Skip to main content

Sport and social life

The social lives of the people of Tower Hamlets have been rich and varied. Our collections give an insight into the borough’s leisure pursuits, such as:

  • indoor and outdoor sports
  • art
  • gardening
  • music
  • nature
  • photography
  • creative writing, reading and literature
  • food and drink, such as curry houses and pubs

Major sports are recorded in the archives of

  • the council
  • sports teams
  • people who have left their personal papers to our care

The sports played in the borough include:

  • football – the famous Millwall Football Club was founded in the Isle of Dogs
  • boxing – celebrated boxers Jack Greenstock, Kid Berg and Daniel Mendoza lived and boxed in the borough
  • cricket
  • bowling
  • golf
  • athletics

Highlights are

Metropolitan Borough of Stepney. Physical Training and Recreation Committee, minutes 1956–1965 (ref: L/SMB/A/26)

East London Schools’ Sports Association. Formerly the East London Schools’ Athletics Association. Records 1950–1977 (ref: S/ELS). The library also contains annual reports 1955-1978 and related printed records

The Environment Trust. Records 1995–2000 (ref: I/EVT). Includes material relating to Mile End Stadium

Personal papers of the boxer Jack Greenstock (ref: P/GRS), a major figure in boxing history. These include photos, press-cuttings, personal and business letters

Victoria Amateur Cricket Club minute book 1872–1875 (ref: S/MIS/18)

Millwall Football Club: iconic early photos when the club was based in the Isle of Dogs (ref: P26027-P26041)

Larger collections

Files within large collections also cover sports. These include

Building Control file about the Docklands Golf Driving Range (Leamouth Road) 1993 (ref: L/THL/D/2/2/143)

Letters about the recreation ground from the Poplar Bowling Club to the Borough Council 1944-1975 (ref: L/THL/G/2/1/2)

Files on the creation of the Docklands Sailing Centre 1987–1991. These are part of the records of the Tower Hamlets Institute for Adult Education (ref: I/THI/B/6/14 and ref: I/THI/B/6/18)


We also have the archives of groups which valued sport, such as

  • Dockland Settlement, No. 2 Isle of Dogs (ref: I/DST)
  • Brady Club (ref: S/BRA)
  • Highway Clubs (ref: S/HWC)

Oral histories

Our oral histories record the voices of local people. Some of those interviewed talk about the role sport has played in their lives:

  • Hussain Ahmed Tarek (O/BEE/2)
  • John Day (O/MTC/5)
  • Victoria Ugundirir (O/WIB/12)
  • Vida Kwotuah (O/BDL/3)

Many books relate to sport:

2012 Olympic Games

Phil Cohen and Paul Watt (eds), London 2012 and the Post-Olympics City (class mark 700 COH)


Alex Daley, Fighting Men of London (class mark 797.3 DAL)

Bob Lonkhurst, Fighters from the East End (class mark 797.3 LON)

Also biographies of the famous boxers Daniel Mendoza and Kid Berg.


John Nyren, Young Cricketer’s Tutor. First published in 1833 and revised many times since then. Nyren’s book was one of the first cricket literary classics. The copy in our collection is E. V. Lucas’s 1907 revised edition.


Colm Kerrigan, East London: A Hotbed of Football 1867–1918 (class mark 797.1)

Two biographies of renowned black footballer and army officer Walter Tull. (Class mark 100 TUL):

  • Dan Lydon, Walter Tull: Footballer, Soldier, Hero
  • Phil Vasili, Walter Tull, 1888–1918 Officer, Footballer : All the guns in France couldn't wake me

Further library sources

Useful sources on sport (class mark 797) include

  • pamphlets
  • reports
  • press cuttings
  • photos
  • East London Advertiser and other local papers. These give reports of local football and cricket fixtures and results. Articles also report on boxing matches, other sporting events and local sports stars.

The collections document local people’s love of:

  • nature
  • social clubs
  • music
  • art
  • literature
  • food and drink, including curry houses and public houses


Bethnal Green Allotment and Garden Association records 1942–1963 (ref: S/BGA)

Poplar Nature Study Union minutes 1909–1915 (class mark 830.2)


Bethnal Green and District Caged Birds Society Annual General Meeting minutes 1960–1963 (ref: I/THI/A/1/5)

Social clubs

Correspondence of the Stepney Old People’s Welfare Trust. This concerns the London Council of Social Service, Old People’s Choir Festivals 1954–1965 (ref: S/THO/2/14)

Photographs of the Island History Trust, which was set up to record the lives of the people of the Isle of Dogs (ref IHT)


Dan Hancox, Inner-City Pressure: The Story of Grime (class mark 780.2 HAN)


Records relating to the Jhalock Shilpi Gusti (Jhalok Artist Group) 1983–86 (ref: I/SPP/4/6/16)

The personal papers of the painter Cornelius McCarthy 1953–2016 (ref: P/MCC)

Stepney Camera Club records 1959–1990s (ref: S/SCC)

Alberto Duman et al. (eds). Regeneration Songs: Sounds of Investment and Loss in East London (class mark 700 DUM)


The manuscript of Arthur Morrison’s Child of the Jago (ref: P/MIS/112/1)

Bethnal Green Literary Society records 1908–16 (ref: S/BGL)

The Poetic East End 2016–2017 (ref: O/PEE). Thirty-five oral history interviews on the rich history of poetry in Tower Hamlets, 1960s to 1980s. The project was led by the Shanghati Literary Society.

Food and drink

Mulk Raj Anand, Curries and other Indian Dishes (class mark 640.1 ANA). Published in 1932, this work is by a major figure in the Anglo-Indian literary tradition.

Tony Phillips, Pubs of Tower Hamlets (class mark 653 PHI)

Travel abroad

Diaries and photograph album of Reverend Dan Greatorex, Vicar of St. Paul, Dock Street, Whitechapel. They illustrate the lifestyle and attitudes of the Victorian clergyman abroad, 1852-1892. His trips included Australia, Spain, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Canada, United States of America, Eastern Europe, Russia, Norway, France and the Mediterranean (ref: P/GXT)