Old Ford Area

Old Ford Area

There is an area in Tower Hamlets called Old Ford that receives its name from a natural ford that managed to cross the River Lea.

Administration and boundaries

Historically, Old Ford was a ford with a cluster of houses around it and a mill. The Ancient Parish of Stepney was located in this vicinity. In 1719, a new Ancient Parish of Bow was formed from the rest of Bow, separating it from Stepney. Antiquity was characterized by parishes not just as places of worship but also as places of local governance. Following the division into civil and ecclesiastical parishes, ancient parishes served as both civil administration and local government.

In spite of Bow’s long association with the civil administration, it experienced rapid growth in Victorian times and became an independent Anglican parish by the middle of the century.

Location of the ford

On the Victorian OS map is an illustration of the former ford site at the confluence of the Lea and the Hackney Brook just south of the Northern Outfall Sewer. Due to the confluence, the Lea likely eddied and slowed, causing sediment to be displaced upstream, which could have been the cause of fording here. The fact that the Lea’s tidal head was located nearby may also have contributed to the situation.

The ford was located adjacent to the Northern Outfall Sewer during the Roman period, a few hundred metres north of the northern ford. The Romans improved the crossing of the Lea by dumping materials, and at one point there appears to have been a bridge across it.


The Roman Road market is the focus of local city council facilities. The public library, now the Idea Store in Gladstone Place, is located in the south of the city. An English-speaking community and community hall is nearby. The North Poplar and Bow One Stop Shop in Ewart Place gives residents access to city services.

Britannia Works along Dace Road and Smeed Road were occupied by the Percy Dalton Peanut Factory. Since 2000, SPACE has operated Britannia Works as a community artist studio building.

Check Cambridge Heath Area