It was said that Maud, the wife of Henry I, had a stone bridge built here over the River Lea shaped like a bow, and the bridge’s shape gave the area its name.
There is a particular type of blue and white porcelain known as Bow China, although it was in fact manufactured at Stratford. Bow was mainly agricultural with some dying and printing business until the mid 19th century, when it was submerged in London’s expansion eastwards. Industries moved in. Bryant & May built a huge match factory, which was the site of a famous strike by the match girls in 1888. The factory was converted into hundreds of apartments known as the Bow Quarter in 1979. In the early 20th century, the more affluent parts were north of Bow Road. The Suffragette Movement started in Bow.
Bow comprises the E3 postal district. The most prestigious location is Tredegar Square just north of Bow road near Mile End. This is an almost perfectly preserved Georgian garden square. Tredegar Square is the centre of the Coborn conservation area, which estate agents like to call “Mile End Village”. This area takes in streets off Lichfield Road, such as Coborn Road and Aberavon Road, which also contain Georgian and Victorian terraces.
North of the conservation area and heading towards Victoria Park there are more Victorian terraces in the streets between Antill Road, Lyal Road and Roman Road. Properties in Old Ford Road and the surrounding area have views over the Grand Union Canal and the Regent’s Canal. Streets between Old Ford Road and Roman Road such as Driffield Street contain Victorian houses. Slightly further east, a large area of council housing stock in the Parnell Road area has been refurbished and new properties have been built.
The largest redevelopment in the area was the conversion of the Bryant & May match factory into the Bow Quarter with over 700 flats. The streets below the railway lines running from Bow Church Station towards the City contain mainly Council flats and houses. Many of these are now being upgraded.