Who do you think you are' shunting Bancroft?—Patsy finds her roots
PUBLISHED: 18:03 20 August 2008 | UPDATED: 13:33 05 October 2010
PLANS to scatter the famous Bancroft Archives out to separate locations across London's East End have been dealt a major blow this week. One of the proposed destinations has refused to take the collection. This has now forced Tower Hamlets to postpone yet again a decision on the controversial sale of the Grade II building—used recently by film and soap star Patsy Kensit to research her East End roots for the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? documentary series
By Julia Gregory and Ted Jeory
PLANS to scatter the famous Bancroft Archives out to separate locations across London’s East End have been dealt a major blow this week.
One of the proposed destinations has refused to take the collection.
This has now forced Tower Hamlets to postpone yet again a decision on the controversial sale of the Grade II-listed building—used recently by film and soap star Patsy Kensit to research her East End roots for the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? documentary series.
The Town Hall had been hoping to shunt part of the history collection to London’s Museum in Docklands, as part of its plan to sell the former Mile End Vestry Hall to neighbouring London University’s Queen Mary college.
But it has now emerged that the Museum of London, which owns the Museum in Docklands in West India Quay, Isle of Dogs, has turned down the offer.
It doesn’t not have the space at West India Quay for the treasure trove of papers, directories, maps and microfilm, say museum bosses.
That means the council has been forced again to delay making a decision on the proposed sale of Bancroft to Queen Mary college for what is believed to be a knock down’ price of £1.2 million.
The council’s cabinet had originally been due to discuss the sale last month. Then it was postponed to September 10.
But that has now been put back by at least a month.
The Museum in Docklands had considered the council’s offer, but declined it.
A museum spokesman explained: “We share most of our resources with the Museum of London, which is undergoing a £20.5m redevelopment due by the spring of 2010.
“It was decided that taking the Tower Hamlets archive from Bancroft Library during this period could overstretch our resources.”
The museum also ruled out taking them after that date.
The decision is a major blow to the council, which said last month “the history library would be opened up to a wider audience benefiting from the international reputation of Museum in Docklands.”
Town Hall officials are now desperately scrambling to find an alternative.
Cllr Rofique Ahmed, the culture member in the council’s cabinet, said other suitable buildings will be considered.
But he pledged: “We do not want the collection to go out of the borough.”
The councillor, whose own ward includes the old Mile End Vestry Hall in Bancroft-road, had visited he archives many times, he says.
Tower Hamlets council—which has spent millions repairing and refitting its own Town Hall and its modern Idea Stores—claims it doesn’t have the cash to refurbish the Bancroft Hall, where the archive services are considered among the best in Britain.
Queen Mary’s history department is believed to be pushing for the acquisition.
It has offered to lease out the ground floor to the prestigious Wiener Library Holocaust archives currently housed in premises near Great Portland-street in London’s West End where the lease is up next July.
Wiener director Ben Barkow said: “Bancroft offers us the opportunity to function entirely on one level.”
However, the Wiener is exploring the possibility of moving to a Birkbeck College building in Russell-square, it has emerged this week, although that idea in mired in planning problems with Camden council.
ROUND-UP IN BRIEF
THE East London Advertiser’s online petition to Prime Minister Gordon Brown to help save the Bancroft Archive has now attracted more than 880 signatures.
That places it in the top 150 of more than 5,500 petitions currently open on the Downing Street website.
Click here for the petition:
A STAGGERING 1,725 people have so far signed East End historian Tom Ridge’s petition calling on Tower Hamlets council to sell the former Poplar Board of Works building to Queen Mary college to use, instead of selling off the Bancroft.
THE National Council on Archives is lobbying politicians at Westminster about the future of the Bancroft Library.
It has already contacted the Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, former Culture Secretary Lord Smith and the MP who founder the South Wales Miners’ Library Dr Hywel Francis. It has appealed to them for their support.
THE Bancroft Archive was recently used by film and soap star Patsy Kensit to research her East End roots for the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? documentary series.
Click here for the petition: