Poplar Rates Rebellion mural gets lick of paint for Lansbury centenary
- Credit: LBTH
The centenary of the famous rates rebellion led by the mayor of Poplar George Lansbury in 1921 has been marked with the restoration of its commemorative street mural.
The artwork in Hale Street, off East India Dock Road, carries the names of 30 Poplar borough councillors who went to jail rather than impose a London “poll tax” levy on the poor.
It was originally painted in 1990 and repainted in 2007, but Tower Hamlets Council decided the peeling and faded image needed more TLC with fresh paint and work to preserve the brick wall underneath.
“It's important to keep this part of the East End’s social history alive,” Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said.
“Our duty of care is its upkeep, to remind present and future generations of the sacrifice in defence of the community.”
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The mural marks Poplar Borough Council voting against rates being levied by the government. The rebelling councillors, including Lansbury’s daughter-in-law Minnie Lansbury who developed pneumonia and died at the age of 32, spent six weeks in prison.
The council has also installed a heritage panel in Poplar Recreation Ground nearby, telling the story of the rebellion.
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Members of the George Lansbury Memorial Trust staged a commemorative day in the recreation grounds on September 4, a day after the centenary date, with descendants of two councillors involved, Chris Sumner and Keith Murphy, in attendance.
Pippa Catterall, who chairs the memorial trust, said: “The rates rebellion was a key stage in developing the welfare state, an important contribution of these ordinary men and women to our national story.”
Poplar at that time was paying towards services in wealthy boroughs through the London County Council levy — while the cost of Poor Relief in the East End was not being shared out.
So the Poplar councillors stopped collecting the levy. It was deemed illegal, but it raised public awareness which forced the government of the day to back down.
The mural has been used over the years to make political points, most recently by veteran campaigner Sister Christine Frost, founder of the South Poplar and Limehouse Action for Secure Housing.
She set off from the mural on September 1 with a deputation to City Hall concerning the shortage of social rented housing.