor of Bammes
(which was, however, mainly, if not entirely, situated in Hackney) was a
sub-manor of Stepney. The Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's held the
prebendal manors of Finsbury (or Holywell), Norton Folgate, Eald Street,
Wenlock's Barn and Hoxton, all contained either wholly or in part within
the parish of Shoreditch.
The boundaries of the parish as they existed in 1894 (fn. 10) seem, with two
possible exceptions, to have remained unaltered from early times. In three
places they were formed by ancient thoroughfares dating from the Roman
period, viz., Hackney Road (formerly known as Collier Lane), and short
lengths of Old Street and Kingsland Road. The extreme south-eastern
boundary was formed by the eastern course of the Walbrook. In many places,
no doubt, the limits coincided with the hedges and ditches bounding the
fields, of which at no veryremote time the parish was almost entirely composed.
One of the two possible exceptions referred to is the southern boundary
where it crosses the high road. In Ogilby and Morgan's Survey of the
City of London after the Great Fire, it is shown about 100 feet north of
Hog Lane (Worship Street). This is almost certainly a mistake. The
property on the north side of Hog Lane (fn. 11) is described in 1584 (fn. 12) as "in the
parish of St. Leonard in Shordiche;" in 1639 (fn. 13) , as "in Shorditch;" in
1684 (fn. 14) as "in St. Leonard, Shoreditch," and in 1738 as in "Hogg Lane in
St. Leonard, Shoreditch;" (fn. 15) and there seems little doubt that during the
whole of the period mentioned the boundary ran, as it did in 1894, along
The other exception relates to the northern boundary west of the
high road. Tradition has it (fn. 16) that the manor house of Bammes was originally
within the parish of Shoreditch, but that, about 1680, the authorities of that
parish refused burial to a man who had been drowned in the Bammes moat.
On application being made to Hackney, it was granted, and always after
that time the authorities of Hackney laid claim to the house and its surroundings. The story is perhaps a reminiscence of the fact that disputes
arose between Shoreditch and Hackney as to a seven-acre field belonging
to Bammes, on the west side of the high road, immediately north of the
present boundary, and that, as the result of arbitration, they were decided
in 1697 in favour of Hackney. (fn. 17) Whether any part of Bammes ever was in
Shoreditch is a question which can hardly be answered with certainty. It
was not so in 1351, when the manor of Hoxton, as it was then called,
was described as "in the parish of Hackney," (fn. 18) nor was it in 1745,
for the only property in Shoreditch shown on Chassereau's Map as in the
ownership of "Bevoir" (the then owner of Bammes) consisted of two fields
which were no part of the original manor. (fn. 19) On the other hand, in several
documents between 1593 and 1623, Shoreditch is included among the
parishes in which the manor is said to be situated. (fn. 20) This cannot be due to
either of the two fields mentioned above, for one was not added to the manor
until 1631 and the other not until after 1634. There is, therefore, certain
prima facie evidence to support the suggestion that the boundary between
Shoreditch and Hackney at this point was subject to fluctuation before it
was finally settled in 1697.
In connection with the survey of the parish it has been thought advisable
to include a sketch, as detailed as the information to hand and the space at
disposal will permit, of the history of the parish, having as its principal
object the tracing of the evolution of the several localities from the 16th
century. Naturally the particulars are not so full in some cases as in others,
and in one or two minor instances essential details are wanting, but it is
hoped that the information collected will be found sufficient to give an
adequate idea of the aspect of the parish at any time from about the middle
of the 16th century until the end of the 18th. In carrying out this scheme,
it has been found convenient to depart somewhat from the order adopted
in the later portion of this volume, and to commence with the entry into
Shoreditch from Norton Folgate.