Castor Street, E14

Road in/near Poplar, existed between 1812 and the 1960s

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Road · Poplar · E14 ·

Castor Street existed between the 1810s and 1960s.

Castor Street Chinese Laundry, Limehouse
Until the building of the East India Dock Road in 1806, the only roads running north from Poplar High Street were Bow Lane, Robin Hood Lane and North Street. East India Dock Road’s arrival at the beginning of the nineteenth century started development planning.

The land to the north of Pennyfields as far as East India Dock Road was owned by Mary Burch. In 1812, Castor Street was laid out and a number of leases were granted there to carpenters, a bricklayer and a builder. Henceforth a number of small houses were erected in Castor Street and Sandpit Road (later this was renamed West Street and again in 1875 renamed Birchfield Street).

Mary Burch offered short leases of 31 years - these were too short to encourage a high standard of building. Some nearby occupiers complained of filth ’of every kind’ in Castor Street.

By 1832, Joel Langley and his family had acquired the land from Miss Burch. From about 1855 Joseph and George Mills established a cooperage in Castor Street and from around 1886 Lancaster & Bawn, iron tank manufacturers, took over premises on the south side of the street.

While Chinese laundries first began to appear in Britain in Liverpool at the turn of the 20th century, one of the first in London was that run by Hop Lee in Castor Street. The Chinese moved into laundries as they were often denied other business opportunities. They were often successful at it because they offered a cheaper and better quality service than existing laundries.

Some of the properties in Castor Street, Morant Street and Oriental Street were cleared following bomb damage in the Second World War. Other houses remained until acquired in the 1960s for the Saltwell Street housing scheme.

Main source: Survey of London | British History Online
Further citations and sources


Castor Street Chinese Laundry, Limehouse
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Poplar - site of the first air raids

Poplar is a historic, mainly residential area of East London. The district became the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar in 1900 - abolished in 1965 and absorbed into Tower Hamlets. The district centre is Chrisp Street Market. Poplar contains notable examples of public housing including the Lansbury Estate and Balfron Tower.

Although many people associate wartime bombing with The Blitz during World War II, the first airborne terror campaign in Britain took place during the First World War.

Air raids in World War One caused significant damage and took many lives. WWI German raids on Britain caused 1413 deaths and 3409 injuries. Air raids provided an unprecedented means of striking at resources vital to an enemy's war effort. Many of the novel features of the war in the air between 1914 and 1918—the lighting restrictions and blackouts, the air raid warnings and the improvised shelters—became central aspects of the Second World War less than 30 years later.

The East End of London was one of the most heavily targeted places. Poplar, in particular, was struck badly by some of the air raids during the First World War. Initially these were at night by Zeppelins which bombed the area indiscriminately, leading to the death of innocent civilians.

The first daylight bombing attack on London by a fixed-wing aircraft took place on 13 June 1917. Fourteen German Gotha G bombers led by Squadron Commander Hauptmann Ernst Brandenberg flew over Essex and began dropping their bombs. It was a hot day and the sky was hazy; nevertheless, onlookers in London's East End were able to see 'a dozen or so big aeroplanes scintillating like so many huge silver dragonflies'. These three-seater bombers were carrying shrapnel bombs which were dropped just before noon. Numerous bombs fell in rapid succession in various districts. In the East End alone 104 people were killed, 154 seriously injured and 269 slightly injured.

The gravest incident that day was a direct hit on a primary school in Poplar. In the Upper North Street School at the time were a girls' class on the top floor, a boys' class on the middle floor and an infant class of about 50 students on the ground floor. The bomb fell through the roof into the girls' class; it then proceeded to fall through the boys' classroom before finally exploding in the infant class. Eighteen students were killed, of whom sixteen were aged from 4 to 6 years old. The tragedy shocked the British public at the time.

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Poplar DLR station was opened on 21 August 1987, originally with just two platforms, being served only by the Stratford-Island Gardens branch of the DLR. As the DLR was expanded eastwards, the station was extensively remodelled, given two extra platforms and expanded.
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