Between Poplar High Street and East India Dock Road: Woodstock Terrace and the Clippingdale, Griffiths and St Matthias estates

Pages 173-176

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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Woodstock Terrace

Woodstock Terrace was built on the land of Edward Wood Stock, a solicitor, in the mid–1850s. The ground had been bought by John Stock, a local man who was the proprietor of a school in the High Street, from one Thomas Witherell in 1794. (fn. 1) In fact, Edward Wood Stock's father Edward had already made plans to set out the street, which was to be named Colebrooke Street, to the rear of his premises in the High Street, before his death in 1852. (fn. 2) The plans had been prepared by his nephew Henry Stock, an architect who was a partner in the firm of Allen, Snooke & Stock of Tooley Street. (fn. 3) His son implemented the scheme, but the name was changed to Woodstock Road; it became Woodstock Terrace in 1937 (fig. 61).

The land on the east side was divided into building plots, generally with frontages of 16ft, which were granted on 99–year leases. The first grants were made in April 1853; half of the plots were disposed of by the end of that year, but the remainder were not taken until 1857. The largest leaseholder was Charles Geere of Newby Place, a builder, who originally contracted for eight plots. (fn. 4) He apparently got into difficulties, for his initial attempt to build four houses was suspended and only resumed after a delay of some months. (fn. 5) Nos 9–11, 22 and 24–25 were built upon his land. Walter Rean of Preston's Road, gentleman, acquired five plots and built Nos 6–7 and 15–17. (fn. 6) None of the other 13 purchasers bought more than three lots. (fn. 7)

The number of developers of this street explains the variety in the height and appearance of the frontages of the surviving houses. All the same, the lessors used covenants in the leases to exercise some control over the appearance of the houses. For example, those granted to Walter Rean in 1854 and one Jonas Coltman in 1855 included drawings of the elevations of the proposed houses, which were to 'conform to' the adjoining houses (Plate 36d; fig. 60). The covenants also prohibited the lessees and their tenants from practising specified noxious trades, including the boiling of horseflesh, tallow melting and soapmaking, and from using forges, anvils or steam engines on the premises. (fn. 8) Woodstock Terrace attracted generally middle-class occupants and it was thought to be one of the most respectable streets in Poplar. In 1881 the occupants included two clergymen, two schoolmistresses, a schoolmaster, a wine merchant, three clerks and two master mariners. (fn. 9)

Figure 60:

Nos 16–17 Wood stock Road (now Woodstock Terrace), sketch showing the intended front elevations, 1854

Figure 61:

Woodstock Road (A), Clippingdale (B) and Griffiths (C) estates. Plan based on theOrdnance Survey of 1867–70

The Clippingdale Estate

The land on the north side of the High Street upon which Cottage Row, Cottage Place and Cottage Street were laid out covered approximately two acres (fig. 61). In 1813 the copyhold property—which came to be known as the Cottage Field Estate—was sold to John Clippingdale of Blackwall, a pilot. A 61-year lease of the premises had been granted in 1791 and in 1801 it was assigned to John Stock by William Gardener (see page 65). It was Stock who, in 1807–9, developed the property. (fn. 10)

Cottage Row consisted of 20 single-storey cottages, with front walls approximately 9ft high. The rear wall running for their whole length later became the garden wall of the houses in Woodstock Terrace. The cottages contained two rooms and the privies were built close to their front walls. Water supply for the whole row and seven other cottages came from two iron tanks. At the south end of the row were two cottages, each of two storeys, with four rooms. (fn. 11) The east side of the narrow street in front of the row was not fully built up. Known as Cottage Place, it contained 13 houses in both 1821 and 1861. (fn. 12) The houses were of two storeys, with one room on each floor, and wash-houses to the rear. (fn. 13) A passageway from this street through Finch Court led to the High Street and two others connected it to Cottage Street, but there was no direct access to East India Dock Road.

Cottage Street was also a cul-de-sac, without a northern outlet. Not all of the frontages were filled up, with gaps left between the groups of cottages on both sides of the street. Approximately 45 cottages were erected during the initial period of development and there were 63 numbered houses there by 1861. (fn. 14) Many of them were small; Nos 26–32 had only one room and a small washhouse and Nos 49–55 consisted of two rooms and a kitchen. These, together with Nos 14–32, were found to be in a generally dilapidated condition by the 1870s. (fn. 15)

The Cottage Field Estate was a densely populated district. Not all of the houses were entered in the census return for 1821, but, despite their small size, the 70 occupied houses which were included contained 292 people. (fn. 16) The socio-economic status of the population can be gauged from the 1861 census, which described the heads of almost 40 per cent of households as labourers, laundresses and charwomen, and recorded a number of others engaged in unskilled occupations.

The conditions attracted the attention of the officers of the Poplar Board of Works, and on investigating the houses in the early 1860s, they made a number of orders regarding the state of repair of 87 of them. (fn. 17) These and subsequent orders were directed to the Clippingdale trustees, who seem to have been unable or unwilling to repair the properties. (fn. 18) They culminated in an order issued by the Board in 1880 for the demolition of Cottage Row and 11 houses in Cottage Street, and the closure and subsequent demolition of all but 22 of the remaining houses in the mid–1880s. (fn. 19)

It proved difficult to attract developers for the cleared area. An approach to the Guinness Trust was rebuffed. (fn. 20) Eventually Cottage Street was widened, Cottage Row was abolished, and the area was rebuilt with two-storey houses. In 1894 permission was granted for five houses on the eastern side of the street and in 1898–9 a further 51 houses were built. J. Fox of Peckham was the owner and builder of 40 of the houses. The remainder were built by H. Dartnell of Leytonstone for Alfred Bacon of Liverpool Street, to plans submitted by J. Walter Wyles, and by A. Daniell of Poplar High Street for G. H. Clippingdale (Plate 36e). (fn. 21)

The Griffiths Estate

The Bath Street area was developed in the early 1850s on Black Boy Field, an area of approximately six acres, which belonged to the Griffiths family. The brothers James, Charles and George Griffiths were admitted as tenants in common of the property in 1807. George was committed to an asylum before 1823 (fn. 22) and died unmarried and intestate in 1835. Charles, a musician, died in 1849 and his half share passed to his daughter Elizabeth, the wife of William Simons of Vauxhall Bridge Road, a plasterer. In 1850, therefore, the field was held by the surviving brother James, of Mile End Road, a surveyor of the Excise, and his niece Elizabeth. In that year they sold a block of a little over two acres at the east side of the field, adjoining the parish's land, to the East and West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway Company for £3,255. The buildings on that part of the field included a number of cottages and a 'riggery and yarn house or shed' tenanted by James Wright and Theophilus Westhorp, ropemakers and riggers. (fn. 23) Shortly afterwards, James Griffiths and Elizabeth Simons sold the north-eastern corner of their remaining land as the site of the Poplar Baths (see page 164). (fn. 24)

In 1851 Bath Street was set out, together with Bath Place, which connected it to England Row and thence to the High Street (fig. 61). The land on the west side of Bath Street was assigned to James and that to its east and on the south side of Bath Place to Elizabeth and her husband. (fn. 25) A small strip along East India Dock Road held by a John Pindar restricted the Griffiths' ground to only a small frontage on that road, in front of the baths building. Bath Street was opened directly into East India Dock Road in 1866. (fn. 26)

The houses were mostly erected in 1851–5. The largest builder was William Wicks of Chrisp Street, who built 49 houses throughout the estate and the John Bull public house in Bath Street, and laid out Arthur (from 1937 Lawless) Street. He contributed ten houses to the frontage of Bath Street; the remaining 39 houses in the street were built by 14 other lessees, none of them having more than five houses in a group. There was a similar fragmentation of the plots in Bath Place, where 18 houses were built, six of them by Wicks. (fn. 27)

Some uniformity of appearance was achieved through the covenants in the 90-year leases granted by Griffiths and Mr and Mrs Simons. For instance, in 1854 William Miller of Whitechapel Road, a cabinet maker, took a lease of a plot on the south side of Bath Place on which he agreed to erect by Midsummer 1855 a house of at least the fourth rate 'with an elevation similar to the messuages or tenements built by Stephen Tree on the west side of … Bath Street'. A further covenant directed him not to set up a forge, anvil, or steam engine, or use the premises for any offensive trade, with catgut spinner, dog skinner, boiler of horseflesh, slaughterman, soapmaker, melter of tallow, beer seller, ale seller, and victualler listed as specifically prohibited tradesmen. (fn. 28) In fact, such restrictions were not strictly applied, for a smithy adjoined the John Bull and there was a timber-yard to the rear of Nos 13–16 on the west side. Nevertheless, this street of small two-storey houses was described in the early twentieth century as a 'Good class street'. (fn. 29)

