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Tel: 0333 370 4700

Enrol: 0207 364 5665

About us

Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives covers the area created from the former Metropolitan Boroughs of Bethnal Green, Poplar and Stepney – the heart of London’s world famous East End. Our Grade II listed library building dates from 1860 and is conveniently located in Mile End.

The extensive library collections cover a vast range of popular subjects such as housing, health and immigration, and include thousands of photographs and press cuttings as well as rare publications. Stored on hundreds of linear metres of mobile shelving in our climate-controlled strongroom, the archive collections are spread across a variety of formats, from medieval parchment to digital audio and video.

If you’re interested in the history of a street or building, tracing your ancestors who lived in the borough, doing a school or college project or just feeling nostalgic, we’re here to welcome you.

Local History Library

  • Over 20,000 books and pamphlets dating from the 17th century to the present day
  • Electoral registers for Tower Hamlets from 1901
  • Trade directories from 1800
  • Cuttings Collection which includes newspaper articles and printed ephemera
  • 25,000 photographs and illustrations
  • Over 2,000 maps and plans dating from 16th century to the present day
  • Over 500 periodical titles, including local newspapers from 1841 on microfilm
  • Local census returns from 1841 to 1891 and parish registers on microfilm
  • Search the catalogue


The archive collections include the records of Tower Hamlets Council and its predecessor governance bodies (dating from the 16th century) - for example minutes, rate books and correspondence files. Other notable collections include more than 8000 title deeds recording the transfer of properties in the borough, and documents relating to many local institutions and prominent individuals.
Search the catalogue


  • Photocopying is allowed for much of the collection depending on copyright and physical condition
  • Digital scans, subject to copyright, can be obtained; sizes and prices available on request
  • An extensive range of informative publications are available for sale

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, London E1 4DQ
Phone: 020 7364 1290




All users are required to register with the service on their first visit. Please fill in the form below and bring it along with a form of ID providing proof of your permanent address.

Registration form [PDF]

Opening Times

Monday     9am - 5pm (Open for exhibition only)
Tuesday 10am - 5pm
Wednesday   9am - 5pm
Thursday 9am - 8pm
Friday 9am - 5pm (Open for exhibition only)
Saturday* 9am - 5pm

*First and Third Saturday of the month only


Disabled access

A ramp and lift have recently been installed and the building is now fully accessible to wheelchair users.

Getting There

map of the area 

By public transport

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.

Room Hire

We have a Ground Floor Education Room. For further information visit the Local History Library Room Hire web page.