E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Born within sound of Bow bells. A true cockney. St. Maryle-Bow has long had one of the most celebrated bell-peals in London. John Dun, mercer, gave in 1472 two tenements to maintain the ringing of Bow bell every night at nine oclock, to direct travellers on the road to town; and in 1520 William Copland gave a bigger bell for the purpose of sounding a retreat from work. Bow church is nearly the centre of the City. (This bow rhymes with flow.)