- East Smithfield
- A district lying just outside the walls of London, east of the Tower, stretching south to the Thames, and east to Nightingale Lane, while to the north it extended itself into the parish of Whitechapel.In early days it constituted a Manor and was the property of the Prior and Convent of the Holy Trinity, but was originally included within the limits of the ward of Portsoken (q.v.). In course of time, owing to the establishment of religious foundations within its bounds and to the privileges accorded to them, much of the district became alienated from the ward and from the jurisdiction of the City. (This question is discussed at length in the notice of Portsoken Ward (q.v.)).Down to the middle of the 16th century the district remained for the most part open country, and in Agas' map, c. 1570, there are but few houses and buildings to be seen, except those connected with the religious houses which had stood there.But the succeeding years, as Stow complains (ed. 1603, p. 425), saw a rapid increase in the population and buildings in the district, so that by the middle of the 17th century it seemed to contain almost as thick a network of courts and alleys as the City within the walls.The district is now occupied by the Royal Mint, the St. Katherine Docks, etc., and is a busy centre of commerce and industry.Described by Dodsley as a small square near Little Tower Hill, surrounded with but indifferent buildings.The earliest forms of the name are : "Smethefel extra Alegate" (Chancery Inq. p.m. 18 Ed. I.). "Estsmethefeud " I Ed. I. (Anc. Deeds, A. 7830-1). "Estsmethefeld" (56. H. III., ib. A. 1512 and 21 Ed. I. Chanc. I. p.m.) ; the latter being the most usual form of the name and in use down to a late period.The word "Smithfield" is generally interpreted as "Smoothfield," the "campus planus re et nomine" of Fitzstephen (quoted by Stow, ed. 1603, p. 573), lying outside the City walls, the designation "East" being added to it to distinguish it from a district similarly named outside the western walls of the City.The history of the street of East Smithfield in which the name survives is given under Upper East Smithfield and Lower East Smithfield (q.v.).
A Dictionary of London. Henry A Harben. 1918.
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