Restoring spooky Victorian Poplar Baths gets Tower Hamlets green light

Old Poplar Baths in East India Dock Road

Old Poplar Baths in East India Dock Road - Credit: Archant

Rebuilding east London’s run-down historic Poplar Baths gets under way in the New Year after developers got the planning go-ahead to start work on a £36 million leisure and housing complex.

New look for Poplar Baths

New look for Poplar Baths - Credit: Archant

The project announced a year ago aims to transform the massive art deco building dominating the East India Dock Road, said by ghost hunters to be haunted, which has been left empty and derelict for 26 years.

Old Poplar Baths in East India Dock Road

Old Poplar Baths in East India Dock Road - Credit: Archant

Now it is being rebuilt with a new leisure centre, state of the art swimming pool and 60 new low-cost homes, after Tower Hamlets council selected Guildmore developers to restore the Grade II-listed site.

Most of the workforce is going to be recruited in the East End itself, the developers have pledged.

The original Victorian structure was commissioned under the 1846 Baths & Washhouses Act to provide bathing facilities for slum-dwellers of the old East End.

It was rebuilt in 1933 in art deco style with a removable floor over the pool to use as a 1,400-seat theatre, dance hall, exhibition gallery or sports hall.

But its popularity declined in the 1970s and it finally closed to the public in 1988.

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A campaign was started in 2006 to get Poplar Baths reopened. Tower Hamlets council finally agreed in 2010 to put cash in the kitty to bring the baths back to life.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman told the council’s cabinet last January: “We’re keeping that Victorian spirit of philanthropy alive.”

Keeping with “that spirit” were ghost busters who turned up earlier this year to track down spooks said to be haunting the old bath house.

Members of White Light Paranormal Investigations claim the pool is awash with lost souls unable float on to next world and asked permission to test for ghosts.

But in the end, White Light didn’t get the green light.