Local History Library & Archives
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & 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.
A lot of material about Tower Hamlets is
deposited elsewhere (notably at the London Metropolitan Archive),
but there are substantial holdings of archives relating to the
borough at the Local History Library & Archives.
Temporary Closure for Building Works
Listed Building Consent has now been received for the planned
Phase 2 roof replacement works on our 151 year old Bancroft Library
building. All of the building's extensive and complex roofs,
including those directly above the reading room and former lending
library, will be restored and/or replaced with materials in keeping
with the listed building. Gutters and downpipes will also be
repaired, ensuring the building is free from leaks which pose a
risk to our valuable collections. At the same time, our ageing lift
will also be replaced with a new, wheelchair accessible model.
As a result of these works, the library is
currently closed to the public. We expect to re-open
in June 2013 and will keep you updated when we have a
confirmed date. We regret the inconvenience this is likely to cause
to our users.
We will be offering a limited remote enquiry service by phone
and email during our period of closure. We will endeavour to answer
telephone enquires Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9am to
1pm and 2 to 5 pm. Please address enquires via phone to Tel:
020 7364 1290 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Materials available at the library
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.
There are over 8,000 deeds recording the transfer of properties
in the borough, which are indexed by name and place.
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.
For historical birth, marriage and death certificates contact
the borough registry office.
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 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
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
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
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.
About 100 sound recordings and 60 films and videos of local
interest are held.
A sample collection of our photographs are available to view
online in our
Digital Gallery on the Ideastore website.
As well as photographs, Tower Hamlets Local History Library and
Archives also holds a unique collection of original paintings.
These paintings have all been digitised and are available to view
for free on the BBC website Your Paintings
- Photocopying of the collection is allowed depending on
copyright and physical condition.
- Digital copies, subject to copyright, can be obtained; sizes
and prices available on request.
- Publications - An extensive range of informative publications
are available for sale at the local history library and also many
of the community libraries.
We cannot, however, undertake detailed genealogical
research on behalf of enquirers. Details of professional
record agents can be obtained by contacting the
Association of Genealogists and
Researchers in Archives.
Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives
277 Bancroft Road
Plan your journey
Tel: 020 7364 1290
Fax: 020 7364 1292