Bancroft Library officially re-opens but must find �5m for further works

THE BANCROFT Library, a treasure trove for history buffs which the East London Advertiser campaigned to save, was officially reopened on Monday.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman joined staff and campaigners to celebrate improvement works done on the Grade-II listed building in Bancroft Road, officially known as Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives.

The library which houses around 20,000 books and pamphlets on East End history had been closed since last October to allow for health and safety works funded by �255,000 of council money.

It was threatened with closure in 2008 until a Save the Bancroft campaign, backed by this paper, triggered opposition.

Mr Rahman said: “I am thrilled that this magnificent building has been saved and the council has pledged money to support its restoration so current and future generations can make use if it.”

Stan Newens, chair of the Bancroft Steering Group, said: “I hope that the archive will provide a tremendous opportunity for young people.”

A disabled ramp and toilet and new fire alarm systems have been added to the building and fire escapes have been upgraded.

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Its reading room has also been made fit for public use after growing full of clutter since 1965 according to Tamsin Bookey, the council’s heritage manager.

She said: “People are stunned when they go into it.

“I’m here 40 hours a week and I’m taken aback.

“It hasn’t lost its character but we’ve made room for people.”

Ms Bookey said the library still needs to find �5 million of funding to complete its works, which include building a new strong room for archived documents.

The council has promised �500,000 as part of an agreement to re-develop the ex-Peugeot site on Mile End Road which will go on improvements to the roof.

Library officers are also preparing a bid for funding to go to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Councillors queried what had happened to �350,000 of funding relating to a Bethnal Green Road development at a council meeting last October.

But Judith St. John, the head of Idea Stores, said she wasn’t aware of this having been allocated to Bancroft.

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