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The 'Other' Bow Quarter Plaque

Updated: Jun 20, 2023


Since this blog was written in 2020, the Bow Heritage plaque has been removed. An official English Heritage Blue Plaque was unveiled on 5th July 2022.

When we look at the Bow Quarter, most of us find our eyes drawn to the plaque commemorating Annie Besant’s role in the 1888 Matchgirls Strike. We have previously outlined former resident Alan Cock’s part in getting this plaque.

However, the second rectangular plaque, which records both the Strike, and the Bryant and May manufacturing duration on the site, also merits the acknowledgement of the efforts of another local man – Joseph Waters.

The plaque is one of a number in the Bow Heritage series, as recently recorded in the 2019 article by Frederick O’Brien for Roman Road London [1].

These plaques all carry this logo:

The plaque trail was set up in 1990 by Bow Neighbourhood, then a branch of Tower Hamlets Council, and the Roman Road article proposes that the Trail should be enlarged and made more accessible. Currently, as far as maintenance and care is concerned, the Council’s current position is that the plaques:

are considered as private property owned by the freeholder of the building they are fixed to.“ [2]

So, we wait to see what becomes of the Roman Road suggestions…..

Joseph Waters was an enthusiastic local historian. Following his death in 1995, the East London History Society recorded:

"It is with great regret that we report the death of one of our most enthusiastic local historians, Joseph Waters, just before Christmas, at the age of 70.

Born at Poplar Workhouse in 1925, one of 11 children, Joseph lived all his life in the East End. He saw service in the Navy during the War and was later employed as a training instructor. The Waters' home was one of several damaged when the first V1 flying bomb landed in Bow.

Among Joseph's many achievements was his drive to install blue plaques on sites of historical significance in Tower Hamlets. The Heritage Trail around Bow was researched by him as well. Joseph was a keen supporter of the Ragged School Museum and he campaigned vigorously for greater awareness of the importance of conservation of our local heritage. Needless to say, he will be greatly missed by us all." [3]

Maybe the hoped for occasion of the installation of an English Heritage plaque at Bow Quarter, to celebrate the Matchgirls Strike of 1888, could consider allowing a recognition of Joseph Waters' efforts thirty years ago.


[2] Tower Hamlets Council, 18th Nov 2020 - FOI: 25625505 Plaques for the Bow Heritage Trail

[3] East London History Society Newsletter, Spring 1996, Vol. 1 No.10

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