Our Future's Orange: Shoreditch High Street

This is part three of our preview of the East London Line, profiling many of the stops along the new route, ahead of its opening in May.
Brutalist Shoreditch High Street station
The Albion

Marcos & Trump, Columbia Road

Agnes B, Spitalfields

A squirrel, off Redchurch Street

Brockley residents need never be further than this from a coffee house

Columbia Road flower market

Gaslight - Columbia Road
Ben: Who’s Wings?
Alan: They’re only the band the Beatles could have been.
- I’m Alan Partridge


The new Shoreditch High Street station has been built on the site of Bishopsgate Goods Yard, next to Bethnal Green Road. A brutalist concrete box, the station is designed to be built-over, in the expectation that the yard will be redeveloped. Its location on the eastern edge of the Square Mile, near the Broadgate estate, means that it’s likely to be a key destination for many Brockley commuters.

More importantly, it will plonk you down in one of London’s most exciting locations, within easy reach of Brick Lane, Spitalfields Market, Great Eastern Street, Redchurch Street and Columbia Road.

The area is what we’ve always wanted Camden to be, but isn’t: Crowded but charming, grotty and glamourous in equal measure, unremittingly urban but also human in scale. Whichever direction you walk in, you’ll find great shops, restaurants, bars and markets, filled with stuff you might actually want to buy. It's buzzy, but you can still move around, with plenty to explore around any turn.

We spent Valentine’s Day wandering around the area, ostensibly to buy some flowers but more importantly, to complete our compulsive mission to preview each of the new East London Line’s destinations. We headed off down Redchurch Street, home to boutiques like Caravan, the Conran hotel and restaurant the Boundary and the Albion (the former has a stunning roof-top restaurant) and the artist-run gallery Studio 1.1. Sandwiched between Redchurch Street and Bethnal Green Road is Shoreditch House, the private members club twinned with Soho House.

Redchurch intersects with Brick Lane, which has far more to offer than Indian restaurants of variable quality. The Brick House covered food market has a smaller range than – say – Borough Market, but offers among the stalls range from spaghetti pie to cupcakes and hog roast. The giant Truman Brewery, Vibe Bar, 93 Feet East and Casa Blue are among the eclectic venues that mingle with street markets at the weekend.

Head south and west and you’ll reach Spitalfields, which now rubs up against the City and a new mixed development that has inserted chains like Wagamamas and Las Iguanas into what until recently functioned as a grand flea market. Undoubtedly, Spitalfields has lost some of its character, thanks to a project , which was fiercely resisted on the grounds that it would cost the market precisely that. However, what remains is pretty successful on its own terms and the best of the historic architecture has been preserved. One of Hawksmoor's greatest creations, Christ Church, is just next door.

The market is not especially interesting, but there are some great shops like Agnes B, cafes like the Market Coffee House and restaurants like Canteen. The old market blends pretty well in to the new development, which caters to the city workers’ lunchtime break. Some quieter, pedestrian-friendly spots allow you to pause for breath as you walk around. The independent traders seem to have spread to the margins and back up and off Brick Lane.
The highlight of the area, however, is Columbia Road. The wonderful (and good value) flower market aside, it is an amazing slice of Victorian street life, built in the 1860s to cater for the Jesus Hospital Estate and once home to a thriving wood trade. Today, it’s home to artists like Rob Ryan and a range of furniture and gardening shops.

Tucked away just off Columbia Road are courtyards filled with fabric and craft shops, delis and even an antique shop on Ezra Road run by Degustation proprietor, Augustin, who also does a nice line in warm cider on cold days. It’s a beautiful and beautifully-preserved neighbourhood that still feels like a community.

We’re not going to suggest that its success is all about the lamp posts (pictured) but Columbia Road is one of the best examples in London of how an attention to detail can be transformative. Set against a backdrop of looming modern edifices, the street offers up the kind of contrast that London does brilliantly. In fewer than 100 days, it's going to feel like our local flower market.

More East London Line destinations:


38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good times..

st said...

Totally agree. This bit of London is probably my favourite, apart from Brockers of course.

Bea said...

Used to live near there but much prefer Brockley! Bricklane, Spittal Fields and Colombia Flower Market are great places to visit (although very crowded during tourist season) but step two streets away into the heart of Whitechapel / Brick Lance and the place make Turnham Estate look tame.

Also, there are great nighttime walking tours on Jack the Ripper - really eerie and despite the encroaching City and modern life it is easy to image how it would have been 130 years or so ago. And the prostitutes are still evident today!

Brockley Plum said...

It looks like this new line really will open up parts of London worth going to. Yesterday I went to London Fields Lido - which is a short walk from Dalston. For those of you that don't know already this is a modern heated 50 metre open air swimming pool reopened in 2006. Even on cool Feb day it's a popular attraction.

ppp said...

Hopefully it won't be one way traffic and that we in Brockley have something to attract and offer those at the other end of the line too.

Richard Elliot said...

@Nick - The only other place I've heard you heap so much praise upon is Brockley. You're not going to start a Shoreditch Central and leave us all are you?

Anonymous said...

...not to mention Shoreditch house, Lounge Lover, St Johns's Bread and Wine, 24hr Beigel Bake on Brick Lane. The ELL mainlines us into London's coolest area.

drakefell debaser said...

That reminds me, I think my first trip on the ELL will be to the Beigel Bake for a salt beef and mustard bagel. Maybe two, now I think of it.

Anonymous said...

I really like the idea of saying to people - I'll see you there in half an hour.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

Like the ELL countdown clock.

That is a really good idea ;-) whoever suggested it.

Brockley Nick said...

