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Poplar Hospital - the first hospital for dockers

Work at the docks could be very dangerous, and many dockers were injured while handling heavy goods. Despite the frequent accidents, the dock companies provided no medical facilities, and anyone injured at work had to be taken a considerable distance to the London Hospital in Mile End.

The Quaker banker and philanthropist Samuel Gurney led a campaign for a casualty unit near the docks. The Poplar Hospital for Accidents opened in 1858. It stood on the East India Road, just across the road from the imposing entrance gates to the East India Docks. It was later expanded and developed into a general hospital, but was finally closed and demolished in 1982.


The Poplar Hospital for Accidents in 1858.

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The Poplar Hospital for Accidents in 1858.
The Poplar Hospital for Accidents shortly after its opening in 1858, as depicted in the 'Illustrated London News'.

A postcard of Poplar Hospital, c. 1904.

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A postcard of Poplar Hospital, c. 1904.
A coloured postcard of the expanded Poplar Hospital around 1904. On the left is the original 1858 building, still bearing the inscription 'Poplar Hospital for Accidents'. The sign 'Drivers - Kindly walk past hospital' asks cabbies to show consideration for the patients inside. Such courtesy may seem absurd now, but was seen as important at the time.
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East India Dock gates and Poplar Hospital, c. 1905.

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East India Dock gates and Poplar Hospital, c. 1905.
The busy gates to the East India Docks, with Poplar Hospital to the left.

The Poplar Hospital for Accidents, 1936.

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The Poplar Hospital for Accidents, 1936.
The original Poplar Hospital for Accidents as seen in 1936. This building was destroyed less than five years later, after a raid by German bombers on 10 May 1941.
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Poplar Hospital, c. 1950.

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Poplar Hospital, c. 1950.
Poplar Hospital in 1950. The original Hospital for Accidents had been destroyed during the Blitz, and had been replaced by more functional buildings.

Demolition of Poplar Hospital, 1982.

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Demolition of Poplar Hospital, 1982.
With the closure of the docks and the redevelopment of the area, Poplar Hospital was closed. Despite the protests of locals, who wanted to save the building as a community resource, the buildings were demolished in 1982.
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Glossary
Dock

Find out more
StoriesContaining smallpox in Victorian London
The floating hospitals
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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