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Description and History from 1868 Gazetteer

POPLAR, a parish and populous suburban district in the Tower division of the hundred of Ossulstone and borough of the Tower Hamlets, county Middlesex, 3 miles S.E. of St. Paul's, London.

It is connected with the metropolis by the London and Blackwall, and by the North-Western and Docks Junction lines of railway, which last communicates with the North London and G eat Eastern lines. It also has constant communication with all parts of London by omnibus and steam-boat. It is situated at the south-eastern extremity of the county on the N. bank of the Thames, here joined by the river Lea. The surface is low, but not marshy, lying principally between the Limehouse and Blackwall reaches of the Thames, which bound it on the E., S., and W.; while on the N. it is bounded by the parishes of Bromley and Limehouse. It includes the West India Docks, Blackwall, and the Isle of Dogs, having been separated from Stepney, and created into a distinct parish by Act of Parliament in 1817. It was given by William of Wykeham to the Abbey of St. Mary de Grace at Tower Hill, and formed part of the estates of Charles I. when Prince of Wales. In former times it abounded in poplar trees, for the growth of which its situation near the river was highly favourable, and from which circumstance it derives its name. The greater part of the land is now built over, the parish having more than doubled its population in the last twenty years, viz: from 20,346 in 1841 to 43,529 in 1861, of which latter number the recently formed ecclesiastical district of Christ Church contains 8,579. The inhabitants are chiefly connected with the shipping interest, or are employed in the docks, in Green's and other extensive shipbuilding yards, and in the various factories and warehouses on the river. The place is partly paved, well lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water by the East London waterworks. It contains the 'K' police station, a hospital, union poorhouse, a savings-bank, an institute for the promotion of literature and science, situated in the East India-road, and the townhall, erected on the removal of a more ancient edifice which stood in the highway. The most distinguishing feature, however, of Poplar are the extensive docks which run across the Isle of Dogs and fill 204 acres, having been formed near the commencement of the present century, at a cost of nearly 1,250,000; the import West India Dock covers 30 acres, and is surrounded with warehouses for sugar, coffee, rum, dyewoods, and other colonial products; the export dock is less capacious, covering 24 acres, but has basins at both ends near Limehouse and Blackwall opening to the Thames. At a short distance from these are the timber dock, the -south dock or canal made in 1799 at a cost of about 140,000, and the East India Docks which were constructed under the superintendence of Rennie in 1806, and comprise import and export docks scarcely less capacious than the West India Docks [see Blackwall]. There are also extensive works connected with Seaward's steam factories, Smith's wire-rope works, Green's and other extensive shipbuilding yards, iron-foundries, chain-cable factories, ropewalks, pearl ash works, and various other important establishments connected with the shipping trade. The Borough-English custom prevails within this manor. The Poplar Poor-law Union comprises the parishes of Bow, Bromley, and Poplar. It is also the head of a superintendent registry district, but is divided between the Bow and Whitechapel new county court districts. The quay of the Trinity Board is at the mouth of the river Lea, in the district of Blackwall. It was here that Sir Richard Steele had his laboratory and studied alchemy. George Green, the eminent shipbuilder, who died in 1849, was a munificent benefactor to this parish, having appropriated more than 10,000 to the establishment of schools and other charitable uses; he founded the free school, sailors' home and chapel, the Blackwall free school, and the East India-road school for infants. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of London, value 632, in the patronage of Brasenose College, Oxford. The parish church, dedicated to All Saints, and which stands on the S. side of the East India-road, in the centre of a cemetery, is a Grecian structure, with a steeple of the composite order rising 161 feet from the ground. It was built by C. Hollin in 1823, at a cost of 35.000, defrayed by the parishioners. The interior is ornamented. There are also the new district church, called Christ Church, the living of which is a perpetual curacy,* value 300, in the patronage of the bishop, and the chapelry of Blackwall, value 500, attached to the hospital founded by the late East India Company. The latter church, dedicated to St. Mary, was founded in 1654, but was almost entirely rebuilt in 1776 by the East India Company, and is surrounded by a burial-ground, in which are tombs of the Dethicks of Poplar House; of R. Ainsworth, the compiler of the Latin Dictionary; of George Steevens, the commentator on Shakspeare, who was born here in 1736, and has a monument with epitaph by Hayley; of Dr. Ridley, minister of Poplar, who died here in 1774, with epitaph by Bishop Lowth; and of his son, Rev. James Ridley, author of "Tales of the Genii." In the East India-road is the Seamen's chapel, erected at the expense of the late George Green; also another chapel in course of construction. There are places of worship for Roman Catholics, Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyans, the last named being erected in 1848, by William Bath, at a cost of near 7,500. The local charities produce about 400 per annum, besides a share in some of those at Stepney, including the endowments of the East India Company's almshouses and Johnson's shipwrights' almshouses. There are a free school, instituted in 1816, which has an income from endowment of 250, also National schools, partly endowed, an infant school in the East India-road, built in 1828, a Roman Catholic school, and a school for Irish Protestants.

[Description(s) from "The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland" (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson 2003]
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[Last updated on 9 Oct 2003 by David Hawgood. 2003]