Engin Ertosun, Managing Director of Guildmore, is pictured here, working closely with councilors – Mayor Lutfur Rahman, chairwoman of Poplar Baths Steering Group, Lillian Collins and Councilor Rabina Khan, to plan a new and vibrant future for Poplar Baths.
Plans to regenerate Poplar Baths have moved a step closer.
The local council has selected Guildmore to restore this Grade II listed building to its former glory with a stylish and modern sports facility, which includes a new 25-metre swimming pool.
English Heritage officials have already commented that they are really happy with how the project is going and that it is one of the best developments they’ve seen.
Tower Hamlets council has recognised that there is a vital need for affordable housing in Tower Hamlets. With the provision of 60 new flats, Guildmore will contribute to meeting the mayoral priority for affordable housing in the Borough.
A focus on sustainability
The 60 new flats are marketed as part of an environmentally responsible ‘green building’, Sustainable materials will be used and there will be no parking spaces besides a number of disabled parking spaces. The area’s surroundings suggest the site for residential development can accommodate a building of 10 storeys and no more than 30 metres in height.
‘A great place to live’
These new homes and the regenerated baths facility will assist in meeting the council’s vision of ‘A great place to live’. This reflects London Borough of Tower Hamlet’s continuing ambition to make the Borough a place where people are proud to live, work and study.
Guildmore are working closely with the Tower Hamlets council to achieve quality affordable housing, located in a clean and safe neighbourhood, served by well-connected travel facilities and within easy access of services and community facilities.
21 Century facilities for the community
Now the former public baths, slipper baths and vapour baths are to be replaced with a stunning new leisure centre suited to the 21-century aspirations of Tower Hamlets.
Guildmore will ensure the £36 million leisure facility development retains its attractive historic architectural features. And 100 new homes between the two sites echo the Tower Hamlets vision to make Tower Hamlets a place where people are ‘proud to live, work and study’. The new youth centre at Dame Colet will bring a welcome space for the youth of the community to call their own.
History of the Baths
Poplar Baths opened originally in 1852, costing £10,000. Built to provide public wash facilities for the East End’s poor as a result of the Baths and Washhouses Act 1846.
The ‘slipper baths’ section originally contained six baths for women in each division, 12 in the men’s first-class section and 24 in the second-class. The steam and shower bath areas were behind the slipper baths and the laundry was at the rear of the building, on Arthur Street. The laundry contained 48 separate wooden washing tubs, drying equipment, ironing rooms and the uncovered water tank, erected over the boiler house, had a capacity of 24,000 gallons.
Rebuilt in 1933, the larger pool was floored over, designated the East India Hall and converted to a theatre with a seating capacity of 1,400, with a dance hall, cinema, exhibition room and sports hall, for boxing and wrestling programmes. This kept the hall active in the winter months, while the smaller pool remained in use.
At the end of the war, from 1938 until 1941, the office was used by the staff of the Borough’s electricity office, and then later occupied by the Transport and General Workers Union and the Poplar Labour Party. Wartime bomb damage forced the closure of the main bath hall, which remained unglazed for several years. Poplar Baths reopened in 1947 and continued to be used as a swimming facility until 1988, when it was turned into an industrial training centre. Between 1954 and 1959, the baths were used by an average of 225,700 bathers each year.
New Facilities for the Community
Now the former public baths, slipper baths and vapour baths are to be a stunning new leisure centre. Guildmore will ensure the £36 million stunning leisure facility development retains its attractive historic features. 100 new homes between the two sites echoes the Tower Hamlets vision to make Tower Hamlets a place where people are ‘proud to live, work & study’. The new youth centre at Dame Colet will bring a much-needed space for the youth of the community to call their own.
Testimonials to the beauty of Poplar Baths past, present and future
Engin Ertosun, Managing Director of Guildmore commented “As Director of Guildmore I am delighted and honoured to be working with the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and his colleague councillors to realise the council ambition of providing excellent accommodation and leisure facilities for the community. Excellence is called for to bring about a successful partnership and excellence will be the hallmark of our service to the community.”
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, commented: “I am delighted to be returning this local landmark to the community as this is a major development which will provide fantastic facilities for residents to enjoy.” Architect Piers Gough, described Poplar Baths as ‘a stunning building with its Hollywood style interior and beautiful vaulted ceiling’.
Councilor Rabina Khan, cabinet member for housing, said: ‘’I’m pleased we have taken the first steps to bring back this much loved community asset into use for the benefit of families, residents and the wider community. The scheme will go some way in addressing the housing shortage in the borough. The site, opposite Chrisp Street Market, has fallen into disrepair since the pool was closed
down in 1988. But Tower Hamlets Council has now entered an agreement with us, which means detailed design and planning applications can be drawn up and submitted for approval.”
Poplar Baths have been an important feature of community life for a long time, as summed up in the following poem published in The Evening Standard in October 1934:
‘A Ballad of Poplar Baths’
I’ve had a bath at Haggerston
And one at Tooting too;
I like to sleep in steamy baths, as alligators do.
I’ve splashed about for hours and hours
In bathrooms great and small,
But the Vapour Baths at Poplar
Are the choicest baths of all.
The Wandsworth baths are empty;
At Marylebone they’re dead.
United, from the Bath Club
The Colonel Blimps have fled.
Towards the east, like pilgrims,
They walk and march and crawl
To the vapour baths at Poplar,
The smartest baths of all.
A soak in liquid incense, And how exquisite you feel!
While the towels down at Poplar
Will be sprayed with eau de nil. Come dowagers of Kensington!
Come Ealing! Hear the call!
And bath with us at Poplar,
For its friction time at Poplar,
And the slipper baths at Poplar
Are the grandest baths of all.
At Guildmore, we feel incredibly proud and privileged to be chosen as the contractor to restore this grade II listed building to its former beauty. Our focus now is on working alongside the Mayor and Councillors, to achieve new community amenities, which will bring a welcome focus to the social life of the community.