Bow History: Discover the Fascinating Story of East London’s Bow

It is thought that the first recording of Bow as a settlement was in the 1100s. At that time, the area was known as Stratford-atte-Bow. This name refers to the stone causeway that led to a ford in the area – the Romans probably built this. It also caused a hiccup for Henry I’s wife, Matilda, who allegedly fell into the ford on a visit to Barking Abbey. Royally disgruntled and determined not to get wet on her next visit, she ordered to build a bridge over the water.

Places to Visit in the East End of London – Bow

Legend says you can only be a true Cockney if born within the sound of Bow bells. You won’t make a child a Cockney by camping close to Bow Church, as the legend relates to the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in the City of London. You also won’t be able to trace the history of London’s first police force to Bow.

St Mary and Holy Trinity, Bow Church London
St Mary and Holy Trinity, Bow Church London

The force was called the Bow Street Runners, but they were based in Covent Garden! Nevertheless, Bow sits in the heart of the East End and, like much of this area of London, is rich in history, dating back to Roman Times.

The three bow arches on the bridge gave Bow its name; it was also allegedly the first stone bridge in the country. Apart from Queen Matilda, the most famous people to cross the bridge are probably Jack Straw and his 100,000 men who used it to travel into London from Essex to join Wat Tyler’s Peasant Revolt in the 1380s. Until the 15th century, this bridge came with a chapel, which was the home of various hermits. Despite the work of Matilda as Queen, the bridge road became known as the King’s Way.

History and Development of Bow

Bow developed a lot in the 14th century. It was a small and relatively insignificant village that only sometimes had easy access because it was prone to flooding from the river Lea. This also meant that locals couldn’t always get to the closest church in Stepney. So, in the early 1300s, Edward III permitted a chapel to be built on the road over the bridge, effectively creating a church on an island.

Although the church in Bow has been rebuilt over the years, parts date back to the 13th century. The church was unlucky enough to be hit by one of the last bombs dropped by the Germans in the Second World War in the previous big raid in the Blitz. This caused much damage to parts of the church, which weren’t fully restored until the 1950s.

Things got a bit gorier as time passed, and Bow became notorious as a site for burning Protestants during the reign of Mary I. Prisoners from Newgate would be transported to Bow church and burned outside it.

Bow became home to industries that needed to be more welcome in the city’s centre, as with many East End areas. It was typical for dangerous or smelly trades to operate outside of the central part of London, and in the 17th century, Bow was running a thriving trader in the slaughter of cattle.

As a by-product, the area became known for producing some incredibly delicate and famous blue and white porcelain, Bow Porcelain. This was made by mixing cattle bones and clay, and the Bow China Works was one of the country’s best-known porcelain producers until the 1770s.

East London Federation of Suffragettes

Bow was also home to a fair bit of suffragette activity, or early girl power, in the Victorian period. Sylvia Pankhurst based her East London Federation of Suffragettes organisation in Bow Road and did a lot of work to improve conditions for the residents generally. In the 1880s, the local Bryant and May factory was the famous match girls’ strike scene.

Women in the match factory had to endure some reasonably dire working conditions. They worked 14 hours daily for paltry pay, and many became ill with ‘phossy jaw’ from working with dangerous phosphorous. Their strike improved conditions.

In the 1950s, Bow, like much of the East End, fell under the influence of the Kray Twins. Their ‘Double R’ club was in a former Bow Road shop. Far from being just a gangster’s social club, Ronnie and Reggie’s drinking club became well-known all over London and attracted a lot of celebrity guests.

Rumour has it that Ronnie Kray also used to find it funny to walk up and down outside the police station on Bow Road when he was on the run to see if any policeman would recognise him!

