Agriculture still dominated the landscape of central and north Hackney during the Tudor period. Approximately three-quarters of the land was used for grass either for cattle or for haymaking and milk and butter was brought to London to be sold two or three times a week.
Other crops grown include peas, oats, barley and wheat. The North and South Mills at Lea Bridge were still active. Temple Mills continued to grind corn and passed into the hands of the monarchy during this period, in 1540. The mills were also used to grind the points of needles and pins and to bore holes in tree trunks to form water pipes. As water was brought from Hackney and Hoxton to the City the pipes might well have made for that purpose.
Kingsland’s dominant industry was brick and tile making and there was also a brickfield and gravel pit at Clapton. The gravel was collected for roads. The busy roads of Old Street and Ermine Street, also both provided plenty of work for blacksmiths. The traffic on these roads undoubtedly kept the inns, alehouses and brewers busy too.
There would have been work for many traders in supplying the local market, as the vast majority of people did not travel to shop for either goods or services. At this time people usually lived and worked in the same premises, so for example a bakery would cook downstairs or at the back of a house, whilst living upstairs and selling the bread from a small shop front that opened onto the street.
Like the rest of the East End, south Hackney was a mix of residential and small industry. The low rents were attractive but also certain trades were excluded from practising inside the city walls so congregated in this area just outside the walls. Toward the end of the period traditional city industries such as furniture, cobblers and tailors were priced out beyond the city walls to Hoxton and Spitalfields and the division emerged between east and west, finance and manufacturing, which exists today. One of these manufacturing trades, silkweaving, is associated more with Spitalfields but was prevalent in Hackney too, especially in the south.
Hoxton was known for its nurseries, Thomas Fairchild produced the first artificial hybrid in 1691 called Fairchild's Mule it was a cross between a Sweet William and a Carnation.
The Hoxton and Shoreditch area provided some employment in the entertainment industry. As well as the theatres there were boxers, bull and bear baiters and various street entertainers. It was also during this time that Shoreditch became known for another entertainment trade that was to tarnish its image for centuries, prostitution. When Henry VIII closed the licensed brothels in Southwark in 1546 the women took their trade elsewhere including Shoreditch.
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The Amateur Historian's Guide to Medieval and Tudor London, Sarah Valente Kettler, Carole Trimble
Hoxton: Architecture and History Over Five Centuries, Christopher Edmondson Miele