Lansbury

Lansbury, Tower Hamlets

A large, municipally built estate in the part of north Poplar once known as Poplar New Town


The Lansbury estate's curious clocktower-cum-watchtower on Chrisp Street
The Lansbury estate's curious clocktower-cum-watchtower

Wartime bombing destroyed or damaged nearly a quarter of the buildings in this area, which was one of the first be redeveloped by the London County Council after hostilities ended. The new estate was named after George Lansbury (1859–1940), a borough councillor and a local hero for his ‘Poplarist’ campaign demanding that London’s richer boroughs should subsidise the poorer ones. He subsequently became Labour MP for Bromley and Bow and led the Labour opposition from 1931 to 1935.

In 1951 the barely finished Lansbury estate became the ‘Live Architecture Exhibition’ of the Festival of Britain. Critics were generally underwhelmed by the project, with one or two notable exceptions. Writing in The New Yorker in 1953, Lewis Mumford remarked, “I shall be surprised if Lansbury is not one of the best bits of housing and urban planning anywhere.”

Created to serve the residents of the Lansbury estate, Chrisp Street market was the first specially designed pedestrianised shopping centre in the UK.

More housing schemes filled out the area over the next three decades, including the large blocks of Lansbury West.

The Victorian St Saviour’s church was declared redundant in 1984 and very badly damaged by fire in 2007. The church is encircled by the Arcadian scheme of self-built houses, of the late 1980s. Named after a former vicar of St Saviour’s, the neighbouring Bartlett Park is Lansbury’s largest open space.

Much of the Lansbury estate had become run-down when Tower Hamlets transferred ownership and management to a housing association at the end of the last century, when a regeneration programme began.

Opened in 2004, Chrisp Street Idea Store is a mix of library services, learning spaces, IT and a café housed in a glass box near the corner of East India Dock Road.

Poplar-born actress Angela Lansbury is George Lansbury’s granddaughter.

Postal district: E14
Population: 14,859 (East India and Lansbury ward, 2011 census – a 30 per cent increase on 2001)
Further reading: John Shepherd, George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour, Oxford University Press, 2004 – recent biography of the Poplarist campaigner
Website: Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association