Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1994.
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Dingle Lane and Dingle Lane School (demolished).
Dingle Lane, to the east of No. 30, was one of the ways from the High Street to the Isle of Dogs until the southern part was removed by the construction of the West India Docks. There was some building along it by the early eighteenth century, (fn. 4) and in the early nineteenth century Tucker's Court (begun by Thomas Hale) and Dingle Court were built on its south side. (fn. 5) They consisted of a double row of 14 back-to-back two-storey cottages, each with two rooms and a kitchen or scullery. (fn. 6)
In the 1890s the cottages were condemned as insanitary and Dingle Lane itself — 'a very narrow blind street' — was described as 'A very low rough place . . . Tenanted by cockney Irish — no English will live near them'. (fn. 7) The 21 houses in the lane and courts — together with Nos 24, 30, 32 and 34 High Street — were cleared by the LCC as part of an improvement scheme initiated in 1899. (fn. 8)
A part of the cleared land on the south side of the lane was used for an LCC elementary school. As a temporary measure, there were two 'portable' iron school buildings on the site from 1906 until 1909. (fn. 9) The school was erected by J. & C. Bowyer of Upper Norwood, on their tender of £12,948, and opened in 1910, with places for 740 pupils. (fn. 10) The building was damaged in the Second World War and was subsequently demolished. (fn. 11)
Nos 68–82 (demolished).
From at least the 1650s until 1729 or later a Green Man tavern had stood on the south side of the street at or near Dingle Lane. (fn. 12) At an uncertain date it was moved, with its name, to the western corner of Dolphin Lane. This weatherboarded tavern at No. 68 Poplar High Street was rebuilt for Taylor, Walker by J. R. Johnstone of Gough Street (together with a dwelling house at No. 66) in 1904 (Plate 4a). (fn. 13)
In 1939 the name was transferred again to a newly built public house (in 1994 Carry's Free House) erected for Taylor, Walker at the opposite, eastern, corner of a realigned Dolphin Lane when the previous site of No. 68 was taken into the LCC's Dolphin House development. The architect was S. A. S. Yeo (d. 1966) and the builder Bridge Walker Ltd. (fn. 14)
East of Dolphin Lane as it was in 1900 and extending to Stoneyard Lane were formerly the buildings shown on Plate 3c. At that time the single-storey buildings had been the shops of a greengrocer, a confectioner and a herbalist, and the gabled building was a public house. (fn. 15) No good evidence of their date can be adduced beyond their appearance. Until the 1840s or 1850s all were held under the manor of Poplar, the copyholders from 1737 being a family called Collet (later Collet Sanderson), who in that year, in the person of George Collet of the Minories, glass-seller, bought the land from a linendraper in Fenchurch Street for £175. (fn. 16) The central part of the gabled building, later No. 72, was occupied by licensed victuallers as the Black Horse from about 1744. By 1808 some 13 cottages had been built at the back of the property in Dolphin Lane. (fn. 17) In that year the victualler and lessee then in possession was required by the copyholder, John Sanderson, to spend £600 in repairs to the satisfaction of Sanderson's surveyor, John Walters (1782– 1821), (fn. 18) an 'able architect' who designed a Palladian auction mart being built at that time in Bartholomew Lane and was later responsible for St Paul's, Shadwell. (fn. 19) It seems certain that he did nothing architectural to the front of the houses here, although he probably united Nos 72 and 74 in an enlarged Black Horse (fn. 20) the better to accommodate its customers ('lewd and indecent persons'). (fn. 21)
This Sanderson was an 'esquire' of Stoke Newington (formerly a surgeon of Clerkenwell), and he was succeeded by another 'gentleman', Walter Collet Sanderson. (fn. 22) But perhaps the copyholders were becoming, like the area itself, downwardly mobile, for in 1837 the Sandersons in possession were a carpenter and a painter. (fn. 23) In 1841–56 the Sandersons enfranchised their property from manorial tenure (fn. 24) and in 1847 the eastward part of the street frontage, later Nos 76–82, occupied by the single-storey buildings shown on Plate 3c, was acquired by local builders, Thomas and William Horne, ultimately as freehold at a cost of £460 (fig. 20). (fn. 25) They contented themselves with building two 'cottages' tuckedaway down Stoneyard Lane in about 1847–8. (fn. 26) No other new building followed until the Sandersons were succeeded by a relation-by-marriage, and No. 70, on the corner west of the Black Horse, was rebuilt in 1864–5 (the architect probably being Joseph Harris, a local surveyor). (fn. 27) Beyond this there was evidently no sufficient impulse to redevelop the street frontage.
In 1902 Nos 72 and 74 were rebuilt as three houses, (fn. 28) and in 1909 a two-storey warehouse was built at Nos 76– 82 by the freeholder, a mason, road, cartage and general contractor and wharfinger, G. J. Anderson of Poplar and Limehouse. The architect was the local man, William Clarkson (d. 1918), who in the following year designed Anderson a suburban-type house in East India Dock Road. (fn. 29) In the High Street Clarkson made no attempt to disguise the industrial character of his design. (fn. 30)
Dock Cottages and the East and West India Dock Company Library and Reading Room, Dolphin Lane (demolished).
Dock Cottages were built in 1849–50 by the East and West India Dock Company to house some of its work-force, and were situated at the northern extremity of the West India Dock estate, on the west side of Dolphin Lane. They were designed by the company's Engineer. Henry Martin, and his colleague. John S. Adams, and were built by the contractors Carden & Hack, at a total cost of £6,544, or about £93 for each of the 70 dwellings. (For a fuller discussion of Dock Cottages see page 21 and for their demolition see page 93.) By early 1851 a gated access road had been formed leading from West India Dock Road, and the fields south of the cottages had been divided into 38 allotment gardens for the tenants, lettable at 2d a week. (fn. 31)
The dock company built a Library and Reading Room near the Dock Cottages in 1858–9, having formed a library for its established work-force in one of the cottages in 1856–7. The dock company's pious hope was that this would inspire better habits in those 'whose evenings are now less profitably spent'. Henry Martin designed the building as a reading and lecture room for 400, flanked by the library and a dwelling for an attendant above a room for evening classes in reading, writing, arithmetic, mechanical drawing and music. The builders were Hack & Son and the cost of the building was £1,655, of which £500 was from outside contributions. (fn. 32)
There were 350 subscribers to the reading and lecture room, dropping by 1862 to 195, in an established workforce of 784. In 1870 'Something like a Museum' (a collection of specimens of produce warehoused in the docks) was formed at what had become known as the Literary Institution and Library. The building became the East and West India Dock Company Club and Institute in 1873, reflecting a change in purpose. The scarcely used reading room was converted to be a smoking room, into which games and refreshments were introduced. Wives could now accompany their husbands to the club. By 1875, a billiard room had been formed and the sale of beer and tobacco permitted. Demand for the facility increased and alterations and extensions were made in 1876 to plans by Augustus Manning, the East and West India Dock Company's Superintending Engineer. (fn. 33)
In 1882 the building and the Dock Cottages were sold to the Midland Railway Company, which had compulsorily purchased adjoining land in 1880 for sidings and a coal depot, cutting the buildings off from the rest of the dock estate. The Club and Institute closed in 1886. By 1888 the building had become a copper and brass foundry for Suffield & Brown, coppersmiths, here until 1905–6. W. H. Sheridan & Son, powder magazine builders, occupied Dolphin Works from c1916 to c1935 when the area was cleared. (fn. 34)
The frontage between No. 98 and No. 102 was dominated from 1817 until 1960 by the building erected as a combined workhouse and town hall. This was only the most visible part of Poplar Workhouse, which was to develop into a large and sprawling complex to the rear, emerging onto the High Street again at Nos 84–88 in 1901 (fig. 21). The workhouse attracted attention not only because of its size, but also for the way in which its administration was conducted.
