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Title: Bromley-by-Bow  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Bow, London, London Buses route 488, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Metropolitan Borough of Poplar, River Lea
Collection: Areas of London, Districts of Tower Hamlets, Monasteries in London
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Bromley is located in Greater London
 Bromley shown within Greater London
OS grid reference
London borough Tower Hamlets
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district E3
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Poplar and Limehouse
London Assembly City and East
List of places

Bromley-by-Bow, historically and officially Bromley, is a district in East London, England, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is an inner-city district situated 4.8 miles (7.7 km) east north-east of Charing Cross.


  • History 1
    • Toponymy 1.1
    • Local governance 1.2
    • Religion 1.3
    • Bromley Old Palace 1.4
    • St Andrew's Hospital 1.5
  • Governance 2
  • Geography 3
  • Demographics 4
  • Community facilities 5
  • Transport 6
    • Rail 6.1
    • Metro/Light Rail 6.2
    • Buses 6.3
    • Roads 6.4
    • Cycling, walking, waterways 6.5
  • Notable residents 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10



In early records the name first appears as Brambele, Brambelegh, or Brembeley and is likely to be derived from the Saxon words Brembel – a bramble, and lege – a field.[1] In 1967, the London Underground station at Bromley was renamed to Bromley-by-Bow to distinguish it from the stations at Bromley in the London Borough of Bromley some 8 miles (12.9 km) to the south. Over time the station's name has extended to the area and today it is nearly always known as Bromley-by-Bow. Bow itself was originally known as Stratforde, becoming Stratford-at-Bow when a medieval bridge was built, in the shape of a bow.

Local governance

A map showing the civil parish boundaries in 1870.
A map showing the wards of Poplar Metropolitan Borough as they appeared in 1916.

The area was split from the parish of Stepney to form Bromley St Leonard in 1536. From 1855, the civil duties of the Parish were taken over by the Poplar Board of Works. Between 1899 and 1965 that district formed the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar, within the County of London.[2]


Bromley was also known as Bromley-St Leonards, after St Leonard's Priory, a Benedictine nunnery founded in the time of William the conqueror. This priory achieved notoriety in the prologue to the Prioress' tale in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Ther was also a nonne, a prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte loy;
And she was cleped madame eglentyne.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of stratford atte bowe,
For frenssh of parys was to hire unknowe.[3]

This was a barbed reference as it implied the Prioress had learned French from the Benedictine nuns in a distinct Anglo-Norman dialect.[4] By this time the dialect had lost prestige and was being ridiculed as sub-standard French.

The Abbey was destroyed at the time of the Dissolution, and the manor and lands passed to Sir Ralph Sadleir, who lived at Sutton House in Homerton and was privy councillor to Henry VIII. The church was retained to become the parish church of St Leonards. This in turn was destroyed by bombing in World War II and obliterated by the building of the Blackwall Tunnel approach road, dividing the main residential body of the parish from the river front. All that remains of the grounds of the Abbey is a small neglected churchyard.

Henry Grattan Guinness founded the East London Missionary Training Institute (also called Harley College) at Harley House in Bromley-by-Bow in 1873, with Dr. Thomas Barnardo as co-director. The school outgrew the premises and relocated in 1883, eventually becoming Cliff College.

The Revd Richard Enraght, religious controversialist,[5] was the Curate of St Michael and All Angels Church in St Leonards Road from 1884–1888 and Rector of St Gabriel Church (now demolished), Chrisp Street (Poplar), from 1888-1895.

Bromley Old Palace

In 1606 a palace was built for James I facing the line of St Leonard's Street by John Thorpe. This was principally used as a hunting lodge but was a grand residence of 24 rooms, including a State room, built along the lines of Hardwick Hall and Montacute House. Some of the stonework was quarried from the remains of the (now disused) priory. It remained in Royal use and was refurbished in the reigns of Charles II and James II and stables were added. During the 18th century the frontage of the building was renewed and the palace was converted into two merchant houses. It went through a variety of uses, including a boarding school and a colour works. The house was demolished at the end of the 19th century by the London School Board for construction of a new board school. Many of the original fittings remained in place and were said to be in fine condition. The house was sold piecemeal for £250 with the State room, panelling and an oak doorway going to the Victoria and Albert Museum.[6]

St Andrew's Hospital

In 1868, the Poplar and Stepney Sick Asylum was opened on a site next to the present day Bromley-by-Bow tube station. It was renamed St Andrew's Hospital in 1921. It closed in 2006. [7] A new housing development, William Guy Gardens, now occupies the site.


Councillors for the Bromley-by-Bow ward, which covers the district, are:[8]


Bromley-by-Bow is a part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in East London. To the north is Bow, and to the south are Poplar and Blackwall. The area is bisected north to south by the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road (A12) and the boundary of the area to the east is the River Lea which forms the boundary with West Ham in the London Borough of Newham. Between the expanded tunnel approach and the river is a small light industrial area that since the 1980s has held the area's main supermarket, Tesco. Nearby is Three Mills. On the eastern side of the A12 is East London's oldest surviving building, Bromley Hall. To the west are Poplar and the former district of Mile End.

The former Bow Common now forms Tower Hamlets Cemetery and Mile End Park. Bromley-by-Bow lies within the E3 postcode district.

