Drapers’ Almshouses, Bow

A short walk away from the rumble of Bow Road, between cluster of modern housing, stands Drapers’ Almshouses, built 1706.

Drapers’ Almshouses, Bow Road | Look Up London

Once much larger and making up three sides of a square, today only the central block survives.

Drapers’ Almshouses, Bow Road | Look Up London

I couldn’t be sure but I believe you can see this ‘U’ shaped block on the John Rocque map of 1746 (circled in yellow below).

Image Credit: www.layersoflondon.org

History of Drapers’ Almshouses

A crest on the pediment declaring that Mr John Edmunson, a sailmaker with charitable intentions paid for 12 almshouses and a chapel for the local poor in 1706.

Drapers’ Almshouses, Bow Road | Look Up London

In John Strype’s survey of London (1720) he describes “a fair Alms-house now lately built near Bow by the Company of Drapers of London” he goes on to say that the estate was gifted by Mr Edmundson, a Sail Maker who had recently died.

The almshouses stood next to further charitable homes that had been established by John Jolles. Jolles died in 1621 and was a former Master of the Drapers’ and Lord Mayor of the City of London.

Almshouses was a popular form of charitable giving and many examples survive across London including the Trinity Green ones just down the road in Mile End.

Drapers’ Almshouses, Bow Road | Look Up London

Fuelled by the ravenous expansion of London in the 19th century, in 1868 the almshouse land was compulsory purchased by the North London Railway and despite vigorous opposition from the Drapers’ parliament sided with the railway.

The two other blocks of Edmunson’s almhouses, each containing 6 homes, were demolished shortly after this incident around 1875.

The North London Railway had to pay the cost of moving residents to new Almshouses which still survive in Bruce Grove, Tottenham.

You can see the railway lines on the left hand side of the 1890s OS map below, I’ve circled the surviving portion of the Drapers’ Almshouses in yellow. 

Image Credit: www.layersoflondon.org

Though still bearing their name, today the almshouses are not owned by the Drapers’ Company, having been acquired by the Greater London Council in 1947.

They narrowly escaped demolition again in the 1960s and were beautifully restored in 1982. You can see a picture of their sorry state prior to renovation here and here.

Drapers’ Almshouses, Bow Road | Look Up London

Despite living in Bow for almost 10 years, I only discovered these recently when preparing a bespoke private tour in the area. It just goes to show that you never known what history is hiding around the corner for you in London!

Inside the Geffreye Almshouses

A short walk from here is another intriguing building. It’s been a warehouse, studio, home and now a gallery. Read more about it here.

Inside the Geffrye Almshouse

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