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Five historical things to look out for in... Poplar

By
Katie Wignall
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Poplar was once the heart of London's Docklands, a busy industrial area hit hard by the Blitz. Today it lies in the shadows of Canary Wharf and is famously the setting for 'Call the Midwife', but there are plenty of historical gems to be found.   

Photo by Look Up London

1. The Spratt's Factory, Fawe Street

Overlooking the Limehouse Cut (which just happens to be London's oldest canal) stands the former factory of the US-owned Spratt's. Now converted into flats, Spratt's was the world's first large-scale manufacturer of dog biscuits, and its 'Meat Fibrine Dog Cake' flooded London shelves around 1860. The dog links don't end there though. They hired a promising young clerk by the name of Charles Cruft, who went on to establish the famous dog show in the 1890s.

Photo by Look Up London

 2. Upper North Street School Memorial, Poplar Recreation Ground

Its proximity to the docks meant Poplar suffered bombings in both World Wars. This statue remembers the 18 children who were killed when a bomb hit their school on 13 June 1917. The funeral soon after was a major public event: more than 600 wreaths were brought by mourners and King George V personally wrote a note to be read at the service.  

Photo by Look Up London

3. The Burton Menswear Mosaic, Chrisp Street

In 1900 an 18-year-old Lithuanian immigrant called Montague Burton arrived in Britain. He borrowed £100 and set up a pretty successful menswear business. This mosaic, which previously welcomed punters through the Chrisp Street shop entrance, has been preserved in a nearby the wall. Montague was also a supplier of suits to demobilised servicemen after the Second World War. His package of civilian clothes consisting of a jacket, trousers, a waistcoat, shirt and underwear became known as ‘The Full Monty’.  

Photo by Look Up London

4. Chrisp Street Market Clock Tower

This eye-catching clock tower (which you can climb on Open House weekend) is part of Chrisp Street Market, designed by Frederick Gibberd. It was built as part of The Festival of Britain in 1951, making the market the first purpose-built pedestrianised shopping area in the UK. 

Photo by Look Up London

5. Teddy Baldock's Statue, Langdon Park

Outside Langdon Park DLR you'll find a statue of Teddy Baldock known as 'The Pride of Poplar'. He's still GB's youngest ever boxing world champion, gaining the title when he was 19 years old. Teddy's grandson, who's written a book about him, claims no other English boxer has enjoyed a larger following. At one match against Archie Bell at the Albert Hall, 52 coachloads of East Enders travelled west to cheer on their hero. Sadly, Teddy's glory was short lived. He burned out at 24 and despite his earnings died penniless aged 63.  

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