Bow: A Historical Overview

Bow is a district in East London with a rich and fascinating history. Here are some of the highlights of its past and present:

  • Bow was originally called Stratford-atte-Bow, which means “the paved way to a ford by the bow-shaped bridge”. The name refers to a causeway built by the Romans across the River Lea and a wooden bridge that replaced it in the 12th century.
  • Bow was the birthplace of archery in England. According to legend, King Edward III ordered his soldiers to practice shooting longbows at the bridge in Bow, which gave rise to the phrase “to have a bow in hand”. Archery was a vital skill for medieval warfare, and Bow became famous for its bowyers and fletchers who made bows and arrows.
  • Bow was also the site of a religious rebellion in the 14th century. A group of women known as the Bow Bells refused to pay the church tithe and claimed to have visions of the Virgin Mary. They were led by Marjorie Kempe, a mystic and writer considered one of the first English autobiographers. The Bow Bells were eventually excommunicated and imprisoned for heresy.
  • Bow was involved in the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it became a centre for pottery, porcelain, match-making, and chemical manufacturing. Some unique products made in Bow were Bow porcelain, which rivalled Chinese porcelain in quality and design, and Bryant and May matches, the first safety matches in Britain.
  • Bow was also a hub for social reform and political activism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of the influential figures who lived or worked in Bow were:
    • William Morris, a poet, artist, and socialist who founded the Arts and Crafts movement and campaigned for environmental protection and workers’ rights.
    • Annie Besant, a feminist, socialist, and theosophist, led the matchgirls’ strike of 1888, which improved the working conditions and wages of the match factory workers.
    • Sylvia Pankhurst was a suffragette, communist, and anti-fascist who founded the East London Federation of Suffragettes and fought for women’s suffrage and social justice.
    • George Lansbury, a Labour politician and pacifist, was the leader of the Poplar Rates Rebellion of 1921, which challenged the unfair taxation system that burdened low-income people.
    • Clement Attlee, a Labour politician and prime minister who led the post-war government that created the welfare state and the National Health Service.
  • Today, Bow is a diverse and vibrant area that retains its historical charm and character. Some of the landmarks that reflect its heritage are:
    • St Mary’s Church dates back to the 14th century and contains a memorial to the Bow Bells.
    • The Three Mills, among the oldest surviving industrial buildings in Britain, house a museum, a film studio, and a distillery.
    • The Bryant and May Factory, which is now converted into apartments but still features its iconic red-brick facade and clock tower.
    • The Bow Quarter is a gated community built on the former Match Girls’ home site.
    • The Roman Road Market, one of the oldest street markets in London, sells various goods and food.

Bow is an area that has witnessed many changes and challenges throughout history but has always maintained its spirit of innovation, resistance, and community. It is a place that deserves to be explored and celebrated for its fantastic story and historical landmarks.

55 thoughts on “Bow History: Discover the Fascinating Story of East London’s Bow”

  1. Yes there are many old pictures of the East End in those archives, including some lovely paintings/engravings of St Mary’s Church, Bow, eg no 322428.

  2. From the Layers of London Bomb Damage maps, it appears that Priscilla Road and that area of Bow Road suffered relatively minor damage. There is a 1951 photo of nos 106 – 110 Bow Road in London Picture Archive, record number 109673.

    • That is great photo image of no. 106 to 110 Bow Road, record 109673 of your great grandfathers house and shop, it will make a good addition to your family archive. I was unaware that the London Picture Gallery Archive existed and will find it very useful thank you!

  3. William, that is such helpful information that you have tracked down, thank you! Absolutely clear where William Girton lived and worked and, although the house is no more, being able still to see the chapel in the middle of Drapers’ Almshouses where he had his works/warehouse is a wonderful discovery. I can picture him setting off each morning to walk the length of Priscilla Road to go to work in the chapel. I suppose the actual musical instrument shop would have been part of the house on Bow Road, where my grandmother Ada Girton gave piano lessons. As you say, a substantial house. In the 1948 survey map houses 102,104 and 110 are numbered, 106 and 108 not, as is the case with quite a number in Priscilla Street. Might that indicate bombed?

    • Hello again David
      Thank you for your reply, just to add this extra bit of info for your research.
      I think you are right in your assumption with WW2 bomb damage to 106 and 108 Bow Road. It mentions in –
      Lost Hospitals of London Priscilla Road (“which replaced the central driveway of the Almshouses” The area was damaged by bombs during WW2 (1939-1945) and was completely redeveloped.

