Posts Tagged ‘East india Company’

Poplar To Limehouse 1988

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

Poplar To Limehouse 1988 – my walk continued on the East India Dock Road.

East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-51-positive_2400
East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-51

From the posters in the window this was clearly a video rental store, a relatively new thing back in 1988 – the first Blockbuster Video store only opened in Dallas, Texas in 1985. Home video recording only began to be popular after the introduction of Betamax in 1975, followed in 1977 by VHS (along with other formats.) By 1988 VHS had become the dominant format.

But my attention was caught by the notice on the door, ‘NO DOGS OR BIKES ALLOWED’ with a very small ‘Thankyou’ and the two bikes (I think a BMX and a racer) flung down on the pavement outside unlocked by their two young owners.

Poplar Labour Party, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-53-positive_2400
Poplar Labour Party, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-53

Poplar Labour Party, led by George Lansbury, gained control of Poplar Borough Council in 1919. Poplar was one of the poorest areas of the country and so rateable values there were low. With councils then being responsible for supporting the unemployed and poor, council rates thus had to be set at a much higher level than in wealthy boroughs, which was clearly unfair on boroughs like Poplar who had so many more people needing support. Their rates were the highest in London, twice as high as in the wealthy borough of Kensington.

Poplar Labour had come into office to make changes, to provide greater support for the poor, to set a higher minimum wage for council workers and to pay women equally to men. When a demand from government came in 1921 to increase contributions for cross-London authorities Poplar council refused to pay, instead voting to use the money for the local poor. The authorities took them to court, and 30 councillors marched there with two thousand supporters. All of the councillors were sentenced to prison, where one of the six women, Minnie Lansbury, died, only 32.

Public outcry with large demonstrations and some riots – and other councils following Poplar’s lead – led to the councillors being released with an Act being rushed through Parliament to make the system more fair, with richer boroughs contributing more and the poorer less.

Their protest had clearly been illegal, but was clearly justified, and it led to a much-needed reform. It’s a lesson which still has relevance, particularly with such current matters as statues and the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Richard Green, statue, Poplar Baths, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-54-positive_2400
Richard Green, statue, Poplar Baths, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-54

The statue of Richard Green still stands outside Poplar Baths, a Grade II listed building from 1933, replacing an earlier baths from 1852. The baths were largely to provide washing facilities when few homes had bathrooms in this poor area of the city. As well as ‘slipper baths’ there were also vapour baths, showers and laundry facilities. The new baths in 1933 was a huge building including these facilities and two swimming pools, the larger of which could be covered over and used as a dance hall, theatre and sports hall.

The baths reopened in 1947 after the war despite considerable damage and was closed and converted into a training centre in 1988. My picture from 1988 shows a board advertising the support of the London Docklands Development Corporation in providing disabled access.

The building later became derelict but after a strong local and national campaign for its restoration work began on its redevelopment in 2014 and it reopened again as Poplar Baths Leisure Centre and Gym, along with 100 new homes, in 2016.

Richard Green (1803-63) was a local shipowner, shipbuilder and philanthropist, supporting a Sailors’ Home, schools, an orphanage and hospitals in the area, some of which had been founded by his father, George Green. His Blackwall Yard built many ships for the East India Company and for trade with Australia and China. His company, R & H Green in 1919 joined with Silley Weir as R. and H. Green and Silley Weir, with large premises at the Royal Albert dry docks and others and continued in business until sold to become a part of the government owned River Thames Shipbuilders in 1977.

George Green School, East India Dock Rd, Sturry St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-43-positive_2400
George Green School, East India Dock Rd, Sturry St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-43

George Green (1767-1849) was the father of Richard Green whose statue with his dog still sits outside Poplar Baths. George married the boss’s daughter and made the reputation of the Blackwall Shipbuilding Yard, building many whalers.

As well as this school dating from 1828 on the East India Dock Road the older Green also endowed schools in Chrisp Street and Bow Lane. The current huilding from 1883 is part of Tower Hamlets College. George Green School in new buildings on Manchester Road became the secondary school for the Isle of Dogs with its first comprehensive intake in 1975.

Poplar Recreation Ground Memorial, schoolchildren, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-44-positive_2400
Poplar Recreation Ground Memorial, schoolchildren, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-44

The War memorial to the children of Upper North Street School is https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101065215-war-memorial-to-the-children-of-upper-north-street-school-poplar-ward Grade II* listed and includes the inscription: ‘IN MEMORY OF/ 18 CHILDREN/ WHO WERE KILLED/ BY A BOMB/ DROPPED FROM A/ GERMAN AEROPLANE/ UPON THE L.C.C./ SCHOOL UPPER/ NORTH STREET/ POPLAR ON THE/ 13TH OF JUNE 1917./ ALFRED H. WARREN O.B.E./ MAYOR/ J. BUTEUX SKEGGS,/ TOWN CLERK. ‘

There is a fuller story at the link above about the first mass German raid on London by Gotha bombers on 13 June 1917 which killed 162, including these 18 children mainly aged 5 or 6. At least 37 other children at the school were among the 432 injured by the raid.

St Mathias, church, Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-45-positive_2400
St Mathias, church, Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-45

St Mathias Church is also Grade II* listed, with a number of Grade II listed monuments. Poplar’s oldest church, it was built in 1766 as the Chapel of the East India Company, and became St Mathias as a parish church in 1866. You can see the company’s arms in the roof, and allegedly its columns came from wrecks of the Spanish Armada.

The exterior of the church was altered and enlarged by Teulon in 1875. The church closed in 1976 and was restored for community use by the LDDC in 1990.

