The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from:

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This text was copied from Wikipedia on 10 November 2019 at 6:02AM.

Coordinates: 51°31′05″N 0°05′19″W / 51.518188°N 0.088611°W / 51.518188; -0.088611

Moorgate and the Moorfields area shown on the "Copperplate" map of London of the 1550s
A map showing Moorfields ward within Shoreditch Metropolitan Borough in 1916. The ward was named due to its position adjacent to the former Moorfields

Moorfields was an open space, partly in the City of London, lying adjacent to its northern wall, near the eponymous Moorgate.


Moorfields was contiguous with Finsbury Fields, Bunhill Fields and other open spaces, and until its eventual loss in the 19th century, it was the innermost part of a green wedge of land which stretched from the wall to the open countryside.

The fields were divided into four areas; the Little Moorfields and Moorfields proper were just north of London's wall, and from 1676-1815 the Bethlem Hospital, this part was inside the City boundaries, while Middle and Upper Moorfields lay to the north-west in the parish of St Luke's (a late sub-division of the parish of St Giles-without-Cripplegate . 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 in the 15th century.

The Walbrook seems to have formed much of the eastern boundary of Moorfields proper, and the marshy nature of the land may have been a result of the wall impeding the flow of the Walbrook and its tributaries. Latterly, the open space of Moorfields proper lay in the Coleman Street Ward of the City, while to the east lay the urbanised extra-mural ward of Bishopsgate Without, and the parish of Shoreditch.

The Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch (which replaced the parish, 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 having been part of Moorfields, and only at an early date.


The Moor place-name element usually refers to fen environments,[1] and the wet nature of the area persisted at least until the area was drained in 1572.[2]

Development in the area became more feasible after a small nearby postern gate was replaced with the last of the city gates, Moorgate, in 1415, and enlarged in 1472 and 1511. 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.[3] A path in the Upper Moorfields, beside a wall that separated the Upper and Middle Moorfields was known as Sodemites Walk, the wall was removed in 1752 but the path remains as the south side of Finsbury Square.[4]

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 centre of Wesleyan Methodism.[5]

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.

Demise and legacy

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 after 1812. Until that time the fields separated the western and eastern growth of London beyond the city wall - with the eastern extension being better known as the East End.

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".


  1. ^ Concise Oxford Dictionary of Place Names, Eilert Ekwall, fourth edition. He doesn't refer to Moorfields, only the place name element.
  2. ^ The London Encyclopaedia, Weinreb and Hibbert
  3. ^ Norton, Rictor (1992). Mother Clap's Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830. London: Gay Men's Press. pp. 71–90. ISBN cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  4. ^ Homosexuality in 18th century England, Rictor Norton,
  5. ^ "List of publications published or distributed at the Foundry". Copac. Retrieved 28 January 2010.

8 Annotations

Pauline  •  Link

from L&M Companion
A large marshy area north of the city wall, built over in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and today covered by Finsbury Sq., Finsbury Circus and adjacent streets. Part of it was drained early in the 16th century, and by 1598 three windmills had been built. In 1605 the southern section was laid out by the city in pleasant walks, set with trees. It was much used for recreation.

Pedro  •  Link


The location of the Artillery Grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company, and a few brothels.

Pedro  •  Link

Moorfields and Finsbury

In Moorfields and about Finsbury, specimens of primitive skates have from time to time been exhumed, recalling the time when these were marshy fields, which in winter were resorted to by the youth of London for the amusements which Fitzstephen describes. A pair preserved in the British Museum.

(Book of Days)


Rex Gordon  •  Link

Stow's Survey on Moorfields (The Suburbs Without the Walls), about 1598:

This field of old time was called the More, as appeareth by the charter of William the Conqueror to the college of St. Martin, declaring a running water to pass into the city from the same More. Also Fitzstephen writeth of this More, saying thus: "When the great fen, or moor, which watereth the walls on the north side, is frozen," etc. This fen, or moor field, stretching from the wall of the city betwixt Bishopsgate and the postern called Cripples gate, to Fensbery and to Holy well, continued a waste and unprofitable ground a long time, so that the same was all letten for four marks the year, in the reign of Edward II; but in the year 1415, the 3rd of Henry V, Thomas Fawconer, mayor ... caused the wall of the city to be broken toward the said moor, and built the postern called Moregate, for the ease of the citizens to walk that way upon causeys towards Iseldon and Hoxton ... In the year 1498 all the gardens, which had continued time out of mind without Moregate, to wit, about and beyond the lordship of Finsbury, were destroyed; and of them was made a plan field for archers to shoot in. And in the year 1512, Roger Archley, mayor, caused divers dikes to be cast, and made to drain the waters of the said Morefielde, with bridges arched over them, and the grounds about to be levelled, whereby the said field was made somewhat more commodious, but yet it stood full of noisome waters; whereupon, in the year 1527, Sir Thomas Semor, mayor, caused divers sluices to be made to convey the said waters over the Town ditch, into the course of the Walbrooke, and so into the Thames; and by these degrees was this fen or moor at length made main and hard ground, which before being overgrown with flags, sedges, and rushes, served no use; since which time also the further grounds beyond Finsbury court have been so overheightened with lay-stalls of dung, that now three windmills are thereon set; the ditches be filled up, and the bridges overwhelmed.

Bill  •  Link

Moorfields, a moor or fen without the walls of the City to the north, first drained in 1527; laid out into walks for the first time in 1606, and first built upon late in the reign of Charles II. The name has been swallowed up in Finsbury (or Fensbury) Square, Finsbury Circus, the City Road, and the adjoining localities.

This low-lying district became famous for its musters and pleasant walks; for its laundresses and bleachers; for its cudgel players and popular amusements; for its madhouse, better known as Bethlehem Hospital; and for its bookstalls and ballad-sellers.

In a petition of the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London to the King, James I., about 1625, they state that they have at great charge made pleasant walks out of the boggy fields north of London, and pray his Majesty will direct the construction of a new street to lead to the said walks.

After the Great Fire of London in 1666 the people lived in sheds and tents in Moorfields till such time as other tenements could be erected for them.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

Bill  •  Link

Moorfields were first drained in 1527, and walks were laid out in 1606. In the following year Richard Johnson wrote "The Pleasant Walks of Moore fields."
---Wheatley, 1899.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.