Until 1813 responsibility for poor relief in Poplar rested with the overseers acting under the auspices of the Meetings of the Inhabitants of the hamlet. In that year it passed to the Trustees empowered by the local Improvement Act. In 1836 All Saints', Poplar, was combined with St Leonard's, Bromley, and Bow, to form the Poplar Poor Law Union, and the Board of Guardians administered poor relief until 1930, when its functions were taken over by the LCC.
The hamlet may have been using a cottage in the High Street as a workhouse in the 1720s. (fn. 35) In 1735 it leased three houses on the north side of the street for the purpose, (fn. 36) but when the lease became due for renewal it was decided to acquire another property. In 1757 the hamlet paid £280 for three-quarters of an acre of land on the south side of the High Street. (fn. 37) This formed the core of the workhouse site thereafter. The existing buildings were supplemented in 1758 and a further extension was approved in 1805, when Joseph Smith was granted the contract on a price of £1,286. (fn. 38)
Not all of the site was required and in 1771 a town hall was erected on a part of the frontage as a replacement for the town hall building which had stood in the High Street further to the east. In 1780 permission was given for the town hall to be used as a school. (fn. 39) A separate school building was erected by public subscription on the westernmost part of the workhouse site in 1806 for the United Charity School of Poplar and St Anne Limehouse. The schools subsequently separated and the building was then occupied by the Poplar and Blackwall National School. (fn. 40)
As the population of the hamlet increased in the early years of the nineteenth century, so did the numbers of the poor, and the workhouse buildings, which could accommodate 120, were found to be inadequate. To ease the problem, some of the poor were sent to Hoxton, and a number of children were lodged at Leytonstone. (fn. 41) The size and poor condition of the workhouse made its enlargement or rebuilding essential and the Trustees' administration formed in 1813 made it a priority. Additional land to the rear was acquired in 1812. (fn. 42) but the Trustees questioned the suitability of the site and invited reports from doctors. One opinion was that the workhouse's position was unhealthy, being 'low and swampy', although the others declared it to be satisfactory and, as no alternative could be found at a reasonable price, it was decided to rebuild on the existing site. (fn. 43) In 1815 a new East Wing was erected and in 1817 the buildings fronting the street, apart from the school, were replaced by a building which included further accommodation for inmates, the Master's living quarters, and a town hall and offices for the Trustees' use. Both buildings were designed by James Walker (see page 120) and built by Messrs Horne & Gates. The builders were paid £12,423 9s 8d and Walker's fees were £840. (fn. 44) The proposed West Wing was not built, chiefly because the Trustees had no legal powers to acquire the site of the school, and so a range of workrooms was erected instead, for £240. (fn. 45) This group formed the core of the workhouse for the next 50 years.
Both the East Wing and the main building were of four storeys, although the discrepancy in levels between the front and rear of the latter meant that only three storeys faced the street (Plate 8a). This building was of 15 bays and had a double pitched roof. The symmetry of the street frontage was broken by the entrance, which was originally placed in the fifth bay from the west of the building. During alterations made in 1871 that doorway was blocked and a new one was created in the corresponding position on the eastern side and provided with an incongruous stone porch. The centre of the front had a three-bay pediment containing a circular date stone. String courses between the floors and the projection of the central five bays relieved the façade somewhat and there was some variety in the fenestration. A bell turret was removed in 1870, when it was found to be dilapidated. (fn. 46) The appearance of the East Wing was plainer, with regular fenestration. (fn. 47)
The Trustees' administration coincided with a period of relative prosperity in Poplar, and in the late 1820s there were fewer than 60 inmates in the workhouse, even in the winter months. (fn. 48) Only a few minor alterations and additions were made to the buildings between 1817 and 1836, including the erection of an oakum store in 1833 and an extension to the laundry in 1836. (fn. 49)
The creation of the Poplar Poor Law Union in 1836 provoked fierce criticism from the Trustees. They resented their loss of control over the administration of the poor rate which they would continue to collect. They also objected to their riverside parish being merged with two others with different economic and social characteristics, and to the underlying philosophy of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. That Act was described in the Trustees' minutes as 'a Measure opposed to the genuine principles of Christianity inasmuch as it regards Poverty as a Crime, whereas the divine founder of our Holy Religion . . . was himself Poor . . . it is a measure vicious in principle having only Political Economy for its Basis'. (fn. 50) Their objections were ineffective and the Poplar Board of Guardians held their first meeting in December 1836. (fn. 51) The parish's administration continued to occupy the town hall section of the main workhouse building. (fn. 52)
Children receiving indoor relief were kept at the workhouse until 1853, when they were removed to an industrial school, briefly at Edmonton and St George's-in-the-East, then from 1854 at the Whitechapel Guardians' school at Forest Gate, except for a short period in 1862–3 when they were sent to Sutton. (fn. 53) Separate accommodation for boys and girls was erected at the workhouse in the early 1840s, providing dayrooms, schoolrooms, workrooms and dormitories. The two blocks were designed by John Morris, of East India Dock Road, Surveyor to the Board of Guardians. (fn. 54) Their cost accounted for much of the £5,629 spent on enlargements and alterations to the workhouse premises between 1837 and 1849. (fn. 55) Other work included the creation of an additional stoneyard on the land at the rear of the buildings, which was carried out by 1841. (fn. 56) In 1843 a plot of 1½ acres to the south was leased from the East and West India Dock Company and part of it was adapted as a stoneyard, the remainder being laid out as a garden. (fn. 57)
The early years of the Guardians' administration included some difficult periods. Provision had to be made for large numbers of unemployed, particularly in the winters of 1841 and 1848, when little employment was available at the docks or the factories. There was a corresponding increase in the provision of outdoor relief, linked, in the case of able-bodied men, to work in the stoneyard. (fn. 58) There were 521 inmates in the workhouse on 1 January 1848 and 483 on 1 January 1856. (fn. 59) In 1854 the accommodation was assessed at 601 places, 98 of them in the sick wards and 86 in the children's blocks (fn. 60)
If the Guardians' ability to cope with the numbers requiring relief had bred a degree of complacency, then this was shaken by the report made in 1857 by H. B. Farnall, the Poor Law Board's Inspector of Workhouses, who declared that the accommodation was insufficient and criticized the workhouse as being 'irregular and without design as a whole'. The Guardians responded by requesting John Morris to draw up schemes, based either upon the addition of new wings to the existing buildings, or a complete rebuilding. (fn. 61) The possibility of moving the National School elsewhere was again considered, as was a plan to build an entirely new workhouse in Bromley, but both proposals were rejected. (fn. 62) The solution was to enlarge the existing site by the purchase of the Trustees' interest for £10,000, and the acquisition of the freehold of the land held from the dock company, together with that of an adjoining plot. (fn. 63)
The estimate of nearly £33,000 for a new workhouse produced a hostile reaction from the Trustees and the Poplar ratepayers, which culminated in their proposal that Poplar should be separated from Bromley and Bow to form its own Poor Law union. When the move to create a separate union was blocked by the Poor Law Board, the ratepayers retaliated by supporting the candidates standing for election to the Board of Guardians who opposed the building of the new workhouse. (fn. 64) Such hostility to the cost of the proposed new buildings contributed to the delay in choosing a scheme, despite prodding from the Poor Law Board and the unsatisfactory condition of parts of the existing fabric. (fn. 65)
