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In Old Bow

April 19, 2022
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

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Frances Bulwer permalink
    April 19, 2022

    Minnie Lansbury’s imprisonment in Holloway in 1921 was not connected to her being a suffragette. She was one of 30 Poplar Borough Councillors convicted of refusing to set the rate required by the LCC, felt to penalise residents of a poor borough unfairly.
    Although the women councillors had more comfortable prison condities in Holloway than the men in HMP Brixton, Minnie caught pneumonia and died several weeks after their early release. Her widower remarried and their daughter is actor Angela Lansbury who contributed to the restoration of Minnie’s clock a few years ago.
    There are wonderful photos of the Poplar Councillors being accompanied by a brass band and a huge crowd of Poplar supporters on their way to prison, on the Island History Trust website.

  2. Cherub permalink
    April 19, 2022

    This part of East London has some very elegant and fine turnings, you also find some lovely gems behind Queen Mary University at Mile End.

    Sadly, I fear locals are priced out of the area which is very sad. When I was studying as a mature student at Queen Mary in the mid 90s, 2 young undergraduate friends of mine were renting a bright and airy maisonette on Bow Common Lane, an Edwardian property. I saw a property like that listed for 500k on the same street recently, a stone’s throw from Mile End Park and wondered who could afford it.

  3. Ian Johnson permalink
    April 19, 2022

    I was very interested to see these pictures as my grandmother was born at number 216 Bow Road in 1890, in premises that I think may have been a small dairy, but I am not sure if the buildings still exist. Anyway your pictures give an interesting insight into Bow Road as it must have appeared at the time. I am attempting to construct a brief written history of my family’s life in the East End at the time. You might find some of the material of interest, and if so I would be happy to share it with you.

  4. Tom Andrews permalink
    April 19, 2022

    …led me on a stroll around the parishes of Bromley and Bow last week…

    Please, please always include the route you took on these magnificent walks. Many of us, your readers would love to take that/those same routes and see these sites ourselves. Your photos just whet the desire to take such a walk.

    Many thanks indeed.

  5. Keith permalink
    April 19, 2022

    Bow is a lovely place to see as it’s filled with magnificent buildings of all ages and styles. My family on my maternal great grandparents side lived in the areas of Campbell Road, Tredegar Road, Old Ford Road, Astley Road, and my maternal 4th great aunt and her husband were Licensed Victulars of The Roman Arms Pub, 260 Roman Road, Bow from 1861 to 1891, But sadly, no photographs of The Roman Arms exists to view. My paternal grandad was born and brought up in and around Poplar, and his cousins too. They moved around Poplar a lot and resided in Ellethorpe Street, North Street, Sabbarton Street etc. I like Tredegar Road as it’s very well kept, has a lovely little Tredegar Square Gardens and Tredegar Square is so posh!

  6. Marcia Howard permalink
    April 21, 2022

    What beautiful images, perhaps with the exception of the refurbished Crossways Estate, and so interesting to know about the clock connection with Angela Lansbury’s Mother, albeit with a sad ending. Keep ’em coming Gentle Author, you’re a bloomin’ marvel

  7. Amos Julien permalink
    April 27, 2022

    The tour of Bow is great especially for a local like me. There’s a lot to recognize and cherish.

    Altogether it is an interesting mix of the old and the new. Keep up the good work GA.

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