PUBLISHED: 22:13 05 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:21 05 October 2010

THE famous Bancroft history library and archives in London’s East End could be evicted to make way for a prestigious collection of documents detailing the horrors of the Holocaust. The East London Advertiser has discovered that Tower Hamlets council is proposing to sell the building in Mile End for a price thought to be about £1.2 million. potential buyer is neighbouring Queen Mary College, which is negotiating with the world-famous Wiener Library to relocate to the East End.

EXCLUSIVE by Ted Jeory

THE East End’s famous history library and archives could be evicted to make way for a prestigious collection of documents detailing the horrors of the Holocaust.

The East London Advertriser has discovered that Tower Hamlets council is proposing to sell its history library in Bancroft Road for a price thought to be about £1.2million.

The potential buyer is Queen Mary College, which is negotiating with the world famous Wiener Library in Westminster about relocating to the East End.

The Wiener Library describes itself as “one of the world’s leading and most extensive archives on the Holocaust and Nazi era” and it houses more than a million items, including press cuttings, photographs and eyewitness testimony.

Although the 50-year lease on its current Westminster home is up in 2009, Gordon Brown promised two years ago to help find it a new site in the capital.

Labour-run Tower Hamlets council has now stepped in after Town Hall bosses agreed relocation would boost the prestige of the borough.

But historians and researchers fear the move would be at the expense of the East End’s own treasured archives.

The council’s senior management have agreed the principle of the proposals and the cabinet is due to discuss and rubber stamp them next month.

If the deal goes ahead, the archives and history archives would be evicted by the end of this year.

And although negotiations are taking place about finding a new permanent home on the News International site in Wapping in 2010, interim measures will see the municipal collections broken up.

The archives would be taken to the Royal London Hospital’s own depository in Whitechapel, while the history library documents would be shoved from the heart of the East End to the edge of the borough at the Museum in Docklands in Canary Wharf.

Scattering records across two parts of the East End would be a major problem for Bancroft Road’s annual 3,000 visitors, many of whom will also be afraid of interim measures gradually becoming permanent.

The East London Advertiser is therefore today launching a “Save Our History” campaign calling for the former Vestry Hall of Bancroft Road to remain the capital of East End heritage.

Since Tower Hamlets council closed Bancroft’s downstairs lending library two years ago, when it transferred its book collection to an Idea Store in Canary Wharf, the building has been in dire need of investment.

Although Queen Mary is promising to revamp and protect the building, we believe it is the duty of the council, which wastes £1.5million a year of our tax money on its propaganda newssheet East End Life, to provide the investment.

The archives and the library should stay together.

Maintained by dedicated and qualified archivists, the centre contains a gold-mine of information, including all the archives of the East London Advertiser from 1866.

Letters, maps, photos, and other nuggets of information, including reports about Jack the Ripper, the Kray twins, the Poplar Rate Strikers and the Battle of Cable Street, are all held there.

These reflect the rich and treasured multicultural memories of Tower Hamlets.

By putting cash before history, Tower Hamlets council officers, already notorious for bulldozing Victorian buildings, are once again demonstrating a disregard for our heritage.

As we have previously reported, all but two of the council’s 11-strong senior management team actually live in the borough.

It means, they are highly unlikely to have a true feel for our area’s amazing heritage.

We call on our elected politicians, like Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds, who has consistently supported Bancroft and now backs our campaign, to show them the way.

Cllr Golds said: “I am appalled at any suggestion of breaking up the Tower Hamlets archives, regarded as second only to those held by Westminster which employs 14 full time staff to maintain them.

“The essence of this amazing collection is that it is all available on a single site and available for anyone to research and study.

“Instead of being at the heart of our borough it will be broken up scattered to the edges.

“It will be a public scandal to see this collection split into two.”

A spokeswoman for Queen Mary College said: “We are in early stage discussions with Tower Hamlets council about the acquisition of the Bancroft Road Library.

“Were this to go ahead, Queen Mary would refurbish the building to the highest standard—as we have with other architectural gems in Tower Hamlets such as the library of the People’s Palace.

“We are also in discussion with the Wiener Library about relocating to Bancroft Road, thereby significantly enhancing the area and Tower Hamlets as a whole.”

Tower Hamlets council was unable to comment.


Join our campaign to protect the East End’s archives and Save our History.’

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