The problem was brought into much sharper focus in 1866 with the collapse of the boom in the local economy, bringing an increase in the numbers of unemployed and sick applying for relief. The workhouse was declared to be full and it became necessary to 'farm out' paupers to other unions. (fn. 66) No improvement came in the following year and in 1868 the decision was finally taken to rebuild the workhouse, although John W. Morris's initial plans to provide 1,000 places were modified at the request of the Poor Law Board, reducing the places by 200. (fn. 1)' In fact, the completed buildings had space for only 768 inmates. (fn. 67) The building contract was awarded to Hill, Keddell & Waldram of Kingsland Road, Hoxton, on their tender of £32,480. They began work in April 1869 and the buildings were completed in January 1872. (fn. 68) During the rebuilding, Wapping Workhouse was hired from the Stepney Guardians from 1867 until 1870. (fn. 69)
The building fronting the High Street was retained, but the remainder of the workhouse was demolished and 18 new blocks were erected (fig. 21). (fn. 70) One feature of the design was a corridor range running east-west for almost the whole width of the site, connecting the principal buildings. There were two large blocks of wards for men and women (B and C), with children's and infants' accommodation in separate buildings, lunatics' wards, probationers' wards, a chapel (in plain Gothic style with a steeply pitched roof), six workshops, a mortuary, laundry, and other service buildings. The main blocks were typical buildings of that kind, but slightly old-fashioned for their date. They were of four storeys, of stock bricks, with white Suffolks used over the windows, and slate roofs. (fn. 71) The designs were 'without pretence to architectural beauty or ornamentation . . . the erections being of the ordinary description of plain brick-work'. (fn. 72)
Justifications for the replacement of the earlier buildings had included their unsatisfactory internal arrangements and a 'want of proper classification for the inmates'. (fn. 73) These defects were overcome in the new workhouse, with the wards and yards separated from each other by walls and gates, so that the various categories of residents could be kept apart. (fn. 74)
The earlier reservations concerning the suitability of the site proved to be well-founded, for the contractors discovered that the nature of the subsoil required deeper foundations than had been anticipated. One of the Guardians thought this a result of building 'on a swamp'. (fn. 75) The scale of the extra works provoked a dispute between the contractors and the Guardians concerning the additional payments, which was not resolved until 1874. (fn. 76) The total cost was put at £50,005, considerably more than the architect's estimate of £35,000 and the contractor's tender of £32,480. (fn. 77)
When the new buildings were being planned, the Poor Law Board and the Guardians agreed that the workhouse should be used exclusively for the able-bodied poor, the sick and infirm being provided for in the new St Andrew's Hospital at Bromley, and in the infirmary in Upper North Street. A deputation of the Guardians visited Manchester and studied the methods used there, and also considered those adopted in Leicester after 1848. (fn. 78) Thus began the 'Poplar experiment' whereby the workhouse received the able-bodied poor from other metropolitan unions and parishes, and was run according to a harsh regime based upon the conviction that it should provide 'an effective test of destitution' as a deterrent to the idle poor. (fn. 79) One local newspaper was pleased to report that the word 'Poplar' was 'striking terror into the hearts of the lazy army' throughout London, and that the Guardians had provided 'a sort of industrial paradise' for the habitual pauper. (fn. 80) There were 120–140 individual 'stalls' in the stoneyard and each worker had to complete a daily quota of work. (fn. 81) Discipline was strict, with almost 200 inmates sent to the refractory wards annually between 1877 and 1880, and some appearing before the magistrates. (fn. 82)
The arrangements made in 1871 were nullified by the pressure upon accommodation caused by the increasing numbers of elderly and infirm from Poplar in need of indoor relief. The problem was anticipated in 1878 and by early 1882 it had become acute, with 300 inmates from the Poplar Union in Stepney Workhouse, which was full, while the 758 residents in Poplar Workhouse included 180 able-bodied from other unions. It was therefore decided to terminate the agreements to receive able-bodied poor from outside Poplar. (fn. 83)
The legacy of this period was that the internal arrangements, designed for the able-bodied, were not suitable for the increasing numbers of aged and infirm requiring accommodation, and the buildings were too small. (fn. 84) These problems resulted in two decades of almost continuous building activity. Some extra space was found through a number of minor adaptations carried out in 1883–4, (fn. 85) but they added comparatively few extra places, and in 1888 it was decided to erect two new four-storey accommodation blocks (A and D), one for men and one for women, and extend the dining rooms along both sides of the chapel corridor. (fn. 86) The architect was Walter A. Hills (c1834–1917) of Bow Road, formerly Surveyor to the Poplar District Board of Works, and the builder William Shurmur of Clapton. The buildings were erected in 1889–92 at an estimated cost of £33,980. (fn. 87) Some delays and extra expense were caused by the difficulty of laying the foundations on the wet and sandy subsoil. The consulting architect was George Aitchison of Harley Street (1835–1910), a distinguished figure in the profession who was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy from 1887 to 1905 and the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1896–9. He recommended the use of deep concrete foundations under the women's block, but the experiment proved to be a failure. (fn. 88)
Hills and Shurmur worked together again in 1893–5 on the construction of new workshops, a mortuary, and single-storey receiving wards, on the east side of Dolphin Lane. (fn. 89) The new board-room and offices of the Guardians in Upper North Street freed some space in the 1817 building for conversion into accommodation (see page 202). But the workhouse site was full and could only be enlarged by small, piecemeal, purchases of land on the High Street. Some ground at the rear of the Spotted Dog public house was acquired for a laundry extension in 1892, and in 1901 a boiler house was built on a part of the sites of Nos 112–120, behind the frontage on which the LCC later built the School of Marine Engineering and Navigation. (fn. 90) Also in 1901, Nos 84–88 and property in Crawford's Yard to the rear were acquired and the buildings demolished to make way for a medical officer's house on the street (No. 88) and female officers' quarters to the rear. (fn. 91) By 1903 the workhouse had become 'an enormous building, or, rather, multitude of buildings, and once inside the iron gates . . . you may wander about as in a veritable small town'. (fn. 92)
From 1882 the Guardians apparently exercised little or no direction over the administration of the workhouse, where conditions deteriorated. Will Crooks later remembered it as being 'almost revolting'; it was dirty and the inmates were ill-clad, with a poor diet, and there was little or no discipline. (fn. 93) In 1892 Crooks and George Lansbury were elected to the Board of Guardians and within a few years their allies formed the dominant group. They set about reforming the system, tightening up the administration, replacing the staff — a new Master was appointed in 1894 — improving the diet, abolishing the uniform and putting an end to the 'expensive and useless' tasks of oakum-picking and stone-breaking. (fn. 94)
