Schools and education in Tower Hamlets
We hold many sources on the history of local education. There are more records after 1870 when formal education of children became compulsory.
Often researchers want to trace records of schools. They can be
- former school pupils who need to provide proof of their attendance or educational record
- family historians
- teachers and their students wish to find out about the history of their own school
This guide provides
- a background to local authority-provided education
- a list of the schools whose records we hold
- advice to former pupils, family historians and other researchers
- information on key sources held elsewhere.
Before 1870 there was no compulsory schooling. Most education was given by charitable and religious bodies. They focused on literacy, numeracy and religious instruction. Examples include
- National Schools linked with the Church of England
- endowed establishments funded through bequests made by individuals.
The Public Elementary Education Act 1870 led to universal schooling. The Act enabled for the building of new schools in Tower Hamlets. A new pan-London local education authority managed education. This body evolved and changed names during the 20th century:
- School Board for London (SBL) 1870-1904: created by the Public Elementary Education Act 1870. SBL left a lasting legacy in its school buildings. You can explore these across Tower Hamlets and other inner London Boroughs.
- London County Council (LCC) 1904-1965: the LCC took over the SBL in 1904. The LCC’s Education Committee oversaw the work of the Education Officer and Education Department. They introduced nurseries, special schools, evening classes and polytechnics.
- Inner London Education Authority 1965-1990: on 1 April 1965, the Greater London Council took over from the LCC. Education in inner London came under the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA).
- London Borough of Tower Hamlets (from 1990): education transferred from the ILEA to the inner London Boroughs. Tower Hamlets Council runs local schools and related services today.
The main sources include property and planning files including plans to school sites. Key series are:
- Town Planning files from the Borough Engineer and Surveyor and successors. This large series includes new sites for education and changes to existing school buildings, ref: L/THL/D/1/1
- Building Control files
- Evidences of title and other deeds to former London County Council and Greater London Council properties. These were later held by Tower Hamlets’ Legal Section, ref: T/THL/J/1/1. For example, deeds for Wood Close School, Bethnal Green, 1847-1903 ref: L/THL/J/1/1/15
Also held are records of local libraries which play a major role in education. These include Bow Library (ref: SMS/H) and Whitechapel Library (ref: L/THL/H/2)
The records can searched on our online catalogue.
You can research archives of associations, youth clubs, institutes and settlements. They include
The records can searched on our online catalogue.
- Brady Club, a Jewish youth organisation,1924-1981, ref: S/BRA
- Cambridge and Bethnal Green Boys Club later known as New Cambridge Boys' Club, 1936-1987, ref: S/NCB
- Dockland Settlement No. 2, Isle of Dogs. Learning for young people included holidays, camps and sports, 1924-1969, ref: I/DST
- East London Schools Sports Association, minutes, 1950-1977, ref: S/ELS
- Highway Clubs (Incorporated), records 1886-1986, ref: S/HWC
- National Union of Teachers: East London Teachers Association, 1902-1971: minutes, registers and printed material, ref: S/ELT
- Oxford House Settlement, Bethnal Green. Founded in 1884 by Keble College, Oxford to house former college pupils and tutors. They aimed to learn about ‘the real condition of the labouring classes’ in East London. 1886-1984, including records of clubs and associations, ref: I/OXF
- St Katharine and Shadwell Trust, records on education and training, 1990-2013, ref: I/SKS
- St Margaret's House, Bethnal Green. A settlement running clubs and other activities. 1872-1988, ref: I/SMH
- Scout Association: Poplar Branch, minutes, 1945-1959, ref: S/MIS/5
- Sunday School Union: East London Auxiliary, 1895-1996: minutes, reports, statistics, finance, photographs and printed material, ref: S/ELA
- Tower Hamlets Institute of Adult Education, 1898-1991: including records of predecessors Bethnal Green Adult Education Institute; Bethnal Green Men's Institute; Lansbury Adult Education Institute, Bow; and Olga Street Women's Institute, Bow; ref: I/THI
- Papers of individuals including:
- Peter Aylmer, teacher and representative on the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), ref: P/AYL;
- Reverend Dan Greatorex, Vicar of St. Paul, Dock Street, Whitechapel and manager of St. Paul's School. Diaries, 1852-1892, ref: P/GXT;
- Edith Ramsay (1895-1983), educationalist and community worker, especially on adult education, ref: P/RAM;
- Research and photographs of Bradley Snooks relating to the history of Bow, 1980s-2000. Includes local Bow schools and other places of education, ref: P/SNO
Research sources on the history of education in Tower Hamlets and London in our Local History Library. Most material is under subject code 800. Themes include
- teachers’ associations
- parents’ unions and strikes
- exhibitions and festivals
- art and technical schools
- evening and commercial institutes
- further education
- special schools and centres
- play centres
- school sports.
