Idea Store - Mapping the Hamlets

Mapping the Hamlets

Mapping the Hamlets Exhibition
15 April - 21 September 2017

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.

Maps represent a vital source for answering a wide variety of enquiries: for local and family history or for legal research or land redevelopment. We are fortunate in that, as a result of abutting the City of London, parts of the present-day borough are covered by large-scale mapping dating back to the sixteenth century.

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:

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 London 1840 website includes more details about this fascinating project, led by Andrew Byrne.

As always, a programme of free events accompanies the exhibition - please see below for details. 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 and if you'd like to see more maps, visit our reading room on the first floor.

This exhibition was curated by Borough Archivist Malcolm Barr-Hamilton, with valuable assistance from volunteer Anusha Mistry. Framing and installation by Jackie Lyall.

Events Programme

Please book a place for those events which require it by emailing or call 020 7364 1290 during working hours. Let us know any access needs.

Launch event
Thursday 27 April, 6.00-7.30pm
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives
Join us for the exhibition launch party, featuring an introductory talk by its curator Malcolm Barr-Hamilton, the Borough Archivist. Refreshments kindly sponsored by East End Homes. All welcome, free, no booking required.

Guided walk: Mile End New Town
Tuesday 30 May, 6.00-8.00pm
Meeting point: Aldgate East tube (Whitechapel High St/north side)
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.
Talk: Charles Booth's Poverty Map
Thursday 1 June, 6.00-7.30pm
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives
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.

Family activity: Map-making
Friday 2 June, 10.00-1.00pm
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives
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.

Exhibition guided tour
Saturday 3 June, 11.00am-12.00noon
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives
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 0207 364 1290 or email to book a place.

Going digital: mapping family histories in Whitechapel with the Survey of London
Saturday 3 June, 1.00-4.00pm
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives
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.
Guided walk: St George In The East
Tuesday 13 June, 6.00-8.00pm
Meeting point: Shadwell Overground station
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.

Talks: 18th and 19th century London, by map and model
Thursday 22 June, 6.15-7.30pm
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives  
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.