In common with other Poor Law Guardians, the authorities at Poplar had to provide education for poor children in their care. Boards of Guardians amalgamated to establish district schools and thereby avoided having to educate children in the workhouses, and in 1868 Poplar combined with the Whitechapel and Hackney Unions to create the Forest Gate School District for that purpose. In 1877 Hackney withdrew and when the District was abolished in 1897, Poplar was contributing almost all of the pupils, while still maintaining a number of children in the workhouse. The Poplar Union then bought the schools and used them exclusively for Poplar children until it replaced them in 1907 with a new school at Shenfield, built at a cost of £162,427. (fn. 95) The Forest Gate buildings were used as a branch workhouse until they were sold to the West Ham Union in 1912. (fn. 96) The Guardians also bought No. 54 East India Dock Road, designated Langley House, and adapted it as a receiving home for children, with c100 places. (fn. 97) In 1903 they established a farm colony for the able-bodied on 110 acres of land at Laindon — which they bought in 1907 — with assistance from the American industrialist and philanthropist, Joseph Fels. (fn. 98) Despite all their efforts, there was still insufficient living accommodation for those requiring indoor relief and the Guardians had to hire workhouse space from other unions on a temporary basis. (fn. 99)
In 1892 the Local Government Board fixed the accommodation in the workhouse at 1,315 places. (fn. 100) This was exceeded within two years, (fn. 101) and for the next 20 years the numbers of residents scarcely ever fell below the certified figure, and often exceeded it by 200 or more. (fn. 102) Changes in the Guardians' policies had altered the composition of the workhouse population and the nature of the accommodation required. It became the practice not to take the able-bodied into Poplar Workhouse, but to admit them directly to the branch workhouses. (fn. 103) Thus, in October 1910 there were 1,333 residents in Poplar Workhouse, and a further 2,583 receiving indoor relief elsewhere, including those in the Metropolitan Asylums Board's institutions. In the workhouse, there were only three men and 92 women classified as able-bodied and in health, the buildings being chiefly occupied by 1,134 residents who were not able-bodied, 58 children and 46 residents who were temporarily disabled. (fn. 104)
This remained the pattern, with the existing accommodation adapted from time to time to suit the requirements of the residents. Because of the growing numbers of men who were infirm, alterations were made in 1929 to increase the capacity of the men's sick and infirm wards from 344 to 550 places, but these reduced the overall accommodation from 1,110 to 1,080. (fn. 105) In 1924 the buildings of the school — which had been closed in 1906 (fn. 106) — were demolished and the site laid out as a garden. (fn. 107)
The high costs of poor relief in Poplar were occasionally highlighted in the press, especially when large numbers were receiving outdoor relief (as in 1903–6, 1908–9 and in the 1920s), (fn. 108) the implication being that the poor relief system in Poplar was run along extravagant lines. Beatrice Webb attended a meeting of the Guardians in 1906 and thought that the allocation of the annual contracts indicated that there must have been some corruption among the Board. (fn. 109) In 1922 H. I. Cooper, clerk to the Bolton Guardians, conducted an inquiry on behalf of the Minister of Health and concluded that the workhouse, which had a staff of 162, was overstaffed, and that the diet was rather too 'liberal'. (fn. 110) In fact, neither of these observers was an impartial witness. Webb had her own definite views on poor relief, and attended at a time when the expense of outdoor relief in Poplar had attracted unfavourable publicity and been subjected to a public inquiry, and Cooper was known to favour the strict application of the principles of the 1834 Poor Law. He conducted his inquiry without the co-operation of the Guardians, working only from their papers, and the Guardians' response to his comment that the institution was 'regarded more as an almshouse than a workhouse' was that they were 'very glad indeed' that it should be so. (fn. 111)
The Guardians' administration came to an end in March 1930, when the workhouse, designated the Poplar Institution since 1913, passed to the control of the LCC. (fn. 112) In the mid-1930s, when the exterior was described as being 'in a very bad condition', the LCC drew up a plan to improve the buildings. (fn. 113) However, in 1938 it was decided that the 3¾-acre site was too constricted for development, and that the proximity of housing and the possible loss of part of the land to a road improvement scheme made it inappropriate to carry out the expensive proposals. It was thought preferable to demolish some buildings and use the sites as gardens, reducing both the amount of accommodation and the running costs. (fn. 114)
In fact, in September 1940 the buildings sustained extensive bomb damage. There were some casualties among the inmates, but no fatalities, and they were all transferred elsewhere. (fn. 115) It was decided not to attempt to reinstate the buildings, and in 1941 they were assigned to the LCC's Town Planning Committee's control. (fn. 116) Nevertheless, it was not until 1960 that the remaining buildings were demolished, despite the 1817 building having been listed Grade II as 'an example of an early nineteenth-century workhouse institution. (fn. 117) Though it was intended that the area should be laid out as a public open space, it remained largely derelict. (fn. 118)
Nos 104–116 and Queen (later Bickmore) Street (demolished).
Of the houses shown on Plate 151a, in about 1873 the five obviously ancient buildings at Nos 108–116 were or very recently had been copyhold of the manor of Stepney. The newer Nos 104 and 106 had been enfranchised more than a century before.
Nos 104 and 106 were built about 1810 at the same time as Queen (later Bickmore) Street was laid out as a cul-de-sac immediately west of No. 104. (fn. 119) The site of Nos 104 and 106 and Queen Street had probably been copyhold of the Dethick family in the seventeenth century, but in 1724 was bought by a carpenter, Owen Hale, who was one of a dynasty of builders. (fn. 120) His brother Henry, called 'gentleman', together with a brewer nearby in the High Street, John Brown, enfranchised the property (and other Hale property on the north side of the street) in 1757 — a transaction here requiring the outlay of only 12 guineas. (fn. 121) In about 1807–10 Thomas Hale of Bush Lane, Cannon Street, builder Henry's grandson rebuilt the property with the new street down its west side, at the same time that he was building Hale Street nearly opposite. Although built on freehold land, Queen Street compared unfavourably with Hale Street, where Thomas Hale could grant only short leases. It had a very cramped plan: only 17ft wide, its two sides, as the LCC said when deciding to pull it down in 1935, 'mutually overshadow one another'. (fn. 122) Nos 104 and 106 were demolished in 1935–6.
The house replaced by No. 106 had been, from about 1741, a tavern called the Queen's Head until 1806, when its occupant and licensee transferred himself, the licence, and the name from the soon-to-be-demolished premises to a better site, but on the same landlord's property, at the new building at No. 95 on the north side of the street. (fn. 123)
Queen Street's attractions were not increased by the presence here from 1871 of the parish mortuary and disinfecting station. The mortuary was built by Hodge & Robinson of Bisterne Place, Blackwall, to designs by A. & C. Harston, at a cost of £261. (fn. 124) By the early 1890s it was thought to be both inadequate and below the standards required by the LCC. (fn. 125) It was superseded by the new mortuary erected in Cottage Street in 1910–11 (see page 67). The disinfecting station was built as a response to the increased incidence of smallpox. It was designed by Robert Parker, the District Board of Works's Surveyor, and cost £184, including Fraser's Patent Disinfecting Apparatus. (fn. 126) Both buildings were subsequently used for the storage of disinfectants, (fn. 127) but were irreparably damaged by bombing in the Second World War. (fn. 128)
The old gabled house shown by Emslie at No. 108 was a tavern in 1877 (Plate 151a). In about 1714–24 it had accommodated the schoolmaster to the hamlet's charity children, and doubtless therefore the school itself. By 1726 it had passed, under the name of the Talbot, into the hands of a licensee and was a tavern until 1940. (fn. 129) Between 1777 and 1785 its name was changed from the Talbot to the Spotted Dog. (fn. 130) It was freed from manorial tenure in 1870 and in 1885 was one of the 16 public houses owned by the Bow Brewery of Smith, Garrett & Company, who rebuilt it in 1894. (fn. 131) The builder was S. Salt of Limehouse: perhaps the architects were those being employed by Smith, Garrett at No. 110.