      If you look at the article in the 4 paragraph part – Current Status it explains what happened in WW2 to
      Priscilla Road which I think probably included and demolished 108 and 106 Bow Road.

      The clue to “which replaced the central driveway of the Almshouses” shows in earlier OS 25 inch maps of the area, if you type in – London (First Editions c 1850s) XXIX Surveyed:1867,
      Published: 1869 you will see on the map Draper,s’ Almshouses which is the later Priscilla Road in the same form. With the Chapel at the far end of the road. Where 106 – 108 – 110 was shows 3 trees to the lodge on the corner. I think from this map that all the houses in Priscilla Road belonged at one time to The Almshouses.

  4. Thank you William for letting me know about that. I’d been sent a link to the article a few days ago by another family member, and it was that which attracted me to finding out more abut his life in Bow. I wonder where the piano shop was and what their house at 106 Bow Road (now long gone) looked like – and so on.

    • Hello David
      With no old photos out there available at the moment, I hope the following information is some help in showing you the actual location of 106 Bow Road that was.
      I have used a 25 inch 1913 Ordnance Survey Map online combined with info from the London Street Directory in 1921.

      I started out with a present day image of the Victorian built Bow Bells pub at 116 Bow Road, which is still there and can be seen on Google street view. William Girton at 106 Bow Road was situated about 40-50 yards along which is now a block of flats called Jarret House. Lavette House another smaller block of flats is next to it both probably built after WW2. On the opposite side of the road is the Enterprise Rent a Car business.

      I have found it by looking at the 1913 Ordnance Survey 25 inch maps of Bow, which you probably have seen. They show a very accurate plan view of all the properties situated in Bow Road.(but not numbered)
      type in to find – Essex (New Series 1913-) n LXXXVI.5

      Look at the left side of the map about half way down and you will find Priscilla Road.(not there now) This comes out onto Bow Road (now A11) which shows a PH three properties to the right which is The Bow Bells at 116 Bow Road. By deduction across the Priscilla Road 106 Bow Road is three properties to the left of the entrance.
      To prove this I have located the actual house site on the map by also using this extract from The London Street Directory in 1921 list of properties in Bow Road.

      116, Bow Bells Pub Alexandra Morris
      114, Vinson Miss Annie dining rooms
      112, Turton Henry John wine and spirit merchant
      ………. Priscilla Road is situated here
      110, Horwood Henry pawnbroker
      108, Gilbert Fredk. Chas. tobacconist
      106, Girton Wm. musical Instrument and Sewing Machine Dealer.
      This helps to show it was the third shop along from the other side of Priscilla Road.
      With a bit of investigation looking at 106 Bow Road in the 1911 Census shows it had nine rooms, so not a small property. I think it must of been about the size of the existing Victorian houses with a shop front, a bit further along before the entrance to Campbell Road which you can see on Google street view.

    • Hello David
      Now we know where Priscilla Road is on the 1913 map described in my last message today, his Chapel warehouse/piano you asked for is at the south end of Priscilla Road. It is still there in private hands and there is an excellent photograph and article of it in – LONDONI A Visit to the Drapers Almshouses in Bow.
      In the fifth paragraph it refers to the former Chapel rented to a Machine Dealer. (which would be William Girton)

      With this information now we can define the former Chapel on the 1913 map at far end of Priscilla Road, at right angle to the street. (like the end of a cul de sac) It shows it in the middle with two dwellings each side.

      All this is also described in an article BHO IX.- DRAPERS’ ALMSHOUSES, PRISCILLA-ROAD.
      Which I have feeling you have seen, hope this goes some of the way to answer a few of your queries.

  5. William Girton, my great grandfather, lived at 106 Bow Road from about 1875 until his death in 1924. He had a musical instrument shop. Has anyone any records, photos, etc which relate to him or his wife Eliza, or to the shop?

    • Hello David
      There is an excellent timeline of his life and career, you can find it if you type in
      William Girton

  6. Small correction and query: Mary I didn’t burn Catholics. She was Catholic. She burned Protestants. Her dad and sister (Henry VIII & Elizabeth I), burnt Catholics. Do you know which of these happened at Bow?

