The 17th Century Shop at 223 Bow Road

Sandwiched between two new blocks of flats overlooking the A11, no. 223 Bow Road is a surprising sight.

223 Bow Road

It looks like something left over from a film set, but I was delighted to discover that it was authentically historic!

History of 223 Bow Road

Although the ground floor shop front is a 19th century addition, the fabric of the rest of the building is late 17th century and Grade II listed.

The Royal Commission of the Historical Monuments of England calls it “an interesting survival” which seems a bit of an understatement…

223 Bow Road

Bow has some amazing buildings but only a few are pre-Victorian, so this building is a rare treat.

I was intrigued to know who lived and worked here after seeing an incredible picture.

It shows the frontage covered with writing; M. Howes Est. 1818  Corn & Flour Dealer – Hay, Straw & Clover – At Market Prices

The first image in the tweet above was taken 19 November 1909 and the second is from the William Whiffin Photographic Collection, 1937 both are in the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives.

The Family Tree

From howesfamilies.com (isn’t the internet wonderful?!) I’ve attempted to track a rough family tree of the occupants living at 223 Bow Road.

(Bit of a caveat, I’m not a genealogist so the below is what I’ve pieced together from scant data and I very much welcome any further info!)

223 Bow Road

The earliest record of a resident at 223 Bow Road is Mary Howes. Née Jackson and born c.1816, she is listed as a widow and head of the household in the 1881 census. Also living there are three other women. I assumed – given their ages – they were her daughter; Emily Beaumont Howes (27 years old), and two granddaughters; Emily and Anne Davidson (aged 6 and 7).

Emily Beaumont Howes is listed as resident at 223 Bow Road from 1881 until 1911, her occupation is a corn merchant.

From 1911 the next occupants are Daisy Louisa Townsend (b.1885) and Thomas Stanley Howes (b. 1882) who marry in 1906. Thomas’ occupation is listed as Corn Merchant Assitant from 1911 so presumably he’s taken over the business from Emily. From what I can work out he is Emily Beaumont Howes’s nephew.

Daisy and Thomas have a child called Doris Ethel Howes (b. 1907) who is registered as a waitress and living at 223 Bow Road on 29 September 1939.

From there the trail of the Howes goes cold.

However, there’s a later picture which shows the new owners J.Robson & Sons.

Bow Road by David Granick, 1969. The original image is held in the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive.

223 Bow Road Today

The Tower Hamlets Archives have a photograph from 1976 with the description ‘Ye Olde Style Confectionery shop’. I haven’t been able to see the picture so I’m not sure if it was actually a sweet shop or not.

More recently it has been home to the Greenlight Youth Club, founded in 1976 and offering education, social and leisure activities for local young people.

223 Bow Road

For the time being it looks unused, though I’m not sure if that’s due to the current global pandemic.

I’m hoping that once the Tower Hamlets Archives reopens I can find out some concrete answers. Until then if anyone has anything to add, do let me know!

More London Inspiration

18 Comments

  • Charly Warner

    Reply

    I live right by here and always wanted to know about it. I had heard that it had something to do with the suffragettes but I don’t know if that was fact or just local speculation. It hasn’t been used as a youth centre for about a year I think.

    April 22, 2020 at 8:25 am
  • Irene goddard

    Reply

    Great images. I love the fact you went so far to show who lived there. Keep up the Good work it all helps. When I came to London I took so many photos of different types of buildings. Even down to the different types of doors hinges extra. Bricks types. And so on .my back ground is interior design for 33yrs.

    Look forward to your next project.

    April 22, 2020 at 8:32 am
  • Patricia Lillian Taylor

    Reply

    I can’t tell you how much your Wednesday posting is appreciated and enjoyed. I can’t wait
    to follow up on the places, buildings you talk about and when it’s possible meet you personally
    on one of your walks. Thank you.

