Elliott Family History, Ancestral Trees, Biographies, Photographs, Records and Local History.
Hanbury Buildings, Poplar

Hanbury Buildings was a five-storey block of artisan dwellings comprising seven two-roomed flats per floor and was situated in Hanbury Place, a small courtyard at the western-end of Poplar High Street, London, adjacent to King Street. The buildings, constructed of brick and concrete with wooden floors, had only the most basic sanitation, i.e. one tap and three WCs per floor, located in a common area. The building work was completed circa 1887 [1]. A typical exterior view of the building, part of the Museum of London collection, is shown here: Hanbury Buildings, Poplar (1939).

The plight of the inhabitants of Hanbury Buildings was taken up by Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of women's suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who in 1908 famously chained herself to the railings of 10 Downing Street in an attempt to get the vote for women. Just after the first world war in 1919, Sylvia Pankhurst was editor of the Workers' Dreadnought, gives a vivid description of the living conditions in Hanbury Buildings just after the first world war, with contemporary accounts of the problems faced by the tenants, Workers' Dreadnought, 14 Jan 1919 [2].

In 1920 the weekly rents were increased from 5s 9d to 6s 6d, despite the property being in a poor state of repair [1]. In 1932 the Council's Medical Officer of Health found much work needed to be done and recommended some of the dark ground-floor rooms should be closed. The sanitary arrangements were a possible danger to health, and the occupants were overcrowded. He noticed that 'superficial dilapidation was evident at first sight', but thought the building was structurally sound. However he recommended against demolition due to the requirement to rehouse the tenants. Poplar Borough Council invited the landlord to carry out repairs, but to no avail and in the following year closed some of the bug-ridden rooms as unfit for human habitation.

By 1938 the building were in such a bad state, that the tenants instigated one of the 'rent strikes' which drew attention to discontent at housing conditions in the East End of London. The tenants demanded a reduction in the rent, and also for repairs to be carried out. In November 1939, 26 tenants of Hanbury Buildings appeared as defendants at Bow County Court, where the landlord was seeking to have the tenants evicted for failure to pay rent East End News, 21 Nov 1939 [3]. Giving evidence, an architect stated that he had not seen worst conditions anywhere. The judge found that most of tenants were within their rights to withhold rent and dismissed the cases, with costs awarded to the tenantsEast End News, 12 Dec 1939 [4]East End News, 22 Dec 1939 [5].

Hanbury buildings, together with Hanbury Place, was demolished in the 1950s [1].

A list of the names of inhabitants of Hanbury Buildings obtained from census returns, 1891 to 1911, and baptisms at St Peter, Limehouse is located here: Index of Names - Hanbury Buildings, Poplar.

A list of electors living in Hanbury Buildings eligible to vote in either parliamentary or local elections is located here: Index of Electors - Hanbury Buildings, Poplar.

An interesting tale of a courageous young woman, Elizabeth Clarke, from Hanbury Buildings is shown here: 'Brave Effort to Save Hanging Man' [6]

A contemporary newspaper report on the inquest of George Iles of Hanbury Buildings is contained here: 'Death of Man Injured in Truncheon Charge' [7]

An account of living conditions in Hanbury Place, late nineteenth century prior to the construction of Hanbury Buildings circa. 1887 is contained here: 'A Social Scandal'  [8].

References:

[1] 'Survey of London - Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs: the Parish of All Saints' (1994) vol. 43 and 44, pub. Athlone, London, ed. Porter, S.
[2] 'Workers' Dreadnought', Sat 14 Jan 1919, ed. Sylvia Pankhurst.
[3] 'East End News and Shipping Chronicle', Thursday November 21, 1939
[4] 'East End News and Shipping Chronicle', Tuesday December 12, 1939
[5] 'East End News and Shipping Chronicle', Friday December 22, 1939
[6] 'Western Morning News, 20 September 1923
[7] 'The Manchester Guardian, 03 December 1929
[8] 'The Pall Mall Guardian, 16 September 1886

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