Meeting in Shoreditch and then half an hour to get to another at the The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Ample time and a bright enough day, so I decided to snap some photos all along the stroll, from Shoreditch Station, up Bethnal Green Road, on to Shoreditch High Street, and the meander down to Brick Lane.
Shoreditch is pure New Economy. The ‘Be Happy’ pub-signs and the daytime quietness can be slightly disconcerting, though venues like the Shoreditch Town Hall are gradually adding a foundation of community to Tech’s New Home. If you take a left at the top of Shoreditch High Street you’ll come upon Old Street, Silicon Roundabout, hundreds of start-ups and big-tech HQ buildings, if you take a right to walk down to Brick Lane, things get more media, some of it even traditional, and a more diverse cultural experience.
This was my route and as I had time I wandered off track a little – just to the top of Hackney Road and almost instantly noise, chatter and the sense of lives lived push through the curtain of quiet you leave on High Street.
The continuing economic rejuvenation of Shoreditch & Hoxton is a remarkable testament to the work of the Tech City Investment Organisation, the Regeneration Delivery Team at Hackney Council and particularly their Duncan Ray, the Shoreditch Town Centre Manager but some of the areas’ aesthetic rejuvenation must be credited to the people who work and have chosen to live, in the area.
Boutique hotels, and inverted brew coffee houses provide no shortage of social diversions but if you do as I did and wander from the beaten track by fifty yards you get a peek through the shutters at some of the history of Shoreditch.
A colleague of mine used the term ‘decay’ to describe what you see poking out from small streets and lanes, but he’s wrong, it’s the opposite of decay. There is a lattice of history
I wandered from the path, and found myself in a dark wood.
The spouts in the shadows are part of that rough edge that is perhaps what attracts companies, large and start-up and those who power them to this part of the city. There will be less remnants of decay over time as development continues; the sighs locally earlier this year were about a ‘a ludicrous proposition’ to to build two large apartment complexes but there are still snippets of lives that were. Oddities like The Conqueror pub – closed more than a decade ago it’s now a residential building but was once so legendary for its lock-ins that there used to be a discreet queue after midnight, to get in.
Paul Talling is the author of the wonderful book Derelict London and publishes a comprehensive accompanying website, if you fancy tipping your hat at some of London’s lost gems. I like to Google ‘Derelict London’ and a Place_Name and see what might be of interest if I’m visiting an area I don’t know and I’m still discovering old stories in and around Shoreditch and Hoxton – I was in the Crown & Shuttle pub when a barman told me it had only re-opened less than two years ago having being derelict for years. One of the sites that resonates most I discovered on Paul Talling’s website, the old Electricity Showrooms in Hoxton Square. Unsurprisingly this building was a domestic appliance showroom in 1929 where local residents could get their first glimpse of the magic that a burgeoning technology, electricity, could bring to their lives if they signed up to the councils ‘assisted wire scheme’.
The building’s kept much of the original architectural features, sadly not the entire entrance remains, but its refurbishment as a pub has been a remarkable success. In the late 19th century Shoreditch Vestry, the forerunner to the Borough Council were at the forefront of electrical generation development, building a generator powered by burning rubbish, The Dust Destructor, probably the only one in the world at the time and opened by Lord Kelvin in june 1897. You see, Shoreditch does have history and skin, in this game.