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Poplar (All Saints)

POPLAR (All Saints), formerly a hamlet with Blackwall, but now a parish, and the head of a union, in the Tower division of the hundred of Ossulstone, county of Middlesex, 3 miles (E. by S.) from London; containing 20,342 inhabitants. This place, which was separated from Stepney by act of parliament, in 1817, derived its name from the number of poplar-trees with which it anciently abounded, and for the growth of which its situation near the river Thames was highly favourable. It is at the south-eastern extremity of the county, and is bounded on the east, west, and south by the river, and on the north by the parishes of Bromley and Limehouse. The parish is inhabited chiefly by persons engaged in the shipping interest, by numerous artisans occupied in the different yards for building and repairing ships, and by a multitude of labourers, who find employment in the East and West India docks. The West India docks were constructed here, in 1802; and the works of the Thames Plate-Glass Company, various iron and brass foundries, and several establishments for engineering and the manufacture of machinery, are in the parish. It is partially paved, well lighted with gas, and supplied with water by the East London waterworks. The Poplar institution for the promotion of literature and science, is a neat building on the East India road. The town-hall, forming part of the present workhouse for the union, was erected in 1810, on the removal of an ancient edifice, which stood in the highway.

The living is a rectory not in charge, in the gift of Brasenose College, Oxford; net income, £632. The church, erected by the parishioners at an expense of £37,000, is a handsome structure in the Grecian style, with a lofty steeple of the composite order; the interior is conveniently arranged and chastely ornamented. The building is situated on the south side of the East India road, in the centre of a spacious cemetery, on the west of which is a house for the rector. A chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, was built by subscription in 1654, at an expense of £2000, on a piece of ground given by the East India Company, by whom it was almost entirely rebuilt in 1776; it is a neat building, with a large burial-ground. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Company, and is attached to the hospital supported by them here. A chapel has been recently erected on the East India road at the expense of George Green, Esq., for the accommodation of the numerous persons employed in his building-yards, and of the seamen with which the neighbourhood abounds; it is a neat edifice in the Grecian style, with a handsome campanile turret, and contains 1100 sittings. Within a few yards of it the same gentleman has built a large house called the "Sailors' Home," for the temporary lodging and accommodation of sailors while on shore. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and Roman Catholics.

The boys' school, established in 1711, affords instruction on the national system. The free school, founded in 1816, contains 300 boys and 200 girls; a schoolroom for boys, and another for girls, with houses for the master and mistress, have been erected at an expense of £3037, on a piece of ground given by the East India Company, and the institution has an income of £240, arising from bequests. A Roman Catholic school is maintained; and in the Ladies' charity school, in union with the National Society, 90 girls are taught. An infants' school is supported by Mr. Green, who has been a munificent benefactor to the parish, and a zealous promoter of the schools, to the establishment and support of which, and to other charitable uses, he has appropriated more than £10,000. There is also a school for Irish Protestants, of whom 125 are clothed and partly supported. The East India hospital was established for the maintenance of widows of officers and seamen in the company's service. It was rebuilt in 1802, and is a spacious and substantial quadrangular structure, comprising 38 tenements: the south front contains the chaplain's residence in the centre, and on each side dwellings for the hospitallers; and to the north of the chapel are 18 dwellings for the widows of superior officers. There are various bequests for distribution among necessitous and aged parishioners. The poor-law union comprises Poplar, Blackwall, Bromley, and Stratford-le-Bow, and contains a population of 31,091.

George Steevens, editor of Shakspeare's plays, was born here in 1736, and was buried in the chapel, where is a monument to his memory, with a fine bas-relief, in which he is represented contemplating the bust of his favourite author. In the cemetery are the tombs of Dr. Glo'ster Ridley, minister of Poplar, who died in 1774, and of his son, the Rev. James Ridley, author of the Tales of the Genii, who died in 1765. Among the literary men who occasionally resided here were, Robert Ainsworth, compiler of the Latin Dictionary, who kept a school in the neighbourhood; and Sir Richard Steele, who is said to have had a laboratory here.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.