Highlights from our Local History Library collection include:
- Published histories on schools and places for higher education. These include Queen Mary University of London and its predecessors.
- Serial publications including school magazines, newsletters, and annual reports.
- School journey books. These describe trips outside the borough. They are often written by the children themselves. There are also accounts of school evacuations during the Second World War. Wartime life can also be explore in school archives such as Parmiter's School (collection reference: I/PAR).
- Photographs illustrating school life, including class photographs and school buildings
- Newspaper cuttings and ephemera
- Directories help trace schools and other educational centres. These include those issued by the LCC, ILEA and Tower Hamlets Council. Maps show the locations of schools in Tower Hamlets. For example the LCC’s 1947 London School Plan, ref: LCM2673.
LMA holds important archives of local authority schools in Tower Hamlets.
Management records cover the period 1870-1990. Minutes, plans and policy files are in the archives of the following
- Boards of Guardians for the Poor of London and Middlesex
- School Board for London (SBL)
- London County Council (LCC)
- Middlesex County Council (MCC)
- Inner London Education Authority (ILEA).
During this period, schools were issued registers and log books by the local authority. Completed volumes were sometimes returned. These are at LMA, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05. Tower Hamlets came under Educational Divisional Area 5. This included schools in Bethnal Green, City of London, Poplar and Stepney. LMA also has useful guidance, The Evacuation of Children from the County of London During the Second World War under Research Guide 32.
LMA also has archives of key East End educational organisations. These include
- Beaumont Institution and People’s Palace, Mile End. This was a public hall ‘for the recreation, amusement and education of the people of the East End of London’, ref: A/BPP
- Toynbee Hall which still operates today in Commercial Street, refs: A/TOY and ACC/2486
Explore their research guide LMA Information leaflet 27: An outline of sources for the history of education in London Metropolitan Archives for further details.
Some school archives include admission and discharge registers, log books and staff registers. These help trace pupils and staff and their school lives. This section outlines useful school records and how you can access them.
- Admission and discharge registers give a pupil’s birth and admission year. They can also provide
- parents’ names
- father’s occupation
- previous schools attended
- examination results
- remarks on absences and reasons for leaving. These can include health reasons, death, moving away or transfer elsewhere.
- Log books are diaries kept by staff noting events or incidents as well as the general running of the school. They can include
- subjects taught and class plans
- attendance summaries
- school closures due to epidemic diseases
- staff appointments and lists
- results of school inspections
- achievements of named pupils
- newly admitted and discharged pupils
- events such as visits and attendance at the school’s place of worship.
Explore digital copies of some volumes dating before 1914 on FindMyPast. These are part of The National School Admission Registers and Log-books 1870–1914 dataset. Digitised volumes are highlighted in the list of schools on this page.
Access to records about living pupils and staff is subject to data protection regulations. Restrictions are highlighted in our catalogue.
The Data Protection Act gives all school students, regardless of age, the right of access to their own school pupil records. If you find that records you are looking for are restricted you can make a Subject Access Request.
Advice for former pupils
Records for an individual pupil can be kept by the school for a short time only.
If you are looking for your attendance and/or your education record, where possible contact the school you attended to see what records they still have.
Access to your own records is subject to the Data Protection Act. Some schools may have deposited their historical records with us. Sometimes these include more recent records for pupils but most date before the 1970s.
Before making a Subject Access Request, check if school records are held by us for the school and for the period you require. If you are looking for someone else’s school records, follow guidance for family historians or researchers.
If you are looking for school examination results, these records are not held by us.
Results are held by the individual examination board. You would need to know which examination board you took your exams with and seek advice from them.
Schools may be able to help you and identify which examination boards were used.
Advice for family historians or researchers
Explore our list of historical records for schools in Tower Hamlets. Not all schools have deposited their records. In some cases the school records do not survive.
To comply with the Data Protection Act, there is some important guidance to follow if you wish to consult someone else’s personal information in school records.
Entries dating over 100 years can be viewed without restriction.
If the individual is less than one hundred years old you would need to provide proof that that person is now deceased, and to supply a death certificate for them.
If you require seeing the personal information for an individual who is still alive, then you would need to apply to the Data Protection Officer for permission. You can submit a request online.
Advice for teachers and their students on school history projects
Explore our online catalogue for descriptions to items relevant to your research. We are happy to help you plan your project. Visit our outreach and education page for further details. We welcome enquiries around keeping and depositing school records. Read our deposit advice for further information.
Alphabetical list of school archives
Explore the following list of schools whose archives we hold. These are mainly catalogued within our collections under reference: I/.
The records can searched on our online catalogue.
