Like so much of the East End, Bow is busy rewriting its profile from a grim industrial wasteland to a land of opportunity. It is also pioneering an innovative form of home ownership linked to local people’s ability to pay rather than market value.
Under the scheme, London’s first Community Land Trust has 23 homes at prices ranging from £130,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £235,000 for a three-bedroom flat at the St Clements hospital development in Bow Road.
The trust aims to deliver permanently affordable property, so that people are no longer priced out of the neighbourhood they call home.
The prices are linked to average local pay and to avoid owners making a large profit on their homes, they must sell them back to the trust when they move so that it can resell them on the same basis.
St Clements has a total of 252 homes, some in new-build blocks, some in converted hospital buildings. In addition to the 23 offered under this new form of ownership, another 58 are for social rent and the rest are being sold on the open market with prices starting at £420,000.
Andy Schofield of the London Development Trust agrees that 23 homes won’t make a big dent in the capital’s housing crisis but says the trust hopes to do better on other schemes. It is working, for example, with Lewisham council on a site in Sydenham.
Within walking and cycling distance of the City, Bow is just five miles from central London. In medieval England it was known as Stratford atte Bow and in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the author mocked his Prioress for speaking French according to the school of “Stratford atte Bowe” rather than the superior French spoken in Paris.
“Bow” got added to Stratford after a bow-shaped, three-arched bridge was built over the River Lea in the early 12th century on the orders of Henry I’s Queen Matilda, who had earlier taken a tumble at the crossing on her way to Barking Abbey.
Over time the Stratford got dropped from Bow but was retained for the next-door neighbourhood on the east bank of the Lea.
Bow has a radical past, again in common with much of the East End. The match girls at the Bryant and May factory famously went on strike in the summer of 1888 and won concessions from their employer, although they continued to work with toxic white phosphorus.
Suffragette and campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst based herself in Bow, and in 1912 Labour politician George Lansbury forced a by-election in his Bow and Bromley constituency over the issue of women’s suffrage, only to lose to his Conservative opponent.
Estate agent Joe Harvey, head of sales at the local branch of Keatons, says Bow is up and coming, with fantastic transport links and a diverse community. “Families in particular love the Roman Road area.
There are now lots of independent shops and cafés, and Broadway Market is only a short walk across Victoria Park.”
Indeed Roman Road, rather than busy Bow Road, is the district’s main shopping street, boasting one of London’s oldest markets.
Bow sits between Hackney to the north, Stratford to the east, Limehouse to the south and Stepney and Mile End to the west.
The legacy of wartime bomb damage combined with slum clearance led to major council house building in the Sixties and Seventies, leaving Bow with large swathes of social housing, some of which is now being rebuilt.
In between the estates there are fine Georgian houses along the main roads and in the Tredegar Square conservation area.
Off Roman Road are pretty streets of two- and three-storey mainly flat-fronted Victorian cottages and houses in the Driffield Road and Medway conservation areas, some with gardens stretching down to the Hertford Union Canal.
Bow Quarter has flats in the former Bryant and May match factory in Fairfield Road, and modern flats also overlook Limehouse Cut, Hertford Union Canal and Grand Union Canal.
At Bow River Village in Hancock Road between the A12 and the River Lea, housing association Southern Housing Group is building 740 new homes and 100,000sq ft of industrial space between now and 2022.
Phase one comprises 219 homes, of which 22 remain, six for private sale and 16 for shared ownership.
Two-bedroom duplexes for private sale start at £570,000 and two-bedroom flats at £495,000, and they will be move-in ready at the end of this month.
Phase two starts early next year, with off-plan sales from January 2018 and completion in 2019. Visit bowrivervillage.co.uk or call 0344 809 9145 for more.
Merchants Walk is a Peabody mixed-tenure development of the former Bow Enterprise Park in Devons Road. It has 413 homes of which 206 are affordable, for shared ownership and social rent.
Phase one is sold out but Phase two, made up of 154 one- to four-bedroom flats, will launch later this month for occupation in a year’s time. Seventy-five of these homes are affordable, including 48 for shared ownership.
The final phase is still subject to planning but the whole scheme should be complete towards the end of 2019. Visit merchantswalk.com or contact Savills on 020 3369 8670.
St Paul’s Square is the regeneration of the Leopold Estate in St Paul’s Way. The joint developers —housing association Poplar Harca and Countryside — are building 486 homes, with 133 for affordable rent and 37 for shared ownership.
One-bedroom flats start at £420,000 and two-bedroom flats at £470,000. Call 020 7538 8264 for more.
St Clements is the Linden Homes development of the St Clement’s Hospital site in Bow Road. There are 252 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats, some in new-build blocks, others in converted hospital buildings, with 58 for social rent and 23 for affordable sale.
