Bow & bromley-by-bow

The area of Bow got its name from the bow shaped bridge which was built here in the 12th Century after Queen Mathilda – King Henry I’s wife – almost drowned trying to cross the River Lea.

Bromley was named after the bramble bushes which grew in the area. In the 11th Century its name was ‘Braembelege’, meaning a pasture overgrown with brambles.

Clara Grant, the bundle woman of Bow, set up the Fern Street Settlement in 1907 to help poor families. Every Saturday she handed out small packages of toys to any child small enough to walk under her wooden arch made for the purpose.

Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) lived in Bow for over 12 years. She set up the East London Federation of Suffragettes in 1913. The suffragettes fought tirelessly to give every woman a vote. All woman over the age of 21 were finally given the right to vote in 1928.

Victoria Park, one of London’s largest green spaces opened in 1843. Over 30,000 people signed a petition in 1840 asking Queen Victoria for a green space in the East End to ease the effects of overcrowded housing and poverty. These were the cause of the highest mortality rates in London at the time.

Victoria Park has always been popular for is sports facilities – football, cricket, bowls, tennis, archery, athletics and boxing. People swam in the bathing lakes until the open-air Lido was built in 1936, which was used until 1989.

‘We used to wear certain clothes for swimming in. We would wear our swim suit then we would have to wear a white shirt – had to be a white shirt – long sleeved and tied up at the front in a certain way, and cut down jeans’. Ann Clarke, remembering swimming at Victoria Park in the 1960s.

Festivals, concerts and other events including the Gay Pride festival have also been presented in Victoria Park.