History and Importance of Poplar, London



Chronological table

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6
Date Event Created by Associated Places
circa. 1600

John Mucknell (The Kings Pirate)

Originally born in Stepney, but moved to the Poplar area after he married his wife. Originally Mucknell was a commander for the East India Company, but became the “Kings Pirate” during the English Civil War when he fought for King Charles I against the Puritans. Mucknell seized the ship under his command and began disrupting the trade on the English coast, all while flying the flag of the King. 

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circa. 1745

Mary East: White Horse Pub

The White Horse of Poplar High Street

Mary East was 16 when she and her female friend, whose name has been lost in history, became a couple. At the beginning of this relationship, Mary began to present herself as male and adopted the name James How. Mr. and Mrs. How moved to Poplar in 1745, purchasing The White Horse Pub on Poplar High Street. While running the pub and many other businesses, the couple was said to be very hard-working yet very quiet about their personal lives, which was respected among neighbors. James was a working man, who participated in all civic duties one would presume a man in the 1740s would do, such as serving on a jury and having a spot in the local parish. Some made remarks about James’ effeminacy but their identity was widely accepted in Poplar. Up until 1750, there were no problems concerning James’ identity. However, someone from James’ past told many about James’ previous female identity and threatened James and Mrs. How with blackmail, making them pay 5-10 pounds whenever the blackmailer wished. This continued for 16 years until Mrs. How’s death in 1766. While grieving James was asked again for 100 pounds, but he couldn't pay the sum and was violently attacked outside of the pub, the attackers threatened him with hanging if he did not pay. James escaped and was able to have the attackers arrested, and able to take the attackers to court. While attending court, James showed up in a dress, adorning their feminine features, and asked to be called Mary. By doing this, Mary was able to prove the extortion for great sums of money as well as the assault, and the extortionists were sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment. While Mary won the case, she also outed herself, by doing so she was told she could no longer hold the titles she did as James. Such as owning the Pub, but she could keep the money she had earned from running public housing. We will never know their identity as they would have wished but we can see this as a small victory for those in the LGBTQ+ community before the laws in the upcoming years would lead to oppression and violence. 



Flanagan, Ruby. “Mary East, Poplar, and LGBTQ+ Equality.” Poplar LDN, 28 Mar. 2023, https://poplarlondon.co.uk/mary-east-poplar-lgbtq/.

Accessed, April 17, 2023

“The White Horse, Poplar High Street.” City of London, 17 May 2022, https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/history-and-heritage/london....

Accessed, April 17, 2023

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circa. 1802

Opening of West India Docks

West India Docks - Wikipedia

The West India Docks were built between 1800 and 1806, becoming major import and export docks. The Milligan Family was largely responsible for the construction of the docks, they were a Scottish family with an abundance of sugar plantations in Jamaica. Not only were the docks a huge influx of goods to be shipped all across the UK, but it also created an influx of people into the locales surrounding the docks such as Poplar. When a large shipping port is opened many people from all over the world come to work at the port. Poplar, being one of the poorer towns, became a cultural hub due to the opening of the docks and its close proximity to them. Many of the buildings around the docks had Jamaican influence as one of the largest imports was sugar from Jamaican plantations. There became a clear separation between those who worked in the docks and those who worked outside of the docks. The docks were essentially scut work, many ships festering with disease and requiring hard, manual labor. Not only social limitations arose, but blockades of when and where those who worked in the docks could go were very common. When those told to work at the docks didn't want to, they would “lounge” around, the dock hands not wanting this, used military force to drive them out and make sure those told to work, would work. All those working at the docks were required to wear uniforms to ensure the prevention of theft of expensive goods such as sugar, coffee, and ginger. Inherently the docks became very racist and many locales surrounding the docks followed suit with racist ideologies.



Legg, George. “Excavating Racial Capitalism in London's West India Docks.” Wiley Online Library, Antipode, 9 Feb. 2023, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/anti.12927?af=R.

Accessed, April 17, 2023

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13 Jun 1917

Bombings of WWI

A significant amount of poplar was destroyed during WWI, mainly known for the Upper North Street School tragedy that killed 18 students under the age of 6, one of many tragedies during this time. Bombings destroyed a lot of Victorian-era architecture and led to many rebuilding projects, however being a very poor area, not many buildings were structurally sound. 

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circa. 1949 to circa. 1982

Lansbury Estates

The Lansbury Estate, Poplar, Part 1: meeting 'the needs of the people' |  Municipal Dreams

The Lansbury Estates were social housing built over bombing sites from WWI and WWII. Houses were destroyed, leaving many struggling to live. With morale being low and a need for jobs, plans for the estates began. Building the Lansbury Estates was so much more of a social project than just building a neighborhood. The philosophy behind building the Estates was the idea that a neighborhood should be self-sustaining, containing all that a community would need to thrive, but just a walking distance away. The Estates being government housing, meant they were considerably cheaper than a normal flat would be at that time. The construction fo the estates began in 1949, shortly after it became the live architecture exhibit for the Festival of Britain. However, these original apartment buildings were not as we would normally picture them today, only standing 2-3 stories tall. The Chrisp Street Market is a key feature of the estates as well, being built for those living near to be able to walk to, socialization and a sense of community were key features of the market being built. The Market is still a social hub today, with many different cultures blossoming through the street. Overtime more people needed housing and one of the only ways to move was up, many towers were built in the 60s to compensate for the influx of residents in the area, much to the original planners dismay. 

The architecture critic Lewis Mumford wrote of the Lansbury Estate (1953) "Its design has been based not solely on abstract aesthetic principles, or on the economics of commercial construction, or on the techniques of mass production, but on the social constitution of the community itself, with its diversity of human interests and human needs. Thus the architects and planners have avoided not only the clichés of ´high rise´ building but the dreary prisonlike order that results from forgetting the very purpose of housing and the necessities of neighbourhood living." (Guardian)


“Architects Hark Back to Festival of Britain with 'Vertical Carnival'.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 June 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/j...

Accessed, April 17, 2023

“Lansbury.” Hidden London, https://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/lansbury/.

Accessed, April 17, 2023

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circa. 1951

Chrisp Street Market (Fun Extra!)

The Chrisp Street Market is an outdoor market, made in 1951 as an attraction for the Festival of Britain. A festival to show the unique design and culture of Britain. Made of hexagonal stalls around a central clock tower to exemplify the feeling of social interconnectedness. Here you can find all types of food, household items, clothing, and other goods! 

Designed by Frederick Gibberd, also responsible for the building of the Lansbury Estate, an example of Post War social housing. 

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