Limehouse Town Hall


Limehouse town hall 1937

LIMEHOUSE Town Hall is rarely open to the public. Sarah Carroll, of The Museum of Everything and a volunteer with the Limehouse Consortium Trust, writes about this historic building:

When the building was opened, it was lavishly appointed. The tables, writing stands, hat stands, and even the boxes for toilet paper were all made of mahogany. Brass hooks held the cloaks of the Board members, and the clock in the committee room was of black marble. Chairs were covered with morocco, a red leather, and Persian rugs lined the floors in all the main ground floor rooms. The main hall boasted a Broadwood rosewood grand piano.

The hall was licensed for music and dancing from 1881, and a precedent was set for its use by the festivities in the building’s opening week. A ball was held with 200 people attending, and a free concert was given for local people, the programme for which included a vocal duets, euphonium and harp recitals, and a recitation of ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’.

In 1886, dancing lessons were given.

Limehouse Town Hall, ca 1910

One of the original stated purposes of a new Hall for Limehouse was to disseminate political ideas. ‘To Limehouse’ became a synonym for giving an incendiary political speech when David Lloyd George attacked the House of Lords in Limehouse in 1909, and the area was known for its active interest in debate and politics. From the time of its opening the Town Hall has been a venue for political speeches and local meetings, and a focus for the labour movement and for celebrations of local government.

Before 1931, the use of the vestry hall and committee room on the ground floor changed to an Infant Welfare centre, though by 1931 this was replaced by a small hall and a doctor’s surgery. The rate collector’s office became a men’s cloakroom, and more toilets were put in at this time, suggesting a growing focus on entertainment.

In 1975 parts of (and later, the whole of) the Town Hall opened as the National Museum of Labour History, the first museum of its kind, with displays on early trade unionism, and Owenite socialism and cooperation. Prime Minister. Harold Wilson opened the museum on Monday 19th May 1975, and wasgreeted upon arrival by 400 demonstrators.

In 1973 the building was listed as Grade II. Currently the custodians of the building are Limehouse Town Hall Consortium Trust. The Trust plans to repair and modernize the building. The Town Hall also currently houses various creative and community groups, artists and charities.

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