Tower Hamlets: Wikis


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  status= London borough | 
  area_rank= 348th |

  leadership= Lutfur Rahman (Council) |
     mayor= Ahmed Omer |
  mps= Jim Fitzpatrick
George Galloway | gla_constituency= City and East London | gla_member= John Biggs

}} The London Borough of Tower Hamlets (About this sound pronunciation ) is a London borough to the east of the City of London, England and north of the River Thames in East London, taking in much of the East End. It includes much of the redeveloped Docklands region of London, including West India Docks and Canary Wharf. Many of the tallest buildings in London are located on the Isle of Dogs in the south of the borough. Tower Hamlets is one of five London boroughs which have been designated host boroughs for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The borough has one of the highest ethnic minority populations in the capital, consisting mainly of Bangladeshis.[1]




Civic history

The name "Tower Hamlets" was historically applied to the Tower division of the county of Middlesex, covering not only the present borough, but also part of the present-day London Borough of Hackney. The Constable of the Tower of London had special jurisdiction over the area from the 16th century until 1889. Inhabitants of Tower Hamlets were originally required to provide yeomen for the Tower of London. Later the Constable became Lord Lieutenant of the area, raising and organising the local militia. Under the Reform Act 1832 the area became a parliamentary borough. The name continued to be used for constituencies until 1918.

The borough was formed in 1965, and took this historic name, through amalgamation of the former metropolitan boroughs of Bethnal Green, Poplar and Stepney. These boroughs were the heart of the East End of London.



For the most recent election to Parliament, the Borough was split into two constituencies:

The constituencies for the next election will be:

The Borough is a part of the London constituency for election to the European Parliament. The political history of the borough has been characterised as leaning heavily to left-wing parties, often explained by the migrant minorities that have lived within it.[citation needed] In the main, this has meant large Labour majorities in terms of national and local elections, although other left-wing parties have won seats including Communists and more recently the Respect Unity coalition.

London Assembly

The borough lies within the City and East constituency, and is represented by John Biggs, Labour.

London Borough Council

The controlling and majority group is Labour. The current composition follows the defection of five Respect councillors to Labour since the May 2006 elections, the defection of one Respect and one Labour councillor to the Conservatives, the defection of one Liberal Democrat to Labour and one Labour by-election gain from the Liberal Democrats.

Party councillors
Labour 32
Conservative 9
Respect 6
Liberal Democrats 4

Details of individual ward councillors can be found at the Borough's ward pages (below).[2]

Previous election results are as follows:

Overall control Conservative Labour Lib Dem Others
2006 Labour 7 26 6 12
2002 Labour - 35 16 -
1998 Labour - 41 9 -
1994 Labour - 43 7 -
1990 Liberal Democrat - 20 30 -
1986 Liberal/S.D.P. Alliance - 24 26 -
1982 Labour - 31 18 1
1978 Labour - 43 7 -
1974 Labour - 60 - -
1971 Labour - 60 - -
1968 Labour - 57 - 3
1964 Labour - 55 - 5


Physical geography

Tower Hamlets is located to east of the City of London and north of the River Thames in East London. The London Borough of Hackney lies to the north of the borough while the River Lee forms the boundary with the London Borough of Newham in the east. The River Lee also forms the boundary between those parts of London historically in Middlesex, with those formerly in Essex.

The Isle of Dogs is formed from the lock entrances to the former West India Docks and the largest current meander of the River Thames and the southern part of the borough forms a part of the historic flood plain of the River Thames;[3] and but for the Thames Barrier and other flood prevention works would be vulnerable to flooding.

The Regent's Canal enters the borough from Hackney to meet the River Thames at Limehouse Basin. A stretch of the Hertford Union Canal leads from the Regent's canal, at a basin in the north of Mile End to join the River Lee at Old Ford. A further canal, Limehouse Cut, London's oldest, leads from locks at Bromley-by-Bow to Limehouse Basin. Most of the canal tow-paths are open to both pedestrians and cyclists.

Victoria Park was formed by Act of Parliament, and administered by the LCC and its successor authority the GLC. Since the latter authority's abolition, the park has been administered by Tower Hamlets.

Areas within the borough

Areas included in the borough:


Tower Hamlets forms the main area of the East End of London, more detailed local histories should be available for each of the districts (above) within Tower Hamlets.

