Bow Lane

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Bow Lane ran north-south between Cheapside and Old Fish Street in the ward of Cordwainer Street. At Watling Street, it became Cordwainer Street, and at Old Fish Street it became Garlick Hill. Garlick Hill-Bow Lane was built in the 890s to provide access from the port of Queenhithe to the great market of Cheapside (Sheppard 70–71). The name Bow Lane was given to the street some time after the church of St. Mary-le-Bow was built on the south-west corner of Bow Lane and Cheapside; the crypt of this church was built ca. 1070-1090, and the church, originally given the name of St. Mary de Arcubus, was being called St. Mary-le-Bow by c. 1270 (Richardson 11).
Bow Lane was the dividing line between Cordwainer Street Ward and Cheap Ward. Stow describes this line thus:
[T]his street beginneth by West Cheape, and Saint Marie Bow church is the head thereof on the west side, and it runneth downe south through that part which of later time was called Hosier Lane, now Bow Lane, and then by the west end of Aldmary Chruch, to the new builded houses, in place of Ormond house, and so to Garlicke hill, or hith, to Saint Iames Church. The vpper part of this street towards Cheape was called Hosiar lane of hosiars dwelling there in place of Shoomakers: but now those hosiers being worne out by men of other trades (as the Hosiars had worne out the Shoomakers) the same is called Bow lane of [i.e. after] Bow Church.
Stow himself alternates between Bow Lane (1:118, 1:259, 1:268) and Hosier Lane (1:253, 1:255) when talking of this street, although he seems to consider Cordwainer Lane to be the official name of the street, observing at one point that Cordwainer Street is corruptly called Bow lane (1:268).
The London habit of naming streets after the craftsmen and retailers who lived on them often produced ambiguities in street names if the group after whom a street was named moved to a new location. The nature of trade necessitated such moves from time to time: Men of trades and sellers of wares in the City haue often times since chaunged their places, as they haue found to their best aduantage (Stow 1:81). Stow gives the hosiers as an example of a group who moved twice:
[T]he Hosiers of olde time in Hosier Lane, neare vnto Smithfield, are since remooued into Cordwayner streete, the vpper part thereof by Bow Church, and last of all into Birchouerislane [Birchin Lane] by Cornehil.
This passage tells us that the first Hosier Lane was in Smithfield, outside the city wall on the north-west side of the city. The move to Cordwainer Street took the hosiers into the heart of the city, whence they moved a few blocks east to Cornhill.
A hosier is [o]ne who makes or deals in hose (stockings and socks) and frame-knitted or woven underclothing generally (OED hosier, n.).
The names Hosier Lane and Cordwainer Street eventually fell out of use. In modern London, this street, still known as Bow Lane, is lined with shops from the Mansion House underground station to Cheapside. It is a popular lunching and shopping street.
Note that Bow Lane should not be confused with Bow Street, built near Covent Garden in the seventeenth century and later famous for the Bow Street Runners who ran errands for the courts of justice located there.


Last modification: 2017-03-15 17:14:07 -0400 (Wed, 15 Mar 2017) (mholmes)
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MLA citation:

Jenstad, Janelle. “Bow Lane.” The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Web. 17 February 2018. <>.

Chicago citation:

Jenstad, Janelle. n.d. “Bow Lane.” The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed February 17, 2018.

APA citation:

Jenstad J. (n.d.). Bow Lane. In J. Jenstad (Ed.), The Map of Early Modern London. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from

TEI citation:

<bibl> <author><persName><surname>Jenstad</surname>, <forename>Janelle</forename></persName></author> (<date>n.d.</date>). <title level="a">Bow Lane</title>. In <editor><persName><forename>J.</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></persName></editor> (Ed.), <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>. Retrieved <date when="2018-02-17">February 17, 2018</date>, from <ref target=""></ref> </bibl>