High Street 2012 12) BOW ROAD Bow Road tube station to Fairfield Road
A century ago, this next stretch of road would have been the part of Bow everybody visited. Here was the municipal hub of a growing suburb, the civic centre, the social heart. It doesn't feel quite so must-see today.
100-ish years back: Come, let us traverse eastwards from the brand new Metropolitan District Railway station. Here is Tredegar House where many hundreds of nurses have been been trained, including no lesser angel than the formidable Miss Edith Cavell. How splendid is the new police station with its capacious stables at the rear. One wonders many tiresome suffragettes have spent the night within its gloomy lock-ups before crossing the street to be tried in Bow Court House! Today: Oi, let's walk down to the takeaway. Do stop to pick up a free newspaper from the racks outside the tube station, there's bound to be one in your language [photo]. I see there are flats for sale in Tredegar House for 300K. I bet the Police Station will be turned into flats too soon - the front desk's only open 35 hours a week[photo]. Oops, mind that dollop of steaming horseshit. Hey, isn't that wotsisname, the drug-addled pop star, stumbling down the steps in front of the Thames Magistrates Court surrounded by paparazzi?
100-ish years back: Hark, a locomotive of the London & Blackwall is belching smoke across the railway bridge before halting at the elevated Bow Road station. To which of the two cinemas immediately beyond shall we give our custom? I must say I rather fancy viewing the jolly electrographic spectacle of The Count of Monte Cristo. A pint of finest milk stout in the Little Driver will slip down a treat for thruppence, and then perchance a crumpet or two for tea. Today: Hardly any trains ever cross the off-network Ferodo Bridge, which must be how that intrusive spraypaint sketchin got daubed up there [photo]. I need to punt a fiver in the betting shop (it's the old station's ticket office you know), and then I thought we'd grab a DVD from the Somerfield on the garage forecourt. Dunno about you but I'd kill for a greasy breakfast from the tiny Mighty Bite caff. And then let's join the gang in the LittleDriver beer garden and get rat-arsed on real ale.
100-ish years back: Bow station boasts a mighty edifice, does it not, with four platforms beneath road level and a bustling tram stop directly outside the main entrance. Up above are the rooms of the Bow and Bromley Institute, where I need to pay my subscription to Henry the secretary. I'm certain that the tellers at the Aid in Thrift Mutual Benefit Building Society on the second floor will provide. And thence to my piano lesson with Mistress Mumford at number 147, such sweet music shall we make! Today: Watch out for dem bastard pickpockets beneath the windswept canopy of Bow Church DLR. Jeez, the ticket inspectors are everywhere, I think I'll hop on the free bendy bus to Whitechapel instead. But first I need to get a packet of fags from the bloke in the lock-up kiosk, so long as the Barclays cash machine nextdoor isn't buggered again. Those bleeding kids in the playground at Bow School ain't half making a racket, but they'll be off down the kebab shop soon enough.
100-ish years back: Let us away to the Bromley Vestry Hall for an evening of light flirtatiousness and merry dance. It is a far better use of land, is it not, than the humble almshouses which once stood upon this very spot. And then we shall partake of another pint or three in the Bow Bells, until the landlord ejects us out onto the gas-lit street to stumble home. I trust that Doctor Lightburne, in his surgery on the corner of Fairfield Road, will have the patience to patch us up in the morning. Today: Mind out, there's a tattooed wedding party blocking the pavement outside the Registry Office. They'll probably end up in the bright orange boozer nextdoor, watching some unconvincing Elvis impersonator and vomiting in the urinals, before crossing to the sliproad outside the old Town Hall and piling into their pink stretch limo back to Plaistow. Nice 'ere, innit? [photo]
four local sights » Mornington Grove: Still bears the original stone street name of Mornington Road, carved into a wall, punctuated with a totally unnecessary full stop. [photos of local street signs] » Kitcat Terrace: Not a row of chocolate townhouses, but a cul-de-sac named after the Reverend Henry J Kitkat, Rector of St Mary's Church between 1904 and 1921. » Enterprise Rent-A-Car: A small forecourt dispensing temporary wheels to weekend drivers, doing business on the site of the Kray Brothers' first club - the Double R. » Poplar Town Hall: Between 1938 and 1965 the London borough of Poplar was governed from a tall triangular wedge of a building resembling a slice of multi-layered chocolate cake [photo]. Industrious Thames-side activities are depicted in a colourful mosaic map on the underside of the Members Entrance porch [photo]. Meanwhile five carvings of generic labourers grace the sharp curve above Fairfield Road - an architect, a stonemason, a navvy, a carpenter and (of course) an oxy-acetylene welder. Now that Poplar has been consumed into Tower Hamlets, the building lives on as the Bow Business Centre.