Fish Island, London
Fish Island is adjacent to Bow, north-east of the City of London, south of Hackney Wick and west of Stratford. It is bounded by the River Lea Navigation, the Hertford Union Canal and the East Cross Route and is about 20 hectares or 50 acres in extent.
The Fish Island area was originally known to local residents as "the Island" and later Fish Island, in reference to the roads with the names of freshwater fish: Smeed, Dace, Monier, Bream, Roach etc.
In the early 12th century a bow-shaped stone bridge was built over the River Lea giving its name to the west bank settlement of Bow. The earlier crossing point, a river ford, half a mile upstream became known as Eldeford or Oldeford by the 13th century. The area north of Old Ford, between the River Lea and Hackney Brook, known as Old Ford Marsh, was intersected by canals and drained in the late 18th and early 19th century, forming the district that now includes Fish Island.
In 1865, a 30 acre plot in Old Ford was purchased to be used as a gas works, but the Gas Light and Coke Company established what would become known as Fish Island, giving it its distinctive road names, and building a mixed residential and industrial development instead. The area saw significant bombing during World War II with damaged housing demolished, post war, to make way for factories and warehouses.
Fish Island has a long tradition as a home to artists and art spaces. The Island, and adjoining Hackney Wick, has 'one of the highest densities of fine artists, designers and artisans in Europe', with a 2009 study identifying around 600 artists' studios.
In 2014, a partnership between tech hub The Trampery and the Barbican Centre, led to the establishment of Fish Island Labs, a mentored art and technology project. The Labs will allow 40 to 50 participants, for ten months, to share a low-cost workspace in a converted Fish Island warehouse.
H. Forman & Son, the world's oldest producer of smoked salmon, has been based in Fish Island since 1971, at Queens Yard, Hackney Wick. Together with its sister business Forman and Field, producers of gourmet food, it was forced to relocate out of the area following a flood when the Hackney Cut (part of the River Lea Navigation) overflowed and flooded Queens Yard. It moved to nearby Marshgate Lane, but within one year of relocating, it was forced to move again as its newly built factory was required for compulsory purchase, being located on what was to become the running track of the Olympic Stadium. In October 2007 it relocated back to Fish Island and its new premises were officially opened by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. The new premises now enjoy a full view of the Olympic stadium and has a restaurant and hospitality venue in addition to the smoke-house and kitchens and also an art gallery, to support the work of the local art community.
Once a largely industrial area, the island is currently going through a major regeneration, though numerous industrial units remain. This is partially credited to its proximity to the Olympic Park, on the opposite bank of the Lea. It is home to a mixture of factories, residential flats and, more recently, studios and workshops for those working in creative industries. The local planning authority intends to see it developed as a mixed-use community with further land used for housing, employment and open space, and improved access links.
Fish Island is home to the Percy Dalton Peanut Factory which has now been largely converted into artist studios.
Walking and cycling
The Greenway starts on Wick Lane and there is a footbridge over the East Cross Route linking Old Ford and Bow. The Hertford Union Canal and Lea River Navigation towpaths pass north and east of Fish Island and the National Cycle Route 1 also passes the north on the Hertford Union Canal towpath.
- "Fish Island Conservation Area". Tower Hamlets London Borough Council. Retrieved 2014-09-06.
- Bridget Cherry; Charles O'Brien; Nikolaus Pevsner (2005). London: East. Yale University Press. p. 626. ISBN 978-0-300-10701-2.
- Curtis, Nick (2014-06-27). "Fish Island Labs: the Barbican's fuzzy new frontier where art and technology meet". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2014-09-06.
- "Creative. Connected. World Class. East Wick and Sweetwater. Development opportunity on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.". London Legacy Development Corporation. Retrieved 2014-09-06.
- Davies, Lizzy (2011-07-17). "How power, money and art are shifting to the East End". The Observer (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 2014-09-06.
- Fish Island at HiddenLondon.com
- Mapping the Change: Old Ford Voices & Island Memories at Tower Hamlets Borough Council 'Idea'.
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