With the UK Government’s Covid19 current ‘lockdown’ restrictions, rules and regulations still in place, and ‘non-essential’ travel still (quite rightly) not being encouraged – London Shoes is unfortunately still unable to get out there ‘on-the-road’ to undertake and produce any new topic material for 2021.
However – as with the previous and initial Shoes post for this year – all is not entirely lost, as just before this current ‘lockdown’ was instigated just a couple of days before Christmas, Shoes was fortunate enough to squeeze in a couple of blog topics, that are as yet unpublished.
This publication represents another topic covered-off from that particular days activity, and forms Part 3 of the theme “London Street Art” – and focuses on the uniquely interesting “Bow Bells Pub-Mural” – Bow Rd–London–E3.
The ‘Bow Bells’ is a historic and well known east end boozer situated on the Bow Road, which dates back to 1860.
Technically, it could be argued that the pub is located in the wrong place – as its name (Bow Bells) refers to the definition that is said to determine whether someone is a true ‘Cockney’ – e.g. anyone who is born within the sound of Bow’s ‘bells’ is said to be a true Cockney.
But this historic definition is actually a bit misleading and seems to have been incorrectly ‘applied’ throughout the years – as it doesn’t actually relate to the ‘bells’ of the nearby St. Mary’s Church in Bow-E3 – it actually relates to the bells of the famous ‘St. Mary-le-Bow Church’ situated in ‘Cheapside’ in the City!!
So basically, a true Cockney is defined as anyone born within the sound of ‘St. Mary-le-Bow’ church-Cheapside – not St. Mary’s church-Bow.
Now – I guess you could put up a ‘logistical’ argument, that challenges how is it there can be so many alleged true Cockney’s in east London, as St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside is situated at least 3 miles away, and in todays world, you could never in a million years hear the chimes of its bells if you lived over in Bow or its surrounding areas.
However – St. Mary-le-Bow is one of London’s oldest churches, whose origins date back to 1091.
It was re-built after the Great Fire of London in 1666, and in 1762 the ‘great bell of Bow’ (as per the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges & Lemons’) was installed. Now, obviously at that time and throughout the following century or so, there were no skyscrapers as there are today – and so it would be quite feasible to ‘hear’ the uninterrupted chimes of the St. Mary-le-Bow flowing through the airways, over in the far reaches of the east-end of London.
So -with that myth now busted – I return back to the ‘Bow Bells’ in Bow, the subject of this particular blog.
All along the western external wall of this famous detached pub building – there is a fantastic ‘mural’, and its existence is probably not as widely known as it should be (in my opinion).
The Bow Bells mural depicts specific traditional ‘Cockney’ characters and does it very well.
It shows 3 ‘costermongers’ transporting goods on a large barrow, and behind them is a cart being pulled by 2 horses. A ‘costermonger’ is a person who sells goods, especially fruit and vegetables, from a handcart in the street.
Also depicted within the Bow Bells pub wall mural are 3 individuals dressed in the traditional attire of the London of ‘Pearly’ Kings & Queens – and quite often known as ‘Pearlies’.
Coming from predominantly poor working class backgrounds, costermongers in the mid to late 1800’s would often wear jackets, trousers & hats decorated with ‘mother-of-pearl’ buttons that they had found lying around in the streets near their market stalls – with the buttons being sewn all along the seams of the garments . These buttons gave their clothing a pearl like effect, that glistened in the light, drawing peoples attention to them.
As time progressed the extremely visible ‘pearlies’ focused their attention on charitable fund-raising activities for the benefit of London’s poor working classes – and a ‘Pearly King’ and ‘Pearly Queen’ would be elected to promote and conduct proceedings. By 1911 a ‘Pearly Society’ had been fully formed.
For all the wonderful charitable work they undertake, I feel it is fitting that the ‘Pearlies’ are commemorated within the Bow Bells mural – its just such a shame that it’s painted on the side of the pub building, and so not easily or immediately visible by passing traffic or pedestrians.
The other interesting thing about the Bow Bells pub in Bow is that it is said to be haunted.
It is believed that a ghost haunts the pub’s Ladies khazi – and makes itself know by flushing the toilet when someone is sitting on it.
Apparently the pub tied to exercise the unwanted spirit by holding a séance – and it is said that when the spirit was asked to make itself known, the door to the ladies’ bogs swung open so hard that it smashed a pain of glass.
So – that all about the Bow Bells ‘mural’ – not a big topic by any means – but never the less, an interesting little lesser known London landmark.
Hope you enjoyed it
See below – the entire gallery of photos taken to accompany this blog