The Committee for the Survey of the Memorials of Greater London, founded in 1894, was particularly concerned at the destruction of old East London. Ernest Godman, an assistant in C. R. Ashbee's office and the first secretary of the Society, prepared drawings of the Spotted Dog, and notes and a sketch were made shortly after its demolition in January 1894. These, with Emslie's view, are the only indications of its appearance available to the Survey of London, founded by that very Committee, when recording Poplar nearly a hundred years later (Plate 12a, b).
The Spotted Dog had been of wooden construction, with two storeys and garret at the front, but with three storeys at the back, accommodated by the fall of the land to the south. Godman's drawing of the back elevation shows a canted bay rising through three storeys, and also shows that the back, like the front, was weatherboarded. Inside, in the basement but probably not originally situated there, had been 'some fine molded oak panelling of the late 16th or early 17th century date with the small panels and "scraped out" moldings of the period'. In the ground-floor front bar had been wood panelling 'in the best style of the early 18th cent. the panels being raised beyond the stiles with large moldings and a molded dado rail and cornice'. In 1746 the then owner of No. 108 and the two houses to its east, a cordwainer who occupied No. 110 himself, took out a new insurance on the three houses for £200. (fn. 132) Possibly this followed a renovation, perhaps when the panelling was put into No. 108 in the belated style of a city's periphery. Unfortunately, no plan of No. 108 was given in the Committee's notes but it was remarked that 'the chimneys were all placed together in a square in the centre of the house the flues being large and the odd spaces filled in with cupboards'. (fn. 133)
No. 110 appears to have been of similar date to No. 108. A new shopfront was inserted in 1881 (fn. 134) and then in 1895 the owners, the brewers Smith, Garrett, had a new front built, at a tendered price of £777, by the builder then reconstructing No.108 for them: here the architects were jointly E. Foulsham of Bromley by Bow and H. Riches of the City. (fn. 135) Only three years later the shopfront was again rebuilt. (fn. 136)
Nothing is known of No. 112, which might be of similar age to Nos 108 and 110, or the interesting midseventeenth-century-style Nos 114 and 116. At No. 116 the ratepayers in 1800 were, in brief succession, Nathaniel and George Dance — the latter presumably the architect, during his involvement in dock schemes. (fn. 137)
Poplar Centre for Further Education (Tower Hamlets College),formerly the London County Council School of Marine Engineering and Navigation, at Nos 112–124.
In 1895 a 'large and influential committee of local residents' wrote to the Technical Education Board of the London County Council to ask that a more permanent centre might be found for the technical lectures already provided there by the Board. (fn. 138) Will Crooks and the Poplar Labour League were a force behind this, (fn. 139) but it was also part of a growing awareness amongst statesmen, teachers and industrialists of the need for technical education. Under Sidney Webb the Technical Education Board prompted the Council in 1901 to acquire a site in the High Street for an institution to give practical instruction in marine engineering, naval architecture, navigation and related subjects. (fn. 140)
The building was designed under the superintendence of the Council's architect, W. E. Riley (1852–1937), begun in 1902 (fn. 141) and opened in January 1906. Unlike the Council's technical college then being built at Brixton, the construction of the building was given to the Council's Works Department, under the management of G. W. Humphreys. The slow progress was attributed to the difficult foundations, which required cast-iron cylinders filled with concrete to be sunk 18ft to the gravel subsoil. (fn. 142) The cost of building was about £20,000, plus about £6,000 for equipment other than machines. (fn. 143) (fn. 1) Signs of fine and careful work, in design and execution, are not lacking, from the concealed gutters above the eavescornice to the stone-carving of the main doorcase, by Bertram Pegram (1873–1941). (fn. 145)
The basement contained a boiler-room, engine-house, workshops and laboratories; the ground floor administrative offices, drawing office, reading room and patternmakers' shop (fig. 22); the first floor had lecture rooms, classrooms and a 'preparation room'; and the second floor contained an engineering drawing office, navigation room, chemical theatre and laboratory, and balance-room. The flat part of the roof served for taking astronomical observations by ship's instruments. (fn. 146)
The face the building presents to the street is a designedly piquant mixture of Mannerist classicism in the skilfully worked Portland-stone masonry of the façade below cornice level and the modernism of large, unmodelled 'studio-light' windows in the roof (Plate 9c). A significant part in its design may have been played by Percy Ginham (1865–1947), (fn. 1) Riley's principal assistant (formerly in Norman Shaw's office), whose initials are on the main plans dated February 1904. (fn. 148) The caretaker's flat at the rear on the second and third floors, an early addition of about 1910, is in a more 'vernacular' domestic style (a little like that of the LCC Coroner's Court on the other side of the street): the drawings for this do not bear Ginham's initials. (fn. 149)
Some alterations were made in 1927 by the builders F. & T. Thorne. (fn. 150) In 1929–31 the School was extended three bays eastward (abolishing the former eastern doorway) to designs from the LCC Architect's Department in a more conventional, neo-Georgian, style than the work of 1902–6. This extension also had a flat roof for students' use. (fn. 151) (A stylistic curiosity is the trussed timber roof of the Mates' Lecture Room, now Room D14.) In 1951–5 a further eastward extension was made at the rear behind the Public Library, partly reinstating an extension nearly completed in 1939 and destroyed in 1944, to designs by Pite, Son & Fairweather, architects. (fn. 152) The Library building itself was acquired from the Poplar Borough Council in 1957 for demolition to enable the School (then called Poplar Technical College) to be extended again over its site, as 'it is not practicable to adapt the [Library] premises at a reasonable cost', (fn. 153) but in 1994 the former Library building remains in use by the College.
Within the last decade the college has ceased to be mainly technological and (reflecting London's loss of a shipping industry) is no longer concerned with marine engineering and navigation. A five-storey extension of the buildings on the west side was opened in 1991, having cost £14.5 million (fn. 154) (architects John R. Harris Partnership, consulting engineers Ove Arup & Partners, contractors Fairclough Building Ltd, engineers and contractors M. F. Kent Ltd). In 1983 the building of 1902–6, together with the 1929–31 extension, was listed Grade II.
Former No. 126 and Poplar Terrace (demolished).
This was the site on which the Poplar Central Library was built in the 1890s (see below). It consisted of a house fronting the High Street and the return frontage of Poplar Terrace, a short cul-de-sac extending south from the street. This was probably laid out in about 1800–4 as four small houses separated by a narrow access-path from their gardens (later run into one) on its other side. (fn. 155) John Stock bought the property in about 1812. (fn. 156) As remembered in 1919 by a native born in Poplar Terrace in 1852, the garden on the east of the path 'was on a much lower level than the pavement and was reached by stone steps. It was damp and ill-kept with few flowers beyond blue iris, marigold and lily-of-the-valley'. The water was from pumps, the lighting from tallow candles and, in the 1850s, it was 'a dreadfully insanitary place'. Nevertheless, it was 'quite a select little enclosure', entered from the High Street by a wooden gate, (fn. 157) and the architect E. L. Bracebridge (1812–92) lived there in 1853–5. (fn. 158) By 1881 overcrowding had made it quite different: there were 56 people in seven households in the four small houses (the heads of households included a clerk in the Civil Service, a ship's steward and a general labourer). (fn. 159) In 1893 members of the Stock family sold the property to the Library Committee of the parish. (fn. 160)
Poplar Centre for Further Education (Tower Hamlets College), formerly Poplar Central Library, at No. 126.
