Liverpool Street to Shoreditch High Street
After three stationery walks in the heart of London’s West End we decided to head out further afield in search of something different. Our fourth walk took us in search of stationery shops in Shoreditch where you can discover a walk that takes in the Huguenots, Beigel rivalry and (possibly) the world’s oldest council estate. Oh and quite a few café and stationery shops as we wound our way around.
The practical bit you need to know for this walk is that we started at Liverpool Street station, handy for many tube lines, and ended up at Shoreditch High Street station (less handy but still a station) after 2.5 miles of looping around Shoreditch. Easy in half a day and the route can be followed on Google Maps here. A full list of places can be found at the end of the article.
This walk is a slow-burn for stationery but it gets better and better. In the meantime it is all about soaking up the individual atmosphere of this part of London. Heading out from Liverpool Street we went into Spitalfields Market, the old flower and veg market now reborn as a retail and food destination. There is a market every day although naturally weekends will be more lively. When we were there (on a Monday morning to be fair) were some stalls setting up. It’s fun though, and a place just to admire how it has been transformed from a hub of market life to a hubbub of contemporary retail.
We did decide to stop for an early coffee and we have a bit of history with Ottolenghi so we had to stop there. In our previous business life we were neighbours to their kitchen HQ in Camden Town, and even enjoyed a rather wonderful Christmas staff meal courtesy of them. The food is visually stunning but this early in the day we opted for coffee (and cake).
At this point the walk really becomes about soaking up the unique mix of the area, how centuries of history are visible like layers stripped back on every street corner. At the heart of this is Brick Lane, famous now for its curry houses, the result of the Bengali community that grew up during the 20th Century. Looking back it is where a community of Huguenots settled when fleeing persecution in France in the 17th and 18th centuries, and also was a big Jewish community. More recently it has been part of the gentrification of the East End of London.
You can seek out these layers of history just by wandering around – Fournier and Princelet Streets are stunning examples of the 18th Century houses of the Huguenot era. There is even a museum occasionally open which I did manage to visit some years ago.
The Beigel shops on Brick Lane are a reminder of the Jewish influence on the area and are subject to an endless debate about which one is the better – the yellow or the white one? I am all for the white one myself. Habit I guess. These are also a great (and cheap) place to stop for a quick bite to eat. A smoked salmon and cream cheese beigel, or even a salt beef one, and a cup of tea. Excellent value. Or take a load of plain ones home and warm them in the oven (a little bit of cold water on them before they go in, works a treat).
If you’re a bit more peckish, or fancy something a bit different, then Brick Lane is still the place to eat. You can seek out one of the many curry restaurants on Brick Lane to sample the Bengali influence. Or for a more modern slice of life you’re best to head to the Cereal Killer café, possibly the ultimate symbol of the ‘hipster’ gentrification of area which is why it was attacked in anti-gentrification riots back in 2015.
Alternative Shop Idea
Another point of interest on Brick Lane is the Brick Lane Bookshop – it’s always nice to find a decent independent bookshop and this is certainly one.
Labour and Wait
Heading across Bethnal Green Road we finally get our first sniff of some stationery. Labour and Wait is a lovely shop packed with all sorts of household items (think retro enameled lampshades, gardening tools and fisherman’s sweaters) yet in amongst this you will find some stationery gold. Any shop that sells Coccoina glue is a winner (a long-time favourite of ours) but you will also find a collection of notebooks, Blackwing pencils and rolls of German legal string (apparently the colours represented a different region of Germany). A bonus with Labour and Wait though is the building itself – a former pub with green tiles that stands proudly on the corner of Redchurch and Turville Streets. A beauty.
Just down the road you will find Albion, a cafe but also a very refined grocery. One to just drool over the wonderfully tempting and beautifully packaged food even if you don’t want a cafe stop just yet.
On the way to the next stationery shop we took a detour via what is reputed to be the oldest council estate in the world. Whether it actually is really isn’t the point – what matters is that this is a quite amazing piece of social architecture. At its heart is the focal point of Arnold Circus, a circular park crowned by a bandstand rising up above the flats it serves.
