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Special collections

Tower Hamlets Local History Library holds over 1,200 books and pamphlets published before 1900. Many of these can are in our special collections. These consist of rare publications on a range of subjects relating to the history of Tower Hamlets.

Strengths include:

  • Books about London
  • 17th-century sermons by local clergy
  • Acts of Parliament relating to the borough
  • Early English dictionaries
  • Early 19th-century dissenting and evangelical magazines
  • Biographies of local people from the 18th and 19th centuries

Descriptions of items from our special collections are available in online catalogue. There is no specific code for special collections in our catalogue but several highlights are on this page. These can be consulted in our reading room on request. Handling restrictions may apply for fragile items.

Collection highlights

The oldest book in our library was published in 1583. It is an account of the interrogation of Edmund Campion.

A Catholic Jesuit priest who was jailed in the Tower of London for his beliefs and later executed. The book was purchased and held at the People’s Palace on Mile End Road before being moved to our collections. It is called:

  • A true report of the disputation or rather private conference had in the Tower of London, with Ed. Campion, Iesuite ; the last of August, 1581 set downe by the reuerend learned men them selues that dealt therein, whereunto is ioyned also a true report of the other three dayes conferences had there with the same Iesuite, which nowe are thought meete to be published in print by authoritie. 1583. LC8401.

Other highlights

17th century:

  • John Stowe. The survey of London... 1633. L1482.
  • An act for setling the militia within the hamblets of the Tovver of London. 1649. LC15047.
  • An act impowering the respective militia's of London, the hamlets of the Tower, Southwark and Westminster, to raise foot. 1651. LC15107.
  • J.B. A faire in Spittle Fields, where all the knick knacks of astrology are exposed to open sale, to all that will see for their love; and buy for their money... 1652. LC8530.
  • Pierre Jurieu. The last efforts of afflicted innocence : being an account of the persecution of the Protestants of France, and a vindication of the reformed religion from the aspersions of disloyalty and rebellion, charg'd on it by the papists. 1682.
  • The Lady Ivy's trial for great part of Shadwell, in the County of Middlesex, Die Martis 3 Junii, 1684, Ter. Trin' 36 Car. II B.R. before the Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys. 1684. LC13430.

18th century:

  • Jean Claude. A short account of the complaints and cruel persecutions of the Protestants in the Kingdom of France. 1707. L2751.
  • Robert Dodsley. The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green. 1741. LC8566.
  • An historical description of the Tower of London and its curiosities. 1792. LC6150.
  • Patrick Colquhoun. A treatise on the police of the metropolis : containing a detail of the various crimes and misdemeanors by which public and private property and security are, at present, injured and endangered : and suggesting remedies for their prevention. 1796. L2165.
  • Josiah Woodward. The seaman's monitor, or, Advice to sea-faring men, with reference to their behaviour before, in, and after their voyage, with prayers for their use, also an address to the Officers and Seamen in His Majesty's Royal Navy, with a caution to profane swearers and a seasonable admonition against mutiny and piracy. 1799.

19th century:

  • An Act for making wet docks, basons, cuts and other works, for the greater accommodation and security of shipping, commerce and revenue, within the Port of London. 1800. LC13557.
  • W.B. Gurney. Merceron's trials for fraud and corruption. 1818.
  • Robert Cruikshank and George Cruikshank. The Spitalfields weaver, or, Tom Shuttle and Blousalinda : a dolorous ditty. 1821. L2997.
  • Son and Herne Paulim. A catalogue of the materials of Saint Katharine's church, near the tower. 1825. LC5936.
  • E.T. Bennett. The Tower menagerie : comprising the natural history of the animals contained in that establishment : with anecdotes of their characters and history. 1829. L6869.
  • Earl Glengall. The follies of fashion : a comedy in five acts. 1830. L366.
  • The history of the London Burkers : containing a faithful and authentic account of the horrid acts of the noted resurrectionists, Bishop, William, May, &c., and their trial and condemnation at the Old Bailey, for the wilful murder of Carlo Ferrari : with the criminals' confessions after trial including also the life, character, and behaviour of the atrocious Eliza Ross, the murderer of Mrs. Walsh &c.. 1832. L1239.
  • W.S. Browning. A history of the Huguenots. 1840. L2678.
  • George Dodd. Days at the factories, or, The manufacturing industry of Great Britain described, and illustrated by numerous engravings of machines and processes. 1843. L666.
  • The Witch of Wapping, or, An exact and perfect relation of the life and devilish practises of Joan Peterson : that dwelt in Spruce Island, near Wapping; who was condemned for practising witchcraft, and sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn, on Munday the 11th of April, 1652. 1843. L2521.
  • Joseph Salter. The Asiatic in England : sketches of sixteen years' work among Orientals.1873. L2218.
  • John Thomas Smith. Vagabondiana, or, Anecdotes of mendicant wanderers through the streets of London. 1874. LC8550.
  • C. J. Ribton-Turner. A history of vagrants and vagrancy, and beggars and begging. 1887. L2164
  • The link : a journal for the servants of man. No. 1 (4 Feb. 1888)-no. 43 (24 Nov. 1888). L2561.

20th century:

  • E. Sylvia Pankhurst. The suffragette : the history of the women's militant suffrage movement : 1905-1910. 1911. LC14424. Library’s copy signed by the author.
  • The worker's friend [Der Arbayter Fraynd]. 1905-1906. LCP00070.
  • Workers' Suffrage Federation. The woman's dreadnought. 1914-1916. LCP00391 and LCP00392.
  • Isaac Rosenberg. Poems. 1922. LC8600. Library's copy donated and signed by the author's sister Annie Wynick.
  • George Lansbury. The miracle of Fleet Street : the story of the Daily Herald. 1925. LC15111. Library’s copy signed by the author.
  • Michael Banton. The coloured quarter : negro immigrants in an English city. 1955. L2256.