This tall and substantial but not particularly memorable building was erected in 1893–4, the only notable thing about it being that the centre of the front elevation was designed for a different site. The intention of the vestry in 1891, when a poll of the parish produced an overwhelming vote for adopting the Public Library Acts, (fn. 161) was to build a library on the south side of East India Dock Road, first on the site of the minister's house of Trinity chapel (now the site of Pope John House) and then on a site next to the Wesleyan chapel. (fn. 162) It was for the latter site that a limited competition was held in 1892. The successful candidate was a well-established local man, John Clarkson (1838–1918), the district surveyor, of the firm of J. & S. F. Clarkson of Poplar High Street and Great Ormond Street. His plan was adapted to a markedly T-shaped site with a narrow front to the road. The Building News liked his plan but thought his elevation 'rather commonplace'. (fn. 163) By April 1893, however, the site had been changed to the present one, bought for £2,000. (fn. 164) This was a small property with a frontage of about 97ft to the High Street comprising a house, then No. 126 Poplar High Street (run for many years as a school by tenants of the freeholders), (fn. 165) and the northern part of Poplar Terrace (see above). Clarkson remained the architect. Apart from a little paring down, he did not significantly alter his narrow elevation for use on a wider frontage, merely adding lower wings to east and west. The centre of the front towers over the utilitarian parts behind (Plate 8b). Periodicals noticed the avoidance of top-lighting in the public areas in favour of side- or clerestory-lighting, although this in fact included windows in the lower slopes of the pitched roofs, in the manner of the picture galleries at South Kensington of 30 years earlier. They also remarked that the small staff was so positioned that 'complete command is had of all the rooms' (fig. 23). (fn. 166) In the front portion the second floor was given over to the Librarian's flat, the big oeilde-boeuf windows on the east side lighting the bathroom and a staircase. (fn. 167) The builders were McCormick & Sons of Islington. (fn. 168) The cost of the building, which was opened in October 1894, (fn. 169) was £7,006, plus £934 for furniture (and £2,317 for books). (fn. 170) Alterations or additions were made in 1921 and 1925 and open access for readers to the bookshelves was introduced in 1926. (fn. 171) The building was severely damaged in the Second World War, (fn. 172) and in 1957 was taken over by the present Tower Hamlets College (see above).
Nos 128–154 and Simpson's Road (all but No. 130–2 demolished).
The only building now directly abutting on Poplar High Street here is the Roman Catholic Settlement of the Holy Child at No. 130(–132) (Plate 11d). This demure block was built, primarily as a youth club, in 1955–6, to designs by Adrian Gilbert Scott (1882–1963) in a style consonant with that of his clergy house for the church of SS Mary and Joseph in Upper North Street (see page 239). The pre-stressed concrete floors were designed by Concrete Limited of Leeds. (fn. 173) The longitudinal shape of the building indicates that it occupies two of the deep sites on this side of the High Street. The side fenestration reveals the arrangement by which the rear part has a two-storey club-room rising from basement level, thus accommodating the steep fall of the site that has always characterized this side of the street.
The Settlement, which took its present name in 1913, derives from a settlement at Tower Hill founded in 1893, which moved to Poplar in 1918, and Nos 130–132 in 1920. (fn. 174)
Discounting possible pre-seventeenth-century building, the frontage between Poplar Terrace and the east side of Simpson's Road was the last considerable part of the High Street to be completely developed. This was in the 1850s, when it was the freehold property of the Stock family.
Nos 128–136 were built between 1857 and 1861 — at least three of the houses by Adin Sheffield, a builder of Bromley. (fn. 175) On the 1867–70 Ordnance Survey map they seem to be unique in the High Street in having some sort of small garden, or perhaps only an 'area', in front of them: an exception was No. 134, the one house of the five then in a shopkeeper's tenure. The other occupants (in 1868) were a rate-collector (with a particularly spacious garden), a solicitor, a relieving officer sharing a house with the district surveyor, and an architect at No. 136, E. L. Bracebridge, who was probably responsible for the design of all these houses for Mrs Stock. However, in respect of No. 136 at least, his assistant Thomas Wayland Fletcher (see page 63) claimed the actual designing. (fn. 176) By 1892 Bracebridge was the only surviving 'professional' man in these houses. Between the wars they were often in use for 'public' or charitable purposes. (fn. 177)
Nos 138–154 had probably been part of the scattered property held of the manor of Stepney both north and south of the High Street and bought in 1690 by the London goldsmith Abraham Chambers from the executors of Sir William Portman, whose family had held it since 1652 or earlier. In 1773 the lease and in 1775 the enfranchised freehold passed to William Currie, esquire, the owner-occupier of the big house opposite at the site that became Nos 119–123; (fn. 178) and, as the owner-occupiers of that house continued to own this south-side property, it may have been partly considerations of 'amenity' that kept it undeveloped. In 1797 John Stock acquired both properties from the Curries, (fn. 179) but no development took place until the Stocks gave up the big house and rebuilt that site in the 1850s.
In 1852 Edward Stock sold off the frontage at what became Nos 138–152 as five freehold plots. (fn. 180) The purchasers were all local men — a chemist (for the site of No. 140 and, probably, No. 138), a stationer (No. 142), a victualler (No. 144), an auctioneer (No. 146) and a surgeon (Nos 148–152 and Simpson's Road behind them), although only the auctioneer John Carter lived here. (fn. 181) He was a party with Stock to the sale of sites, and is likely to have been the actual 'entrepreneur'.
The houses were built in 1855–62, possibly by the bricklayer George Fairweather of Poplar, who witnessed most of the deeds of sale. Again Bracebridge was probably the responsible architect, with T. W. Fletcher claiming, as at No. 136, the actual designing of No. 146, for Carter. (fn. 182)
At the 40ft-wide site of Nos 148–152 the local surgeon, Thomas Gray, who had property interests north of the High Street and elsewhere in Poplar, leased the whole for 90 years in 1855, took a ground rent of £30 per annum, and indirectly created a slum. His lessee was a 'blind-maker and builder', David Caldow Simpson of Commercial Road East. (fn. 185) In 1855–6 Simpson built three narrow houses over shops at Nos 148–152, (fn. 186) but instead of allowing them the deep gardens of their neighbours laid out a north-south row of houses behind them called Simpson's Road. The fact that the houses were called Frederick's Cottages suggests that Simpson was associated in this enterprise with another local builder, Frederick William Simpson.
The approach to Simpson's Road from the High Street, east of No. 152, was only 10ft wide, which led the district surveyor to bring a case against D. C. Simpson under the powers given to the Metropolitan Buildings Office. The case collapsed because No. 152 had not then been built, and by the time it was the Metropolitan Buildings Office had itself disappeared. (fn. 187) Simpson's original idea was to build ten tiny houses measuring 12ft by 10ft. This he changed to six L-shaped houses, (fn. 188) although they were occupied as seven or eight. In 1881 there were 65 people living in them, the heads of households including two charwomen, two labourers and a sweep. (fn. 189) The houses, islanded in an alleyway, were less hemmed in than some slums off the High Street, but by 1889 were condemned to closure by the Poplar Board of Works as unfit for human habitation — chiefly, it seems, because of damp and the thoroughly bad condition of the buildings. They were closed in 1891–2, but not demolished. (fn. 190) In 1951 a Mr J. G. Simpson sold the freehold of Nos 1–6 Simpson's Road to the London County Council for £400. (fn. 191)
Eastward, the Stocks owned a house of respectable width standing back from the street at No. 154, where a Mrs Stock lived in 1852. (fn. 192) The family no longer used the house after Simpson's Road was built next door and the architect Henry Stock (c1824–1909), Edward's nephew, of the firm of Snooke & Stock, built a singlestorey shop on part of its frontage in 1867. (fn. 193)
Nos 190 and 192 (demolished).
