Tower Hamlets was first mentioned in documents in 1554. This first mention of Tower Hamlets came when the Council of the Tower of London ordered men of the hamlets who owed their services to the tower to go to the Tower. Now, it isn’t clear why the council ordered these men to the tower in 1554, but that was the first mention of Tower Hamlets. In 1605, the Lieutenant of the Tower of London was then given the right to rally a militia to the tower! Again, we don’t know why the Tower of London may have needed a militia, but apparently, it did!
In 1646, Tower Hamlets paid the Tower taxes for this militia too, so the militia lasted at least 40 years! In fact, the militia is why the area east of the tower became known as Tower Hamlets as that was where it was based. As you know, Tower Hamlets forms the core of the East End. The East End has had a hard time of it throughout history. This is why Eastenders are considered hardy, awesome folk by everyone in London. For much of history, the East End was a difficult place to live with overpopulation being a real problem.
Tower Hamlets’ overpopulation situation was made worse with the construction of St Katharine Docks in 1827 and the London Railway termini in 1840-1875. Because this meant that many of the people that were displaced, moved to Tower Hamlets. Thankfully, though, during the 19th and 20th centuries, Tower Hamlets and the whole of the East End grew rapidly. The overpopulation situation was solved with the addition of new housing developments, shops, and, of course, the good old East End pub!
Tower Hamlets and the whole of the East End are always growing, changing and evolving. This is what’s magical about Tower Hamlets and London as a whole. Just when you think Tower Hamlets is finished, it evolves once more!