Survey of London: Volume 8, Shoreditch. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1922.
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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.
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 Hog Lane.
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.