Tower Hamlets People's Plaques Shortlist

The wait is finally over and Tower Hamlets Council can reveal the shortlisted nominations for the People’s Plaque scheme.

The borough boasts of a rich and diverse history and the scheme, which launched last month at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, gave residents the chance to nominate a place, event or person with a specific historic association with the borough.

A shortlist of 17 nominations has been drawn up for the public to vote for their favourite person, place or event to be marked by a plaque for posterity.

The seven nominations who receive the most votes will have a plaque installed at a suitable site, subject to permission, to commemorate the significant impact they have made to shaping the cultural history of the borough.

Voting is now closed and recipients of the people's plaques will be announced shortly.

Shortlisted nominations

Sir Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) directed more than 50 feature films in a career spanning six decades and is widely regarded as the greatest British filmmaker. As a schoolboy, Hitchcock lived in Salmon Lane, Limehouse where his father ran a greengrocer’s shop. It is said that Hitchcock's first significant experience of the movies was at the Ben Hur Cinema in Stepney. He also attended the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation in Poplar High Street (now part of Tower Hamlets College).

Ayub Ali Master
Ayub Ali Master ran a seamen’s café in Commercial Road in the 1920s and opened the Shah Jalal Coffee House at 76 Commercial Street. He turned his home into a centre of support for Bengali people settling in the East End. It acted as a lodging house, job centre (offering letter writing and form filling services), an education service, travel agency and advice bureau. In 1943 he started the Indian Seamen’s Welfare League. Between 1945 and 1959 he lived at 13 Sandy’s Row, Spitalfields.

The bombing of a public shelter on Bullivant's Wharf, Isle of Dogs
On the night of March 19, 1941, a public shelter on Bullivant's Wharf, off Westferry Road, was hit by a landmine. Over 40 people were killed, and dozens were injured. Some families lost all but one member. This was the Isle of Dogs’ biggest wartime disaster - bigger even than the incident which killed so many members of the auxiliary services at Cubitt Town School in September 1940.

Charles Bradlaugh
Social reformer Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) spent his early life in Bethnal Green. He was a famous atheist or freethinker who challenged the grip that religion had in Victorian society. He was elected to Parliament to represent Northampton in 1880 but was prevented from taking his seat until 1886 as he refused to take the Parliamentary oath. He founded the National Secular Society in 1866.

Charlie Brown’s pub, West India Dock Road
Charlie Brown’s, or the Railway Tavern to give it its official name, at 116 West India Dock Road, was a landmark East End pub. Its exotic location in Chinatown, the character of the landlord and his large collection of curiosities from around the world made it a tourist attraction. An estimated 16,000 people turned out for the funeral of the “uncrowned King of Limehouse” on his death in 1932. The pub was demolished in 1989.

Clara Grant
Clara Grant (1867-1949) was born in Wiltshire but came to Wapping to be a teacher. In 1907 she founded the Fern Street Settlement in Bromley-by-Bow as a centre for community work among the poor. She initiated the popular “farthing bundle” ceremony on Saturday mornings when children who were small enough to pass through an arch received a parcel of toys for a farthing ( a quarter of an old penny).

The Reverend Doctor Julius Rieger
Rieger (1901-1984) was the minister of St George's German Lutheran Church in Whitechapel from 1931 to 1953. During that time he helped many people, mainly Jews, escape from Nazi Germany. He was also a friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and kept both the UK German and the English churches informed of what was happening in the Confessing Church (anti-Nazi church) in Hitler's Germany.

The Limehouse Declaration
The Limehouse Declaration was a statement issued on January 25, 1981 by four senior British Labour politicians; Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams. It became known as the Limehouse Declaration as it was made from David Owen's home in Narrow Street. In this document the so-called 'Gang of Four' signalled their intent to leave the Labour Party and form a Council for Social Democracy. This led to the formation of the SDP which later merged with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats.

