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St Leonard's Church & Arnold Circus

If you take a trip to to the East End, be sure to pass by St Leonard's Church Shoreditch. You may think you've never heard of it but it's mentioned in the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges And Lemons’ and the line, ‘When I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch’. More recently it was used for the TV series 'Rev' starring Tom Hollander.

Shakespeare’s first plays were performed at both the Theatre and the Curtain theatres nearby including ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in the 1570’s – at that time Shoreditch was a maze of alleys, with a reputation for drunkenness, debauchery musicians and actors! Several Shakespearian actors are buried here and even Henry the eighths clown, Will Somers. Just inside the church is a genuine 17th Century whipping post and stocks!

Not far from St Leonard's is Arnold Circus, built on top of what was once know as the Old Nichol which was the worst slum in London. Pigs and cows were kept in back yards, noxious trades like boiling tripe, melting tallow or preparing cat meat; slaughter houses, dustheaps (dumps) and 'lakes of putrefying night soil' added to the filth.

In 1888 the London County Council were formed and were determined to clear the area. The Boundary Estate replaced the Nichol slum and the bandstand sits on top of a mound made from the rubble of the demolished slum. Now there are over 1000 tenements most of which are grade II listed as this radial designed development is reckoned to be the first council estate in Britain. The Boundary Estate was featured in many of the scenes in the movie 'Suffragette'.

Leading away from Arnold Circus towards Shoreditch, is Calvert Avenue which has wonderful array of shops, both food, cafes and boutiques. Well worth a browse.