Grove Villas were built in 1854–5 on a strip of land which was acquired from the railway company in 1853 by the Griffiths' former tenants, Wright and Westhorp. (fn. 30) A footpath was laid out adjoining the boundary wall of the railway's land, leaving a depth of 34ft for housing. (fn. 31) Nos 1–5 were built directly against the wall of the Poplar Baths. Each of the 24 houses consisted of a basement and two storeys (Plate 36c). (fn. 32) The builders included Tristram Shandy Simpson of Limehouse and Frederick William Simpson of East India Dock Road. (fn. 33) The latter was also the builder of the six Grove Cottages, to the south of Grove Villas, in 1854. (fn. 34) To the south of them were the 12 cottages in England Row and England Place, which were included with Bath Street when the houses there were renumbered in 1891.

No. 1 Bath Street, Nos 1–6 Grove Villas and Nos 1–2 Arthur Street were demolished in 1931–2 as part of the rebuilding of Poplar Baths (see page 165). The remainder of the area was badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War and the buildings were subsequently cleared. (fn. 35)

St Matthias Estate

In 1959–60 much of Cottage Street and the area to the east, bounded by Poplar Baths to the north, the railway to the east, and Poplar High Street to the south, was developed for public housing by the LCC as the St Matthias Estate, named after the nearby church. (fn. 36) Following bomb damage during the war, the Council established a site for temporary bungalows in the area, one of several such sites in the vicinity which the Council sought to extend in order to create sufficient land for a permanent housing scheme. (fn. 37) From the later 1940s, therefore, it gradually acquired properties in Cottage Street, Poplar Bath Street, and a few in Poplar High Street. (fn. 38)

Nos 24–54 (even) Cottage Street were the subject of a clearance order made by the County Council in July 1954 and confirmed in May 1956. Additional land was acquired at the same time. In all about 103 families had to be rehoused and an area of c2¼ acres was acquired at an estimated cost, including clearance and partial redevelopment, of £20,000. (fn. 39)

The LCC now had a site of about 5½ acres on which to build. (fn. 40) In February 1957, plans drawn up by its Architect's Department for 185 dwellings in seven blocks of flats, maisonettes, and terraced houses, around half an acre of open space, were agreed. The scheme also included 43 garages, 85 tenants' stores, an estate workshop, four playgrounds, and six drying areas. (fn. 41) Considerable rearrangement of the existing street pattern was necessary and parts of Cottage Street, Poplar Bath Street, Ivy Cottages, and Finch's Court were stopped up. (fn. 42) Construction was carried out in 1958–60 by W. J. Simms, Sons & Cooke of Croydon, at a tendered price of £383,311. (fn. 43) The cost of roadworks was put at a further £23,445. (fn. 44)

All the blocks are built in dark red brick and all, except Storey House, have pitched roofs. Access to the upper dwellings is via internal staircases and communal balconies, with Storey House also having lifts. Nos 15–113 (odd) Cottage Street (on the east side of the street) is a four-storey block of nine one-bedroom flats and 44 threebedroom maisonettes. Storey House is a seven-storey, flat-roofed block of ten bedsitter flats and 48 two-bedroom maisonettes. Abbott House is a four-storey block of 18 three-bedroom maisonettes. Nos 6–24 (even) Smythe Street is another four-storey block, containing six onebedroom flats and 26 three-bedroom flats. Nos 1–9 (odd) Smythe Street is a two-storey terrace of five four-bedroom houses, as is Nos 1–5 (consec) Woodall Close. The final block in this development is Nos 66–92 (even) Smythe Street, a four-storey building containing 14 two-bedroom maisonettes. The density of this development is 37 dwellings (140 persons) to the acre.