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets forms the core of the East End, it lies east of the medieval walled City of London and north of the River Thames, use of the term "East End", in a pejorative sense began in the late 19th century,[4] as the expansion of the population of London led to extreme overcrowding throughout the area and a concentration of poor people and immigrants in the districts that make it up.[5] These problems were exacerbated with the construction of St Katharine Docks (1827)[6] and the central London railway termini (1840–1875) that caused the clearance of former slums and rookeries, with many of the displaced people moving into the area. Over the course of a century, the East End became synonymous with poverty, overcrowding, disease and criminality.[7]

The East End developed rapidly during the 19th century. Originally it was an area characterised by villages clustered around the City walls or along the main roads, surrounded by farmland, with marshes and small communities by the River, serving the needs of shipping and the Royal Navy. Until the arrival of formal docks, shipping was required to land its goods in the Pool of London, but industries related to construction, repair, and victualling of ships flourished in the area from Tudor times. The area attracted large numbers of rural people looking for employment. Successive waves of foreign immigration began with Huguenot refugees creating a new extramural suburb in Spitalfields in the 17th century.[8] They were followed by Irish weavers,[9] Ashkenazi Jews[10] and, in the 20th century, Bangladeshis.[11] Many of these immigrants worked in the clothing industry. The abundance of semi- and unskilled labour led to low wages and poor conditions throughout the East End. This brought the attentions of social reformers during the mid-18th century and led to the formation of unions and workers associations at the end of the century. The radicalism of the East End contributed to the formation of the Labour Party and demands for the enfranchisement of women.

Official attempts to address the overcrowded housing began at the beginning of the 20th century under the London County Council. World War II devastated much of the East End, with its docks, railways and industry forming a continual target, leading to dispersal of the population to new suburbs, and new housing being built in the 1950s.[7] During the war, in the Boroughs making up Tower Hamlets a total of 2,221 civilians were killed, and 7,472 were injured, with 46,482 houses destroyed and 47,574 damaged.[12] The closure of the last of the East End docks in the Port of London in 1980 created further challenges and led to attempts at regeneration and the formation of the London Docklands Development Corporation. The Canary Wharf development, improved infrastructure, and the Olympic Park[13] mean that the East End is undergoing further change, but some of its districts continue to contain some of the worst poverty in Britain.[14]

Local landmarks

Canary Wharf, seen from a high-level walkway on Tower Bridge

Historical landmarks

Modern landmarks

The Canary Wharf complex, within Docklands, on the Isle of Dogs forms a group of some of the tallest buildings in Europe. One Canada Square was the first to be constructed, and remains the tallest. Nearby are the HSBC Tower, Citigroup Centres and One Churchill Place, headquarters of Barclays Bank. Within the same complex are the Heron Quays offices.

The unusual Green Bridge, opened in 2000, links sections of Mile End Park that would otherwise be divided by the Mile End Road. The bridge contains gardens, water features and trees around the path.


This data was taken between 1971 and 2000 at the weather station in Greenwich, around 1 mile (1.6 km) south of the Town hall, at Mulberry Place:

Climate data for Greenwich
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average high °C (°F) 7.9
Average low °C (°F) 2.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 51.9
Source: Met Office[15] 2009


Year Pop.  %±
1801 130,871
1811 160,718 22.8%
1821 195,941 21.9%
1831 231,534 18.2%
1841 275,250 18.9%
1851 330,548 20.1%
1861 410,101 24.1%
1871 489,653 19.4%
1881 569,205 16.2%
1891 584,936 2.8%
1901 578,143 −1.2%
1911 571,438 −1.2%
1921 529,114 −7.4%
1931 489,956 −7.4%
1941 337,774 −31.1%
1951 232,860 −31.1%
1961 195,833 −15.9%
1971 164,699 −15.9%
1981 139,989 −15.0%
1991 167,985 20.0%
2001 196,121 16.7%
Source: A Vision of Britain through time

By 1891, Tower Hamlets – roughly the civil parish of Stepney – was already one of the most populated areas in London. Throughout the 19th century, the local population increased by an average of 20% every ten years. The building of the docks intensified land use and caused the last marshy areas in the south of the parish to be drained for housing and industry. In the north of the borough employment was principally in weaving, small household industries like boot and furniture making; and in new industrial enterprises like Bryant and May. The availability of cheap labour drew in employers. To the south of the parish, employment was in the docks and related industries – such as chandlery and rope making. By the middle of the century, the district of Tower Hamlets was characterised by overcrowding and poverty. The construction of the railways caused many more displaced people to settle in Tower Hamlets, and a massive influx of Eastern European Jews at the end of the 19th century added to the population. This influx peaked at the end of the century and population growth entered a long decline, as the more affluent moved away; and new suburbs were opened up in Essex, east of the River Lee.

