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Tower Hamlets


Tower Hamlets

"Tower Hamlets" redirects here. For other uses, see Tower Hamlets (disambiguation).
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
London borough
Official logo of London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Council logo
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region London
Ceremonial county Greater London
Status London borough
Admin HQ Clove Crescent, Blackwall
Incorporated 1 April 1965
 • Type London borough council
 • Body Tower Hamlets London Borough Council
 • Leadership Mayor & Cabinet (Independent)
 • Executive mayor Lutfur Rahman
 • MPs Rushanara Ali
Jim Fitzpatrick
 • London Assembly John Biggs AM for City and East
 • EU Parliament London
 • Total 7.63 sq mi (19.77 km2)
Area rank 320th (of 326)
Population (2011 est.)
 • Total 256,000
 • Rank 52nd (of 326)
 • Density 34,000/sq mi (13,000/km2)
 • Ethnicity[1] 46.9% White British
1.4% White Irish
8.0% Other White
0.8% White & Black Caribbean
0.4% White & Black African
0.9% White & Asian
0.7% Other Mixed
3.3% Indian
1.5% Pakistani
22.1% Bangladeshi
4.5% Other Asian
2.3% Black Caribbean
3.6% Black African
0.5% Other Black
1.6% Chinese
1.5% Other
Time zone GMT (UTC0)
 • Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Postcodes E
Police force Metropolitan Police

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets (Tower Hamlets London Borough Council.



For the 2010 general election, the borough was split into two constituencies:

The borough is a part of the London constituency for election to the European Parliament. Labour has dominated national and local elections in Tower Hamlets, although other left-wing parties have won seats including Communists and more recently the Respect Unity coalition. The British National Party won its first and only council seat in 1993, when Derek Beackon was elected as a Millwall councillor.[3]

London Assembly

The borough lies within the City and East constituency, one of fourteen constituencies which make up the London Assembly, and is represented by John Biggs of the Labour Party.

London Borough Council

In May 2010 a referendum was held to decide whether to create a directly elected executive Mayor for the Borough. Following a campaign, the referendum was won. At the ensuing election in October 2010, Lutfur Rahman was elected Mayor as an independent candidate, becoming the UK's first executive mayor.[4] Rahman had been selected as the Labour candidate for Mayor, and was a former Leader of the Council. However allegations were made against him and his supporters, and he was suspended from the Labour Party before nominations closed.[5]

At the May 2010 election, the composition of the Council was 41 Labour, 8 Conservative, 1 Respect and 1 Liberal Democrat councillor. Since then Respect gained a seat from Labour at a by-election, and in three separate groups a total of 8 Labour Councillors and one Conservative defected to Lutfur Rahman's independent group.

This shifting of political allegiances is normal for Tower Hamlets. Between the 2006 and 2010 elections five Respect councillors defected to Labour; one Respect and one Labour councillor defected to the Conservatives; one Liberal Democrat defected to Labour; and one Labour councillor was gained through a by-election at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.[6]

In July 2013, the Tower Hamlets (Electoral Changes) Order 2013 was passed,[7] reducing the size of the London Borough and creating new electoral wards made of single, two- and 3-member divisions.


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 Lea forms the boundary with the London Borough of Newham in the east. On the other side of the Thames is also borders The London Borough of Southwark to the southwest, The London Borough of Lewisham to the South, and The Royal Borough of Greenwich to the southeast. The River Lea 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;[8] 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 Lea 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.

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

Areas within the borough

Areas included in the borough:


Main article: East End of London
Tower Hamlets forms the main area of the East End of London. More detailed local histories may 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 ancient 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,[9] 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 made it up.[10] These problems were exacerbated with the construction of St Katharine Docks (1827)[11] 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.[12]

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 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.[13] They were followed by Irish weavers,[14] Ashkenazi Jews[15] and, in the 20th century, Bangladeshis.[16] 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.[12] 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.[17] 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[18] mean that the East End is undergoing further change, but some of its districts continue to contain some of the worst poverty in Britain.[19]

Media reports in the 2000s and 2010s suggested that the area was becoming Islamised, and that residents were threatened for behaviour not in accordance with what The Daily Telegraph called "fundamentalist Islamic norms". The Telegraph reported in 2011 that since 2007/2008 there had been an 80 percent increase in homophobic crimes in the area,[20] while The Guardian said there had been a 33 percent increase in homophobic incidents between April 2009 – March 2010 and April 2010 – March 2011.[21] Delwar Hussain, writing in The Guardian, suggests that the perpetrators of such crimes are usually Bangladeshi, a group that faced hostility and violence when they first settled in the area.[22] In February 2011 stickers appeared in the area with the message: "Arise and warn. Gay free zone. Verily Allah is severe in punishment."[23] A man was fined for a public order offence in relation to the stickers in June 2011.[24] In 2007 the Centre for Social Cohesion issued a report saying that libraries in the area contained a large amount of extremist Islamist literature.[25] In 2008 councillors were asked by the council's head of democratic services to observe the Ramadan fast during meetings, a request that angered several of the councillors.[26] In early 2013, there were a number of incidents involving a group of Muslim men, dubbed the Muslim Patrol, who tried to enforce Sharia law on members of the public.[27]

