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City of London

A poor relation among the City’s commercial thoroughfares, extending south-eastward from Bishopsgate’s junction with Liverpool Street to Aldgate. The name was first recorded in 1275. Seemingly obvious explanations for the meaning of place names often turn out to be fallacious, but Houndsditch genuinely seems to have been a trench where ‘dead dogges were there laid or cast’; several canine skeletons were unearthed here in 1989, probably dating from Roman times. During the Middle Ages, Houndsditch became the centre of the bellfounding industry. Then, as demand declined following the dissolution, the metalworkers turned to the manufacture of guns and cannons. The ditch was filled in by the end of the 16th century, when second-hand clothes began to be sold here. For most of the 20th century the Jewish-owned Houndsditch Warehouse was a landmark local clothing business but it has since been replaced by one of the many austere office blocks that now line the street.

In December 1910 a group of Latvian anarchists killed three policemen and injured two others who interrupted them during a burglary attempt on a jeweller’s shop in Houndsditch. On 2 January 1911, two of the gang were cornered and subsequently killed in the siege of Sidney Street, in Stepney.
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Demolition of a Houndsditch office block in 2007. The street would benefit from more such projects.
Postal district: EC3
Further reading: Donald Rumbelow, The Houndsditch Murders and the Siege of Sidney Street, Penguin, 1990

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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