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Limehouse Town Hall, ca 1910

Limehouse Town Hall is a former town hall building on Commercial Road, in Limehouse, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Limehouse Town Hall was built in 1879, designed by A. & C. Harston, as the vestry hall of the Limehouse District. The building consists of a number of offices, below a 'grand' assembly room. In 1900, the civil parish became a part of the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney. In 1965, this in turn, became part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, this then became one of a number of surplus town halls — along with Poplar Town Hall and St George's Town Hall.

On 30 July 1909 the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George made a polemical speech in the assembly room, attacking the House of Lords for its opposition to his "People's Budget". This speech was the origin of the phrase "To Limehouse", or "Limehousing", which meant an incendiary political speech.[1]

The building has seen a variety of uses since, including serving as the National Museum of Labour History; and a brief return to council administration, as the Wapping Neighbourhood Offices. It was given protection as a Grade II listed building in 1973,[2] but was placed on English Heritage's list of buildings at risk in 2003. In October 2006 the building was given a restoration grant by English Heritage, and is in the process of being renovated as a centre for arts and culture, in particular local history projects.

The Limehouse Town Hall Consortium Trust has a long lease on the building from the local authority, Tower Hamlets, and is working to fully restore the Town Hall as a vibrant space for community, enterprise and heritage. Various charities, artists and small creative businesses currently operate from the building, including Boxing Club, Primal Pictures, Stitches in Time and the Limehouse Project.

Within These Walls - The Story of the Limehouse Town Hall

In March 2011 the Limehouse Town Hall Consortium Trust presented an exhibition on the history of Limehouse Town Hall, researched by architectural historian Kathy Clark. The exhibition offered the visitor some fascinating glimpses of the past life of the building and its place in the local social fabric, as well as a rare chance to see inside the Town Hall itself, which currently is not normally open to the general public.

We have now transferred key aspects of the exhibition into a document- even if you did not have the opportunity to visit the exhibition, you can now view much of it by opening the PDF attached below.

The exhibition explores the life of the building from when it was erected as a vestry hall in 1879-81, and alongside it some key aspects of the history of Limehouse and its people. It gives insights into the architecture itself, and how this neoclassical survivor of the blitz has changed over time, as well as many diverse uses of the building, ranging from welfare centre, to museum, to bustling hub for entertainment of all kinds.

It also explores the particular link of the hall and the local area with the labour movement. The exhibition is based around contemporary and modern photographs, plans and

newspaper cuttings that paint a richer picture of the building’s history than has previously been available, and forms part of a project to expand that picture with the help of local people, who are 

invited to contribute their memories of the Hall to the Trust’s developing timeline of the building. The Trust would be very interested to hear from you about your memories and accounts of how you may have used the Town Hall in the past- please do contact us with any information you may have!

Limehouse Town Hall Consortium Trust,
Aug 17, 2011, 7:13 AM