    April 22, 2020 at 9:05 am
  • chris savory

    Reply

    hi

    very interesting katie- i was born in devons rd,close to here.

    im sure philip mernick ELHS-see website- will be able to help you information wise.

    best.

    chris savory

    April 22, 2020 at 9:27 am
  • Wendy Johnson

    Reply

    So interesting as always, Katie. I learn so much from you. I, too, have Howes ancestors, but from East Anglia.

    April 22, 2020 at 1:44 pm
  • Jill Bale

    Reply

    Thank you so much for all your very interesting posts. I love all types of history and yours is truly fascinating, my mums family all came from Hackney wick, and came to Northampton during the war, my nan also worked in munitions so if ever you come across anything from theses ereas it would be brilliant to. Thanks so much Jill Bale

    April 22, 2020 at 2:37 pm
  • Emma

    Reply

    How amazing. On my next walk I’m gonna try and find it.thank you for posting this .

    April 22, 2020 at 8:30 pm
  • Mark Mellor

    Reply

    Thanks Katie, sometimes the smaller buildings are just as, if not more interesting than the bigger, more famous ones!

    Perhaps the trail goes cold on the Howes family as it appears the property was damaged during the War. Looking at the Tower Hamlets Planning Dept. web portal, there is an application granted in 1949 allowing £738 of expenditure to repair was damage – quite a lot of money in those days.

    The planning application history also reveals that permission was granted for structural alterations to the rear elevation of the “shop, store and showroom premises” in 1957. In 1967 there was an application for conversion to use for “a students bed sitting room”, which I assume relates to the first floor, although no supporting documentation is scanned in for these older applications. The following year records two applications for use as a tailor’s shop and workroom, and one for shop and workroom for manufacture of confectionary. Perhaps the ground floor was split in two at that point?

    Things go quiet until 1987 when there is an application for change from light industrial to community use – the beginning of the current or recent youth club?

    Lastly, in 2007 there is an application relating to various repair and maintenance works, including replacement of the crittal windows,, these to perhaps replace pre-war, or maybe 1949 substitutes, following the war damage?

    The 2007 has some poor quality external and internal photos, the latter suggesting the interior has been unsympathetically modified over the years.

    As you say, the internet is wonderful!

    April 23, 2020 at 10:15 am
  • ARABELLA SEYMOUR

    Reply

    My mother was born at 223 Bow Road in September 1919 when it was the White Horse pub, run by my grandfather David Lyon.

    May 9, 2020 at 12:29 pm
  • Milly Dunn

    Reply

    Fascinating. I saw it in panoramas of Lost London.

    May 22, 2020 at 8:06 pm
  • john chattaway

    Reply

    born in bow at bow bridge over the lea in the 1930s I shopped at 223 bow road when corn chandlers an elderly couple ran the shop selling horse fed a few groceries I would buy 4 oxo cubes for a penny, also opposite in bow road and the corn chandlers was a harness maker at the bottom of a lane that ran from rossis greengrocer yard to bow road there were several stable yards in bow will Barnes devons road josh bishops Bromley by bow tynes yard devons road i would ride the barge horses down to the lea and and three mills and fetch the tired horses back to the stable collect the waste vegatables along devons road stalls to feed the pigs kept at will barnes yard drive a pony and trap on a sunday morning to victorier park good old days , married at bow church to the land lords daughter of the bombay grab bow road , then became the land load of sevaral pubs in plaistow ans Stratford moving out to kent wher i was land load of sevral pubs and farmed in sessex the midlands and gloustershire untill i retied now live in the cotswolds all thanks to my being born in bow london E3

    June 29, 2020 at 4:32 pm
  • Ray Purdy

    Reply

    Hi Katie

    If I could walk better I’d certainly come on some of your walks
    but instead I follow your blog on a sort of virtual walk.

    The story about 223 Bow Road is interesting.

    I believe Thomas passed away aged 73 in 1955 and Daisy in 1962 aged 77.

    But strangely enough I can’t trace Doris anywhere

    July 16, 2020 at 9:18 pm

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