Local landmarks

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 is the second tallest in London. Nearby are the HSBC Tower, Citigroup Centres and One Churchill Place, headquarters of Barclays Bank. Within the same complex are the Heron Quays offices.


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 London (Greenwich)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.0
Average high °C (°F) 8.3
Average low °C (°F) 2.6
Record low °C (°F) −10.0
Precipitation mm (inches) 51.6
Avg. rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 10.8 8.5 9.6 9.4 9.0 8.3 8.0 7.6 8.5 10.7 10.1 9.9 110.4
Avg. snowy days 4 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 16
 % humidity 91 89 91 90 92 92 93 95 96 95 93 91 92.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 49.9 71.4 107.1 159.8 181.2 181.0 192.1 195.1 138.9 108.1 58.5 37.4 1,480.5
Source #1: Record highs and lows from BBC Weather,[28] except August and February maximum from Met Office[29][30]
Source #2: All other data from Met Office,[31] except for humidity and snow data which are from NOAA[32]


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 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 through to the 1960s, as they moved away eastwards to newer suburbs of London in Essex.

The metropolitan boroughs suffered very badly during World War II, during which considerable numbers of houses were destroyed or damaged beyond use due to heavy arial bombing. 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.[34]

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. Also contributing was new immigration from Asia beginning in the 1970s. According to the 2001 census the population of the borough is approximately 196,106. According to the ONS estimate, the population is 237,900, as of 2010.[35]

Population since 1801 - Source: A Vision of Britain through Time[36]
Year 1801 1851 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Population Tower Hamlets 130,871 330,548 578,143 571,438 529,114 489,956 337,774 232,860 195,833 164,699 139,989 167,985 196,121 254,096

Crime in the borough increased by 3.5 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to figures from the Metropolitan Police,[37] having decreased by 24 percent between 2003/2004 and 2007/2008.[38]


Tower Hamlets has one of the smallest indigenous populations of the boroughs of Britain. The majority of the residents in the borough are of White ethnicity, with a large Asian community, Bangladeshis (32%) are the largest ethnic minority in the borough.[39] Somalis represent the second largest minority ethnic group.[40] There are also a number of Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and Black African/Caribbean residents.[40][41]

Tower Hamlets: Ethnicity: Office for National Statistics 2011 Census[42]
Tower Hamlets % London % England %
White 45.2 59.8 85.4
Mixed 4.1 5.0 2.3
Asian or Asian British 41.1 18.5 7.8
Black or Black British 7.3 13.3 3.5
Other Ethnic Group 2.3 3.4 1.0


The main religions practised in the borough are Islam and Christianity.[43] There are 21 active churches in Tower Hamlets affiliated with the Church of England, which include Christ Church of Spitalfields, St Paul's Church of Shadwell and St Dunstan's of Stepney[44] and also churches of many other Christian denominations. There are around 40 mosques, including Islamic centres. The largest are the East London Mosque, the Brick Lane Mosque and the Markazi Masjid.[45] Other notable religious buildings include the Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue, the Congregation of Jacob Synagogue, the London Buddhist Centre, the Hindu Pragati Sangha Temple, and the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat.

Religion Tower Hamlets
Islam 34.5 5.0
Christianity 27.1 59.4
Hinduism 1.7 1.5
Buddhism 1.1 0.5
Judaism 0.5 0.5
Sikhism 0.3 0.8
Other 0.3 0.4
No religion 19.2 24.7
Religion not stated 15.4 7.2

Economic profile

The borough is one of the most deprived in the country, although there are small pockets of wealthy areas. Levels of unemployment are high.

