East Enders' Hidden History
Tony Aldous discovers a secret pocket of historic mills and warehouses in the Bow Creek area of London.
For centuries the valley of the River Lea, which flows into the Thames at Bow Creek, has been regarded as London's dustbin. Now, by a strange twist of fortune, its network of waterways offers some of the greenest and most tranquil spots in inner London; its 800-year industrial history is being unpicked from the tat; and film-makers have pounced on a group of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century mills and warehouses barely 250 metres from the rush and roar of the Blackwall Tunnel approach road as a handy and glamorous setting for all manner of soaps, period dramas, and pop videos.
Three Mills Island at Bow does indeed present a delightful group of buildings. Passing the car park of a 1990s Tesco, you look across a bridge over the Lea, and they are: the House Mill (1776, Grade I); the Mill (1750-1817, Grade II); and the stone-paved quay and roadway serving them.