The school name I am searching for is not listed
- Explore alternative printed and image sources in our Local History Library
- Further school records are at London Metropolitan Archives
- Other records remain with the schools or their successors. Some material may not have survived.
|Abbey Street Schools||
See Good Shepherd Mission, Bethnal Green
|Bishopsgate Infant School||see Central Foundation Girls’ School|
|Bishopsgate Ward Schools||see Central Foundation Girls’ School|
|Ben Jonson Primary School, Mile End||1945-1978: including admission registers and log books, ref: I/BJP. Further records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Bonner Primary School, Bethnal Green||1876-1969: admission and attendance registers, log books and punishment book, ref: I/BON. Records 1876-1913 (I/BON/1/1-4) on www.findmypast.co.uk. Further log book 1878-1880 held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Bonner Street Schools, Bethnal Green||see Bonner Primary School|
|Bowbrook Girls’ School||1876-1975: includes admission registers and log books including predecessors, ref: I/CFS/C. Bowbrook merged with the Central Foundation School for Girls|
|Bow County Secondary School for Girls||see Bowbrook Girls School. Further records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Bromley Hall School||Records, uncatalogued ref: TH/9050. Not currently available for consultation|
|Byron Street School||Benevolent Association, Poplar, 1882-1888: Association minutes only, ref: S/MIS/3|
|Central Foundation Girls’ School, Spitalfields||1800-1987: includes attendance registers, log books and examination records and staff records, ref: I/CFS/A. Includes records of predecessors. Pupil registers for Bishopsgate Ward Schools refs: I/CFS/A/2/3/1-6 and St Ethelburga Society Schools refs: I/CFS/B/2/1/1-2 on www.findmypast.co.uk|
|City and Spitalfields School of Art, Spitalfields||1850-1882, ref I/CFS/D|
|Cranbrook County Secondary School, Bethnal Green||see Bowbrook Girls School|
|Cranbrook Terrace Schools, Bethnal Green||See Bowbrook Girls School. Further records held at London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Cranbrook Road Infants School, Bethnal Green||1921-1939: admission register only, ref: I/BON/1/9. See also Bonner Primary School. Further records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Culloden Street School||Photocopies only of original log books 1940-1946 held by school, Local History Library ref: L7888 (820.2 CUL)|
|Davenant Foundation Grammar School, Whitechapel||Not held at THLHLA. Records held at London Metropolitan Archives, collection refs: A/DAV and LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Elizabeth Barrett Browning Secondary School||Mile End, 1948-1959, 1968: admission register only, ref: I/MIS/3|
|Fairfield Road Schools||See Bowbrook Girls School. Further records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|George Green's School, Poplar||1883-1976: includes admission registers and staff registers, ref: I/GGS. Records 1898-1914 refs: I/GGS/1/1/1 and I/GGS/1/2/1 on www.findmypast.co.uk. For papers of Henry C. Wilks (1917-1992), Head of Geography, see ref: P/WIL|
|George Yard Mission / Ragged Schools, Whitechapel||See Good Shepherd Mission, Bethnal Green|
|Gill Street School, Limehouse||Photograph album only, uncatalogued ref: TH/9607. Not currently available for consultation. Further records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Good Shepherd Mission, Bethnal Green||1850-1977: including records of the George Yard Ragged Schools, Whitechapel, and the King Edward Institute, Spitalfields, ref: W/GSM|
|Good Shepherd School Roman Catholic Infants School, Stepney||1914-1939: log book and admission register only, refs: I/GUA/1/3/2 and I/GUA/2/2/1. See Guardian Angels Roman Catholic School|
|Green Coat School, Stepney||See Hamlet of Ratcliff School|
|Guardian Angels Roman Catholic School, Mile End||1874-2000: includes log books and admission registers, ref: I/GUA|
|Hamlet of Ratcliff School, Stepney||1710-1970: including logbooks and registers, ref: I/HRS. Records ref: I/HRS/8/1 on www.findmypast.co.uk. Also held are records of Ratcliff Charity Trust / Ratcliff Educational Foundation Trust, 1730-1954 including 133 apprenticeship indentures for children apprenticed, 1730-1850, uncatalogued ref: TH/8988. Not currently available for consultation.|
|Harry Gosling Infants School, Whitechapel||1972-1997: photograph album only, ref: P/MIS/482|
|Harry Roberts Nursery School, Stepney||1971-1996: including pupil attendance registers, ref: I/HRN|
|Jews’ Free School, Stepney||Not held at THLHLA. Records are held at London Metropolitan Archives ref: LMA/4046|
|John Bartlett Primary School, Bow||See Olga Primary School|
|Johnson Street School, Mile End||See Ben Jonson Primary School|
|King Edward Institute, Spitalfields||See Good Shepherd Mission, Bethnal Green|
|King Edward Ragged and Industrial Schools, Spitalfields||See Good Shepherd Mission, Bethnal Green|