  7. does anyone remember a cafe on bow bridge E3 either during the 1950’s / 1960’s
    my husband’s parents had this cafe and would love to see an original photo their names
    her name was ester kosky

  8. Hi my great grandfather had a shop at 71 Roman Rd, his name was Joseph Newman and he was corn and flour dealer and is listed in 1891 Kellys Directory.
    Would this be the same No. 71 that exists at Roman Road now? Would any one be able to give any more info? Thankyou

    • Hi, yes I am sure it is the same 71, Roman Rd,, Bow London. As well as being a Corn & Flour Dealer at that address in the Kelly’s Directory. – In the 1891 Census – Joseph Newman 71, Roman Road, Bethnal Green, his occupation was described as a Cabdriver. This was his main job all of his working life, sometimes described as a Cabman or Cabdriver in different residences over in 5 Census’s from 1871 to 1911. The facade of the shop is certainly of that era and unless it has been renumbered over the years it is possibly right. In recent years it has been a Estate/Property Agents.

    • Hi, J M Baynham,
      To add to my reply on this January 3rd I have found more information on 71, Roman Road. The shop number 71 that is there now that I thought was right was incorrect. It was re-numbered in the 1930s, Bethnal Green’s Green Street was merged into the Roman Road – and all the shop and house numbers were changed accordingly.

      This means the now 71, Roman Rd is not the same as the no.71 that existed in the 1891 Census and Kelly’s Directory, where Joseph Newman lived and was a Corn and Flour Dealer. There does not appear to be any old photos available showing the old 71, Roman Rd in your inquiry.
      My further research shows that a photograph found on the – Living in Bow oral and archive | Roman Road Trust,- shows number 69, Roman Road in about 1930 on the junction of of Vivian Road was the Rikards Umbrella shop. The 1930 photograph must pre-date the merge and re-numbering of the shops.
      Assuming numbers increased across the junction of Vivian Rd, – 71, Roman Road is now number 371,Roman Road
      still there intact, of the time of 1891 and still shop.
      In the 1930 Photo of the 69, Roman Road Trust before the merge of Green Street and number changes, can be date verified by the style of the period advertising – Players Please, Ideal Milk, etc on the large hoardings shown on the building in Vivian Road.

  9. My great granfather (Edward and Frederick Nichols) were noted as pianoforte makers in the Bow area. Is there any information on piano makers in the area please?

    • Hello Allison,
      There was your great- grandfather Edward Nichols trading as Nichols & Nichols at 118 Mile End Road 1884-1894.
      In the 1881 Census at 118 Mile End Road Edward and his family lived. (In each Census his name is spelt (Nicholls)
      Edward Nicholls Head Mar.32 Harmonium Manufacturer employing 2 men birth Bethnal Green London
      Mary Jane Nicholls Wife 29 birth Limehouse. London
      Alexandra M G Nicholls Daughter 6 Scholar birth Bethnal Green. London
      Cecilia M Nicholls. do. 3 do. Mile End London
      Victor M do. Son 1 do. do.
      Clarissa P Johnson. Nurse Girl. 13 Domestic Servant. birth Mile End. London.

      In the 1891 Census he has moved to 114 Mile End Road now 42 and described as a Pianoforte Manufacturer,
      together with his wife and 4 children.
      Also listed Louis D Marsden Boarder age 23 Pianist & Professor of Music birth South Lincolnshire.
      do. Edward Irvine. do. do. Clerk. do. Lancashire Bootle.

      In the 1901 Census he is living on his own at 139 Balham Street West Ham age 52 and is a Pianoforte Agent. Employee.

      There were other Pianoforte Makers called Nichols, Richmond & Co.(1882-1884) C Nichols Esq. 7 Queen Victoria Street, E.C (1882) 3 Motley, Curtain Road, E.C. (1882-1884). 308 Mile End Road. E. (1882)
      I don’t think this company is part of Edward Nichols company at 118 Mile End Road.

