diamond geezer

 Wednesday, March 17, 2021

This insignificant road junction in Bow has something in common with Marble Arch and the big Tesco on the Old Kent Road.

It used to be where three boroughs met.


Stanfield Rd Viking Close


Between 1900 and 1965 the County of London contained 29 metropolitan boroughs. In 1965 these were reorganised, along with various Home Counties districts, to form the 33 current Greater London boroughs. The new boroughs mostly consisted of two or three of the old boroughs merged together. Several former boundaries disappeared as a result of these mergers, but only in a handful of cases did all three boundaries meeting at the same point vanish.

Tower Hamlets was formed from the three former boroughs of Bethnal Green, Stepney and Poplar. The point where the three met is significantly off-centre. It's not even on the edge of Bow, it's in the middle of a grid of Victorian streets between Roman Road and the railway. It would have looked a lot less odd when these were fields and it made sense to locate boundaries away from where people lived.

This street corner, where Lyal Road meets Stanfield Road, used to be in the borough of Bethnal Green. This was essentially the parish of St Matthew Bethnal Green as it had been in the 18th century, and before that it was the Hamlet of Bethnal Green because these have long been the Tower Hamlets. A map of the parish in 1848 confirms that this eastern end was pretty much undeveloped. The house on the corner was built in the 1870s. I had to wait for the lady in the house with the scaffolding to go out shopping before I dared take the photo.
Bethnal Green: area 3.1 km², former population 47,000

This street corner, where Lyal Road meets Viking Close, used to be in the borough of Poplar. This was essentially the parishes of Bow, Bromley and Poplar bolted together, hence the borough's peculiar elongated shape. Poplar was so thin it didn't even make it all the way from the River Lea to the Regent's Canal, it petered out here along a former hedgerow. The shop on the corner was built in the 1870s but was converted into a house some years ago. I had to wait for a Sainsbury's delivery van to finish unloading before I dared take the photo.
Poplar: area 9.5 km², former population 67,000

The opposite side of the crossroads, where Lyal Road continues, used to be in the borough of Stepney. Stepney's back history was a lot more complicated, formed from thirteen parishes including Christchurch Spitalfields, St Anne Limehouse, St John of Wapping, St Mary Whitechapel, Mile End Old Town and Mile End New Town. This particular patch of land derives from Mile End New Town, three fields back from the Mile End Road. The houses on both sides were built in the 1870s. I had to wait for an unfeasibly high number of schoolchildren to walk past before I dared take the photo.
Stepney: area 7.2 km², former population 47,000

Until 1965 residents of these corner properties paid their taxes to three different authorities. Today it all goes to Tower Hamlets.

Viking Close wasn't always called Viking Close, it used to be a continuation of Stanfield Road before a line of bollards was added for traffic mitigation purposes. And the Bethnal Green/Poplar border didn't always run along the centre of Lyal Road, it ran down the backs of the gardens on the eastern side instead. Today a new building on Viking Close marks the previous triple point. Built into its wall are a pair of parish boundary markers from the 1880s, one chiselled with M.E.O.T. (Mile End Old Town) and the other St.M.S.B. (St Mary Stratford le Bow).

The only other points where three County of London boroughs merged to form a single Greater London borough were...
• the junction of Edgware Road and Oxford Street where Paddington, St Marylebone and Westminster merged to form Westminster.
• the junction of Albany Road and the Old Kent Road where Bermondsey, Camberwell and Southwark merged to form Southwark.

Camden and Hackney were also formed from three County of London boroughs, but neither has a single point where all three met.

Meanwhile there are four points, not originally in the County of London, where three boroughs merged to form an Outer London borough...
Bush Hill Park Golf Club where Edmonton, Enfield and Southgate merged to form Enfield.
• the junction outside Turnpike Lane station where Hornsey, Tottenham and Wood Green merged to form Haringey.
Lower Marsh Lane near Surbiton Cemetery where Kingston, Malden & Coombe and Surbiton merged to form Kingston.
• the junction outside Sainsbury's in Colliers Wood where Mitcham, Merton & Morden and Wimbledon merged to form Merton.

Barnet, Bexley, Bromley and Hillingdon were formed from more than three boroughs, but what would be the point?

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