Facts about Bow
There was a nearby Benedictine nunnery from the Norman era onwards, known as St Leonard’s Priory and immortalized in Chaucer’s description of the Nun Prioress in the General Prologue to his Canterbury Tales. However, Bow itself was still an isolated hamlet by the early 14th century, often cut off from its parish church of St Dunstan’s, Stepney by flooding.
In 1311 permission was granted to build St Mary’s Church, Bow as a chapel of ease to allow the residents a local place of worship. The land was granted by Edward III, on the King’s highway, thus beginning a tradition of the island church building. Bow was made an Anglican parish of its own in 1719, with St Mary’s as its parish church.
It was in the traditional county of Middlesex but became part of the County of London following the passing of the Local Government Act 1888. “Bow” is an abbreviation of the medieval name Stratford-at-Bow, in which “Bow” refers to the bowed bridge built here in the early 12th century. Bow contains parts of both Victoria Park and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Old Ford and Fish Island are localities within Bow, but Bromley-by-Bow immediately to the south is a separate district. These distinctions have their roots in historic parish boundaries. Bow underwent extensive urban regeneration including the replacement or improvement of council homes, with the impetus given by the staging of the 2012 Olympic Games at nearby Stratford.