MAD WORLD OF HOXTON

‘Fashionable gallant mixed with theatre people, rich merchants with thieves and murderers to drink Ben Pimlico’s famous nut brown ale… The ‘madness’ sometimes led to sudden death. At the back of the pub on Hoxton Fields, the famous playwright Ben Johnson killed the actor Gabriel Spencer in a duel.’

Coombs, T. (1974) Tis a Mad World at Hogsdon: A Short History of Hoxton and Surrounding Area, London: Hoxton Hall

People from all backgrounds have at one time or another been drawn to Hoxton and as a result it has seen numerous changes over the centuries both demographically and architecturally. Its location, just outside the city, has had a huge influence on the changes it has seen over the years. In 1552 when it was little more than a small village it had seven ale houses, including Pimlico; a place where travellers rested after long journeys and people from all walks of life came to drink. In the later half of 1500’s, after the Lord Mayor banned strolling actors from the city, purpose built theatres began to emerge in the area and entertainment was sought in both these and the local taverns. What was once a country retreat and playground for the city’s gentry during Tudor times became the overcrowded working class slums, where poverty was rife, in Victorian times. In 1816 Hoxton was home to three madhouses, with characters like ‘Doctor’ at their helm, a man with no medical training but who struck fear into the heart of the patients through his ‘bestial’ practices.

Hoxton has been subject to a period of rapid change over the last century or so, and in turn, Hoxton Hall, has evolved throughout the years to match the changing needs of local communities – shaping its programming to reflect new and diverse audiences on an ongoing basis.

The Hoxton Hall archive documents Hoxton and surrounding areas throughout the 20th century, a critical period of growth for the area. Many series’ contain photographs taken by local residents and outside visitors, painting a diverse and sometimes contradictory picture of local lived experience.

Hoxton Hall has a fully catalogued archive collection based at Hackney Archives in Dalston Library. This archive is accessible to the public during opening hours, with trained staff on hand to help. For how to get there and opening times please see here.

We also have a fully digitised archive available to view by appointment via Hoxton Hall

Discover more about Hoxton Hall’s unique history by downloading the Hoxton Hall Experience app and visiting us. This sensory journey will guide you around the building and immerse you in Hoxton Hall’s past through a combination of digital and live installation.

Hoxton Hall Experience>>

Arts based Heritage events and workshops take place throughout the year. Whether it’s taking part in arts and crafts family activities or dancing your socks off at a good old fashioned tea dance our heritage activities offer something for everyone and are designed to excite and engage the local community in the rich and varied history of the hall and its locality. Check out DO and SEE

Hoxton Hall: A short history of Hoxton Hall and its locality

Cload, P. (2008) Hoxton Hall 1983 to 2008 – A Personal History – The launch of Hoxton Hall as a Community Arts Centre

Available for purchase at Hoxton Hall reception