Time Travel Explorer Blog

The Mysterious Mound of Shoreditch

by Matt Brown 24. December 2011 12:22

Shoreditch, 1746, and the area that would later become the junction of Curtain Road and Great Eastern Street. Neither are yet present in this view. London's centre of creativity, digital culture and all things cool was, back then, characterised by orchards, courtyards and open fields.

And a giant, mysterious mound.

The origins of the so-called Holy-Well Mount are uncertain. It takes its name, as so many features on this early map, from a 'holy well', source of water for the medieval Holywell Priory founded (probably) in the 12th Century and swept away during the Reformation. The only other online representation of the mount is an etching of burials on the site during the plague of 1665. According to an archaeological survey (PDF) by Museum of London Archaeology, the mound is either a defensive feature from the English Civil Wars, or an artificial hill created from eariler plague burials. No one is sure. 

What we do know is that the mound did not survive for long beyond the time of this map. It was cleared away in 1787 after becoming a notorious site for robberies and rapes. A later chart from 1799, available in Time Travel Explorer, shows that the hill has been cleared and its site taken up by housing. 

Today, the spot is occupied by artists studios and a particularly friendly branch of Pizza Express. While there's no obvious mound, a slight gradient can still be perceived in these backstreets.

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