    • Hello Alison,
      I have found some more information on Edward and Frederick Nichols.
      Before 1879 It looks like Edward was in Partnership with a person called Dunn and it was called Dunn & Nicholls
      482 Hackney Road E. London Piano and Harmonium maker.1878.

      By 1879 the firm was taken over by Edward Nicholls and moved to his address at 118 Mile End Road, E. London.
      Then Edward by 1884 called the company Nichols & Nichols.
      You mentioned Frederick in your message, I think he was a possible cousin of Edward he does not appear to be his brother. He appears on the 1881 Census at 31 Battersea Park Road, Wandsworth district.
      He was I think in partnership with Edward because in the 1881 Census he listed as.
      Frederick Nicholls age 28 – occupation Music Sellers Clerk, with his wife Mary 28, son Frederick 3 and daughter Amelia 2.
      He was probably the paper work and salesman side of the partnership of Nichols & Nichols.

    • Hello Allison,
      I have found more information on Edward Nichols, It looks like Edward was in a partnership before with a person called Dunn and it was called Dunn & Nicholls 482 Hackney Road E. London Piano & Harmonium maker 1878.

      By 1879 the firm was taken over by Edward Nicholls and moved to his address at 118 Mile End Road E. London.

      Then by 1884 Edward called the company Nichols & Nichols.You mentioned a Frederick Nichols in your message, He was probably a relative to Edward, a cousin perhaps as he does not appear to be his brother.
      Frederick was I think in partnership with Edward, being the other half of Nichols & Nichols.
      In the 1881 Census he is listed as Frederick Nichols age 28 – Occupation Music Sellers Clerk with his wife Mary 28. Son Frederick 3. Daughter Amelia Nichols age 2.
      He was probably the sales and paperwork side of the partnership of Nichols & Nichols.

  10. Hi, I am researching my families history and I have come across a birth certificate that names a “George Cooper” married to “Eliza LeMay”. He was a surgeon living at “3 Alexander Terrace, Bow”. the only details I have is that he passed away in 1889?
    I cannot even find that address so I guess it may have been destroyed in the war or maybe renamed?
    Please can anyone help identify George and put together some pieces to my puzzle.

  11. I am looking for family of Charles Selby, Undertaker of 31 Campbell Road, Bromley by Bow. In the 1891 census my grandmother Mary Elizabeth Phillips of Boston, Lincolnshire, age about 11 years old, niece to Charles, lived with the family for a few years and went to school there, before obtaining employment as a domestic servant in Yorkshire where she met my grandfather. I have recently read that the family are still undertakers in the area. My great grandmother was Mary Selby, Charles’ sister. I would love to hear from anyone in the family who may have heard the story about the Phillips family being split up when their father John Phillips died. I was brought up by my grandmother and she used to talk very fondly about the family, especially about the Hackney horses used to pull the hearse.

    • Hi, I don’t remember The Lord Campbell but hope this information helps. In a Victorian newspaper 1869 a report titled “Baby-Farming” – An extraordinary case of baby-farming was exposed in a Coroner’s investigation on Thursday night was held by Mr Richards at The Lord Campbell Tavern, 142 Campbell Road Bow, respecting the sad death of a baby from Hoxton. Frederick Wood aged 2 years 3 months who died of possible neglect. His mother Annie Wood had paid Mrs Caroline Saville – 4s/6d a week for 10 months to look after him but he died in Mrs Savilles care. The Jury returned a verdict of “ death by natural causes”, the proceedings excited considerable attention in the neighbourhood, as it was known that out of 11 children in her care, 5 had died and no inquests were held.
      The Lord Campbell 142, Campbell Road, Bromley was recorded Licensed in 1869 to William Frederick Rayner
      – Post Office Directory 1869.
      In the 1871 Census he again is listed – William F Rayner Licensed Victualler (Blind) age 36, with his wife Elizabeth age 32. He has 6 sons and 2 daughters and his mother-in-law Mary Vincent – Widow age 60. John Finlo – Potman age 18 and Johanna Montgomery – Nursemaid age 14.
      In the 1881 he again is listed Licensed Victualler (Blind) age 46 with his wife Elizabeth age 42. He has 3 sons and 1 daughter now living there, also Sarah Jarman age 47 – Domestic Help.
      William F Rayner continued as the Landlord until April 1st 1889 when he past away and was buried in the family grave at Tower Hamlets Cemetery.
      Joseph Lazarus was the next Landlord listed – Post Office Directory 1891.
      In the same year in 1891 Census Thomas J Jarvis Licensed Victualler was listed – Widower age 39, with 2 barmaids and 1 housekeeper. William Henry Garrett was listed Landlord 1895 and 1899 – Post Office Directory.
      Charles William Acock took over in 1899 and in the 1901 Census was listed Licensed Victualler, Widower age 55 with his son George S Acock age 27, daughter in law Ada age 26 and grandson George age 3.

