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A closer look at Poplar churches

From gothic arches and white Greek columns to post-war modernist architecture, Poplar is studded with stunning churches. 

If you take a walk around Poplar, you might notice there are a lot of churches, some within a stone’s throw of each other and all with a fascinating history.

All Saints’ church invited the nuns of the popular BBC series Call the Midwife to Poplar, and St Anne’s Church Limehouse has a seven-metre tall pyramid in its churchyard — and nobody knows why it’s there. 

Poplar’s oldest churches were built for the area’s growing seafaring population, and the nautical theme remains. St Anne’s Church Limehouse still flies a white ensign, a flag normally reserved for navy ships, and Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest offers accommodation to seafarers and ex servicemen. 

In contrast to St Anne’s grand white stone and the Seamen’s Rest’s Victorian lettering, both Trinity Chapel and St Mary & Joseph churches are stocky and modern. Both churches were destroyed during the extensive bombing Poplar suffered in World War II, and rebuilt as part of the ‘Living Architecture’ exhibition for the Festival of Britain in 1951. 

They were designed as part of the Lansbury Estate, a model neighbourhood of post-war city planning. The formidable architecture of St Mary & St Joseph Roman Catholic Church is celebrated — it came tenth in a 2013 competition for the best modern churches in Britain — and the timeless architecture of Poplar’s historic churches still astounds. 

St Anne's Church Limehouse, a white stone church with a tall clock tower under a clear blue sky
St Anne’s Church Limehouse was built in 1730 to serve London’s rapidly growing population. Image: spudgun67
The Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest, a red brick church with Victorian lettering and white archways
Queen Victoria Seamen’s rest was founded by the Methodist Church to provide accommodation, education and recreational activities for seafarers and their families.
St Matthias, a grey stone church with gothic pointed arches and circular windows
St Matthias Church was originally a chapel for the East India Company’s almshouse, built to accommodate disabled seamen and the widows of the company’s employees. Image: Derek Harper
All Saints, a white stone church with Greek pillars
All Saints Church Poplar, built in 1823 in the Greek style, is Poplar’s parish church.
St Mary and St Joseph, a large modern brick church under a blue sky
St Mary & St Joseph Roman Catholic Church was a Victorian church which was destroyed by the bombing of World War II and rebuilt as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951.
Trinity Chapel Poplar, a modernist brick church with a tall tower.
Trinity Chapel was a Victorian church which was destroyed in the bombing of World War II, and rebuilt in the Modernist style as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951.

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