Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive
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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

Exhibitions: Free admission
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

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
alt="Poplar Army Recruitment"

World War One in Tower Hamlets

  • 5 September — 2 October 2016
  • 10 October — 6 November 2016

Our new pop-up exhibition 'World War One in Tower Hamlets', explores the impact of war on the borough using sources from the collections of Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. The exhibition will be on display at the following locations:

Brady Centre: Monday 23 May – Sunday 19 June
Idea Store Whitechapel: Monday 27 June – Sunday 15 August
Idea Store Bow: Monday 5 September – Sunday 2 October
Idea Store Watney Market: Monday 10 October – Sunday 6 November

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Idea Store Whitechapel
321 Whitechapel Road
E1 1BU

Getting there

Nearest Underground station: Whitechapel. Turn right out of Whitechapel station on to Court Street, then left on to Whitechapel Road, the Idea Store is on your left

Bus routes: 25, 106, 205, 254

alt="housing protest march"

Radical Housing in Tower Hamlets

  • 20 June — 22 September 2016 *on now

We are pleased to announce our next local history exhibition and events programme which will run for three months over the summer: Radical Housing in Tower Hamlets. From the rent strikes of the 1930s to the squatting movement of the 1970s and the formation of the first housing co-operatives, the fight for decent and affordable housing has a long history in London's East End. Drawn exclusively from our archive and local history library collections and curated by our Learning & Participation Officer Perdita Jones, the upcoming exhibition will provide an overview of tenant action in Tower Hamlets, highlighting some of the key events and movements which have taken place over the last 100 years.
The exhibition has been programmed to tie in with the forthcoming conference Radical Histories; Histories of Radicalism
organised by the Raphael Samuel History Centre, taking place next door to us at Queen Mary, University of London, from 30 June - 3 July.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
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.
alt="Mile End Vestry Hall"

History Hoppers

  • 21 September 2016 2:30-4:30pm
  • 19 October 2016 2:30-4:30pm
  • 16 November 2016 2:30-4:30pm
  • 21 December 2016 2:30-4:30pm

Do you have a passion for old pictures?

Fond memories of forgotten streets?

Are you curious about archive collections?

Our new monthly History Hoppers group offers you and your friends the chance to explore and discuss original historical library and archive sources that help to tell the story of your local area in Tower Hamlets, with a slice of cake and cup of tea to wash it all down!

Third Wednesday of every month, 2.30pm - 4.30 pm
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives
277 Bancroft Road, E1 4DQ

Interested in a certain subject, area or street? Send us your requests to see particular parts of our collections titled 'History Hoppers' to

History Hoppers dates in 2016:

Wednesday 15 June
Wednesday 20 July
Wednesday 17 August
Wednesday 21 September
Wednesday 19 October
Wednesday 16 November
Wednesday 21 December

Suitable for

  • Any age
alt="hosing protest march"

Film screening: Goodbye Longfellow Road

  • 17 September 2016 2-3:30pm

A free screening of rarely seen Goodbye Longfellow Road (1977, 78 mins), a documentary originally broadcast on ITV, telling the story of the residents of a Stepney street. Declared a slum in the 1930s, earmarked for demolition in 1943 but still inhabited in the 1970s: what happened when the bulldozers finally moved in? No booking required.

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.

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 1290

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.