      In 1906 Mrs Catherine Heath ran the Pub and was there until 1910 when George Joseph Bowman became the Landlord. George Bowman remained listed there 1927. Edward William Marsh was listed Landlord in 1938.
      Frederick Sampson was listed Landlord in 1938 and 1940.
      George H Godfrey was the last Landlord listed in these details in the Post Office Directory of The Lord Campbell in 1944. The Pub may have disappeared along with bomb damage after WW2.

    • William F Rayner was my great-great-grandfather through my grandfather, Horace Sidney Rayner. Does anyone have any more information about the family?

    • Hello Catherine,
      I have gathered this public information from a family history website about your great great and great grandparents families, from different family members. I have checked some of the details and made corrections where necessary and will recheck for accuracy.

      The following are listed the children of your great-great-grandfather William Frederick Rayner 1834-1889, and your great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Vincent 1838-1883

      William Vincent Rayner 1857-1891
      Frederick Robert Rayner 1858-1891
      Elizabeth (Lizzie) Norena Rayner 1860-1939
      Thomas James Rayner 1861-1939
      George Arthur Rayner1863-1900
      Mary Ann Rayner 1865-1904
      Edgar Sydney Rayner 1868-1906 (Your great-grandfather)
      Alfred Charles Rayner 1870 (died in 1st year)

      Your great-grandfather Edgar Sydney Rayner 1868-1906 was one of 8 children born to William Frederick Rayner 1834-1889 and Elizabeth Rayner.1838-1883

      Edgar married Emily Florence Tate 1867-1953 in 1889 and had 5 children.
      Horace Sydney Rayner 1896-1979 your grandfather being the eldest child.
      George Alfred Rayner 1898-1960 ?
      Frederick Rayner 1900 (died in 1st year)
      May B Rayner 1907-1924.

      After your great-grandfather Edgar Sydney Rayner died in 1906, his wife Emily Florence Rayner your great-grandmother remarried in about 1908 to Gordon M Young. In the 1911 Census they were living at
      4 Glencoe Street Bromley. With Gordons 6 children and Emily’s 3 children.
      Horace Sydney Rayner- step-son 16.
      George Alfred Rayner- step-son 13.
      May B Rayner- step-daughter 4.

    • Hi there

      H remember the Lord Campbell in Campbell Road, it was still there around 1967 I think?
      does anyone have any recollections of: the Tenterden Arms, The Bricklayers(Kitsons) both Devons Road
      and The Whitethorn,Whitethorn Street?

      Chris Savory

    • I lived opposite the Lord Campbell Pub at 153, Campbell Road from 1953 to 1967 with my parents, Harry & Lillian (Lilly) Cranfield and my sister Christina (Tina.) We moved from 163 in 1953 after living there from 1943.

      “The Campbell” was a very popular pub comprising of three bars including a private bar for certain friends and semi-dignitaries of the landlord.

      There was a pianist in situe on a Saturday night when customers could be heard singing solos on the croaky old microphone. Saturday was always a late session and the singing became more out of tune as the night went on, keeping us awake in our beds opposite. One particular persistent old boy always sang “ Ramona” towards the end of the session out of tune and the, much to our annoyance, the wrong lyrics. e.g. “Ramona, Ramona, I can’t wait until the day I wake and find you gawn.”

