BOW CHURCH

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A Day in Our Life - February

3 February 1712

This was the date of the funeral of James Walker who is buried beside his wife (who died in 1707) on the south side of the church. They have the most elaborate memorial in the church, with busts, skulls and cherubs. It records that Mr Walker was “A merchant of the highest integrity, an honour to the English Church, without guile, he treated all with matchless courtesy… a lenient father. He was distinguished by his remarkable kindness and charity to friends, to the poor and especially to the clergy.” Dorothea was “graced with the choicest gifts of mind and body, the beloved wife of a beloved husband. Friendly, kind and courteous to all, liberal in thought and deed.” They sound a nice couple – and, to judge by the memorial, not short of a penny or three!

 

11 February 1600

Will Kemp, the country's leading comic actor and entertainer (and a friend of Shakespeare), began to dance all the way from London to Norwich - 130 miles - for publicity and sponsorship money. He set off with a drummer and a referee, and an enormous crowd cheering him on.

 

"Mile End is no walk without a recreation at Stratford Bow and cream and cakes... and many a thousand brought me to Bow where I rested a while from dancing, but had small rest from those who urged me to drinking!" - from his book, 'Kemp's Nine Days Wonder'

 

After Bow, he danced over the bridge and on to Romford to end his first day. He made it all the way to Norwich. It took him a month.

 

17 February 1913

Sylvia Pankhurst (who had opened the East London Suffragette's HQ opposite the church in 1912) addressed a meeting "in a dreary, almost unlighted open space near Bow Church" - now Stroudly Walk. It was all a bit dismal until she livened things up by smashing the windows of C Selby's - the local undertakers. George Lansbury's son, Willie, did the same at Bromley Public Hall (the Register Office) and the Bow Liberal Party Office. Sylvia, Willie and several others were arrested and taken to Bow Police Station. They were all sentenced to two months' hard labour. Sylvia later said, "It marked the beginning of the mass movement for Votes for Women in East London."

 

21 February 1859

George Lansbury was born in Suffolk on this day in 1859. He came as a child with his family to London and settled in Whitechapel. He married his sweetheart, Bessie, whom he had met at Whitechapel church and, after a disastrous attempt to settle in Australia, moved to St Stephen's Road.

 

He got more and more involved in local and national politics, becoming a guardian of the poor, borough councillor, mayor and MP for Bow, and ultimately a member of the Labour government and Leader of the Labour party. He was a pacificist and a devout Christian, and always lived locally. For nearly forty years, he was a member of our church - on the church council and a vociferous supporter of the parish football team! After his death, he was described as "the most lovable man in modern politics" and, by Clement Atlee, as "the greatest man the East End has known".

 

In May 2011, we are erecting a plaque in his honour in the church.

 

2 March 1721

On 2 March 1721, the church accounts show a payment of 11/6d (58p) for "prayers burying a man fell dead in Reading's yard". With the church on a main road, there were frequent examples of the parish having to deal with strangers in distress, taken ill or dying in its boundaries.

 

In April, "two castaways from Norway" were given 2d. In July, there was 2/6 "to relieve a poor man with 12 children who lost £500 at sea" and 2/- to Mary Jones, "a poor traveller, who fell in fits, for one night's lodging, bleeding etc." A week later, Ann Cawarden got 9/- "to buy a gown and petticoat, being almost naked". A Mr Stevens was given 2/6 "for a horse and cart to carry a woman to Hackney", and money was given "for clothes etc. for a child dropped at the pipe maker's door with a note naming her Sarah Halsop." And so it went on - 18th century social services in action.