Prices start at £440,000 for a one-bedroom flat, with two-bedroom flats from £600,000 and three-bedroom flats from £725,000.
The Lodge, the only detached house, has a beautiful vaulted ceiling and is priced £1 million. Call 020 8712 2425.
The Old School in Tredegar Square is the conversion of the former Coopers’ Company and Coborn School into 36 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom flats ranging in size from 789sq ft to 1,874sq ft.
Arranged in four buildings around a landscaped courtyard garden, these homes are priced from £824,000. Call Bridge New Homes on 020 7749 1400.
There are shared-ownership homes at Bow River Village (as before) starting at £163,500 for a 30 per cent share of two-bedroom flat with a market value of £545,000 and £167,000 for a 30 per cent share of a flat valued at £557,000.
Simon Jackson, head of sales at estate agents Keatons, says renting in Bow is cheaper than in nearby Canary Wharf by £200-£300 a month. “There is now a much better choice of flats so those with a slightly larger budget can specify a flat overlooking one of the canals or Mile End Park.”
There is a large rental demand from students attending nearby Queen Mary University of London.
There is also some “let-to-buy”, with families holding on to their houses around Roman Road when they move out of the area.
Keatons estate agent Joe Harvey says Bow’s vastly improved state schools have led to families staying much longer in the area. “People move to the Roman Road area to be close to the very popular Chisenhale Primary School.”
E3 is the Bow postcode which on its eastern edge includes Fish Island and Old Ford. The southern corner of Bow strays into the E14 Poplar postcode.
Tredegar Square and the houses in Chisenhale Road that back on to the Hertford Union Canal.
Up and coming
Joe Harvey says the south side of Mile End Road and Bow Road has always been cheaper than the north side. However, he suggests looking at the pockets of period houses in roads around Ropery Street and Mossford Street. Flats and houses on the award-winning Donnybrook Estate, off Parnell Road, with their striking white-stucco exteriors, occasionally come up for sale.
Shops and restaurants
Roman Road is famous for its street market that runs between St Stephen’s Road and Parnell Road on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
There is a new vintage, craft and street food market every Saturday on the car park at the junction of St Stephen’s Road and Roman Road.
Independent shops are also a feature on Roman Road. You’ll find Zealand Road Coffee and Fika, a Swedish café; Corey Homeware sells upcycled furniture and interior design; Denningtons is a florist; Zee & Co is a men’s fashion boutique, part of a small chain; Jakss sells designer childrenswear; G Kelly has been selling eels, pie and mash since 1937, and Muxima is a café that puts on music events. There is a Tesco superstore in Hancock Road.
Bow’s best gastropub is the Morgan Arms in Morgan Street. Also recommended are independent coffee shop The Coffee Room and The Greedy Cow, which cooks burgers with unusual meats such as kangaroo, bison and crocodile, both in Grove Road.
East London Liquor Company in Bow Wharf, off Grove Road, claims to be the first vodka, gin and whisky distillery to open in the East End for 100 years.
It offers tours and tastings and has an attractive bar and restaurant serving pizza and fashionable small plates.
Mile End Park is a long linear park that runs from just south of St Paul’s Way to just north of Roman Road and includes a green bridge over Mile End Road.
Bordered on its western edge by the Grand Union Canal there is a lot going on; activities include Go-karting; a climbing wall, a skate park; an ecology park, an arts centre and an athletics track.
For families in the Roman Road area, Victoria Park is a short walk away.
Leisure and the arts
Bow Arts in Bow Road has artists’ studios, an art gallery, a café and classes.
An old varnish factory in Chisenhale Road houses Chisenhale Art Space, where you’ll find Chisenhale Gallery which has a 33-year history of commissioning and producing contemporary art; Chisenhale Dance Space which supports experimentation in modern dance with performances and classes, and artists’ studios for rent.
All but one of Bow’s state primary schools get a “good” or better Ofsted rating. Chisenhale in Chisenhale Road is particularly popular with families who live in the yummy-mummy enclave north of Roman Road. Primary schools judged “outstanding” are: Old Ford in Wright’s Road; St Agnes RC in Rainhill Way, and Old Palace in St Leonard’s Street.
State comprehensive schools rated “outstanding” are: Morpeth (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Portman Place; St John Cass Foundation and Redcoat CofE (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Stepney Way; Bishop Challoner Catholic Federations of Girls School (ages 11 to 18) in Commercial Road, and Mulberry School (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Richard Street, which has plans to open a university technical college on the site of the former Bow police station.
St Paul’s Way (co-ed, ages four to 18) in St Paul’s Way, a newly built all-through school, was recently named one of the top 100 non-selective schools in the country.