The London Thames Gateway Development Corporation's aims for the Lower Lea Valley include providing 3,800 new homes and about 1,000 new jobs in the Bromley by Bow area by 2016.[9] The section of land between the River Lea and the A11, which is currently the site of a Tesco store, is currently being redeveloped. Immediately adjacent to it, in Newham, is the 26 acres (11 ha) "Strand East" development, led by Ikea.[10]

The remaining part of the Coventry Cross Estate forms the southern part of Bromley-by-Bow.


In 2001, according to the UK national census data,[11] there were 11,581 people living in the ward in 2188 households, giving an average of 2.8 people per household. Of these 51% were female, 30% were under the age of 16 and 40% were of Bangladeshi origin.

Tenure in Bromley-by-Bow ward was predominantly rented with only 15% of households being owner-occupiers.[12] Census data indicates that the proportion of households in rented tenure was higher than the average for the borough. 60% of males were economically active with total unemployment being around 16% compared to 11% for the borough as a whole.

Community facilities

Kingsley Hall is famous both for the visits of Mahatma Gandhi to the East End in 1931 and the therapeutic clinic run by the alternative psychologist R. D. Laing from 1965. Despite a severe fire in 1995, Kingsley Hall remains an active community centre.

The Bromley-by-Bow Centre is a radical approach to integrated health care, with nursery care, training opportunities and a community centre. It has been cited as a model for the future development of community services and health care.

Bromley By Bow Community Organisation (BBBCO) also provides Youth Provisions and Community Engagement programmes for Bromley By Bow. Its projects and services as a voluntary organisation provide the area with five football teams, Girls Group, Youth Group and Elderly and Community Services. It empowers the local residents, one of the most deprived wards in Tower Hamlets, and its surrounding areas to improve their socio-economic and cultural well-being and be able to sustain a good quality of life.



National Rail (then British Rail) services used to stop at Bromley-by-Bow (then called Bromley) station on the London, Tilbury and Southend Line before 1962. Today theses services pass the station without stopping. There also used to be another station called South Bromley which closed in 1944 on the former North London Line (Poplar Branch).

Metro/Light Rail

The nearest station is Bromley-by-Bow for London Underground services and Bow Church and Devons Road for Docklands Light Railway (DLR) services are located on the edge of the area.


London Buses 8, 25, 108, 205, 276, 309, 323, 425, 488, D8, N205 all operate within the area.


Bromley-by-Bow (Bromley) is connected to the National Road Network by the north-south A12 (East Cross Route) and the A11 Bow Road. As well as Devons Road, Campbell Road, Violet Road and Bromley High Street.

Cycling, walking, waterways

The Lea Valley Walk on the River Lea Navigation and Lea River passes on the area eastern side. To the south, the Limehouse Cut starts. Cycle Superhighway 2 (CS2) runs to the north of the area on Bow Road.

Notable residents

  • Prof William Harold Joseph Childs FRSE, physicist, borm here
  • Andrew Mawson OBE, founder of the Bromley by Bow Centre; entered the House of Lords as Baron Mawson, of Bromley-by-Bow in 2007[13]
  • Mary Price, teacher at Bromley St Leonard's church school; mother of Professor Ralph Kekwick FRS (1908–2000), biochemist who did pioneering work on human blood plasma
  • Christopher A Gordon, Former youth Footballer at Southend United,Fulham,Sheffield United,Lincoln City,Torquay United and Dagenham and Redbridge and now music producer BEATBOY who lived in the area from 1981-1997 and after a break of 12 years now resides back in the area

See also


  1. ^ , The Environs of London: volume 2: County of Middlesex (1795), pp. 59-69Bromley St Leonard's accessed: 19 May 2008.
  2. ^ F. A. Youngs, Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, Vol.I, 1979
  3. ^ The Canterbury TalesLine 125. Chaucer: accessed on 14 Nov 2006
  4. ^ Old Language Variety: Anglo-Norman
  5. ^ (1883)My ProsecutionRev R.W. Enraght BA accessed 17 May 2007
  6. ^ The Old Palace of Bromley, Survey of London: volume 1: Bromley-by-Bow (1900), pp. 33-40. Date accessed: 14 February 2009
  7. ^ "Hospitals". Derelict London. 
  8. ^ councillors for the Bromley by Bow ward accessed 17 May 2007
  9. ^ With the Olympics in nearby Stratford, Bromley-by-Bow will be one of the areas in East London to gain regeneration. Bromley by Bow, LTGDC. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
  10. ^ Chris Beanland (4 October 2012). "London's newest development: The rise of the Ikea city". The Independent. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  11. ^ census data accessed 17 May 2007
  12. ^ Summary 2001 census data for LAP6 accessed 17 May 2007
  13. ^ "Six new non-party political peers". The Guardian. 15 February 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2008. 

External links

  • History of Bromley St. Leonard
  • A Vision of Britain - Parish boundaries of Bromley St. Leonard
  • Kingsley Hall Community Centre
  • Bromley-by-Bow Centre
  • Bromley-by-Bow Ward Profile - based on 2001 census data
  • Local Area Partnership 6 for the Mile End East ward and the Bromley by Bow ward.
  • 2001 Key Statistics for LAP6 - compared to London Borough of Tower Hamlets
  • Bromley-by-Bow Ward Councillors
  • Bromley By Bow Community Organisation including Bromley By Bow Football Club
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