Marge Hewson
For 40 years Marge Hewson worked as a nursery nurse at Christ Church School, in Brick Lane, Spitalfields the area in which she grew up and lived herself. A popular character, she is remembered by many for her commitment and dedication to her work. Marge touched so many people’s lives and inspired all the children to always perform at their best and aim high.

Nicholas Culpepper
Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654), herbalist and writer, lived in Red Lion Street, Spitalfields. He wrote books in English rather than Latin explaining how readers could cure their illnesses by using herbs. He was always ready to give advice to poor people, much to the opposition of physicians. His influence is demonstrated by the existence of a chain of "Culpeper" herb and spice shops and by the continued popularity of his remedies among alternative holistic medicine practitioners.

Premierland, Backchurch Lane, Whitechapel
Between 1911 and 1930, the boxing venue Premierland witnessed fights by some of the country’s greatest fighters including Kid Lewis, Kid Berg, Teddy Baldock, Kid Pattenden, Harry Mason, Nipper Pat Daly and Dick and Harry Corbett. At the height of the boxing boom of the 1920s there were three or four shows a week held here. The building had been built as the “People’s Arcade” and subsequently was used as a garage.

Sowabullah  Munshi
Sowabullah Munshi was born in Sylhet, Bangladesh but was one of the founding fathers of the Bengali community in London’s East End. He came to this country in 1920s as a Lascar seaman who jumped ship and found shelter in the midst of East London, marrying a white British woman. They settled down at 16 Elder Street in Spitalfields and started a lodging house in Code Street, off Brick Lane. Many who found shelter at Mr Munshi's house went on to become respected Bangladeshi community leaders in the UK.

Tasadduq Ahmed
Journalist Tassaduq Ahmed (1923 - 2001) was born in Sylhet, Bangladesh.  He came to England in 1953 to avoid possible imprisonment for writing articles that undermined the Pakistan government. He worked as a volunteer with the Pakistan Welfare Association, a Tower Hamlets based Bengali organisation, and published an English newspaper called the Eastern News, in collaboration with Hamza  Alvi. During the 1970s and 1980s he helped to publish several influential periodicals in both Bengali and English. He lived the latter part of his life at 16b Parfett Street, Spitalfields. He was awarded an MBE for his social work in 1989 and received the Freedom of London Borough of Tower Hamlets in 2000.

Tommy Flowers
Born the son of a bricklayer in Poplar, he took evening classes at the University of London to earn a degree in electrical engineering. During World War II, Flowers (1905-1998) designed Colossus, the world's first programmable electronic computer, to help solve encrypted German messages. This was a hugely important factor in the war effort, saving countless lives. His remarkable work in computing was not fully acknowledged until the 1970s.

Will Crooks
Labour leader Will Crooks (1852-1921) was born in poverty in Poplar and spent all his life there. He was one of the leaders of the Great Dock Strike of 1889 and became the first Labour mayor in London in 1901. Representing Poplar on the London County Council he campaigned for the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel. He sensationally overturned a Conservative majority to become MP for Woolwich in 1903.

Walter Tull
Brought up in an orphanage in Bethnal Green, Walter Tull (1888-1918) was the grandson of a slave, and the first person of African-Caribbean heritage to be commissioned as an infantry officer in the British Army. He was also only the second person of African-Caribbean heritage to play in the top division of the Football League, playing inside forward for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town. He died in action during the First World War.

Reverend William Henry Lax
During the first half of the 20th century Reverend William Henry Lax (1868-1937) worked tirelessly for the Methodist Church and the community of Poplar. He was a minister, politician, orator, author and actor, winning not only local but national and international acclaim. His work for the deprived people of Poplar touched thousands of lives and Poplar Methodist Mission was simply known as “Lax’s church.”

For more information please email

Tower Hamlets People’s Plaques Scheme
Tower Hamlets Council
Communications Team
6th Floor
Mulberry Place
5 Clove Crescent
E14 2BG