Tales from Plaistow’s Past

Last night we heard more about the fascinating history of Plaistow, an area where many of our Sugar Girls lived, courtesy of Neil Fraser, author of new book Over the Border: The Other East End.

Neil was sharing the bill with us at a book talk at The Bell in Spitalfields for History in the Pub, a fantastic event organised by London Historians and compered by Matt Brown, editor of Londonist.

At the talk, Neil showed some remarkable photographs that revealed Plaistow’s past as a rather grand village full of large houses and surrounded by market gardens.

As London expanded rapidly in the 19th century, it swept over the village of Plaistow, almost completely obliterating it.

One of the few older buildings to remain is The Black Lion pub, built in the early 1700s, which was once frequented by Dick Turpin.

The pub was mentioned in a court case in 1809 concerning the so-called Plaistow Riot. The well-to-do residents had been horrified to hear that there were plans to run races from the Black Lion to the Greyhound pub, and hold games such as gurning competitions, archery and donkey rides. The residents feared this was an attempt to bring back a banned annual fair, and so put up notices saying that the event was illegal.

On the day, local magistrates and constables arrived to try and stop the fun, resulting in mayhem. Several people were charged with rioting, but when their cases came to court the magistrate declared that there was no evidence of a riot and the revellers got off scot-free.

The working classes got the last laugh, as Plaistow was rapidly turned over to housing for workers from the docks and factories that sprung up, while most of the grand old houses have long since been ground to dust.

If you’re interested in seeing more archive pictures of the area, come to the Sugar Girls tent at the  Mayor’s Newham’s Show this Saturday and Sunday, where you can see a photographic exhibition put together with Newham NDP.

We will be giving a book talk from 3pm along with former sugar girls Gladys Hudgell and Eva Rodwell, and signing copies of the book in the Sugar Girls tent from 3.30 to 5.30pm.


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  1. […] I’ve just noticed that Duncan and Nuala have done a very nice precis of Neil’s presentation. (with much better pictures than mine). It’s times like this when I get a special tingle from […]