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Tower Hamlets

A large council estate in the part of north Poplar once known as Poplar New Town. Wartime bombing destroyed or damaged nearly a quarter of the buildings in this area, which was one of the first be redeveloped by the London County Council after hostilities ended. In 1951 the barely finished Lansbury estate became the ‘Live Architecture Exhibition’ of the Festival of Britain. Critics were generally underwhelmed by the project, with one or two notable exceptions. Writing in the New Yorker in 1953 Lewis Mumford remarked, “I shall be surprised if Lansbury is not one of the best bits of housing and urban planning anywhere.” Several more schemes filled out the area over the next three decades, including the large blocks of Lansbury West. Inevitably, much of the Lansbury estate has become run-down. Tower Hamlets has transferred the estate to housing association ownership and it is presently undergoing regeneration. St Saviour’s church survives from 1864, and is now used by the Celestial Church of Christ, a Nigerian foundation. The church is encircled by the Arcadian scheme of self-built houses, of the late 1980s. The 15-acre Bartlett Park is Lansbury’s largest open space.

Chrisp Street has a daily market that meets a wide variety of local needs and offers a special emphasis on exotic fruit on Fridays and Saturdays. Opened in 2004, Chrisp Street Idea Store is a mix of library services, learning spaces, IT and a café housed in a glass building on the corner of East India Dock Road.

Secondary phase of the Lansbury estate
Lansbury clocktower
The Lansbury estate's curious clocktower-cum-watchtower

The estate is named after George Lansbury (1859–1940), a borough councillor and a local hero for his ‘Poplarist’ campaign demanding that London’s richer boroughs should subsidise the poorer ones. He subsequently became Labour MP for Bromley and Bow and led the Labour opposition from 1931 to 1935. Poplar-born actress Angela Lansbury is his granddaughter.

Postal district: E14
Population: 11,496 (East India and Lansbury ward)
Further reading: John Shepherd, George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour, Oxford University Press, 2002 – recent biography of the Poplarist campaigner

Poplar Housing & Regeneration Community Assn

Idea Store website

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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