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In Old Bow

March 29, 2015
by the gentle author

Mid-ninenteenth century Gothic Cottages in Wellington Way

Taking advantage of the spring sunshine, Antiquarian Philip Mernick led me on a stroll around the parishes of Bromley and Bow last week so that I might photograph just a few of the hidden wonders alongside the more obvious sights.

Edward II granted land to build the chapel in the middle of the road at Bow in 1320 but the nearby Priory of St Leonard’s in Bromley was founded three centuries earlier. These ecclesiastical institutions were the defining landmarks of the villages of Bromley and Bow until both were absorbed into the expanding East End, and the precise locations of these lost territories became a subject of unending debate for residents. More recently, this was the location of the Bryant & May factory where the Match Girls won landmark victories for workers’ rights in manufacturing industry and where many important Suffragette battles were literally fought on the streets, outside Bow Rd Police Station and in Tomlin’s Grove.

Yet none of this history is immediately apparent when you arrive at the handsome tiled Bow Rd Station and walk out to confront the traffic flying by. In the nineteenth century, Bow was laced with an elaborate web of railway lines which thread the streets to this day and wove the ancient villages of Bromley and Bow inextricably into the modern metropolis.

Bow Rd Station opened in 1902

Bow Rd Station with Wellington Buildings towering over

Wellington Buildings 1900, Wellington Way

Wellington Buildings

Suffragette Minnie Lansbury was imprisoned in Holloway and died at the age of thirty-two

Eighteen-twenties terrace in Bow Rd

Bow Rd

Bow Rd

Bow Rd Police Station 1902

Under the railway arches in Arnold Rd

The former Great Eastern Railway Station and Little Driver pub, both 1879

This house in Campbell Rd was built one room thick to fit between the railway and the road

Arnold Rd once extended beyond the railway line

Arnold Rd

Former Poplar Electricity Generating Station

Railway Bridge leading to the ‘Bow Triangle’

In the ‘Bow Triangle,’ an area surrounded on three sides by railway lines

Handsome nineteenth century villas for City workers in Mornington Grove

Former coach house in Mornington Grove

Bollard of Limehouse Poor Commission 1836 in Kitcat Terrace

Last fragment of Bow North London Railway Station in the Enterprise Rental car park

Edward II gave the land for this chapel of ease in 1320

In the former Bromley Town Hall, 1880

Former Bow Co-operative Society in Bow Rd, 1919

The site of St Leonard’s Priory founded in the eleventh century and believed to have been the origin of Chaucer’s Prioress in the ‘Canterbury Tales’ – now ‘St Leonard’s Adventurous Playground’

Kingsley Hall where Mahatma Ghandi stayed when he visited the East End in 1931

Arch by William Kent (c. 1750) removed from Northumberland House on the Embankment in 1900

Draper’s Almshouses built in 1706 to deliver twelve residences for the poor

The refurbished Crossways Estate, scene of recent alleged election skullduggery

You may also like to take a look at

At St Mary Stratford Atte Bow

The East End Suffragette Map

15 Responses leave one →
  1. March 29, 2015

    I didn’t know there was so much to be seen in Bow, now added to my London walks list, thanks to your post.

  2. March 29, 2015

    Thanks for that great photo excursion… I really enjoyed it.

  3. March 29, 2015

    ditto John, did you photograph on a sunny Sunday I wonder?

  4. March 29, 2015

    Wonderful photos. I especially love the quiet dignity of the almshouses from the 18th century, and the sharp contrast to the horrible high-rise buildings on Crossways Estate – that’s progress for you! Valerie

  5. Andy permalink
    March 29, 2015

    Wonderful pictures – can’t beat a Sunday morning stroll around the East End…

  6. joan permalink
    March 29, 2015

    When I was growing up one of my neighbours in our tower block was a woman with a learning disability. Every weekday she used to go to a centre in Kitcat Terrace where she was able to take part in activities and give her family a break from supporting her. That sort of support (and I have no idea whether it still goes on there) seems to be in keeping with the tradition of philanthropy shown by the bollard of the Limehouse Poor Board.

    Decades later I still remember Teresa when we pass Kitcat Terrace when travelling from Stratford into town.


  7. March 29, 2015

    What a lovely Sunday morning walk.

  8. Ros permalink
    March 29, 2015

    Terrific set of photos, and though I was familiar with a lot of the places and stories I wasn’t with all, so thanks.

  9. Phyllis permalink
    March 29, 2015

    The photo of the coach house converted to a dwelling is the kind of thing we see in Boston at the base of Beacon Hill between Charles Street and the Charles River. In fact most these photos look very much like Boston!

  10. Linda permalink
    March 29, 2015

    I want to go on an organised walk around there now. looks fascinating. Thankyou.

  11. Pauline Taylor permalink
    March 29, 2015

    I wonder why the arch from Northumberland House was relocated to its present position, there must be a story attached to that I would think as it looks very strange and out of place where it is now. I hope that the bollard has some sort of protection order on it as bollards like that are so precious, so it was lovely to see a photo of it and to see such a fascinating photographic record of your walk with no traffic, no litter and very little graffiti that I could see. Thank you.

  12. March 29, 2015

    I enjoyed the tour very much, great photos.

  13. April 2, 2015

    Thank you for the fascinating photos. I lived in Old Road until my twenties and never realised there were so many interesting facts about the places I walked past hundreds of times during that period. Will definitely do the walk in the future with newly opened eyes.

  14. rita m. sartori permalink
    April 7, 2015

    what lovely photo’s ,hope this isn’t all that is left of Bow ,I think that living and growing up in Bow has somehow has cultivated my love for arhictecture and why I “feel” something isn’t right in a layout:)

  15. sheila bates permalink
    April 7, 2017

    great site. my great grandfather James Jesse Shaw 1867-1934 lived at 14 Arnold Rd Bromley St Leonards, with his wife Martha Bell (Judge) Shaw. The story goes that when his children first married, they lived there too, along with their children, each having a room. I assume this must have been a Victorian house with attics & basement to accommodate all these people. I wondered did he actually own this house or if not, who owned the properties thereabouts? Any ideas please?

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