In February 1965 the LCC agreed to purchase a site of 0.68 of an acre in Poplar High Street, between Cottage Street and Poplar Bath Street at an estimated cost, including clearance and other expenses, of £71,000. After allowing for the widening of the High Street, but adding two properties (Nos 155 and 157 Poplar High Street) already owned by the Council, a redevelopment site of approximately four-fifths of an acre was available. (fn. 45) On it Nos 1–26 Landon Walk were erected in 1972–4 by Kind & Company, to designs by the GLC Architect's Department, at a final estimated cost of £273,700. The four-storey building is again faced in dark red brick and has a pitched roof. The accommodation consists of 13 two-bedroom and 13 three-bedroom maisonettes. (fn. 46)


  • 1. GLRO, M93/45, p.438.
  • 2. PRO, PROB11/2159, ff.237–40.
  • 3. POD.
  • 4. MDR 1853/11/237–44.
  • 5. DSR 1853/164–7, 343–6; 1854/274–7.
  • 6. MDR 1853/6/229; 1853/14/98; 1854/11/250; 1855/6/15.
  • 7. MDR 1853–57.
  • 8. MDR 1854/11/250: TH 5221A.
  • 9. 1861, 1881 censuses: PRO, IR58/84598/3303: EEN, 18 Nov 1932.
  • 10. MDR 1801/4/116; 1808/3/510: GLRO, M93/47, pp.38–9; M93/54, pp.118–19.
  • 11. Pop.784, pp.72–5; Pop.790, p.45.
  • 12. Pop.753–5: 1861 census.
  • 13. Pop.790, pp.45–6.
  • 14. A to Z of Regency London, p.29: 1861 census.
  • 15. Pop.789, pp. 483–4; Pop.790, pp.79–85.
  • 16. Pop.750–752.
  • 17. Pop.778, pp.272, 294, 352, 357, 382–3: PDBW Annual Report for 1878–9, pp.27–8.
  • 18. Pop.779, pp.12–13; Pop.784, pp.75, 91–2, 102; Pop.790, pp.95, 165.
  • 19. Pop.790, pp.329, 344, 404: PDBW Annual Report for 1886–7, p.24.
  • 20. Pop.796, pp. 189–90, 427, 474: DA 7110.
  • 21. Pop.800, pp.79, 431, 508; Pop.801, pp.59–60, 200: DSR 1894/86–7, 136–8; 1898/40–51, 104–14, 139–50, 255–69, 292–7, 342–7; 1899/82–3: DA 7463, 7543, 8155, 8226, 8307, 8322–3, 8382, 8418: LCC Mins, 1898, pp.1060, 1205, 1321, 1498.
  • 22. GLRO, M93/59, pp.3–4.
  • 23. GLRO, M93/69, pp.277–83, 287–91.
  • 24. GLRO, M93/69, pp.411–13.
  • 25. MDR 1851/8/436.
  • 26. Pop.781, pp.23–4.
  • 27. MDR 1852/13/846–9; 1853/4/171–3; 1853/11/226–7, 230–5; 1853/12/28; 1854/3/700–4; 1854/5/832–6; 1854/7/705–7; 1854/8/373–5; 1867/4/708: TH 7023.
  • 28. TH 6903.
  • 29. RB: PRO, IR58/94600/3530.
  • 30. MDR 1853/2/1040.
  • 31. MDR 1853/4/170.
  • 32. PRO, IR58/94604/3932–55.
  • 33. MDR 1854/8/381–4; 1855/9/151; 1856/4/1001; 1856/6/175.
  • 34. MDR 1854/7/698–703.
  • 35. VFB, No. 142, ff.18, 30: GLRO, AR/TP/P41/65.
  • 36. LCC Mins, 1961, p.31.
  • 37. LCC Mins, 1949, p.44.
  • 38. GLRO, LCC/MIN/7302–7306; GLC/MA/SC/03/364.
  • 39. LCC Mins, 1954, pp.461–2: GLRO, GLC/MA/SC/03/364.
  • 40. LCC Mins, 1954, pp.461–2.
  • 41. LCC Mins, 1957, pp.86–7.
  • 42. PBC Mins, 1957–8, pp.26, 154.
  • 43. LCC Mins, 1958, pp.722–3; 1960, p.286.
  • 44. LCC Mins, 1959, pp.35–6.
  • 45. LCC Mins, 1964–5, p.1160: GLRO, GLC Housing Committee Mins, 1964–5, p.41.
  • 46. GLRO, GLC Housing Committee Mins, 1971, p.754; 1972, pp.18, 224; GLC Housing Plans, S.25; Housing Development Committee Mins, 1975, p.85: GLC, Housing Service Handbook, Part II, 1974, p.87.