Subject of one the BBC’s “Secret History Of Our Streets” documentaries, Arnold Circus is the centre of Britain’s first council estate, The Boundary Estate. Opened in Shoreditch in 1900 after the London County Council had cleared the Friars Mount slum, the Circus is a traffic island built from the rubble of the old dwellings with a rather smart bandstand at its peak. The red brick apartment blocks that surround the Circus are solid and comfortable looking. On the spring day I visited, several people sat on the benches that surrounded the bandstand, eating sandwiches, enjoying the quiet calm of the raised vantage point and watching the people at street level go in and out of the houses and picking up supplies from a he local shops. A cafe in one corner of the development was packed with people and the noise of their conversation occasionally punctured the peace. In all, a pleasant place to spend a bit of time off the beaten track in this part of London.
( PS. The Arnold who the circus was named after was a former MP who then served on the LCC during the time that this estate was built. Ironically, he thought that the slum clearance might not be an entirely good thing as it would push the poorest people out of the area and replace them with people who could afford to live in the upgraded area – as was proved the case. )