DEVON-L ArchivesArchiver > DEVON > 1998-11 > 0911751229
From: Derek Kearey <>
Subject: Re: DEVON-D Digest V98 #364
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 11:13:49 -0500
Bow Bells - that hoary old chestnut.
First the myth. There is a borough in East London called Bow and an area
next to it called Bromley-by-Bow.
The River Lea forms a border to the east and was a barrier for Londoners
wanting to travel east. The Romans used to ford the river at Old Ford,
hence the name, but by the 12th century it was becoming too dangerous. A
bridge was built further south and, as it was shaped like a bow, the area
became known as Bow.
Many people have the mistaken belief that the bells of the parish church,
St Mary, are the ones called Bow Bells. In fact, there is a public house
called Bow Bells next to the church.
Now for the reality. Any person born within the sound of Bow Bells is said
to be a true Cockney. It is the church of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside that
housed the Bow Bells. It was well within the old City of London. So much
so that it was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666. It has a very
interesting history including the bells being rung in the 14th century to
sound the curfew. It was destroyed again in the Second World War but has
since been rebuilt.
As not many people now live in the area of Cheapside, it is nearly all
commercial premises, there are not many true Cockneys around although the
term has for a long time referred to East Enders in general.
Derek in London
Researching: BLISS, COLLINS, GAY, GEORGE, GREENLAND, HARVEY, HOLLIES,
HORSLEY, KEAREY, KEELER, WADDINGHAM, WESTCOAT in East
BLISS, COLLINS, DINNIS, WADDINGHAM in Lambeth.
BOWEN, GREENLAND, KEAREY, MILLS, PERCIVAL in Rotherhithe,
CROSS, CURTIS, LANYON in Cornwall, Devon.