Victorian Poplar Baths reopening after 25 years as a derelict shell

Poplar Baths... imposing structure in East India Dock Road

Poplar Baths... imposing structure in East India Dock Road - Credit: Archant

The historic Poplar Baths are soon reopening in east London with a major renovation after being closed and left derelict for a-quarter-of-a-century.

The Victorian structure in the East India Dock Road was commissioned under the 1846 Baths & Washhouses Act to provide leisure and bathing facilities for slum-dwellers of the old East End.

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

But its popularity declined in the 1970s and 80s and it finally closed to the public in 1988, deteriorating into a derelict empty shell over the next two decades.

A public campaign has been running since 2006 to get Poplar Baths reopened, backed by community leaders including Sister Christine Frost who founded the Neighbours in Poplar charity.

Tower Hamlets council finally agreed in 2010 to put cash in the kitty to bring the baths back into public use.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said this week: “I am returning to the community this historic local landmark which was built during the great age of Victorian philanthropy.”

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A full restoration has been under way with historic features retained, as well as 100 new low-cost homes added to the scheme to help ease the East End’s housing shortage.

The mayor added: “We’re keeping that spirit of philanthropy alive—despite the government’s continued attacks on the most vulnerable.”

Poplar Baths are being transformed from a derelict building into “a first class facility and investment in the community.”

The decision to reopen the complex was announced at last Wednesday’s Tower Hamlets cabinet meeting.