Moorfields was an open space, partly in the City of London, lying adjacent to – and outside – its northern wall, near the eponymous Moorgate. It was known for its marshy conditions, the result of the defensive wall acting like a dam, impeding the flow of the River Walbrook and its tributaries.
Moorfields gives its name to the Moorfields Eye Hospital which occupied a site on the former fields from 1822–1899, and is still based close by, in the St Luke's area of the London Borough of Islington.
Moorfields is first recorded in the late 12th century, though not by name, as a great fen. The fen was larger than the area subsequently known as Moorfields.
Moorfields was contiguous with Finsbury Fields, Bunhill Fields and other open spaces, and until its eventual loss in the 19th century, was the innermost part of a green wedge of land which stretched from the wall, to the open countryside which lay close by. Moorfields separated the western and eastern growth of London beyond the city wall – with the eastern extension being better known as the East End.
The fields were divided into four areas; the Little Moorfields, Moorfields proper, Middle Moorfields and Upper Moorfields.
The origins of Moorfields lie in a wider area, described by William Fitzstephen as the "great fen which washed against the northern wall of the City".The marshy conditions appear to have been caused by London's Wall acting as a dam, restricting the flow of the river.
The fen covered much of the Manor of Finsbury, but its exact extent is not clear. It has been suggested that it extended west from the Walbrook which fed it, extending to the vicinity of Old Street in the north, and the road from Cripplegate in the west. Other commentators have suggested that the topography of the area means the marsh probably didn’t extend as far west due to higher ground there, but did extend further north and possibly, in places, further east.
The Little Moorfields and Moorfields proper (also known as Lower Moorfields) were just north of London's wall, and from 1676 to 1815 included the Bethlem Hospital. Little Moorfields was the element that was left lying just west of Moorgate Street after gap had been made in the wall to create the Moorgate, and the associated road from the north, in the 15th and 16th century. These parts were inside the City boundaries, lying in the Coleman Street Ward.
It is thought that this open space was not included within the City’s administrative boundaries until the 17th century, prior to that being part of the Manor of Finsbury.
The Walbrook, known at this point as Deepditch and running on the line of modern Blomfield Street, seems to have formed the eastern boundary of Moorfields proper. It also formed an administrative boundary,with Coleman Street Ward to the west (including the open spaces of Little Moorfields and Moorfields proper); while on the East End side lay the urbanised extra-mural ward of Bishopsgate Without, and also the parish of Shoreditch.
This section of the Walbrook, around Blomfield Street, was the focal point of the Walbrook Skulls; the result of the deposit of large numbers of decapitated Roman-era human skulls into the water.These are still regularly uncovered during building work.
Middle Moorfields and Upper Moorfields lay outside the City, to the north-west of Moorfields proper, in the Manor of Finsbury. The manor was coterminous with the parish of St Luke's (a late sub-division of the parish of St Giles-without-Cripplegate).
The Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch (which replaced the parish of Shoreditch, being based on the same boundaries), had an electoral ward named Moorfields, this was adjacent to the former Moorfields (and also the famous Moorfields Eye Hospital) with only a small part of the area ever having been part of Moorfields, and only at an early date.
An early name for Moorfields proper appears to have been Moor Mead.The Moor place-name element usually refers to fen environments, and the wet nature of the area persisted, though this was improved by a drainage scheme in 1572.
In the 15th century the monasteries of Charterhouse and St Bartholomews diverted the headwaters of the Walbrook to their sites in the River Fleet catchment. It has been suggestedthat this caused a significant reduction in the flow of the river, causing Moorfields to become drier, and allowing the Mayor to construct the new Moorgate.
Moorgate was built by upgrading a postern built in 1415, and enlarged in 1472 and 1511. The gate remained poorly connected as there was no direct approach road from the south until 1846, long after the gate and wall were demolished.
After the Great Fire of London in 1666, refugees from the fire evacuated to Moorfields and set up temporary camps there. King Charles II of England encouraged the dispossessed to move on and leave London, but it is unknown how many newly impoverished and displaced persons instead settled in the Moorfields area.
In the early 18th century, Moorfields was the site of sporadic open-air markets, shows, and vendors/auctions. Additionally, the homes near and within Moorfields were places of the poor, and the area had a reputation for harbouring highwaymen, as well as brothels. James Dalton and Jack Sheppard both retreated to Moorfields when in hiding from the law. Parts of the area were known as public cruising areas for gay men.A path in the Upper Moorfields, beside a wall that separated the Upper and Middle Moorfields was known as Sodomites Walk: the wall was removed in 1752 but the path remains as the south side of Finsbury Square.
In 1780 it was the site of some of the most violent rioting during the Gordon Riots.
The district was once the site of The Foundery, a former cannon foundry turned preaching house and an early centre of Wesleyan Methodism.
A fashionable carpet manufactory was established here by Thomas Moore (c. 1700–1788) in the mid-eighteenth century. Moore's carpet manufactory at Moore Place made a number of fine carpets commissioned by the architect and interior designer, Robert Adam, for the grand rooms he designed for his wealthy clients. Thomas Moore lived at his home on Chiswell Street until his death. His Moore Park factory remained in operation until 1793, when his daughter, Jane, and her husband, Joseph Foskett, sold the lease to another carpet manufacturer.
Much of Moorfields was developed in 1777, when Finsbury Square was developed; the remainder succumbed within the next few decades, notably when Moorfields proper was replaced by the modern Finsbury Circus in 1817.
