Alan’s East End Walks

Looking at future plans for Hackney Wick. Photo: Frank da Silva

Guided walks in London around Bow, Mile End, and Hackney Wick:

Mile End and Bow in East London have an amazing history which is hidden from us today. Life moves on, buildings are rebuilt, and you would never guess from looking around you today how different life was 100 years ago. I have lived in Bow for 32 years, but until I started researching I had no idea that just before WWII Mile End underground station was surrounded by three cinemas offering 5,000 seats between them.

Stepney, Mile End and Bow were once the home of wealthy merchants living in a relaxed rural environment. By 1800 there were 2,000 big static steam engines in Britain. In 1811 two were installed on the Hackney marshes to power a silk factory. Workshops and noxious industries filled the East End driving the wealthy further away. By 1840 the Eastern Counties Railway was already running from Shoreditch to Brentwood – across Coborn Road and Tom Thumb’s Arch. But the working poor couldn’t afford trains, they had to live close to their work. The East End filled with families living and working in appalling conditions. Some had been pushed out of agriculture by the enclosure of common land, and more efficient farming. The Irish came looking for work because of potato famines, and the Jews were fleeing pogroms in Poland and Russia.

Crossrail trains are being tested on the tracks, and the eastern section through Stratford is partly open. It will take 49 minutes from Stratford to Terminal 4. The 2012 Olympics were a great success, and the resultant park is a brilliant asset to the local community.

London’s East End has an amazing story to tell. A lot of  it has vanished without trace. Looking around today you would never guess how life was once lived, or what used to be here. For example, the 2012 Olympic Stadium was not the first out here. Hackney Wick Stadium opened in 1932. The first race was won by a greyhound called Bullseye.

Over the last three years I’ve been fishing around in seven different research archives, and have unearthed an unbelievable amount of local history. My ongoing research is constantly throwing up new pieces of the East End jigsaw. I’m taking a break over the summer 2017, and new walks will resume later.

Alan Tucker, Bow