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Poplar area guide

Poplar | E14

Area Guide

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Poplar Area Info

Poplar Area Info

Made famous by the hit TV series Call the Midwife and named after the native trees (Populus canescens and Populus nigra) which once grew here, Poplar is a residential district on the north-eastern outskirts of Canary Wharf in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is dissected by the A12 Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach and the East India Dock Road and its location has proved difficult for town planners largely due to the immovable infrastructure. Several attempts at regeneration have been made over the years with mixed results - and it’s not over yet, with more gentrification on the cards thanks to long awaited arrival of the much maligned Crossrail project.

Much of the housing stock here is thanks to the improvements that have been attempted so far, predominantly new build low-rise flats, quaint mock-Georgian and red brick terraced houses and residential squares. Alongside that - mostly close to the major roads and dual carriageways - are the social housing towerblocks, dominated by the Brutalist-style Balfron Tower, and 1960’s council housing estates. Away from the main roads, traffic calming measures are typical, and green space has been retained wherever possible in an attempt to slow down the pace of both motorists and pedestrians alike.

Look into the distance and the familiar London Docklands skyline reminds you that you’re not too far from Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs making commuting a doddle, with a plethora of public transport links courtesy of nearby Canary Wharf Jubilee Line, and Canary Wharf, Poplar, Langdon Park and All Saints DLR stations as well as major arterial routes into and out of London. If you squint, you might even catch a glimpse of the famous yellow masts on the top of the O2 at Greenwich Peninsula on the south side of the Thames.

Things To Do In Poplar

For swanky socialising and entertaining, Canary Wharf or Limehouse are just a short hop away, where you’ll find several great bars, restaurants and things to do. Staying local however head to the pedestrian area around Chrisp Street – home of the bizarre and diverse Chrisp Street Market – where you’ll find the best pie, mash and liquor around courtesy of Maureen’s Pie and Mash shop, and just around the corner The Festival Inn on Kerbey Street, a CAMRA Pub Heritage Grade II Listed venue for its Nationally Important Historic Interior.

To the north east of Poplar is the Limehouse Cut, part of the Inland Waterways network and London’s oldest canal, worth a visit for its peaceful canalside walk along the towpath. Whilst you’re there, take a look at The Spratts Factory on Fawe Street. Now converted into apartments, the building once manufactured dog biscuits which were popular in the late 1800’s. Another claim to fame, Spratts once recruited a young clerk by the name of Charles Cruft – founder of the eponymous Dog Shows towards the end of that century.

Back at Chrisp street, you can’t fail to notice the brilliant Graffiti artwork that adorns many of the walls around the area. Well, Banksy has also paid a visit to Poplar, and has left his mark in the underground car park – somewhere near an 8ft Chihuahua.


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E3 5LU
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History of Poplar

Poplar started life as marshland just at or below high tide level - known as Poplar Marshes - and remained largely undeveloped apart from the area along the waterways. It assumed the name Poplar in the early 1800’s and remained part of the parish of Stepney until 1855.

Of course, wartime saw the Germans relentlessly attack the East End of London. During the First World War, damage caused by the indiscriminate night-time Zeppelin raids was extensive leading to a great number of civilian deaths.

Known as Target Area A, most of the East End suffered badly, but possibly the most heinous attack was a direct hit on a primary school in Poplar’s Upper North Street. The building was 3 storeys high with a girls’ class on the top floor, a boys class on the middle floor and about 50 infants on the ground. The bomb dropped through the roof, straight down and exploded on the ground floor. Eighteen young lives were lost, sixteen of which were between the ages of 4-6. The tragedy shook the entire population at the time.

Poplar suffered again during world war II. 770 lives were lost and most of the damaged buildings had to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch. At the height of the campaign, ten schools in the area were evacuated to Oxford.

The post-war years brought regeneration, rebuilding and the influence of the Council social housing initiatives. Although the standard of living was relatively poor compared to its more affluent neighbours, Poplar remained reluctantly in the minds of housing chiefs. In the 1980’s, over 97% of Poplar’s dwellings were public housing, and the abandonment of the area by heavy industry left derelict buildings and plots of land ripe for transformation – New Festival Quarter in 2014 being one of them providing over 500 homes.

Balfron Tower is a legacy of 1960’s social housing and has been featured in many films and TV shows including A Fish Called Wanda, The Da Vinci Code and The world Is Not Enough. Notable past and present residents of Poplar include football manager Harry Redknapp, Commonwealth boing bantamweight champion Teddy Baldock “the Pride of Poplar” to whom a statue has been erected in Langdon Park, and Salmon Lane was the childhood home of Alfred Hitchcock, whose family had a fishmongers there, and lived above the shop.

Chrisp Street Market - London
Chrisp Street Market - London

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