|Malmesbury Junior School||Records, uncatalogued ref: TH/8966. Not currently available for consultation Please note not to be confused with Malmesbury Road School, Bow records are held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Middlesex Society Charity School, Stepney||1806-1819: minutes only, ref I/MSS. Merged with Raine's Schools (in this listing)|
|Mile End Old Town Charity School||1771-1809: minute books only, ref: I/MEO|
|Morpeth School, Bethnal Green||1922-1996: includes log book, admission registers, record cards and staff records, ref: I/MOR|
|Olga Primary School, Bow||1875-1982: log book and punishment books, ref: I/OLG. Further records held at London Metropolitan Archives, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Olga Street Board School, Bow||See Olga Primary School|
|Parmiter's Foundation School, Bethnal Green||1890-1972: includes fee book, pupils' records and monitors minute book, ref: I/PAR.Many Local History Library printed sources. Main records held at London Metropolitan Archives, ref ACC/1844|
|Poplar and Blackwall Free School Trust Fund||1881-1894: fund minutes only, ref: I/MIS/2|
|Poplar and Blackwall National School, Poplar||1804-1880: minutes only, ref: I/PBN|
|Poplar Methodist Church Sunday School||1891-1982: including attendance register, ref W/PMC/3/2/1|
|Portman Place Primary School, Bethnal Green||Includes pupil memories kept by Morpeth School Librarian, ref: I/MOR/4/1. See Morpeth School, Bethnal Green. Further records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Raine's Foundation Schools, Stepney||Records of Old Raineians Association only, 1910-1994: includes reunions and school papers, ref: S/ORA. Main school records held by London Metropolitan Archives ref: ACC/1811|
|Ratcliff School, Stepney||See Hamlet of Ratcliff School|
|Red Coat School, Mile End Old Town||See Stepney Red Coat School, Stepney|
|Red Coat School, Stepney||See Stepney Red Coat School; see also Mile End Old Town Charity School|
|Roman Road Schools||See Bowbrook Girls School. Further records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|St Anne's Roman Catholic Boys' School, Buxton Street, Spitalfields||1886-1946: admission registers only, ref: I/STB/1. Records refs: I/STB/1/1/2-3 on www.findmypast.co.uk|
|St Anne's Secondary School, Wood Close, Bethnal Green||See Wood Close School|
|St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Secondary School, Stepney (from 1929) Bethnal Green (from before 1964)||1886-1965: registers and log book only, includes records of predecessors, ref: I/STB|
|St Ethelburga Society Schools, Bishopsgate||1802-1874: includes registers, ref: I/CFS/B. Some records on www.findmypast.co.uk. Predecessor of Central Foundation Girls’ School, see above|
|St George in the East Secondary School||1946-1965: papers of Judith Parris, teacher including photographs, ref: P/PAR.|
|St George's Lutheran German School, Little Alie Street, Aldgate||1806-1930, series ref: W/SGG/A/6. Registers refs: W/SGG/A/6/6/2 and 5 on www.findmypast.co.uk|
|St Gregory the Great Secondary School, Bethnal Green||See Wood Close School|
|St John Church of England Primary School||Records, uncatalogued ref: TH/9678. Not currently available for consultation.|
|St Mary and St Michael's Junior Mixed [Roman Catholic] School||1933-1975: log book only, ref: I/MIS/7|
|St Matthew's National School, Bethnal Green||1852-1879, ref: I/SMN|
|St Matthias Church of England School, Poplar||1875-1983, ref: I/SMC. Further records including log books held at London Metropolitan Archives, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|St Patrick's in the East (Boys' and Girls’ Catholic School)||See St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Primary School|
|St Patrick's Roman Catholic Primary School, Wapping||1872-2010, including log books. Ref: I/STP|
|St Paul Parochial School, Shadwell||1892-1956, Educational Charity Trustees account book naming pupils only, ref: I/SPS|
|St Saviour School, Poplar||1965-1971: governors’ papers only, ref: I/MIS/1. Further records including log books held at London Metropolitan Archives, ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Southern Grove School, Mile End||See Elizabeth Barrett Browning Secondary School. South Grove School records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Spitalfields School of Design, Spitalfields||See City and Spitalfields School of Art|
|Stepney Greencoat School, Stepney||
See Hamlet of Ratcliff School
|Stepney Jewish School||Not held at THLHLA. Records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|
|Stepney Parish Church Day Schools||See Mile End Old Town Charity School|
|Stepney Redcoat School, Stepney||1912-1927: Infants Department admission register only, ref: I/HRS/13/1. See Hamlet of Ratcliff School; see also Mile End Old Town Charity School|
|Wapping Charity School||Transcripts only, uncatalogued TH/8302. Not currently available for consultation.|
|Wood Close School, Bethnal Green||1920-1964: admission registers only including associated schools, ref: I/STB/2. Further records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05.|
|Wrights Road Schools||See Bowbrook Girls School. Further records held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, series ref: LCC/EO/DIV05|