@TM - you're the imagineer, I'm the web-monkey.

@Richard - fear not.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting-looking places to check out there. If it's anything like Camden (which I like visiting occasionally) it will trigger the same response from me: relief that I live in Brockers and not there.

I don't think we have much to attract day visitors, but maybe that's a good thing. I may be getting middle-aged but I'm starting to think "good places to visit" and "good places to live" are mutually exclusive categories (in zones 1-2, anyway). Wouldn't have thought so in my 20s. Traffic and noise are my main bugbears....yes, definitely getting middle-aged.

neanderthal d said...

drakefell debaser said...
That reminds me, I think my first trip on the ELL will be to the Beigel Bake for a salt beef and mustard bagel. Maybe two, now I think of it.


Oh yes.....the Salt Beef and Mustard Beigel at the Brick Lane Beigel is one of the Seven Wonders of London.

Especially at about 5am. Serious sustenance and an interesting cross section of people.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

New ELL train spotted on the move today, just south of Surrey Quays station at abount 7.45am.

Worried that I am turning into a train spotter.

Anonymous said...

Of course! The snob loves Shoreditch.

So much so, that he missed out Wapping, Whitechapel and Shadwell.

Tamsin said...

No. He's hopping about at random. The series started right at the other end of the line in Dalston.

Saw one of the new trains in New Cross Gate today. Very smart but definitely built to carry maximum number of people with minimum seats and maximum bars to hold onto.

Tressilliana said...

Do you have any justification for calling Nick a snob, Anon? I've seen no evidence of it on this blog.

Brockley Nick said...

It was the Surrey Quays article that originally set Anon off. They initially posted a comment that was as abusive as it was unspecific.

In fact, I thought I'd been pretty upbeat about the area in that piece (it was certainly my intention that it be read that way) so I actually thought that the comment had been directed at one of the other readers, who was less complimentary about the area and I deleted it.

They then posted a follow-up comment, which was something along the lines of "so you've deleted me have you snobbety-snob-snob?" and again offered nothing in terms of argument, but plenty of abuse. So I deleted that too.

At least this time, anon has given some evidence of where they think the snobbery lies (ie: failure to reference the likes of Shadwell), although as Tamsin points out, they are mistaken. Rest assured, Whitechapel et al will be getting the BC treatment.

On the point about the liking of Shoreditch being an act of snobbery - Shoreditch is an area that includes huge pockets of deprivation. What it also has is a diverse range of communities (rich and poor) mixing and trading, which is one of the things that make it such an exciting area. The area I described in the article about Surrey Quays (the peninsula bit) has large swathes of what some people would think of as "yuppie" homes and it's this fact that has contributed to it being somewhat quiet.

So I don't see how liking one a bit more than the other makes one a snob.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you were eating an artisan bun smeared with honey from Brockley bees whilst writing the article.

Brockley Nick said...

How far away do bees have to be before eating their honey is OK? Or is it a postcode thing? Would Surrey Quays honey be acceptable?

Anonymous said...

After discussion with the assembled community leaders of Brockley, Old Kent Road honey would be acceptable.

Tressilliana said...

But can those bees be trusted to keep away from conservation areas? Problems, problems...

Anonymous said...

The Brockley Elders have said that as there were bees in Victorian times, the conservation area should have bees now. As an alternative, a slightly fattened wasp can be used, although no neon-painted bluebottles are permitted.

Brockley Nick said...

We should have a council of Brockley Elders.

Anonymous said...

Quick question Nick, when the next phase of ELL is complete - the section to Highbury and Islington - will trains be direct from Brockley or will we have to change at Dalston Junction?

Brockley Nick said...

Anon - we have to wait until 2011 to join up with Highbury and Islington, at which point trains will be direct and Lou Baker will be able to tell us how awful the place is and that we should all just stay at home watching Sky.

Anonymous said...

Oooh yes, a council of Brockley Elders - the Broccans - who meet at the Stone Circle 3 times a year and dispense wisdom and justice on local matters.

Anonymous said...

The Brockley Dogging Society already act as a council of Brockley Community Leaders on their day off, known as 'recharge day'.

Anonymous said...

Brockley Flogging a Joke to Death Society more like...

Anonymous said...

I can assure you it's not the joke being flogged up on Hilly Fields. What's the problem?

Anonymous said...

It's boring. You got a laugh with it once once but that doesn't mean you can endlessly recycle it.
Let it go.

Anonymous said...

You're not the only person saying "let go"... etc.

Anonymous said...

Yawn. Second only to mung jokes in the 'tedious beyond belief' category of attempted humour on this site.

Anonymous said...

I was in Shoreditch today and have to say that I'm very excited by the prospect of the East london Line. It's a great area - with loads going on, and that only will increase due when it's up and running. Brockley to Shoreditch High Street - 19 Mins.

Anonymous said...

Just read the above post Nick - I didn't realise that trains would be direct to Highbury and Islington from 2011. So will that will be the end destination then (that we see on the front of train for example) or will it go beyond that?)

Anonymous said...

Ultimatley it's supposed to be an orbital, joining the north London line? Not sure if you'll have to change to keep going

Brockley Nick said...

It won't operate as a proper orbital, in the sense that the trains will still terminate at Highbury and Islington, not carry on in a complete loop. However, the interchange at that station should be quite easy.

Anonymous said...

to my mind, the orbital nature of it is the least of it.

this line gives Brockley etc direct access to a large chunk of the City and access to Can Wharf if you do a simple change.

it is absolutely fantastic and will change immeasurably the nature of se4. Given 5 years, Hilly Fields will be the bankers' destination of choice. wait and see.

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