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
Registration
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.

Archives:
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="Mapping The Hamlets poster"

Mapping The Hamlets - Exhibition of rare and unique local cartography

  • 15 April — 23 June 2017 *on now

Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives holds a collection of over 4000 historic maps. This exhibition features more than thirty of these, most of which have never before been displayed. Many are unique to our collection and others will only be found in a select number of libraries. This exhibition was curated by Borough Archivist Malcolm Barr-Hamilton, with valuable assistance from volunteer Anusha Mistry. Framing and installation by Jackie Lyall.

The map collection is a working library collection, not a museum collection, put to continual use by scholars and researchers and stored for decades in vertical suspension chests. This has taken its toll on many items within it. Despite this, we have chosen to display only original maps in this exhibition - not digitised copies. Maps have been made for many purposes, and we present this selection of maps in four categories:
 Estate maps - these are unique and often manuscript, depicting land and buildings owned by a particular person, family or company
 Maps showing areas as administered by (usually now defunct) local authorities which preceded the formation of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in 1965
 Maps plotted for a specific theme, eg sociological research, public transport, civil defence
 Printed maps - taking the example of Spitalfields to show cartographic and geographical development from 1676 to 1996.

In addition to the maps from our collection on display, the exhibition also features a very large, work-in-progress scale model of London in 1840. The 1st Framework website includes more details about this fascinating project, led by Andrew Byrne.

Though we will share some of the exhibited images on social media, the exhibition doesn't photograph very well due to glare from the room's lighting so we thoroughly recommend visiting in person! Please check our opening hours below and if you'd like to see more maps, visit our reading room on the first floor.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

https://www.ideastore.co.uk/local-history-whats-on

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="Mapping The Hamlets poster"

Mapping The Hamlets Guided Walk: Mile End New Town

  • 30 May 2017 From 6pm

Exhibition curator and Borough Archivist Malcolm leads a guided walk around the former Hamlet of Mile End New Town, an obscure administrative area adjacent to Spitalfields which ceased to exist in 1901. The walk will be illustrated using copies of historic materials from our collection. Free, advance booking required.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

https://www.ideastore.co.uk/local-history-whats-on

alt="Mile End Vestry Hall"

History Hoppers

  • 30 May 2017 11:30am-1:30pm
  • 27 June 2017 11:30am-1:30pm
  • 25 July 2017 11:30am-1:30pm
  • 29 August 2017 11:30am-1:30pm

Do you enjoy looking at for old photographs, newspapers and maps?
Do you have fond memories of forgotten streets?
Are you curious about archive collections?

If so, come along to our monthly History Hoppers sessions and you'll have 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. There's no need to book, just drop in between 11.30am and 1.30pm. Sessions are FREE and refreshments will be provided.

Last Tuesday of every month, 11.30am - 1.30 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 localhistory@towerhamlets.gov.uk.

Suitable for

  • Any age
alt="Mapping The Hamlets poster"

Mapping The Hamlets: Talk: Charles Booth's Poverty Map with author Sarah Wise

  • 1 June 2017 From 6pm

We're delighted to host historian Sarah Wise to give a talk on Charles Booth's Poverty Map of 1898-99. An early example of social cartography, each street is coloured to indicate the income and social class of its inhabitants. Free, no booking required.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

https://www.ideastore.co.uk/local-history-whats-on

alt="Mapping the Hamlets poster"

Mapping The Hamlets: Family activity: Map-making with artist Virginia Hawke

  • 2 June 2017 10am-1pm

Come along to this half-term workshop where you'll get the chance to create your own map of the local area, inspired by photographs and maps from the archives. Led by artist Virginia Hawke, this workshop is for children between the ages of 5 and 10 years accompanied by a parent or carer, although younger and older siblings are welcome. Free, advance booking required.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
  • Especially for children

Website

https://www.ideastore.co.uk/local-history-whats-on

alt="Mapping the Hamlets poster"

Talk: Going digital: mapping family histories in Whitechapel with the Survey of London

  • 3 June 2017 1-4pm

The Survey of London host an informal discussion about recording family histories in Whitechapel, followed by a workshop about how to add yours to their interactive online map. Free, no booking required.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

https://www.ideastore.co.uk/local-history-whats-on

alt="Mapping The Hamlets poster"

Mapping The Hamlets: Exhibition guided tour

  • 3 June 2017 11am-12pm

Find lengthy text captions a bit overwhelming? This free guided tour of the exhibition is for you. Its curator Malcolm Barr-Hamilton will talk through each map on display. Free, but a small group is essential so please phone or email to book a place.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

https://www.ideastore.co.uk/local-history-mapping-the-hamlets

alt="Mapping the Hamlets poster"

Mapping The Hamlets: Guided walk: St George In The East

  • 13 June 2017 6-8pm

A guided walk exploring the Parish of St. George-in-the-East, led by Borough Archivist Malcolm Barr-Hamilton, using historic maps and other resources from our collections. Free, advance booking required.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

https://www.ideastore.co.uk/local-history-whats-on

Mapping The Hamlets: Talk: The LCC Bomb Damage Maps

  • 15 June 2017 6:30-7:30pm

Join Laurence Ward, Head of Digital Services at the London Metropolitan
Archives, for an illustrated talk on how the terrible damage caused by World
War Two air raids was recorded by the London County Council's bomb
damage maps. Free, no booking required.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
alt="Mapping the Hamlets poster"

Talks: 18th and 19th century London, by map and model with historian Andrew Byrne

  • 22 June 2017 6:15-7:30pm

Borough Archivist Malcolm Barr-Hamilton discusses Gascoyne's 1703 map of Stepney, the most significant map ever produced in terms of Tower Hamlets' history; Andrew Byrne talks about his work-in-progress model of 1840 London also displayed in our exhibition. Free, no booking required.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

https://www.ideastore.co.uk/local-history-whats-on

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
London
Greater London
E1 4DQ
England

Website

www.ideastore.co.uk/en/articles/local_history

E-mail

localhistory@towerhamlets.gov.uk

Telephone

Local History Libary

020 7364 1290

Archives

020 7364 1289

Fax

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.
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