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Tower Hamlets mayor urged to save Poplar’s historic Victorian ‘lattice frame’ gasholder

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 October 2017

Partly demolished Victorian gasholder frame at former Poplar gasworks. Picture: Garry O'Keefe

Partly demolished Victorian gasholder frame at former Poplar gasworks. Picture: Garry O'Keefe

Garry O'Keefe

Campaigners have called on the Mayor of Tower Hamlets to save an historic Victorian gasholder in London’s East End which is being demolished.

Unique Victorian latticed wrought iron girders linked to 'upright' standards at Poplar gasworks. Picture: Garry O'Keefe Unique Victorian latticed wrought iron girders linked to 'upright' standards at Poplar gasworks. Picture: Garry O'Keefe

Local historian Tom Ridge has asked John Biggs to use his influence to stop the unique latticed-style structure at the former Poplar gasworks being torn down and cut up for scrap.

He hit a snag in 2015 when Historic England rejected listing the gasholder after the National Grid decommissioned it and didn’t get support from Tower Hamlets council.

“I want the mayor to intervene to make a better job of what’s being salvaged,” Tom tells tomorrow’s East London Advertiser.

“This unique gasholder is a commemoration to the workers from the Millwall ironworks who built it 150 years ago.

Local historian Tom Ridge campaigning to save East End's heritage. Picture: Mike Brooke Local historian Tom Ridge campaigning to save East End's heritage. Picture: Mike Brooke

“But now I discover it’s all going to be demolished anyway.”

He wants it locally listed, even with a part now dismantled, and suggests the council’s Local Plan for Poplar could include it as an open space.

This follows his 4,000-name petition in January to save both the Poplar and Bethnal Green gasworks sites.

The Poplar site, on the banks of the Lea River, is being cleared for a new housing development.

Old Poplar gasworks in Leven Street, set to make way for housing scheme. Picture: Garry O'Keefe Old Poplar gasworks in Leven Street, set to make way for housing scheme. Picture: Garry O'Keefe

Council officers are believed to have visited the site in Leven Street, near the A12 Blackwall Tunnel Approach, to assess if it is worth local listing.

The particular 70ft gasholder that the retired Bethnal Green schoolteacher wants saved has the oldest surviving wrought-iron lattice frame in Britain, designed in 1876 by Robert and Henry Jones from the Commercial Gas Company in Stepney.

The 19 elegant T-section ‘upright’ standards, built by Cutler & Sons engineering in Millwall, is the first and only example of its type left in the country, with horizontal tapering lattice girders each having four gently-curved wrought-iron ‘angles’ to form a linked pair of tapering box-lattice structures.

The entire gasholder “has high historical and aesthetic value”, Tom insists, and has national as well as local interest, despite being rejected by Historic England two years ago.

Heyday of Poplar gasworks in 1987. Picture: East End Waterways Group Heyday of Poplar gasworks in 1987. Picture: East End Waterways Group

Victorian gasworks were mostly sited next to rivers and canals to receive coal supplies easily.

The old Poplar gasworks are next to the Lea, while the Bethnal Green works were built by the Regent’s Canal, both championed by Tom’s East End Waterways preservation group.

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