The metropolitan boroughs suffered badly during World War II, during which considerable numbers of houses were destroyed or damaged beyond use. This coincided with a decline in work in the docks, and the closure of many traditional industries. The Abercrombie Plan for London (1944) began an exodus from London towards the new towns.[16] This decline began to reverse, with the establishment of the London Docklands Development Corporation bringing new industries and housing to the brownfield sites along the river; and new immigration from Asia, beginning in the 1970s. According to the 2001 census, the population of the borough is approximately 196,106.

TH Ethnic groups.png

Tower Hamlets has one of the smallest indigenous populations of the boroughs of Britain. In 2001, White Britons constituted 42.9% of the population. Bangladeshis, who constituted 33% of the population, form the largest minority community, with Somalis representing the second largest minority ethnic group (at around 15,000 inhabitants).[17][18] There are also a number of Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and Black African/Caribbean residents (with the latter community representing 7% of the population).[17][19]

The population of the Bangladeshi community counted on the 2001 census was 65,553. Bangladeshis are more likely to have large families living together. The number of Bangladeshis aged under 18 is almost double the proportion for all Londoners. Most Bangladeshi children in London were born in the UK, while most adults were born in Bangladesh, 70% of the Bangladeshi community are below the age of 30, where 40% of these are aged 0–15 and 9% are aged 16–19. [20] The Bangladeshi population in the borough has been decreasing over the years, based on Neighbourhood Statistics (ONS) estimates, the percentage of Bangladeshis has dropped from 33.1 per cent in 2001 to 29.4 per cent in 2007 (estimate),[21] About 9 in 10 Bangladeshi residents have origins in the Sylhet region.[22]

The main religious groups are Christians (38.6%), and Muslims (36.4%).[23] The Muslim proportion of the borough's population is the largest out of all local authorities in England & Wales.[24] There are 24 Church of England churches in Tower Hamlets, which include Christ Church of Spitalfields, St Paul's Church of Shadwell and St Dunstan's of Stepney[25] and also churches of many other Christian denominations. There are a total of 40 confirmed mosques, including Islamic centres, the largest are the East London Mosque, the Brick Lane Mosque and the Markazi Mosque.[26]

Economic profile

8 Canada Square, the head office of HSBC
One Churchill Place, the head office of Barclays

Part of the borough is within the boundary of the Thames Gateway development area.

HSBC has its head office in 8 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets. Barclays has its head office in One Churchill Place, Canary Wharf.[27]


37,500 pupils go to 98 schools in Tower Hamlets. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is the local education authority for state schools within the borough.[28]

Further education colleges



  • Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets,[29] helps people living, working or studying in Tower Hamlets find the right volunteering opportunity. It also provides support to organisations involving volunteers.

Sports and leisure

Mile End Stadium, within Mile End Park hosts an athletics stadium, and facilities for football and basketball. Two football clubs, Beaumont Athletic F.C. and Sporting Bengal United F.C. are based there. The borough also has its own football club named Tower Hamlets Borough which was formed in 2009.

A leisure centre including a swimming pool at Mile End Stadium was completed in 2006. Other pools are located at St Georges, Limehouse and York Hall, in Bethnal Green. York Hall is also a regular venue for boxing tournaments, and in May 2007 a public spa - Spa London was opened in the building's renovated Turkish Baths. Official London Spa website

The Olympics

Tower Hamlets is one of five host boroughs for the 2012 Summer Olympics, with the Olympic Park to be constructed in the Lea valley.

Parks in Tower Hamlets



Transport radiates across the borough from the City of London, with the A13 starting at Aldgate and heading east passing the entrance to the Blackwall tunnel towards Newham, and south-east Essex. The A12 also starts at Aldgate, crosses the Lea at Bow, towards Colchester and Great Yarmouth. Roads are busy at all times, particular during the rush hours; and much of the borough is a controlled parking zone, to prevent commuter parking.

The principal rail services commence in the City at Fenchurch Street, with one stop at Limehouse; and Liverpool Street, with stops at Bethnal Green and Cambridge Heath.

The Docklands Light Railway was built to serve the docklands areas of the borough, with a principle terminus at Bank and Tower Gateway. An interchange at Poplar allows trains to proceed north to Stratford and south via Canary Wharf towards Lewisham.

Three London Underground services cross the district: the District and Metropolitan Lines share track between Aldgate East and Bromley-by-Bow. The Central Line has stations at Bethnal Green and Mile End - where there is an interchange to the District Line. The Jubilee Line has one stop at Canary Wharf.

London Buses routes 8, 15, 25, 26, 35, 40, 42, 47, 48, 55, 78, 100, 106, 108, 115, 135, 205, 254, 276, 277, 309, 323, 339, 388, 425, 488, D3, D6, D7, D8, RV1, other routes ELW, Night route N8, N15, N26, N35, N55, N550 and N551.


  1. ^ Dr David GARBIN (June 2005) Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK: some observations on socio-cultural dynamics, religious trends and transnational politics University of Surrey. pp. 1. Retrieved on 2009-03-27.
  2. ^ LBTH ward details accessed 09 Aug 2008
  3. ^ BBC on Thames floodplain accessed 31 Mar 2007
  4. ^ East End 1888 William Fishman (1998) p.1
  5. ^ From 1801 to 1821, the population of Bethnal Green more than doubled, and by 1831, it had trebled (see table in population section). These incomers were principally weavers. For further details, see Andrew August Poor Women's Lives: Gender, Work, and Poverty in Late-Victorian London pp 35-6 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1999) ISBN 0-8386-3807-4
  6. ^ By the early 19th century, over 11,000 people were crammed into insanitary slums in an area, which took its name from the former Hospital of St Catherine that had stood on the site since the 12th century.
  7. ^ a b The East End Alan Palmer, (John Murray, London 1989) ISBN 0-7195-5666-X
  8. ^ Bethnal Green: Settlement and Building to 1836, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green (1998), pp. 91–5 Date accessed: 17 April 2007
  9. ^ Irish in Britain John A. Jackson, p. 137–9, 150 (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964)
  10. ^ The Jews, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1: Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, The Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes to 1870, Private Education from Sixteenth Century (1969), pp. 149–51 Date accessed: 17 April 2007
  11. ^ The Spatial Form of Bangladeshi Community in London's East End Iza Aftab (UCL) (particularly background of Bangladeshi immigration to the East End). Date accessed: 17 April 2007
  12. ^ The East End at War Rosemary Taylor and Christopher Lloyd (Sutton Publishing, 2007) ISBN 0-7509-4913-9
  13. ^ Olympic Park: Legacy (London 2012) accessed 20 September 2007
  14. ^ Chris Hammett Unequal City: London in the Global Arena (2003) Routledge ISBN 0-415-31730-4
  15. ^ Met Office (2000). "Climate: Greenwich 1971-2000 averages". Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  16. ^ A Vision of Britain through time accessed 20 February 2009
  17. ^ a b London Borough of Tower Hamlets - Housing Major Works
  18. ^ Tower Hamlets - Social and Community Facilities
  19. ^ Tower Hamlets - Ethnic groups - 2001 Census - ONS
  20. ^ Borough Profile - Demographic and Household Trends.
  21. ^ Bangladeshi population estimates - Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Statistics (Office for National Statistics). (13 July 2006). Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  22. ^ Gardner K (1995) International migration and the rural context in Sylhet. New Community 18: 579–590
  23. ^ Tower Hamlets - Religions - 2001 Census - ONS
  24. ^ Muslim rank - Local Authority - 2001 census
  25. ^ Church List: Tower Hamlets The Diocese of London. Retrieved on 2009-03-27.
  26. ^ Mehmood Naqshbandi Mosques in Tower Hamlets Retrieved on 2009-05-01.
  27. ^ Stevenson, Rachel. "HSBC revalues its 'invisible' night workers." The Independent. Friday 28 May 2004. Retrieved on 29 November 2009.
  28. ^ List of Education authority schools
  29. ^ Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets

External links

Coordinates: 51°31′N 0°03′W / 51.517°N 0.05°W / 51.517; -0.05


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