History & Culture

Befitting its name (first recorded as Ealdestrate around 1200), Old Street’s ancient origins could stretch as far back as the Roman times. The area boasts a fascinating and varied history serving as a hub for theatre, religion, music, technological development and street art.



Shakespeare’s theatre company made its home at Britain’s first permanent playhouse on Curtain Road, from 1597 to 1599. The Curtain Theatre saw early performances of some of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays like Romeo and Juliet, and Henry IV parts I and II. The site of the Curtain Theatre is set to be incorporated into a luxury housing and retail complex, with the remains of the theatre preserved and open for public viewing.


John Wesley was a leader of the Anglican Church’s revival movement, and is considered to be the founder of the Methodist church. Wesley set up his first Methodist chapel on Dereham Street, before moving to City Road in 1778. Wesley’s Chapel still stands on City Road today, where visitors can now find the Museum of Methodism alongside the original buildings.



Old Street underground station was originally built and opened in 1901, undergoing a rebuild in 1925. The station and its surroundings were modified in the late 1960s replacing all surface buildings, with the underground structure which still stands today.

More recently, the area has played a significant role in the UK’s thriving tech and art scenes. Old Street plays host to part of Europe’s largest cluster of tech start-ups, and sits just behind San Francisco and New York City in the world ranking. The Old Street District is also home to numerous galleries, the Royal Drawing School and a number of Banksy’s most recognisable pieces. You can find both ‘Guard Dog’ and ‘His Masters’ Voice’ on Rivington Street, as well as one of Banksy’s famous rat piece on Chiswell Street all within the area.

The area has become a hub for street artists in general – you can see everything from huge, building-sized murals, to tiny Banksy-inspired stencils. You can even take guided tours to see the Old Street district’s incredible street art.


St. Luke’s Church is an historic Anglican church building. St Luke’s served the community as a church from 1733 until it was closed in 1964 after being declared unsafe. The roof was removed for safety reasons in 1966.An empty, overgrown shell of the church stood as a dramatic ruin for 40 years.

After several controversial renovation attempts, the site was eventually redeveloped for use by London Symphony Orchestra.

St Luke’s is now an operational music centre. The LSO use the space for rehearsals, and a wide variety of musicians record and perform there. The former crypts have even been transformed into practice rooms for professionals, students and community groups, with over 1000 burials removed during the restoration.

The Old Street District Partnership in conjunction with Nomad Cinema also host an annual film screening, accompanied by the fantastic LSO orchestra. This is a fantastic community event that becomes more popular every year and it is a true celebration of the local community.


Shoreditch Town Hall was built in the 1860s. In 1888, Shoreditch Town Hall was where the inquest into the murder of Mary Kelly, the last victim of Jack the Ripper, took place. The building has triumphed over great tragedies- overcoming  a fire in 1904 and surviving World Wars I and II. By the mid-20th century, it was used to host local boxing matches and on 22 September 1955 fifty minutes of live boxing was transmitted from the Town Hall during ITV’s first ever broadcast.Today, Shoreditch Town Hall is an independent arts, events and community space, which welcomes over 70,000 people each year.

Across the road from the Town Hall, you’ll find the Shoreditch Courthouse. Completed in 1905, the building served as a magistrate’s court and police station until 1998.

It has since been redeveloped into the luxurious Courthouse Hotel, which maintains five of its original prison cells, now private booths in the hotel’s Jailhouse Bar.