Fish Island, Bow Tower Hamlets

factory-fish

Fish Island

Bow, Tower Hamlets

The name Stratford means Westfield shopping centre, the Olympic park to many, but its original meaning was “a paved way to a ford.” It was a small town in 1177. Areas of Roman roads around this area laden it with significant history. Roman road stands proud to this day.

Fish Island is an area that was called Old Ford, it consisted of main marshland. It was the main crossing between London and Essex in Medieval times. The 12 century also saw the development of the Bow Back Rivers and other bridges in the area which helped to divert issues. In the 1200s King John is recorded to have stayed in Old Ford after signing the Magna Carta. Attempts at trying to make a canal near the area started In Elizabeth 1st reign. In the 17th C Samuel Pepys made a record of a couple of time that he visited Old Ford.

Several canal cuts were made through the marshland banks of the River Lea, late 1800s and into the 1900s. The Hackney cut( 1768-9) and the Hertford Union canal (1830) provided access and therefore could enable trade. Between London, Essex and the Docks. By 1830 John Greenwood had created maps of London which included fish Island.

canals around Fish Island
canals around Fish Island

 

Railways, Locks and roads named after Fish

The Arrival of the North London Railway East-West Branch came in the 1850s and 1860s. 1903 saw an upgrade of Old Ford with a double Lock. Kentish Ragstone lined the edge of the canal from Hackney Wick to Old Ford which locals then called “The Island “and later “Fish Island” possibly because of the names of the other roads around there Roach, a type of fish, Beachy road. Many of the roads got bombed during WW2

Roach Road sign Fish Island
Roach Road sign Fish Island

 

The Reason its described as an Island is that it is surrounded by the River Lee Navigation, the River Lea, the London Overground railway, the Blackwall Tunnel approach A12. Part of this Island contains buildings from the Industrial Revolution, Victorian era. 1870s Maps show the industrial buildings.

Old industrial buildings Fish Island
Old industrial buildings Fish Island

 

Types of works found in the area.

Printing works, waterproof cloth, Varnish works, Tar, Dyeing, chemical works, a confectionary. The Clarnico jam factory, pianoforte, starch works, Ironworks, paper works, Coal depot to name but a few.

Many of the original buildings stood the test of time, as it is now a conservation area and of interest as a regeneration site. The land was hot property even in 1865 The Gas Light & Coke company bought some land in Old ford but thankfully did not convert it all to gasworks, but housing and industrial buildings.

Old industrial buildings Fish Island by the bridge
Old industrial buildings Fish Island by the bridge

 

Industrial downside

At the time the people living on the island were becoming isolated in a different way, trapped behind industrial fumes, many which were toxic, the railway pollution the main way in and out of the area was by a canal. Previously it had thriving watercress and Eels that helped the community.

 

Chemical pollution, drew a close to this because it was no longer than safe for consumption.  Industrial isolation leads to poverty and crime.  This area was documented as one of the poorest areas in the East End. As can be seen on the Booth Poverty Map of 1889.

Putting something back into the community

The community came up with ideas of religious and educational intervention. This legacy of supporting the community, is pretty much what the area and places like Stour Space provide in the here and now. Social community events that enrich putting something back into the area and its people.

The photo of the pub with the graffiti on the top was a pawnbroker and off-license on Attley Road in 1898 (LMA)

 

Location Notes

Fish Island is an area of London, follow the map for directions

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