      It often amuses me that the bar-room punters had no idea that their 1st floor function room housed countless chart-topping rock ‘n’ roll stars of the day. I formed and led one of the top bands at the time and we often backed the stars in addition to following our own successful career. Jeff Beck; Heinz; Clem Cattini; Roger Greenaway were just some of the big names that formed my backing band whilst Joe Brown; Billy Fury; Vince Eager; Michael Cox; Ricky Valance are just few of the singers that passed through through the crowded bars to get to the rehearsals. (I was known as Barry Edwards And the band as the Semi-tones.) Our big break originally came after we won the final of one of Bow Road’s Civic Theatre’s famous talent shows.)

    • Hi Barry

      Really interesting.I wonder how many people knew this?

      I didnt yet I only lived a couple of hundred yards away.

      Chris Savory

    • Hi Barry
      My name is John Burnett i remember the Lord Campbell very well spent many good
      times there and all the pop stars you mention good old days I to went Knapp road secondary school
      part of Devon`s road school then we moved on to Elizbeth Barrett Browning in Mile End.
      I also had school friends that lived in perfabs as for there names I can`t recall sad.
      I lived in the flats opposite Bow Church from 1947 [Barton House] then on to
      Broxbourne House Devas Street.I remember Civic I belive it was called the Poplar Civic
      on the corner of Fairfield Road. Regards John.

    • hi barry

      hope all is well.

      i lived in sumner house,devons rd.

      born in st andrews in 1950 moved to sydenham in 1968.

      we moved as the PBC block was to be demolished-its still there,
      with flats selling for £250,000.does anyone know why sumner hse was not demolished?

      i went to devons rd and SPW schools.

      i now live in easbourne-since 1976.


    • Hi Barry,
      Just read your post and I remember your sister Tina. She was one of my first childhood friends from those days. I lived at 62 Campbell road born in the prefab in 1953. I also went to Knapp road primary school and thats where we became friends. I came for “tea” at your house and although its been many years I remember your Mum as being very nice I must have been about 7 or 8 maybe younger ? Ask Tina if she remembers Prudence Emms. I would love to hear how she is. I moved in 1963 ish to Isle of dogs and was sad to leave. This has brought back some very fond memories of the area. Look forward to hearing from you. All the best Prudence (Pru)

    • Hi Pru’,

      Tina should be contacting you soon…

      In the meantime, I remember you also….I used to tease you by calling you “Prudence Kitten!!” after Annette Mills t.v. puppet.



    • Hello Hilda, you did not mention your grandparents names.
      The Pub was built in the early 1860s and first landlord was Thomas A Moore for one year in1866.
      Then in 1866 until 1869 it was Elizabeth Morgue.
      Then in 1869 until 1872 it was Richard Robert Parry.

      Charlotte P Gibbs bought it in 1872 and was the L/Victualler, the census of 1881 shows Charlotte P Gibbs / Widow, age 61 as the L/Victualler and her son James W Gibbs/ Manager.
      Emma L Gibbs / Daughter/ 27.
      Edgar A Gibbs / 19.
      Horatio G Gibbs / 17.
      Matilda B Gibbs / 16.
      Charlotte was the Landlady still in 1886, then in 1891census James W Gibbs is now the L/Victualler with Edgar, Horatio, Emma and a niece called Emma G Jordan age 11. And a Nephew Valentine J Jordan age 9.

      In the 1901 census James W Gibbs is still the Landlord with three staff,but no family listed, in 1910 a lady called Mrs Matilda Blanch West was the Landlady of The Bow Bells, 116 Bow Road.

  12. Does anyone know of william Crawley the pawnbroker of Bow, who traded during the latter part of the 1800s. he was also the landlord of over 30 addresses on Bow Road, not far from the Brymay factory, he himself resided in Leyton.

    • Hello Stan,
      William M Crawley Pawnbroker, lived at 228 Bow Road at his own pawnbrokers shop with his staff according to the 1881 Census.
      He was 24 years old born in Bow and not married and employed Henry Rhodes as manager / pawnbroker age 36 with his wife Louisa 36 and 2 children under 10.

