Langdon Park

Langdon Park, Tower Hamlets

A conservation area, open space and Docklands Light Railway station in north-east Poplar

Hidden London: Langdon Park station in the snow by Matt Buck

Well into the first half of the 19th cen­tu­ry there was almost noth­ing here except a track called Bow Lane (now St Leonard’s Road and Uam­var Street), which led to Brom­ley-by-Bow’s parish church of St Mary with St Leonard.

Most of the local­i­ty was dense­ly built up with ter­raced hous­ing after the North Lon­don Rail­way opened in 1850. At this time there was a sig­nif­i­cant Irish com­mu­ni­ty liv­ing here.

The church of St Michael and All Angels was built in 1864–5 in Ear­ly Eng­lish Goth­ic style with poly­chrome detail­ing and a promi­nent tow­er that forms a local land­mark. The church could seat a thou­sand wor­ship­pers.

St Michael and All Angels’ boys’ school was in exis­tence by 1870 and it had become Byron Street school by 1882. Rebuilt in 1907, the school was lat­er renamed in hon­our of Edmund Hay Cur­rie.

From 1884 until 1944 South Brom­ley sta­tion stood at the east­ern end of Rifle Street.

Poplar bor­ough coun­cil built the low-rise Teviot estate after the Sec­ond World War and added a group of nine-storey blocks in 1954–6.

In 1959 the Black­wall Tun­nel north­ern approach road was con­struct­ed par­al­lel to St Leonard’s Road and large areas of the neigh­bour­hood were cleared. The approach road effec­tive­ly divorced this local­i­ty from the rest of South Brom­ley.

A recre­ation ground was cre­at­ed in stages from the late 1950s in place of the hous­es of Cob­den Street and Wood­in (for­mer­ly Welling­ton) Street, many of which had been dam­aged in the Blitz. It’s not clear to Hid­den Lon­don why the name Lang­don Park was cho­sen for this new open space but it may have hon­oured Father CG Lang­don, who was vic­ar of St Michael’s church in the 1920s. Lang­don was a paci­fist and a social­ist, involved with George Lans­bury and the Poplar rates rebels. In 1965 Hay Cur­rie school absorbed Lime­house­’s Sir Humphrey Gilbert school and became Lang­don Park.

St Michael and All Angels’ church was declared redun­dant in 1978 and lat­er became the flats of St Michael’s Court. The con­ver­sion involved major changes to the inte­ri­or, “which is now deprived of spe­cial inter­est,” accord­ing to the building’s grade II list entry.

By the late 1980s the Teviot estate had acquired a mis­er­able rep­u­ta­tion for iso­la­tion and pover­ty – and for white racism direct­ed against the area’s grow­ing Bangladeshi com­mu­ni­ty. At one time the estate was said to have had the high­est inci­dence of racial attacks in the coun­try.

Hidden London: War memorial on St Leonard's Road in the snow by Matt Buck

The Lang­don Park con­ser­va­tion area was des­ig­nat­ed in 1990 and extend­ed to the north-west in 2008. Its focal (though not cen­tral) point is St Michael’s Court, togeth­er with its grounds and the for­mer vic­arage. The pho­to above shows the grade II list­ed war memo­r­i­al (1920) in front of the vic­arage and, to its left, a local­ly list­ed ter­race of Geor­gian-style hous­es built in the 1850s. Dat­ing from the same peri­od, the for­mer St Leonard’s Arms is also local­ly list­ed. The pub closed in 1988 and was con­vert­ed to flats in 2002.

Most of the Teviot estate was trans­ferred to the Poplar HARCA hous­ing asso­ci­a­tion in 1998, after which a com­bi­na­tion of refur­bish­ment, demo­li­tion and rede­vel­op­ment took place. The remain­der of the estate was trans­ferred to Poplar HARCA in 2007.

Cre­at­ed as part of the ‘sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties ini­tia­tive’, Lang­don Park sta­tion opened in 2007. Local coun­cil­lor Kevin Mor­ton called the £7 mil­lion project, “a key step in break­ing down the social Berlin Wall between Poplar and Dock­lands.” Inci­den­tal­ly, when the sta­tion was first moot­ed – back in 1983 when the DLR was orig­i­nal­ly being planned – it was to have been called Car­men Street, which is an indi­ca­tion of how ‘name­less’ this local­i­ty was at the time.

Lang­don Park school is now a mixed com­mu­ni­ty com­pre­hen­sive that draws its stu­dents from a rel­a­tive­ly local catch­ment area. In 2016 Ofst­ed report­ed that the major­i­ty of the school’s pupils were of Asian or Asian British her­itage – a change from pre­vi­ous reports, which had found a more even mix of white, black and Asian eth­nic back­grounds. The 2016 report also not­ed that “a far high­er than aver­age pro­por­tion of pupils [are] eli­gi­ble for the pupil pre­mi­um (addi­tion­al gov­ern­ment fund­ing for dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren and chil­dren looked after).” Eng­lish was spo­ken as an addi­tion­al lan­guage by 85 per cent of pupils in the 2016–17 aca­d­e­m­ic year.

After having been expelled from four other schools, the hip-hop artist Dizzee Rascal attended Langdon Park, where he was apparently excluded from every class except music. Encouraged by his teacher, he began making music on the school’s computer. “What emerged from Langdon Park’s music room may well be the most original sound heard in British music for the best part of a decade,” wrote Alexis Petridis in the Guardian in 2003.

Postal district: E14
Further reading: Eileen Baillie, Shabby Paradise: The Autobiography of a Decade, Hutchinson, 1958 (a memoir of St Michael’s parish in the early years of the 20th century)
Recommended PDF: Langdon Park conservation area
See also: South Bromley – and London’s other Langdon Park

 

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* The pictures of Langdon Park DLR station and the war memorial on St Leonard’s Road on this page are slightly modified from original photographs, copyright Matt Buck at Flickr, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.