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="Match Women's Strike"

The Match Women's Strike 1988

  • 23 February — 21 May 2016 *on now

In July 1888, over 1400 women and girls employed at the Bryant & May match factory in Bow successfully went on strike to improve their working conditions. In 1988, East End artist Alison Marchant marked the centenary of this pivotal moment in feminist and labour history with a range of public installations and a national touring exhibition. This creative project, called Wall Paper History, repurposed archives from Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives and the Museum of Labour History to bring attention to working class women's continuing economic oppression, illustrated by the imminent redevelopment of the now defunct match factory as private housing.

In 2016, to mark Women's History Month, Alison Marchant and Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives will re-stage her 1988 exhibition, which includes original prints, etchings and collages inspired by archival imagery.

alt="Poplar Army Recruitment"

World War One in Tower Hamlets

  • 18 April — 15 May 2016 *on now

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:
Idea Store Chrisp Street: Monday 18 April – Sunday 15 May
Brady Centre: Monday 23 May – Sunday 19 June
Idea Store Whitechapel: Monday 27 June – Sunday 24 July
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 Chrisp Street
1 Vesey Path
East India Dock Road
E14 6BT

Getting there

DLR: All Saints
Buses: D6, D8, 15, 115

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

  • 18 May 2016 2:30-4:30pm
  • 15 June 2016 2:30-4:30pm
  • 20 July 2016 2:30-4:30pm
  • 17 August 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 18 May
Wednesday 15 June
Wednesday 20 July
Wednesday 17 August

Suitable for

  • Any age
alt="puppet show"

The Tale of Jack Sheppard

  • 21 May 2016 From 3pm

See how an ordinary apprentice carpenter from East London became the legendary jail breaker and hero of the people, whose fame spread across oceans. Witness his daring and miraculous escapes! Watch him outwit judges, jailers and the Thieftaker General - until the hangman's noose beckons and it's now or never, neck or nothing...

18th Century London, its raucous mobs, rapacious merchants and well-fed judges, are brought to vivid life on a table. The use of simple cut-out puppets and zigzagging set lead the audience through unexpected turns among the characters, institutions, and dodgy deals of a time of upheaval. Jumps in scale, audience participation and the textured use of sound and song add drama and depth to the story. A playful, political, visually stunning tale of daring and resistance.

The performance is free for Tower Hamlets residents and others are encouraged to make a donation. It is suitable for adults and older children. Supported by the Arts Council and Tower Hamlets Council.

Suitable for

  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+
  • 7-10

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.