These houses were inspected for the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England in 1928, when they were said to have been built early in the eighteenth century. (fn. 194) The ratebooks give this some support, suggesting they were two of the five houses held of the manor of Stepney to which one Edward Flowers was admitted in 1707, when they were said to have been lately erected (in place of three tenements or cottages). (fn. 195) Before 1688 the site had been one of those held under the manor by the Dethicks. (fn. 196) Flowers occupied one of the five houses: in 1714 the occupants of three of the others were called 'Captain' in the ratebooks, and indeed Nos 190 and 192 would not have looked out of place on the quayside of a small Essex port.
The Commissioners' Investigator noted that at No. 192 the front had 'an old doorway with heavy beaded frames and shaped brackets supporting a triangular moulded hood', and that the back of the two houses had twin gables and was of brick with storey-bands like the front.
Nos 194–198 (demolished).
The Investigator for the Royal Commission in 1928 thought the houses east and west of Nos 190 and 192 had been built 'in modern times'. At Nos 194–198 this would have been in 1822, by a provision merchant in the High Street, Francis Robinson, under a 61-year lease from the prominent local man, James Mountague (see page 184). (fn. 197) The fenestration of No. 194 as shown in a photograph taken in 1928 suggests that the building may have retained something of an earlier house that was a pair to No. 192 (Plate 4b). (fn. 198) No. 196, visible in the same photograph, looks wholly of 1822. By the 1850s it was in the occupation of an ironmonger, with a long line of smithies and foundries in the back garden. (fn. 199) No. 198 was by 1824 occupied as a 'depot for Asiatic seamen'. (fn. 200) The houses were demolished in 1937.
Nos 204 and 206 (demolished).
These houses, built in 1817, were of two storeys, with their brick fronts decorated with raised panels over the first-floor windows, so characteristic of the lowlier East End house. (fn. 201)
The Resolute public house at No. 210 and Harrow Lane (partly demolished).
Harrow Lane, shown on the 1573 map, was one of the old-established ways south from the High Street. (fn. 202) It was called Chapel Lane in the seventeenth century (fn. 203) (it led to the ancient chapelbuilding in the marsh), and later King's Road on Horwood's map of 1813 and Greenwood's of 1824–6. Its present name doubtless derives from the Harrow tavern situated on its western corner with the High Street in 1722 (fn. 204) and perhaps in 1706. (fn. 205) (In 1690, however, the name was attached to a tenement in Robin Hood Lane.) (fn. 206) It had become the Resolute public house by 1858 (fn. 207) and the present building was erected in 1937 (architect, S. A. S. Yeo) for Messrs Taylor, Walker. (fn. 208)
Harrow Lane was reduced to a cul-de-sac by the construction of the West India Dock, when the dock company built constables' houses at the bottom of the truncated lane (see below). In 1818, the tenant of stables at the back of the Harrow tavern was licensed by the manor of Poplar, in a characteristically unaspiring spirit, to 'convert' his miscellaneous buildings there into three dwelling houses, and to lease them to the publican at the Harrow for 18 years. (fn. 209) The resulting cottages, crouched below the steeply sloping roadway, can be seen on the right of Plate 10e.
The houses southward were built in 1855 by a Stepney plumber, J. T. Derby, under an 80-year building lease from the brewers Taylor, Walker, then the owners of the Harrow. He called the nine houses Derby Terrace. They were of tolerable size and the lessors were careful to prohibit any 'hazardous, noisy, noisome, or offensive trade'. But with a 'furnace chimney shaft' and an ironmonger's foundries behind them it was only realistic for Derby to let them monthly, and in 1861 each housed two or three families engaged in various sorts of manual labour, averaging 12 or 13 occupants to a house. (fn. 210) In 1888 the yard behind became a carman's depot. (fn. 211) In 1899 Derby sold the houses to a shoemaker and a capmaker of Wapping (who used them as security for a loan of £2,100). (fn. 212)
Southward again, the West India Dock Military Guard House had been built in 1807–8 on the east side of the lane. It was designed by Thomas Morris and built by John Howkins & Company. (fn. 213) In 1813 the guard moved and the building became a house for the Dock Company's chief constable (see page 325). In that year six houses in three semi-detached pairs were built immediately to the north for police constables of the Company, by James Russell, bricklayer, to plans prepared by William Pillgrem with help from John Rennie. Each house had two rooms on each of two floors, with a wash-house at the end of the garden. The group was extended in 1814 with six more constables' houses. (fn. 214) The northernmost of the 1813 houses was demolished in 1840 to make way for the London and Blackwall Railway. Formation of a rail link between this line and a West India Dock siding in 1859 necessitated demolition of the pair of houses north of the chief constable's house, which had become known as Harrow House. The chief constable moved out in 1867 as, not surprisingly, he thought that the house, now encircled by railway, was unfit for a family. It had been demolished by 1871. The remaining cottages, acquired by the North London Railway Company, were demolished soon after 1875. (fn. 215) Most of the remaining houses in Harrow Lane were demolished in 1937.
This building was erected in 1876–7 for the North London Railway Company to serve as its 'Goods Managers' Office'. The contractor was Evan Lewis, at a price of £2,844 compared with the £3,420 estimated by the Company's engineer Thomas Matthews, who supervised the work. (fn. 216) Previously, a smaller building on the site had been occupied since about 1856 in connection with the railway as offices of a coal merchants' depot or yard. The first Poplar station of the North London Railway, built by George Myers in 1851 and extended in 1863, had been adjacent, until it was supplanted by the station in East India Dock Road opened in 1866. (fn. 217)
In 1936 the former offices were acquired by the Dockland Settlements and fitted up as the sixth of their clubs. The facilities included a canteen, chapel, and billiards and darts room. (fn. 218)
Although Nos 246–254 are the only buildings of much apparent age surviving in the High Street (apart from the former vicarage of St Matthias) little can be said about these houses, now united and converted into flats. They are, in any event, probably not as old as they look. Nos 246–248, now in appearance a five-bay building of three storeys and a garret storey, set back behind a single-storey extension on the street front, was probably at first a single house built or rebuilt about 1844–5. It was probably also then that No. 250 was built. (fn. 219) The four-bay building, formerly two houses, at Nos 252 and 254 is also difficult to date. The two-bay eastern half, No. 254, may be basically of about 1812, but No. 252 was 'built' or 'rebuilt' in 1878 at a tendered price of £1,397 by J. H. Johnson of Commercial Road, to designs by the locally connected architects, A. & C. Harston of Leadenhall Street. (fn. 220) The work at No. 252 was evidently by the firm and family of Henry Wickes, which had owned and occupied No. 254 since 1851 and thenceforward occupied No. 252 as well. (fn. 221) Henry Wickes & Son (whose plate was still on the door in 1988) were prominent local tradesmen, combining two traditional Poplar activities as 'shipping butchers', provisioning outgoing ships.
In 1984–5 Nos 246–254 were divided into flats called Wickes House by the architects Stephen George & Partners of Leicester. A round-ended staircase at No. 252 was retained above ground level. (fn. 222) The altered backs of Nos 252 and 254, which were probably never uniform, retain vestiges of old residential Poplar in their first-floor iron balconies, canopied at No. 252, overlooking a garden which still contains a fig tree and a eucalyptus.
The South Poplar Health Centre and Will Crooks Child Health Clinic at Nos 260–268.