Today the name survives in the names of Moorfields Eye Hospital (since moved to another site); St Mary Moorfields; Moorfields the short street (on which stands the headquarters of the British Red Cross) parallel with Moorgate (and containing some entrances to Moorgate station); and Moorfields Highwalk, one of the pedestrian "streets" at high level in the Barbican Estate. Moorfields Highwalk is featured in the music video to Robbie Williams' song "No Regrets".
The London Borough of Hackney is a London borough in Inner London. The historical and administrative heart of Hackney is Mare Street, which lies 5 miles (8 km) north-east of Charing Cross. The borough is named after Hackney, its principal district. Southern and eastern parts of the borough are popularly regarded as being part of east London, with the northwest belonging to north London. Its population is 281,120 inhabitants.
Finsbury is a district of Central London, forming the south-eastern part of the London Borough of Islington. It borders the City of London.
Old Street is a 1-mile (1.6 km) street in inner north-east Central London that runs west to east from Goswell Road in Clerkenwell, in the London Borough of Islington, via St Luke's and Old Street Roundabout, to the crossroads where it meets Shoreditch High Street (south), Kingsland Road (north) and Hackney Road (east) in Shoreditch in the London Borough of Hackney.
Bishopsgate was one of the eastern gates in London’s former defensive wall. The gate gave its name to the Bishopsgate Ward of the City of London. The ward is traditionally divided into Bishopsgate Within, inside the line wall, and Bishopsgate Without beyond it. Bishopsgate Without is described as part of London's East End.
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The London Wall was a defensive wall first built by the Romans around the strategically important port town of Londinium in c. AD 200. It has origins as an initial mound wall and ditch from c. AD 100 and an initial fort, now called Cripplegate fort after the city gate that was positioned within its northern wall later on, built in 120-150 where it was then expanded upon by Roman builders into a city-wide defence. Over time, as Roman influence waned through the departure of the Roman army in c. 410, their withdrawal led to its disrepair, as political power on the island dispersed through the Heptarchy period of Anglo-Saxon England. From the conquest of William the Conqueror, successive medieval restorations and repairs to its use have been undertaken. This wall largely defined the boundaries of the City of London until the later Middle Ages, when population rises and the development of towns around the city blurred the perimeter.
Cripplegate was a gate in the London Wall which once enclosed the City of London.
The Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch was a Metropolitan borough of the County of London between 1899 and 1965, when it was merged with the Metropolitan Borough of Stoke Newington and the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney to form the London Borough of Hackney.
Moorgate was one of the City of London's northern gates in its defensive wall, the last to be built. The gate took its name from the Moorfields, an area of marshy land that lay immediately north of the wall.
East London is a popularly and informally defined part of London, capital of the United Kingdom. By most definitions, it is east of the ancient City of London and north of the River Thames. It broadly comprises the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. This understanding accords closely, but not exactly, with the interpretation of the area consisting of the former Tower Division, and London east of the Lea. The East End of London is a subset of East London, consisting of areas close to the ancient City of London. The Eastern (E) Postal District is a different subset of East London; and there is also an "East" sub-region used in the London Plan for planning policy reporting purposes. The most recent (2011) iteration includes seven boroughs north of the Thames, with the addition of three boroughs south of the river.
The Walbrook is a subterranean river in the City of London that gave its name to the Walbrook City ward and a minor street in its vicinity.
Finsbury Pavement is a short length of street connecting Moorgate with City Road in the London Borough of Islington. It forms a part of the London Inner Ring Road, and before the introduction of the ring of steel around the City of London it formed a major through-route towards London Bridge and south London.
St Luke's is a district in central London in the Borough of Islington. It lies just north of the border with the City of London near the Barbican Estate, and the Clerkenwell and Shoreditch areas. The area takes its name from the now redundant parish church of St Luke's, on Old Street west of Old Street station. Following the closure of the church, the parish was reabsorbed into that of St Giles-without-Cripplegate, from which it had separated in 1733.
Finsbury Circus is a park in the Coleman Street Ward of the City of London, England. The 2.2 hectares park is the largest public open space within the City's boundaries.
Broad Street is one of the 25 ancient wards of the City of London.
Coleman Street is one of the 25 ancient wards of the City of London and lies on the City's northern boundary with the London Borough of Islington.
Finsbury Square is a 0.7-hectare (1.7-acre) square in Finsbury in central London which includes a six-rink grass bowling green. It was developed in 1777 on the site of a previous area of green space to the north of the City of London known as Finsbury Fields, in the parish of St Luke's and near Moorfields. It is sited on the east side of City Road, opposite the east side of Bunhill Fields. It is approximately 200m north of Moorgate station, 300m north-west of Liverpool Street station and 400m south of Old Street station. Nearby locations are Finsbury Circus and Finsbury Pavement. Named after it, but several miles away, are Finsbury Park and its eponymous neighbourhood.
Whitecross Street is a short street in Islington, in Inner London. It features an eponymous street market and a large housing estate.
Fore Street is a street in the City of London near the Barbican Centre. It runs from Wood Street to Fore Street Avenue and is joined by Moor Lane on its north side. The street was extensively damaged by Nazi bombing during World War II and, following later development, nothing now remains of its original buildings other than St Giles-without-Cripplegate, which is a short distance away from the modern street.
This is a list of the etymology of street names in the City of London.