Street art that commemorates social reformers

Think you know all the hidden gems around here? We went on a hunt for the best street art around Roman Road for you to enjoy on your sunny strolls.

Much of our street art commemorates the many social reformers that have sprung from the Roman Road area, including Sylvia Pankhurst and Clara Grant. How better to commemorate the inspiring people whose ideas shaped our world than in glorious street art that we can enjoy on our daily commute or errands.

The best thing about public art is that it is free for all to enjoy whenever you want – no tickets or planning involved. Though, if you do find yourselves seeking some inspiration on a rainy day the Nunnery Gallery, the Art Pavilion and the Chisenhale Gallery, will surely hit the spot. 

Remember, walking tours aren’t just for holidays. Grab your coat and take yourself on a tour of the best free are around our Ends. 

East End landmarks, Aberavon Road

Mural of East End landmarks on a wall on Aberavon Road in Mile End
East End Landmarks © Cecelia Cran

This stunning artwork is more like visiting an art gallery full of intricate paintings of local landmarks than a traditional mural. We can only imagine the hours of work that went into it, so fingers crossed it stays to be enjoyed for years to come. 

Situated at the entrance to Aberavon Road – directly opposite Mile End tube station – it portrays landmarks all over Tower Hamlets, though of course our favourites are Bow Quarter, the Green Bridge, Roman Road Market and Mile End Park. 

Endangered animals under the railway arches, Ackroyd Drive

This incredible series of art works was created by a bunch of talented environmental artists, who came together to paint these moving images of endangered animals. The brainchild of popular local artists Louis Masai and Charlotte Webster from Human Nature, the series makes up one of the most impressive outdoor art exhibitions in London.

These stunning murals can be found in the railway arches that link Bow Common lane and Burdett Road, and form the green corridor that connects Mile End Park with Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. They are maintained by the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, who have run crowdfunding campaigns to keep them clean and free of graffiti tags. 

Walking along the Mild End railway arches, you’ll see everything from a whale, a rhino, to a tiger and orangutan. Above the murals are the words: ‘All of nature rests in the hands of man’s wisdom let us not be fools.’

Clara Grant mural, Mainyard Studios

Mainyard Studio Bow Road mural of Clara Grant
© Roman Road LDN 

This massive mural covers the entire facade of coworking space Mainyard Studios on Bow Road. Mural artist and designer, Jake Attewell (who goes by the artist name Itaewon) spent two weeks creating this mural. He wanted the work to showcase the history and social values of Bow, so chose Clara Grant to embody  this.

Also known as ‘the Bundle Woman of Bow’, Clara Grant was an educator and social pioneer in the 19th and early 20th centuries. She dedicated her life to the education and wellbeing of impoverished children in the East End.

Sylvia Pankhurst and the Suffragettes, the Lord Morpeth pub

Lord Morpeth Ford Road Bow
© Roman Road LDN

Few people realise that Bow is the heartland of Sylvia Pankhurst and the East London Federation of Suffragettes. Though it’s hard to miss it with this striking mural painted across two stories on the side of the glorious Lord Morpeth pub. It feels as if those piercing eyes cut straight through to the soul, perfectly capturing the spirit of a woman with a clear vision and unwaverable belief. 

When Pankhurst came to London, she opened an East London branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which would ultimately become known as the Bow Branch. She recognised that her supporters needed to learn how to defend themselves against what she called ‘the brutality of public servants’ and launched a people’s army. 

Around this time it was not uncommon to see her disciples marching up and down The Roman, but also selling the Votes for Women newspaper, which subsequently became the ‘Woman’s Dreadnought.’

NHS landscapes mural, Zealand Road

Street art celebrating NHS and keyworkers, Zealand Road, Bow.
Photo by Evie Breese

The rolling landscapes and gloriously bright colour palette of this mural feels like a totally different universe. But, if you look closely, there’s the Victoria brickwork and shiny sky-scapes of our beloved city entwined with the dreamy visuals. 

We can’t help but think the artist must have been inspired by the signs created by local artist Peter Liversidge, who busied himself during the first lockdown by creating a colourful patchwork of signs on the railings near Wennington Green. The positive messages appeared during the cover of night, clustered around the Roman Road road sign, thanking the NHS and our key workers.

BEEF shutters, Brian Roberts butchers on Roman Road

Beef on shutters, street art, Roman Road, Globe Town
Photo by @eenyyaahh

As any designer or graphics artist will tell you, fonts are one hundred per cent art! The distinctive BEEF shutters are truly one of Roman Road’s best secrets, only visible when Brian Roberts – Ye Olde Fashioned Butchers close up for the day. 

East London resident Gavin Peckover took over the shop in 2013. As well as your classic rump steaks and turkey breasts, the Shelves are filled with condiments and specialist foods from traditional pease pudding and duck eggs to healthy bee pollen and specialist honeys. A Butchers for all if ever we saw one.

Amy Winehouse on Grove Road

Amy Winehouse graffiti on a wall on Grove Road, Mile End
Photo by Cecelia Cran

Situated with a cash point to her left and entrance to an offie on her right, this mural of a young Amy Winehouse is a delight to stumble upon down Grove Road. The unassuming silhouette is an unpretentious tribute to this incredible woman, whose music flowed from Camden to inspire people across London, and the world.

Pearly Kings and Queens on the Bow Bells pub

Black and white mural of pearly kings and queens on a wall near Bow Bells, East London
© Cecelia Cran

In a simple monochrome, this mural on the side of the Bow Bells is instantly recognisable as a tribute to one of the most recognisable elements of Cockney culture – The Pearly Kings and Queens

According to legend, when Henry Croft – later to become founder of the pearly Monarchy –  came across a shipload of mother-of-pearl buttons abandoned on the banks of the Thames, he sewed 60,000 of them onto his clothes. These pearly outfits came to be the iconic dress of the pearly monarchy, as seen in the decorated cap in this mural. 

Part of the second oldest charity in London, modern Pearly Monarchs dedicate their lives to raising money, supporting children’s hospitals, special needs schools and research charities. We can’t think of a more deserving group to adorn this spot on the Bow Bells, visible to anyone walking or driving east from Bow to Stratford.

If you enjoyed this piece you may like our tour of public art in Bow and Globe Town

 


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