This health centre was built in 1978–9 for the City and East London Area Health Authority to designs by Derek Stow & Partners, architects. The partners in charge were Derek Stow and Alfred Whight, and the job architect was Eric Mallinder in succession to Pamela Whitmore. The main contractor was John Greenwood Ltd and the structural engineers Ove Arup & Partners. (fn. 223)
The essential element in the design arises from the health authority's requirement that the building should be relocatable. To permit this while giving the building many of the characteristics of a permanent structure, the architects designed a system in which rigidly constructed 'modules' of uniform dimensions were joined in a manner allowing reassembly elsewhere.
In 1975 the architects had been invited to design hospital units that could be transported in numbers for assembly in Saudi Arabia, and in the same year a design for the City and East London Area Health Authority here in Poplar was begun under the auspices of the Department of Health and Social Security as, in part, a prototype for extensive use in the Middle East. The specialized constructional techniques required more limited tendering than the Treasury would permit and then in 1977 the Saudi Arabian project fell through. The architects thereupon received a commission from the Health Authority for the Poplar health centre as a single project, and a modified design was prepared. Tenders were received in 1978 and work began in June of that year, being finished in October 1979.
Each of the 16 modules of the single-storey building measures 3.3m by 6.6m and they are grouped round a central roofed space 6.6m square (Plate 11c; fig. 24). Each module is framed in small, hollow, rectangularsection steel. The flat timber-framed roof is covered with bituminous felt. Those walls of the modules that form the external walls of the building are clad in enamelled steel panels joined by neoprene gaskets. The windows are paired panels of frameless glass armoured 'to withstand the rigours of the local environment'. The internal walls are of board on timber studding.
The plan gave separate entrances for the public and staff to a U-shaped internal corridor serving both the perimeter rooms and a central top-lit reception area. The 'box' shape is not modified to the sharp fall of the site southward, and underneath access at the rear is thus given to service points.
Externally the building reflects the popularity at the time of a 'modernism' of strong colours and chunky forms rather than the 'white' or 'transparent' look of the older Modern Movement. The external cladding is in an orange-red, tied visually to the building by the wrapround strips of black neoprene. This linear patterning is only partly expressive of the structural divisions within. The effect is of a well-made washable box resting rather lightly on the ground, or, as a commentator wrote in 1981, 'a trailer, parked but ready to leave at any moment'. The simple geometry of the paved and gravelled forecourt sets this off effectively.
The cost was £241,090, or some £478 per sq.m of floor area, said in Building in 1981 to be almost twice the average for health centres. About a quarter of this was occasioned by preparatory work on the derelict site. The relatively high initial costs were also caused by the duplication which construction in self-sufficient units required — of internal walls and 'service' facilities, for example. The Centre also lost the economies of massproduction which the design system would have facilitated in a more extensive project.
The building attracted reviews in the architectural press. They noticed that the room-uses were not then quite as intended by the Health Authority. This occasioned the comment that the design system did not give flexibility in use, as the partitions between rooms, being also the walls of rigid transportable units, were not themselves easily adjustable. But the double walls between the modules and the neoprene buffering between the cladding panels did provide effective sound insulation, and there was good dispersal of mechanical service-points because each module was self-contained in that respect. Later alteration has consisted only in the removal of a partition, further changes to create varied room sizes being inhibited also by the absence of suitable windowmullions in the continuous glazing against which new partitions might have to abut. It was also remarked when the building was new that temporary or moveable buildings have a tendency to stay put.
No. 270, The Rising Sun public house (demolished).
From 1731 until 1737 the hamlet owned 'six rooms' on this site for accommodation for the poor. They were superseded by the workhouse at or near No. 209 on the north side of the street. (fn. 224) In 1758 the hamlet sold the site, and about 1765 a tavern was built here, named the Rising Sun and run by the Richard Newcombe who had previously had a tavern of that name opposite at No. 241 (which then became the Sun and Sawyers). There were alterations or additions in 1855 and 1874 and a skittle alley was added in 1881. (fn. 225)
Nos 296–304 (demolished).
The pair of weatherboarded houses at Nos 296–298, slightly set back behind shops and having flat-topped rudimentary gable-ends, are shown on Plate 3a. In 1847 a builder of Finsbury, W. Smart, altered both houses and put in new shopfronts, the effect being to bring them up to the same, much enhanced, rateable value. (fn. 226) It seems likely that the similarity of the two weatherboarded fronts dates from then (or later). In 1914 Poplar Borough Council made a closing order on No. 300, and its demolition was ordered in 1915. (fn. 227)
The two old houses under a tiled roof parallel to the street shown in 1877 on the left of Plate 3a at Nos 302– 304 had been two houses since at least 1817, (fn. 228) but were said in 1777 to be then 'one tenement or cottage' converted from three tenements on the site, probably in 1705–6. (fn. 229) Nos 298–304 were replaced by an electricity sub-station built for Poplar Borough Council in 1917. (fn. 230)
Nos 324–336 (demolished).
The Captain Man of War public house was established at No. 324 in 1811, (fn. 231) but the building shown on Plate 7b was erected by the brewers Trumans, on a set-back frontage, in 1846. (fn. 232) The public house continued here until about 1906. (fn. 233) The shopfront was put in by builders, Morris & Son of Tulse Hill, in 1908. The building was demolished about 1963. (fn. 234)
When No. 324 was being set back, the Trustees for the parish undertook to widen the street eastward to the corner of Brunswick Street (now Blackwall Way). The houses involved (the later Nos 326–336 Poplar High Street) were copyhold of the manor of Stepney, in the mixed ownership of Richard Collins of Cottage Street, joiner, (Nos 326 and 330) and Frances Major, wife of a physician in the Whitechapel Road (Nos 328 and 332– 336). Each held the property under trustees — Collins as life tenant by the will of his uncle William Collins (of Collins Place), and Mrs Major by her marriage settlement. This probably did not expedite the parish's dealings with them. (fn. 235)
In May 1846 the Highway Committee of the parish opened negotiations with the representatives of Collins and Mrs Major for the rebuilding of their houses. These were, with the possible exception of Nos 334 and 336, 'very old and dilapidated', and partly timber-built. (fn. 236) The negotiations were difficult, and eventually the parish had to go to a Middlesex jury to settle the valuation. The jury valued Mrs Major's houses at £2,080 and Collins received £650. (fn. 237) The purchases were completed in November 1848 and February 1849. (fn. 238)
The houses were not completely rebuilt, the timber party walls being retained, by permission of the Metropolitan Buildings Office, (fn. 239) and new fronts applied in 1849 by a local builder, George Blackburn, at a cost of £474 for Nos 326–334. (fn. 240) No. 336 was altered and refaced (in cement) by J. Lawrence, builder, for £155, in 1850 (after difficulties with the tenant, who wanted, and got, a shopfront of plate-glass and mahogany). (fn. 241) New drains were laid by the parish from Nos 326–332 in 1849 — not separately from each house, however, but via a single drain under No. 330. (fn. 242)
In 1850 the parish Trustees offered to sell the renovated houses to the former owners for a total of £2,700. (fn. 243) The pricing of the offer was curious, presumably reflecting differences in the amount of renovation in relation to the diminished house-sites. Collins was asked for £900 for sites bought from him for £650, but Mrs Major only £1,800 for sites bought from her for £2,080. Both refused. Later in the year the Trustees sold the six houses at auction for only £2,365. (fn. 244) One of the three purchasers, a butcher, was the previous occupant of No. 334, and continued there. (fn. 245) Another butcher, King Wiskin, from Millwall, bought Nos 326–332. (fn. 246)