      He also employed three others, two male assistant pawnbrokers one 16 and one 17 years old and a female domestic servant age 19, all living with him at the shop premises.

      It looks like William was quite the businessman Stan!! at his age of 24 to employ people and have a shop and property on Bow Road at that time.

    • Hello Stan,
      I have been able to find more information on William Crawley from Bow.In the 1891 Census he is living at 80, Holly Bush Hill Wanstead.He is now married to Louisa age 31 and the house belongs to her mother Elizabeth Bangs / Widow age 64. It also lists Percy Bangs / son age 22. William M Crawley Son- In – Law age 34 Pawnbroker. There was 2 female domestic servants aged 33 and 22 and a male Coachman / Groom aged 26.
      He had got married to Louisa Bangs In 1889 and I assume he had moved from Bow Road to her mothers house at that time.
      In 1892 they had a baby daughter Doris Mary Bangs.

      I could not find him or his family on the 1901 Census, perhaps records were lost for this time.

      He does appear again in the 1911 Census he is living at ” Trenance “ Woodland Grove Weybridge Surrey. He is now listed as William M Crawley age 54 Jeweller / Dealer. Louisa Crawley age 51 and a daughter Doris M Crawley age 19.
      They had 2 female servants, a cook and a housemaid both single and both aged 25.
      His business premises ( Shop ) was at 33 – 35 High St. Putney.

      William Mitchell Crawley died on the 2nd March1925 aged 67 and was buried at St Mary’s Churchyard Walton on Thames.

    • hi prudence

      i lived in sumner house on devons rd in 1950 and went to devons rd school, as did a friend robert hampshire who lived in one of those pre-fabs.
      do you recall him at all.


    • hello Chris my name is John Burnett i iived in Bow in the 50 and 60s. i rember sumner house very well.I lived in Broxbourne house in devas street near
      st andrews hospital I also lived in barton house opposite bow church and next to the old regal cinema .

  13. Following the success of the 1888 Matchgirls Strike, a Working Women’s Club was set up in Bow by Helena Blavatsky in August 1890 with Laura Cooper and Annie Besant in charge.

    Does anyone know it’s location?

    My interest arises because my wife’s GrGrandmother, Sarah Chapman, was a leader in the Strike.

    • Hi I’m looking into my grandmother’s heritage her name was Francis Louisa Champman she also was a suffregette born in bow I was looking to see if she was a relative to Sarah chapman can you help me in this field thankyou

  14. The church in Cheapside is St Mary’s. There is only one bell in the church and is known as the Great bell of Bow.
    The bell was made in Whitchapel and is enormous.It acquired its name because there is a small lane that runs along side St Mary’s that is called Bow Lane.
    I was born and brought up in Bow. I became a press photographer, and during my career was asked to photograph the great bell after it had been refurbished.

  15. Cockneys are one born within the sound of bow bells in cheapside in the city of London, they are called the bells of st mary le bow, the same bells that said turn again dick Whittington Lord Mayor of London, not bow bells in bow, this information can be seen in all the city livery halls in the city of London.

    • I wonder if John Hills has asked his questions in one of the Facebook Reminiscence Groups that deal with the are – I have seen many pictures of Mile End area but do not recall the washington street Prefabs.

      I have been fascinated by the fact that the statue of Gladstone outside Bow Bridge Church – part financed by compulsory deductions from workers wages at the match factory – are always fresshly painted red – to signify the blood of those workers.

    • Would anyone perhaps know if there are any surviving relatives of the Irwin family, who were Apothecaries in Poplar – approx Late 1800’s / 1900’s and earlier? There were five children, that we are aware of.

      A large house/ building of the Irwin’s still remained in 2000, but could have been demolished since then.

      I am the daughter of the last Irwin child (Charles Henry ) born 1915..Our family is trying to get more information on our family.
      We would all be appreciative of any information in this regard.Thank you.
      Gillian Patterson-Roberts

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