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Poplar is a district in the East end of London, England, it is known to be a very rough area and the main setting for the series as it is the home of the Sisters of St Raymond Nonnatus and has been since the 1860s.

Overview[]

History[]

Poplar was formerly part of the Manor and Ancient Parish of Stepney, and was first recorded in either 1327 or 1350. It took its name from the Black Poplar trees which once flourished in the area. Black Poplar is a very rare and exceptionally large tree that grows well in the wet conditions which the Thames and Lea historically brought to much of the neighbourhood. A specimen persisted in the area until at least 1986.

There was a major ship fitting industry from at least the 15th century, and the maritime trades became more important after the East and West India Docks were constructed at the first decade of the 19th century. Thames Ironworks at Leamouth Wharf was a major employer till its closure in 1912, its works team becoming known as West Ham United F.C. The docks attracted very heavy bombing to the area during the Blitz.

The Blitz were a terrifying time for the east end, while most of the nurses in the series came from elsewhere Valerie Dyer and her whole family will remember the blitz very well. Being one of the most heavily targeted places in all of the United Kingdom and was constantly under threat of the zepplins and the Luftwaffe bombing, the woman who would later become Sister Hilda worked in the east end as a member of the WAAFs, citing free nylons to be her biggest motive for joining. Sister Evangelina had been nursing from that time and remembered the war very well up until her death. It would be decades before the east end really recovered with unexploded bombs still being found in the 1960s and beyond.

Main series The east end of London is very different to the west end, with narrow unlit streets with the rubble of the blitz still piled up. It was densely populated with most of the families having been there for generations like the Dyer family and the family of Meg Mahoney. However over the years more and more immigrants from other countries came to Britain, and they often ended up in the East End and more of the old Poplar families moved out according Violet Buckle, the period the series is set sees the changing landscape. Poplar had a very strong community spirit and most families knew one another very well, most of the residents particularly the women rather enjoyed a gossip and children could often be found playing at a young age. One of the biggest landmarks of the community are the docks, all east end families had their connections to the docks like the Brittalls and the Becketts, it being seen as a father to son job though it is not without dangers like the explosion that killed Arthur Pilbury and blinded George Marsh.

The housing of the east end was initially split two ways, one being tenement blocks. These were the cheaper of the two options and were often made up of just two to three rooms for families of ten or more, the tenements by the standards of the first few series squalor and over the course became seen less and less due to the slum clearance going on at that time which even threatens Nonnatus House. Eventually the old slums completely went and tower blocks where built in place of them, these had better standards though according to Jacinta O’Malley they still throw them up without thinking people are supposed to live in them. The other houses are the terraced houses which are more like houses today and are slightly higher in price. Of course there are also shelters for the homeless, the worst in the views of the midwives are Lisbon buildings which had been open since Sister Monica Joan was a practicing midwife and remained unchanged until the 1960s when owner Matthew Aylward decided to make changes. All saints church is one of the few locations to remain to the present day.

Other locations prevalent include the black sail pub owned by Aunt Flo and the sea mans mission a mens shelter and the Iris Knight institute the community centre where the midwives host their clinic and Councillor Violet Buckle holds her surgery. Another location is Chrisp street market where Elsie Dyer once had a stall, though she gave it up her money didn’t decrease because she was secretly doing abortions. The district is also home to lots of prostitutes some of which the midwives have befriended like Tina Atkins and former prostitute Roseanne Dawley.

The sisters of St Raymond Nonnatus arrived in the district in the 1860s, 1867 to be exact with the first ever nun to take on work there was Sister Hildegarde and other nuns like Sister Ada, Sister Monica Joan, Sister Evangelina and Sister Julienne following in the decades after. The sisters where respected figureheads in the community, everyone knew who the were and many thought of them as family dubbing them “the Nonnatuns”, the children of the community all thought that the midwives brought the baby they were “delivering” in the bags they carry with them. The nurses are the main characters of the series and they act as district nurses and most importantly midwives, they often cycle for miles to reach a woman needing a midwife, in early years the placenta was sent down to the allotment as tomato food. There have been at least three Nonnatus Houses, the current Nonnatus has been occupied since 1959, the one before the sisters got in the 1890s and as they had been nursing before then another one. Overall the midwives are heavily respected members of the community and stand with them in times of trouble.

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