HSBC has its head office in 8 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets. Barclays has its head office in One Churchill Place, Canary Wharf.[46]

According to Ellie Rose of EastLondonLines, the area is notorious for deprivation, joblessness, and child poverty. To improve it, several associations were created like Poplar HARCA, Acknowledging Youths...[47] The borough has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country; in 2010 57 percent of children were living in poverty, as defined by the Campaign to End Child Poverty in their review covering England, compared to a figure of 46 percent in the London Borough of Islington, which had the second highest rate.[48] A similar study, covering the whole of the UK, by Save the Children gave a figure of 27 percent, which was joint highest with Manchester.[49]


The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is the local education authority for state schools within the borough.[50] As of January 2008 there are 19,890 primary-school pupils and 15,262 secondary-school pupils attending state schools in Tower Hamlets.[51] Independent-school pupils account for 2.4 percent of schoolchildren in the borough.[52] In 2010 51.8 percent of pupils achieved 5 A*–C GCSEs including Mathematics and English—the highest results in the borough's history—compared to the national average of 53.4 percent.[53] Seventy-four percent achieved 5 A*–C GCSEs for all subjects (the same as the English average);[54] the figure in 1997 was 26 percent.[55] The percentage of pupils on free school meals in the borough is the highest in England and Wales.[56] In 2007 the council rejected proposals to build a Goldman Sachs-sponsored academy.[57]

Schools in the borough have high levels of racial segregation. The Times reported in 2006 that 47 percent of secondary schools were exclusively non-white, and that 33 percent had a white majority.[58] About 60 percent of pupils entering primary and secondary school are Bangladeshi.[59] The percentage of primary-school pupils who speak English as a second language is 78.[60]

The council runs several Idea Stores in the borough, which combine traditional library services with other resources, and are designed to attract more diverse members. The flagship Whitechapel store was designed by David Adjaye[61] and cost £16 million to build.[62]

Further education colleges



  • Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets helps residents find volunteering work and provides support to organisations involving volunteers.[63]

Sports and leisure

Mile End Stadium within Mile End Park hosts an athletics stadium and facilities for football and basketball. Two football clubs, Bethnal Green United F.C. and Sporting Bengal United F.C., are based there. The borough also has its own football club named Tower Hamlets FC, formed in 2009.[64]

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 was opened in the building's renovated Turkish baths.[65]

The unusual Green Bridge, opened in 2000, links sections of Mile End Park that would otherwise be divided by Mile End Road. The bridge contains gardens, water features and trees around the path.[66]

The Olympics

Tower Hamlets was one of five host boroughs for the 2012 Summer Olympics;[67] the Olympic Park was constructed in the Lea Valley. A small part of the Olympic Park is in Bow, a district of the borough, this makes the borough a host borough. The energy centre (King's Yard Energy Centre) of the Olympic Park is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, it gives energy to all the venues but no venues reside in Tower Hamlets. The world square and the London 2012 mega-store is also in the borough. The world square is for spectators, who can buy food or drink; the world's biggest McDonalds is in the world square in Tower Hamlets. The London 2012 mega-store provides official gifts and souvenirs. High street 2012, which is the main road to the Olympic park from west and central London, combines Whitechapel Road, Mile End Road and Bow Road. A large number of Tower Hamlets' residents have had the opportunity to become Olympic volunteers, coming second after neighbouring borough Newham. Victoria Park, in Tower Hamlets, is an important part of the Olympics because spectators without tickets can watch the games on big screens (London live 2012); another advantage is that the park is less than a mile away from the Olympic park. The main spectator cycle park is located in Victoria park. One of the entrances to the Olympic park is in Tower Hamlets, it is called the Victoria gate. A few schools in Tower Hamlets have taken part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic games as well as all the other host boroughs. Danny Boyle, the artistic director of the London 2012 opening ceremony lives in Mile End. The section of the Olympic Park in Tower Hamlets will be named "Sweetwater", one of the 5 new neighbourhoods after the games. Sweetwater will cover Tower Hamlets' part of the Olympic park near Old Ford. The Olympic marathon was planned to run through the borough but later ran through the City and Westminster. However, the "u" turn was located in the borough near The Tower of London.

Parks in Tower Hamlets


The Women's Library in Aldgate is the UK's main library and museum resource on women and the women's movement, especially concentrating on Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries.


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 Hammersmith and City lines share track between Aldgate East and Barking. 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, Night route N8, N15, N26, N35, N55, N550 and N551.

See also


  1. The Daily Telegraph, 22 October 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  2. The Guardian, 12 January 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  3. For highest results, see: Archived 11 July 2011.


  • Dancygier, Rafaela M. (2010). Cambridge University Press.

Further reading

  • Cornwell, Jocelyn (1984). , Tavistock Publications.
  • Hill, Dave. The Guardian, 19 September 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2011.

External links

  • Tower Hamlets Council
  • LBTH Ward data report (2005) Information on Tower Hamlets at the ward level

Coordinates: 51°31′N 0°03′W / 51.517°N 0.050°W / 51.517; -0.050

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