Mapped: 1862 East London Versus Modern East London

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 52 months ago

Last Updated 30 March 2020

Mapped: 1862 East London Versus Modern East London
The bandstand in Arnold Circus, which didn't exist until the 1890s. Photo: shadow_in_the_water

In a previous article we compared the central London of 1862 to that of the present day, using Edward Stanford's map. This time we're heading east, using a portion of that same map, this time covering Islington, Shoreditch, Hackney, Bethnal Green and surrounding areas. Take a look at the differences and similarities we found.


Haggerstone appears on the map, just an extra e away from today's Haggerston. These aren't the only incarnations of the moniker; the Domesday Book records it as the Viking 'Hergotestane', and by the 1700s it was known as 'Agostone'.

Londonist Towers...

...doesn't exist. Not surprising, given that we're based in a converted warehouse building. But the streets where we tread our weary steps on a daily basis were laid out differently. Our current home of Willow Street can be seen on the map above, but the more dominant Willow Walk no longer exists — on its place sits the Hoxton Hotel, and Great Eastern Street, which has since been built.

Shoreditch Park...

...didn't exist either. The 19 acre park was a residential housing estate when this map was drawn in 1862, built to house workers when Regent's Canal was built through the area in 1820. Many of the houses were destroyed in the Blitz, and although they were replaced by pre-fabs for 20 years or so, they were demolished and the park developed in the 1960s and 1970s. The map above shows the area where Shoreditch Park is today.

Shoreditch High Street station...

...had a sort-of predecessor in the form of the East Counties Railway Station. Of course, that wasn't the current station, a concrete monstrosity perched above BoxPark. The East Counties Railway Station was built in 1840, and served as the London Terminus of the East Counties Railway, which was planned to join London with Cambridge and beyond. The station was commonly known as Shoreditch, although it was renamed Bishopsgate in 1846. It was closed to passengers and used as a goods station from 1881, until it burnt down in 1964.

Old Street roundabout...

...wasn't a roundabout. However, it was still the junction for City Road and Old Street. Modern-day hipster hangout Shoreditch Grind is on the site of what was the City of London Lying-In Hospital for pregnant women and new mothers. Next door was St Luke's Hospital for Lunatics, which was on the site from 1786-1916 (on the spot that is now Argos, Superdrug, Peacocks, Co-op, etc.). A couple of blocks north, Moorfields Eye Hospital hadn't been built yet — it was still residing at its old home near Liverpool Street until 1897.

Islington's Business Design Centre...

...was the Royal Agricutural Hall — although only just, having been built in 1861-1862, the year this map was created. Today, the Business Design Centre on Upper Street looks like a modern glass building, but it's still the original Agricultural Hall building, and is in fact Grade II listed. This 1861 façade can still be seen on Liverpool Road.

Arnold Circus

It may be the world's oldest council estate, but the satisfying radial road layout of Arnold Circus and the Boundary Estate didn't exist in 1862, as it wasn't built until nearly 30 years later. Instead, the road layout was the above.

Shoreditch Work House

A building on Kingsland Road is labelled as Shoreditch Work House. Shortly after this map was created, the work house was apparently extended further. The workhouse was closed in 1930, and the buildings put into use as part of an infirmary known as St Leonard's Hopsital — which is still on the site today.

Columbia Road was called Birdcage Walk

Columbia Road, the thoroughfare of flower market fame, did exist back then, but it was known as Birdcage Walk due to the chirruping, avian pets the area's Huguenot workers kept. The Birdcage pub at the end of the road is homage to this.

Islington had a Lower Street as well as an Upper Street

In a nod to that old saying that 'what goes up must come down' we've always thought that Islington should have a Lower Street to mirror its Upper Street. Guess what — it did.  The road now known briefly as Islington Green before becoming Essex Road (or, if you're feeling really unsexy, the A104) was then called Lower Street, becoming Lower Road around the junction with Cross Street (which has retained the same title then and now).

Four ways London was the same in 1862:

Sadler's Wells Theatre

Sadler's Wells claims to be London's second oldest theatre so it's no surprise that it was around in 1862. It didn't specialise in dance back then though. It's roots were in entertaining the people who travelled from miles around to visit the waters of the eponymous well. It's clearly marked as a theatre on our 1862 map, suggesting that its foray into showbiz was well and truly underway by then.

City Road Basin and Islington Canal Tunnel

Given that this section of Regent's Canal was built in 1820, it's no surprise that these two prominent features of it were in evidence in 1862.

Irongmoners, Drapers and Knitters Almshouses on Kingsland Road

This one may have you stumped — although the buildings still exist today, you probably know them better as the Geffrye Museum:

The Imperial Gas Works were there

Although trendy events venue Oval Space wasn't quite up and running, the makings were there — the road outside was already named The Oval, and those gasholders next door were already in situ. Two other gasworks, now gone, lurked nearby on the canal; one where Haggerston Park now is, and the other where Kingsland Road crosses the canal; now a block of flats.

Those gasholders were in situ in 1862. Photo: Bob Bob

Browse the full collection of Stanfords' historical maps of London online or in the fantastic Covent Garden store. While you're there, we recommend popping into Stanfords Coffee House on the ground floor for one of the best hot chocolates in London.

See also: