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Support grows for fight to save Bancroft Archives

PUBLISHED: 13:06 07 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:25 05 October 2010

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THE Great and Good of the stage and page are joining the battle to keep the Bancroft local history archive local. The collection covering the history of London's East End from Elizabethan times to the present day could be forced to move if Tower Hamlets council sells off its Mile End home. The archive includes more than 20,000 books and pamphlets, 2,000 maps, some dating from Elizabethan times, 25,000 illustrations, 400 boxes of press cuttings and 80 boxes of photos. The Jewish East End Celebration Society is planning to mobilise names from its extensive contacts to fight the move

THE Great and Good of the stage and page are joining the battle to keep the Bancroft local history archive local.

The collection covering the history of London's East End from Elizabethan times to the present day could be forced to move if Tower Hamlets council sells off its Mile End home.

The archive includes more than 20,000 books and pamphlets, 2,000 maps, some dating from Elizabethan times, 25,000 illustrations, 400 boxes of press cuttings and 80 boxes of photos.

The Jewish East End Celebration Society is planning to mobilise names from its extensive contacts to fight the move.

They include one of its presidents, Stepney-born actor and playwright Stephen Berkoff, fellow Stepney-born playwright Sir Arnold Wesker, who made his name with the play Chicken Soup with Barley, and chronicler of London byways Iain Sinclair.

The society's founder, Clive Bettington, is also calling on the support of Noble Laureate Sir Harold Pinter and East End historian and academic Prof Bill Fishman to join the fight.

Clive, who uses the Bancroft Road library nearly every week for his research, told the East London Advertiser: "We are horrified. What's going to happen to the collection and what's going to happen to the staff?

"It's such an incredible collection and such an incredible staff and this archive has got to be accessible to the public. We can't have it in a warehouse."

He added: "I use it as my first port of call for every bit of research I do on the East End.

"It's an outrage that they are thinking of closing it down."

He wants a public meeting to discuss the threat to the library.

His latest research project has just been using the extensive archive collection to research the history of Jewish anarchists.

The campaign to save the Bancroft archive has also been given support by the Heritage of London Trust.

The trust's Tara Draper-Stumm said: "As a historian, I think local history libraries are a really important resource.

"Our history is really important and we should not lose it."

Tower Hamlets council is in talks with Queen Mary College to buy the building and has made overtures to the Museum in Docklands to give its archive a home.

The archive has been told it has to move by the end of the year.

Comments about the proposed closure of the Bancroft Road archives should be sent to Rofique Uddin Ahmed, Cabinet Lead Member for Culture and Ceisure, Tower Hamlets Council, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, Blackwall, London, E1 4RD, or email him direct:

cllr.rofique.ahmed@towerhamlets.gov.uk

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