Now we can fully indulge in stationery as we hit the first of five shops. Many of these shops feature stationery as part of a wider offering, usually clothes and/or homeware, rather than stationery outright, but as all are so close together they add up to more than the sum of their parts. First up is Aida on Shoreditch High Street. Upstairs in this smart clothes shop you will find a tidy collection of notebooks including a good selection of Field Notes.
Next we headed a little bit further north, where just past the railway bridges you will find a shop worth the extra few metres. Great Art is, not surprisingly, a great art shop packed full of artists materials but it also packs a punch with a very decent stationery selection. Notable brands included a decent selection from Leuchtturm, Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Lamy pens as well as Fabriano books and papers.
At this point it was time to turn and head back south. We took a very slight detour via Hoxton Square, a good example of a once unloved part of town that has gone through the process of gentrification via the arts scene moving in and then gradually being moved on as others followed suit. A good or bad thing? Ultimately both you could argue since we might not be doing this stationery walk in the first place if it hadn’t gone through that process. But also sad. Read more on the history of Hoxton Square gentrification here.
Goodhood and SCP
Popping across Old Street into Curtain Road there are two more quickfire shops with a decent stationery department in each. A stationery double header. Goodhood has a well stocked and eclectic mix of items in the basement, including niche brands such as Blackwing, Midori and Hightide. Almost next door, SCP also has a different but equally eclectic mix including Hay, Mark & Fold, Monograph and Ola. However in both cases the pleasure lies in them having a stationery range you just want to browse. And with two such good stationery collections just a few shops apart it makes Curtain Road a top stationery destination.
Alternative Shop Idea
Heading towards the end of the walk, you can duck down Rivington Street where the Artwords Bookshop features a pleasing range of unexpected art, design and creative books and magazines. Talking of art, just almost next door is a genuine Banksy, covered up for protection in the courtyard of the Cargo bar. How does anyone know what is and isn’t a genuine Banksy? And does it matter? A question for our times.
Cowling & Wilcox
Back on Shoreditch High Street Cowling & Wilcox is another art shop with a more limited stationery selection this time. What I did like was the impressive collection of spray paints towards the rear of the shop. Why spray paints? Well one of the distinctive features of this part of town is the constant and quite pleasing graffiti. It is strange how it works in some places and on this walk there is much to enjoy.
And now the final stop. And it’s ending on a high. Papersmiths is one of those names in the stationery world that seems to be everywhere. They have a few shops around – Bristol, Brighton – and here in Boxpark they have a smallish but still very rewarding store. Inside you will find stationery from Papier Tigre and Nomess amongst others, although once again it is more the shop itself and how pleasingly put together it is that stands out. I myself came away with a nice selection of Tombow Dual Brush pens.
Boxpark itself is worth the trip, a small shopping centre with cafes and bars upstairs. So far so what, but this one is made from shipping containers stacked up giving it an unusual feel. Some shops make effective use of mirrors making them feel quite spacious. Others, like Papersmiths, feel elongated and draw you in to the back. It’s all an illusion as they are all a standard shipping container size. And when done, Shoreditch High Street station is next door.
The places mentioned in this walk
Ottolenghi, 50 Artillery Lane, London, E1 7LJ – https://ottolenghi.co.uk/spitalfields
19 Princelet Street (museum) – 19 Princelet St, London, E1 6QH – https://www.19princeletstreet.org.uk/
Beigel Bake – 159 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB / Beigel Shop – 155 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB
Brick Lane Bookshop – 166 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU – https://www.bricklanebookshop.org/
Labour & Wait – 85 Redchurch Street, London, E2 7DJ – https://www.labourandwait.co.uk/
Albion – 2-4 Boundary Street, London E2 7DD – https://boundary.london/albion/
Aida – 133 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JE – https://www.aidashoreditch.co.uk/
Great Art – 49 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8AG – https://www.greatart.co.uk/
Goodhood – 151 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3QE – https://goodhoodstore.com/
SCP – 135-139 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3BX – https://www.scp.co.uk/
Artwords Bookshop – 69 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY – https://www.artwords.co.uk/
Cowling & Wilcox – 112 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JN – https://www.cowlingandwilcox.com/
Papersmiths – Boxpark, Unit 7, Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6GY – https://www.papersmiths.co.uk/