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Researching African-Caribbean presence in Tower Hamlets

Harry & Ray depositing THACMHO's Archive

African & Caribbean Collections

London’s East End has been home to people of African and Caribbean origin since at least the 16th century. Their presence reflects Britain’s imperial past, maritime history and the slave trade.

Click on our guide to explore material on African and Caribbean presence in Tower Hamlets.

We collect items on under-represented themes and communities. You are welcome to contact us to discuss depositing material.

Explore entries in Switching the Lens: Black and Asian presence in parish registers. This dataset includes entries from 16th century onward from across London. The project includes Tower Hamlets Church of England parish registers at London Metropolitan Archives.

BHM Leaflet

Tower hamlets African Caribbean Mental Health Organisation (THACMHO)

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Reference Number S/THM


25 years of service in the community

Since 1996, Tower Hamlets African and Caribbean Mental Health Organisation (THACMHO) has been a key voluntary organisation in:

- promoting the well-being of African and Caribbean users of mental health services living in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets
- making the life of their communities a more fulfilling and rewarding experience.
- developing positive self-awareness and identity.


In 1996 community worker Harry Cumberbatch was tasked to carry out a consultation to assess mental health support needs of African and Caribbean people living in Tower Hamlets. An 'African / Caribbean Conference and Consultation' took place in November 1996. Despite general improvements brought by The 1990 Community Care Act It was agreed that mental health services were failing African Caribbean people because they were not set up with other cultures in mind.

The event led to the formation of the Tower Hamlets African Caribbean Mental Health Users Group. The Group continued to carry out the recommendations. They also petitioned for a mental health centre in Tower Hamlets supported by MP Oona King in 1997. The centre did not arise but an appeal was successfully made to the council to have an annual celebration of Black History Month in the borough. In 1999 Tower Hamlets Council funded its first Black History Month Programme

In 2000 the Group became an independently constituted organisation known as THACMHO. The organisation lobbied for a better quality of care for African and Caribbean mental health users. THACMHO has been led by users of mental health services, supported by a development worker.

Health Through History

The organisation began a ‘Health through History’ programme encouraging users of the mental health service to contribute and learn from historical research of the African and Caribbean community in Tower Hamlets. This was led by Harry Cumberbatch, and later group member Sidney Millin. Philip I Morgan was a key member of the Black History Committee. Their work has continued as part of the Philip Morgan Legacy Group.

The Group have produced publication resources with a focus on Tower Hamlets maritime history and the slave trade. These include:

- 'Power Writers and the Struggle Against Slavery', 2003 and 2005 which celebrates African writers who came to the East End of London in the 18th Century;
- 'Sailors of the Caribbean, 2005;
- 'African History at the Tower of London', 2008.

‘This publication is also part of a ‘Health Through History’ project which enables African and Caribbean people with mental health support needs to be pivotal in this project. This initiative enhances their own self-esteem and feeling of wellbeing through their work to improve all communities’ understanding of the contribution that African people have made to society. We hope you enjoy reading ‘Power Writers’ and that it encourages and inspires you towards further studies.

Sidney Millin Chairperson, THACMHO’

African Caribbean archives

The group has been involved in multiple Black History Month projects and community engagement activities. THACMHO has significantly helped develop the collections of the African and Caribbean community in partnership with Tower Hamlets Local history Library and Archives. THACMHO deposited their archives with THLHLA in May 2022. A big thank you to Harry for depositing the collection and Raymond for volunteering his time to help sort and make the archive available to researchers.

Quote from THLHLA 😊

The THACMHO archives are the first major Black African Caribbean collection deposited at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. The records consist of minutes, reports, correspondence, publications and other records charting mental health provision and the history of Black presence in the East End.

They represent a legacy of 25 years’ contribution and are an exemplar to encourage other organisations and people to look after their own collections – whether at home or office or deposited in places for public research like us at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives.

Richard Wiltshire, Archives Manager


Researching African-Carribbean presence in Tower Hamlets