Poplar Baths makes a splash reopening after 30 years—in good spirits

Poplar Baths... closed 40 years, now reopened to the public

Poplar Baths... closed 40 years, now reopened to the public - Credit: TH Council

How spooky that the 1930s Poplar Baths has re-opened in London’s East End after being derelict for three decades since it closed its doors.

The old art deco Poplar Baths before its refurbushment

The old art deco Poplar Baths before its refurbushment - Credit: Archant

This Grade II-listed art deco bath-house in the East India Dock Road had its share of ghosts, it seems.

The swimming pool was awash with tales of lost souls who had failed to float on to the next world.

But that didn’t stop Tower Hamlets splashing out £36 million to get the building ship-shape and restored with a new entrance lobby, professional-standard sports hall, a 25m pool, a learner pool, a café and gym.

The building was “at risk” from decades of remaining empty after closing in 1989, but was saved by a five-year campaign by Historic England and local activists like Sister Christine Frost from Neighbours In Poplar community organisation.

Poplar Baths opened 1934 by the old Pollar Metropolitan Borough

Poplar Baths opened 1934 by the old Pollar Metropolitan Borough - Credit: Archant


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Historic England’s Claire Brady said: “We have been part of the journey to bring back to life this ‘building at risk’ and important piece of Poplar. People can now enjoy its facilities as well as appreciate the history of such a magnificent building.”

A public open day is planned on August 13 from 10am.

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But curious visitors might be warned that Poplar Baths once had a reputation for ghostly presence.

Members of the White Light Paranormal Investigation asked the council in 2013 for permission to carry out an investigation before the spooky building was renovated.

One of White Light’s ‘techies’ Robin Blay, whose late father Allan Blay worked at the old Poplar Baths, told the East London Advertiser at the time: “My dad told me they often heard footsteps at night when the place was empty.

“There were many apparitions of people who had passed away over the years which used to happen when he was on late shift.”

These troubled souls are said to include a man who had a heart attack and drowned.

But Robin admitted he had never actually seen a ghost—only heard the stories.

He was also keen to hunt spooks lurking in Whitechapel’s Blind Beggar pub, where mad Ronnie Kray murdered gangland rival George Cornell in 1966, and The Gun tavern at Blackwall where the vision of a screaming mad woman sealed up in a back room in the 18th century leapt out and vanished when it was eventually opened up in 1970.

Robin was certain there were spirits in most East End boozers.

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