The Eagle was a former famous music hall in the Shoreditch area of London which Charles Dickens featured in one of his earliest journalistic works.
In the early part of the 19th century a pub called The Shepherd and Shepherdess was built off the City Road which offered cakes and cream in its own pleasure gardens. Before the days of public parks, pleasure gardens offered Victorian society a place to relax and enjoy outdoor public entertainment. The Shepherd and Shepherdess Gardens were built on a field that had a path running through it from the City of London to Islington. They were later renamed the Coronation Pleasure Grounds and survived until 1846. The Coronation Pleasure Grounds had fountains, waterfalls and a chinese pavilion within it to attract visitors.
By 1821, The Shepherd and Shepherdess had been rebuilt and renamed The Eagle, which initially served tea’s for people visiting the gardens.
In 1825, the premises stopped being a tea-house and was turned into a public house and music hall which soon became a popular haunt.
In 1841 the music hall was purchased by Thomas Rouse remodeled as the Grecian Saloon. As music hall venues rose in popularity during the middle part of the nineteenth century, the saloon was extended by Benjamin Conquest who added extra capacity for up to 2,500 people and renamed it as the Grecian Theatre, reopening on 24 May 1858. The venue was further enlarged between 1875-7 with the addition of a dancing hall and capacity increased to accommodate up to 4,000 people.
The music hall provided a platform for young local girl Marie Lloyd, who would go onto to become a famous music hall star. Marie Lloyd was the daughter of John Wood, an artificial flower maker and former waiter at the Grecian Saloon.
The music hall adjoining the Eagle became so famous that it was incorporated into the famous nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel.
Up and down the City Road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes.
Pop! goes the weasel
However, over time The Eagle, along with many music hall venues, had gained a reputation for being a seedy place to visit where trouble and fighting would often break out. In 1882 the Salvation Army stepped in and purchased the lease that was up for renewal that year. Although they purchased the building the move, however, was unpopular and less than twenty years later the former music hall was demolished, only to have a new pub built-in its place, which stands today.
Charles Dickens and The Eagle.
Charles Dickens was said to be a frequent visitor to The Eagle and wrote about the venue in one of his earliest works, a sketch about the music hall entitled Miss Evans and the Eagle.
Further Reading on The Circumlocution Office.
[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]Read the 1835 sketch by Charles Dickens, Miss Evans and The Eagle, which describes a visit to The Eagle.
[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]Read James Ewing Ritchie’s chapter describing The Eagle Tavern in his 1858 book The Night Side of London.