Grieg House, Garford St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-36-positive_2400
Grieg House, Garford St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-36

Built in 1902–3 as an officers’ annexe to the Scandinavian Sailors’ Temperance Home, founded by Swedish Free Church missionary Agnes Hedenstrom (1849–1928) who began her mission in the East End in the 1870s, opening the home here in 1888. The mission was taken over by the Salvation Army in 1930.

This was I think the last picture I took on my way to Westferry station where I returned a couple of days later for another walk – and the subject of a later post.


Click on any image to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos from where you can browse other images.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


More Poplar 1988

Sunday, January 23rd, 2022

More Poplar 1988 continues my walk Limehouse, Isle of Dogs & Poplar.

Chaplain’s house, East India Company, Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 198888-7p-31-positive_2400
Chaplain’s house, East India Company, Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 198888-7p-31

The Survey of London has a long story about this house at 115 Poplar High Street, now a private residence oddly called Meridian House and built together with 26 new almshouses by the East India Company in 1801-2. They had first set up almshouses in Poplar for disabled and retired employees and their widows and orphans in1626, built partly using money seized from the estate of Hugh Greete after his death in 1619. Greete had been discovered to have been swindling the company while trading Indian diamonds and they seized his assets.

The old almshouse was demolished in 1802 replaced by the new buildings. After the Crown took direct control of India in 1858 the government took over these buildings as Poplar Marine Hospital, selling all except the chaplain’s house, burial ground and chapel to Poplar District Board of Works in 1866. They demolished the almshouses to become Poplar Recreation Ground.

The chapel became the Church of St Matthias with the Chaplains house as its vicarage – and it was further enlarged in the following years. When St Matthias was closed in 1976 the house was sold to become a private residence.

Former District Board of Works Offices, Poplar High St, Woodstock Terrace,  Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-32-positive_2400
Former District Board of Works Offices, Poplar High St, Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-32

This Grade II listed building from 1869-70 for the Poplar District Board of Works was the result of a competition for designs which attracted 43 entries and considerable controversy when the prize went to Walter Augustus Hills (c1834–1917) and Thomas Wayland Fletcher (1833–1901) of Bow, both former assistant surveyors to the board. One architectual magazine at the time described it as ‘terribly ugly’. They were obliged to cooperate with the second place pair of Arthur and Christopher Harston over a final design. Once constructed the building was found to have various problems, not least that in the boardroom ‘reverberation was so excessive as to make the speaker almost incomprehensible’.

Various alterations were made and in 1900 the building became the town hall of the new Metropolitan Borough of Poplar, who extended it and then replaced it in 1038 by a new town hall in Bow. It continued in various uses by the council and in 1987 became the Borough of Tower Hamlets’s Directorate of Housing.

Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-34-positive_2400
Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-34

This small paved area is just off the High St between Norwood House and Holmsdale House and the block in the centre of the picture is Constant House on Harrow Lane, built by Poplar Council in 1936-7designed by the Borough Engineer and Surveyor, Rees J Williams. Both Holmsdale and Constant House were rehabilitated in 1986-7, with more work in recent years. Norwood House was added in the late 1960s and this paved area looks as if it may date from then.

Holmsdale House,  Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-36-positive_2400
Holmsdale House, Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-36

A similar style block to Constant House, also built for Poplar Council in 1937-8, designed by Rees J Williams.

The Resolute, pub, Harrow Lane, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-21-positive_2400
The Resolute, pub, Harrow Lane, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-21

Built in 1937 on the corner of Poplar High St and Harrow Lane, to replace an earlier pub the Resolute survived until closed and demolished in 2011. The pub on this site was The Harrow from 1797 (or earlier) until renamed the Resolute Tavern around 1881.

The best-known ship of this name was fitted out for arctic service at nearby Blackwall Yard in 1850 and made several trips to the Arctic searching for the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin who had been searching for a North West Passage. Finally the Resolute got stuck in ice and was abandoned in May 1854, the crew escaping across the ice to a relief fleet.

The ship was found drifting by an American whaler over a thousand miles from where she was abandoned in September 1855 in perfect order and was sailed back to New London, Connecticut, arriving on Christmas Eve. Eventually she was bought by the US Congress, refitted and sailed back to be presented to Queen Victoria and rejoining the navy. The Resolute was retired from the Navy in 1879, possibly at the time the pub was renamed. Some of her timbers were then used to create a substantial desk presented by Queen Victoria to US President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. Moved out for some years it has been back in use by most presidents in the Oval Office since being replaced there by Jimmy Carter.

East End Snooker and Social Club, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-01-positive_2400
East End Snooker and Social Club, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-01

This club was at 253 East India Dock Road and has since been converted into Poplar Central Mosque.

Blackwall Tunnel Approach, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-65-positive_2400
Blackwall Tunnel Approach, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-65

The crunched rear end of D814 VRG presumably had its match on the front end of A506 DMX, but at least it appeared that there were no casualites in the collision at the north end of the Blackwall Tunnel, viewed by me from Poplar High St. A sign a little down the road says ‘Welcome to Tower Hamlets‘ though I think most of the tunnel is in the borough. At left is the unmistakable profile of Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower, built in 1965-6 for the GLC and recently stolen from its residents by Poplar HARCA housing association and sold as luxury housing.

Follett St Seamen's Mission, Follett St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-66-positive_2400
Follett St Seamen’s Mission, Follett St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-66

Just on the edge of the elaborate interchange between the East India Dock Road and the Blackwall Tunnel Approach is this small Seamen’s Mission, built in 1898 a Christ Church House and a part of the St Frideswide’s Mission House Conservation Area, but this building only locally listed. The mission here was set up by members of Christ Church College Oxford who in 1881 decided to support missions in the East End. Now converted into six flats.

My 1988 walk in Poplar will continue in a later post.