Next door to the emerging Olympic site in Stratford and equidistant from Canary Wharf and the City, Bow is a mix of fine conservation areas and grim council estates, where high-earning, home-owning City workers live cheek by jowl with struggling Bangladeshi families.
© Glenn Copus
Victoria Park and the Hertford Union Canal mark Bow’s northern boundary; Mile End Park and the Regent’s Canal its western edge; the Limehouse Cut its most southerly point and the River Lee Navigation its eastern limit.
Properties: the best early Victorian terraces are in the Tredegar and Driffield conservation areas, with slightly later Victorian terraces in the Medway Road conservation area, all between Bow Road and the Hertford Union Canal. The Bow Quarter is an early conversion into flats of an old industrial building, in this case the old Bryant & May match factory. New developments are springing up along the Limehouse Cut and there are many ex-council flats being treated to smart makeovers.
The area attracts: the houses in the conservation areas attract young families, design-conscious singles and couples, as well as an element of “arty-crafty” middle-class liberals. According to Simon Jackson, lettings manager at Keatons, Bow is also a particularly popular area for renters.
“We get students from Queen Mary, young doctors at the London Hospital, and workers from Canary Wharf and the City. There are singles, sharers, young couples, and an element of parent-investors who come for buy-to-lets and let their offspring use them while at university.”
Who stays, who goes?
Staying power: Bow is a bit of a transient area, though many families, especially those who had the foresight to buy 20 years ago, have become very attached to the architecture and community, and they stay. Some leave in search of better schools when their children reach secondary school age.
Postcodes: Bow is E3.
Best streets: Tredegar Square stands head and shoulders above all the other streets. It is Bow’s unique garden square and is a match for anything in Islington or Chelsea. A house has recently gone under offer for £1.5 million, a record for the square.
According to estate agent Russell Stone at WJ Meade, who has been selling houses in Bow for 16 years, this is a fraction of the price of a similar house in Islington.
In Bow the price per square foot for an early Victorian house is around £400, whereas in Islington it is around £850.
Up and coming: the Ropery conservation area off Burdett Road behind Mile End station has two- and three-storey Victorian houses dating from around the 1870s. Houses here cost about £450,000 compared to about £500,000 in the Driffield conservation area.
What’s new: Bow is seeing much new development on the back of the 2012 Olympics in nearby Stratford, where a new Westfield shopping centre opens in a year’s time and where, once the athletes have departed, the Olympic Village will provide more than 2,800 new homes.
In Bow itself, there is regeneration along the Limehouse Cut. Three big developments are built or under construction. The largest is Berkeley Homes’s Caspian Wharf, a scheme of 543 flats of which 153 are affordable. The development will be sold in six phases. The first is sold out, while flats in the second phase, Pacific Court, are on the market from £219,950 for a one-bedroom flat to £1.1 million for a three-bedroom penthouse. Call 0844 800 1152.
Silver Wharf is a completed development of 182 one- and two-bedroom flats and penthouses — of which 91 are affordable — by Genesis Homes (0800 954 5642), designed by architects Child Graddon Lewis on Bow Common Lane with a frontage on to the canal. One-bedroom flats start at £245,000 and two-bedroom flats at £330,000.
On the other side of Bow Common Road, also fronting the canal, developer Higgins Homes is building Aqua Vista (020 7537 3714). Launching next month, the scheme has 157 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom flats of which 52 are affordable.
On nearby Campbell Road the disliked Crossways estate is getting a makeover and is being renamed Bow Cross. Swan Housing, the housing association, is renovating three 25-storey tower blocks with nearly 300 homes and building 418 new homes.
The scheme will have a mix of tenures: some rented, some available to buy on the open market, some available for part buy, part rent. For information about shared ownership contact Swan Housing on 0800 389 6382 and for the open market flats the number is 0845 542 7558.
More controversially, in May, Tesco won planning permission for a new Tesco Town at Bromley-by-Bow on the eastern side of the Northern Approach Road to the Blackwall Tunnel. The scheme involves 460 homes, a 100-bed hotel, a school, a new park — and a new 24-hour Tesco megastore, of course.
What’s on offer?
Schools: the best primary schools are Old Palace in St Leonard’s Street and Clara Grant in Knapp Road — both of which are judged “outstanding” by Ofsted — and Olga in Lanfranc Road, Wellington in Wellington Way and St Agnes in Rainhill Way, all judged “good” by Ofsted. The two secondary schools are Central Foundation for girls and Bow School for boys. These are judged to be only “satisfactory” by the education watchdog. Parents wanting private schools head for the two City of London schools.
Shops and restaurants: historic Roman Road - it follows the line of the old Roman London to Colchester road — was once the centre of east London life but now, in spite of council grants to spruce up the shops, on non-market days it has a run-down feel. A general market is held on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays; there is an arts and crafts market in Gladstone Place on Saturdays and a farmers’ market in Cardigan Street on the first Saturday of the month.
Worth seeking out though are Finnesse, which sells Finnish designer Marimekko clothes and accessories, and G Kelly for old-fashioned eels or pie and mash. The Morgan Arms (left) on Morgan Street and The Grove on Grove Road, close to the gates of Victoria Park, are two popular gastropubs.
The Counter is a popular café on Roach Road on historic Fish Island, an industrial conservation area with artists’ studios and modern live/work flats on the east side of East Cross Route.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF TOWER HAMLETS:
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Open spaces: this is one of Bow’s major draws. Both Victoria Park and Mile End Park are full of attractions and the canals offer peaceful waterside walking.
Leisure and the arts: the council-run Mile End Leisure Centre in Burdett Road has a swimming pool. Genesis on the Mile End Road has a multiplex cinema.
Transport: Bow is in Zone 2 (annual season ticket to Zone 1 is £1,032) and has excellent travel links to the City, the West End and Canary Wharf. Mile End is on the Hammersmith & City, Central and District Tube lines; Bow Road is on the District and Hammersmith & City lines; Bow Church and Devons Road are on the DLR with direct trains to Canary Wharf.
Council: Tower Hamlets (Labour controlled) has a Band D council tax of £1,195.34 for 2010/11.
Average house prices: E3
One-bedroom flat: £219,000
Two-bedroom flat: £259,000
Two-bedroom house: £368,000
Three-bedroom house: £507,000
Four-bedroom house: £573,000
Average rental prices: E3
One-bedroom flat: £200 to £300 a week
Two-bedroom flat: £250 to £450 a week
Two-bedroom house: £300 to £450 a week
Three-bedroom house: £375 to £600+ a week
Four-bedroom house: £450 to £700+ a week
Pictures by Barry Phillips
All details correct at time of publication (8 September, 2010)