Fish Island, Tower Hamlets
The borough’s largest industrial area – now acquiring a significant residential (and artistic) community – situated east of Old Ford
Fish Island is located south of the Hertford Union canal where it joins the Hackney Cut and is so called for some of its street names: Dace Road, Roach Road and Bream Street. Historically, this locality was part of Old Ford but the creation of the East Cross Route in the late 1960s severed the connection. Old Ford Road used to continue through the marshes and across the River Lea via the original ‘old ford’. One large house, latterly known as King John’s Palace, stood here until 1863.
In 1865 the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company bought 30 acres of land as the site for a new works, but instead decided to build these on the east bank of the Lea in Bromley-by-Bow. The company sold the site and the present network of streets was laid out, and filled with small houses and multi-storey factories. Until the late 1990s the island’s largest employer was Percy Dalton’s Famous Peanut Company, at the Old Ford Works in Dace Road.
Fish Island was until recently dominated by waste disposal and recycling facilities and wholesale and distribution warehouses, together with some offices. A number of vacant properties fell into disrepair and the council permitted their conversion to live/work loft apartments.
In 2005 the construction of the Roach Point pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Hertford Union canal halved the length of the journey from Fish Island to Hackney Wick station.
The proximity of the Olympic Park on the opposite bank of the River Lea increased the island’s appeal and the most ambitious residential project has been the Omega Works at the north-east tip of the island.
As in nearby Hackney Wick, the relatively affordable availability of disused industrial premises has attracted a thriving community of artists and designers. On Roach Road, The Counter is a characterful café within Stour Space, an exhibition, performance and studio space for the development of creative enterprises. The Hackney Cut is an impressive new multi-arts venue (and eatery) on Beachy Road.
An appropriate recent arrival has been H Forman & Son, who produce smoked salmon, other smoked and marinated fish and shellfish. The smokehouse incorporates a restaurant and an art project space on the top floor. The company moved here after being dislodged from its old premises, which occupied the precise site of the Olympic stadium. Unlike the estate agents who use the E3 postcode to claim this locality is simply an extension of Bow, Formans proudly declare their address as Fish Island.
Channel 4’s Big Breakfast was broadcast from the Lock Keeper’s Cottage at Old Ford Lock from 1992 to 2002. There had been rumours that the show’s founder Bob Geldof would blow up the cottage on the show’s final day but computer tricks were instead used to fake its disappearance.
Postal district: E3
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