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Dockers in Poplar: The Legacy of the London County Council’s Replanning of Poplar, East London

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Abstract:  Using Sydney Harpley’s sculpture, The Dockers, installed in Trinity Gardens on the Lansbury Estate in Poplar, this article will examine the London County Council’s reimagining of a key centre in London’s East End. Installed in September 1962, these Dockers sit within the post-war planned vision of the capital and are, as Frank Mort describes, “cultural visions” of a new London. For hundreds of years, Poplar served as part of the Port of London’s industrial heartland. After the Second World War, the London County Council assumed the River Thames would continue to be the heartbeat of Britain’s industry. The Port of London was the country’s largest and busiest port. The London County Council recognised that, in London, the most depressed and congested areas with bad housing housed working people. However, by referencing one part of the culture of this part of London, the London County Council was relying on a homogeneity of experience, difficult to defend in 1960s London. Using the initial reception of The Dockers, as well as the sculpture’s subsequent vandalism and destruction, this article shall analyse how the London County Council’s vision for post-war Poplar changed through the rapid deindustrialisation of the 1980s, through to the rapid gentrification of the area in the 21st century.

Keywords:  deindustrialisation; Docklands; East London; gentrification; housing; Poplar; Sydney Harpley

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v8i1.6075

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© Rosamund Lily West. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.