Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives
277 Bancroft Road
Greater London
E1 4DQ




Local History Libary

020 7364 1290


020 7364 1289


020 7364 1292

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive
Library icon

Tower Hamlets local history library and archives covers the area of the present-day London Borough of Tower Hamlets; the original East End of London which, until 1965, comprised of the Boroughs of Bethnal Green, Poplar and Stepney.

If you are interested in a building in the borough, tracing your ancestors who lived here, doing a school or college project on some aspect of the borough or are just feeling nostalgic, we may well be able to help you.

Venue Type:

Library, Archive

Opening hours

Monday Closed
Tuesday 10am - 5pm
Wednesday 9am - 5pm
Thursday 9am - 8pm
Friday Closed
Saturday (fortnightly) 9am - 5pm
Sunday Closed

Admission charges

All users are required to register with the service on their first visit. Please ensure you bring a form of ID providing proof of your permanent address.

Getting there

Nearest tube: Stepney Green

Bus Routes: 25, along Mile End Road

By car
There are a limited number of pay and display parking spaces in the surrounding roads as well as parking spaces for Tower Hamlets resident's permit holders.

Local history library:

Books and Pamphlets - The local history library holds over 20,000 printed books and pamphlets dating from the 17th century to the present day. These provide extensive coverage of the many differing aspects of the recorded history of Tower Hamlets. The Library includes an important "shipping collection" which, as well as covering local subjects, includes general material relating to the history of merchant shipping.

Cuttings - The cuttings collection, which is contained in over 400 boxes, includes newspaper and periodical cuttings and articles and printed ephemera, a substantial amount of which dates from the 19th century.

Illustrations - The library holds about 25,000 illustrations, mainly photographs. There are over 80 boxes of photographs of general street scenes arranged alphabetically, while the remainder are arranged by subject.

Maps - Well over 2,000 maps and plans are held dating from Elizabethan times to the present day. The collection includes large-scale Ordnance Survey maps, street plans and some parish and estate maps.

Microfilms - The library holds on microfilm, copies of census returns for the whole Borough, from 1841 to 1891; various local newspapers from 1853; parish registers of seven of the oldest parish churches and London trade directories.

Audio-Visual Collections - About 100 sound recordings and 60 films and videos of local interest are held.

While there are substantial holdings of archives relating to the borough, much of Tower Hamlets material is deposited elsewhere (notably at the Greater London Record Office).

Local authority records - There are extensive holdings of records of the Borough and its predecessors dating in some cases from the 16th century. These include minutes, rate books and correspondence files.

Deeds - There are over 8,000 deeds recording the transfer of properties in the Borough, which are indexed by name and place.

Other archives - In addition the archives hold documents relating to many local institutions, including some places of worship and schools, local clubs and societies, and some businesses.

Collection details

Archives, Social History, World Cultures

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
photograph of prosthetic facial pieces

The Wounded Soldier and the East End of London

  • 18 September 2014 6:30-8pm *on now

Author and researcher Gary Haines is currently researching the cultural and visual representation of the blinded British soldier of the First World War as part of his doctoral thesis. In this talk he will look at what it meant to be wounded in war and living in the East End.

Followed by question and answer session.

Suitable for

  • 14-15
  • 18+
  • 16-17


Reminiscence Session: LinkAge Plus Group

  • 19 September 2014 12-3pm

Older residents are invited to visit St Matthias Community Centre for an opportunity to view and discuss historical images of Poplar from the collections of Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, and the chance to share your memories. This session also forms part of the centre’s celebrations to mark the 360th anniversary of the East India Company.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


St Matthias Community Centre
113 Poplar High St



The People of Poplar: A Heritage Walk

  • 21 September 2014 12-2pm

A guided walk around Poplar led by local historian Gary Haines, finishing at the Upper North Street School First World War memorial.

Starting at St. Matthias Community Centre, 113 Poplar High St, London, E14 0AE.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • Any age


photograph of the british army football team

Writing on War: Walter Tull: Footballer, Soldier, Hero

  • 27 September 2014 2-3:30pm

Dan Lyndon speaks about Walter Tull, a British footballer and soldier who was born in 1888 and died in 1918.

He was also the first black officer to lead white British soldiers in battle. He was brought up in a National Children’s Home orphanage in Bethnal Green.

Taking place at Bethnal Green Library, Cambridge Heath Road, E2 OHL.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • Any age


World War One in Tower Hamlets: Exhibition and Collections Guide launch

  • 11 November 2014 6-8pm

A launch event for the brand new “WW1 in Tower Hamlets” exhibition and guide to the World War One collections held at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives. There will also be a demonstration on using the newly digitised Poplar Military Tribunal Register to help track your First World War – era ancestors and its other potential uses for research.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Getting there

Nearest tube: Stepney Green

Bus Routes: 25, along Mile End Road

By car
There are a limited number of pay and display parking spaces in the surrounding roads as well as parking spaces for Tower Hamlets resident's permit holders.