Hesperus Crescent

In 1862, the area east of Harbinger Road (British Street until 1929) was occupied by John Scott-Russell’s Engineering Works, which had been much expanded to handle the construction of the Great Eastern (launched in 1858).

1862

A contemporary drawing of the construction of the ship shows much of the land to be occupied by meadows and marshland (the street behind Harbinger School is not called Marsh Street for nothing).

By the time of the launch, John Scott-Russell’s works were in financial difficulties and not long after they were taken over by Millwall Iron Works, with part of the land occupied by a cooperage (opened in 1895).

The 1920s and 1930s saw much slum clearance in East London, making it necessary to construct new housing, including the Chapel House Street Estate (1919-21) and the Manchester Grove Estate (1925-26). The ‘inland area’ of the Millwall Iron Works was earmarked by Poplar Borough Council as the site of a new estate, to be named the Hesperus Crescent Estate after a clipper on the Australian run.

1900s

The site of Hesperus Crescent (right half of photo) shortly before the start of building in 1929.

I’ve not been able to discover if the Council originally planned to build a crescent, but it is known that they could not afford to buy out the cooperage firm in the centre of the proposed estate, making it necessary to wrap the road around the firm. Construction started in 1929 and the first houses were ready in 1930.

1930s

The first residents……

1931 Electoral Register (click for full-sized version)

1931 Electoral Register (click for full-sized version)

1931 Electoral Register (click for full-sized version)

1931 Electoral Register (click for full-sized version)

1930s

1935 Jubilee Party (Island History Trust)

Originally, a footbridge connected Hesperus Crescent to Chapel House Street, crossing a railway siding belonging to Maconochie’s, connecting their Westferry Road factory to the docks.

Hesperus Crescent and area in 1934, showing also the start of construction of the Westferry Estate in Cahir Street (bottom left)

Poplar Borough Council meeting minutes 1937/38

Hesperus Crescent, like the Chapel House Street and Manchester Grove Estates, was remarkably unscathed during WWII. One of the few bombs to fall on the area, however, destroyed Nos. 1 to 13 and killed four people:

  • George Williamson, aged 28, of 19 Harbinger Road.
  • Ernest Alexander Goodall, aged 30, London Heavy Rescue Service, of 21 Chapel House Street.
  • Edward George Wilkinson, aged 28, ARP Rescue Service, address unknown.
  • Air Raid Warden Francis Benjamin Sidell Kemp, aged 34, of 255 Manchester Road, died two days later in Poplar Hospital.

The seven destroyed houses were replaced with six, slightly larger houses, and as a consequence there is no longer a No. 13 Hesperus Crescent.

Poplar Borough Council meeting minutes. At the time the Council was planning to number the six new houses Nos. 3 to 13.

46 and 48 Hesperus Crescent with Mrs Placey and Mrs Holmes (Island History Trust)

Circa 1950

Circa 1950

In 1953, Poplar Borough Council stated its intention to purchase the former cooperage land – owned by Mancell’s by this time – and construct houses upon it. In the end, though, they built maisonettes (Nos. 36-62 Harbinger Road).

1950s, after clearing of former cooperage

1950s, after clearing of former cooperage. Looking towards Harbinger Road

1953 Coronation Party. Nellie Cressall on the left (Island History Trust)

1953 Coronation Party (Island History Trust)

Island History Trust Newsletter

Survey of London:

In 1959 Poplar Borough Council purchased the strip of land between the Hesperus Crescent and Chapel House Street Estates, where the railway siding had been, and in 1961 the footbridge over it was demolished.

1962 (Photo: Donna Stevens / Island History Trust)

1972

1973

1981 Street party in celebration of the wedding of Charles and Di. Photo: Sophia Pettman

c1986. Prospects TV Series

Hesperus Crescent really hasn’t changed very much since it was built, 90 years ago. There are not too many places on the Island that you can say that about.

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4 Responses to Hesperus Crescent

  1. JOHNSON BRIAN says:

    2020 is the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Regent’s Canal.

    During next year events are being planning by a number of organisations to celebrate.

    We (London Canal Museum) will publish information in January about the various events (not only our own).

    Do you have any relevant material which we might include?

    Brian Johnson

    London Canal Museum

    > WordPress.com

  2. Graham Whitmore says:

    Mick, I am a former islander 1949 – 1964 and appreciate your many history articles. Perhaps we could meet for a chat sometime. Graham Whitmore

    On Mon, 7 Oct 2019, 16:12 Isle of Dogs – Past Life, Past Lives, wrote:

    > Mick Lemmerman posted: “In 1862, the area east of Harbinger Road (British > Street until 1929) was occupied by John Scott-Russell’s Engineering Works, > which had been much expanded to handle the construction of the Great > Eastern (launched in 1858). A contemporary drawing of ” >

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