People's Palace

Scope and Content

Records relating to the People's Palace, 1728-1987. The collection includes:

Papers relating to the Drapers' Company, the Beaumont Trustees' attempts to raise funds for the People's Palace scheme, and the East London Committee of the Beaumont Trust;
Letters, papers, photographs, printed programmes, and other material, relating to the opening of the People's Palace and the new People's Palace building;
Papers of the People's Palace Trustees, Governors, Visiting Committee of the Governors, and Committee, 1888-1930;
Papers concerning the relationship between the People's Palace and the Charity Commission;
Architectural plans for the People's Palace, and other correspondence and papers relating to its design, building and maintenance;
Records relating to staff and employment, entertainment and events, and clubs and societies;
Financial records for the Beaumont Trust and the People's Palace;
Records relating to the educational work of the People's Palace (through the People's Palace Technical Schools, the East London Technical College, and the East London College), and the Bow and Bromley Institute, 1871-1907;
Publications of the People's Palace, including the Palace Journal, 1887-95;
Photographs relating to the People's Palace;
Newspaper, journal and magazine articles about the People's Palace;
Records relating to J.T. Barber Beaumont, the Beaumont Trust, and the Beaumont family;
and other correspondence and papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

The People's Palace began in 1886, with the purpose of providing an educational and cultural centre for the local community. It was financed by the Beaumont Trust, established under the will of John Barber Beaumont to support the Philosophical Institution that he had founded, and occupied the site of the former Bancroft's School acquired from the Drapers' Company. The Palace was to comprise the Queen's Hall, a library modelled on that of the British Museum, a swimming bath, a gymnasium, and a winter garden as well as schools. The foundation stone of the Queen's Hall was laid by the Prince of Wales in June 1886, and it was opened by Queen Victoria in the following year. The Queen's Hall was used for lectures, concerts and organ recitals, shows of birds and flowers, exhibitions of animals and pictures, fetes and other entertainments which, reportedly, were attended by thousands of people. The library and swimming bath were completed in 1888 as were the technical and trade schools which later developed into Queen Mary College. The Bow and Bromley Institute amalgamated with the People's Palace as a branch of East London College in 1898. The winter garden, begun in 1890 and completed in 1892, was also used for concerts and refreshments. The gymnasium, constructed in 1891, had a roller-skating rink in the basement. However, the financial management of the Palace soon ran into difficulties. It was saved by the Drapers' Company which committed a subsidy of £70,000 over ten years.

In 1889 a separate students' library had been established and by 1902 the Governors agreed that the original library should be transferred to the Borough of Stepney to form the basis for the first public library in Mile End. In 1911 the Visiting Committee of the Palace Governors was split into two to form a Palace Committee and a College Committee albeit still under the umbrella of the Palace Governors. This was the beginning of a final administrative separation of the Palace from the College which was formalised in 1913.

In 1931 a fire completely destroyed the Queen's Hall and it was decided to resite the People's Palace in St Helen's Terrace. This gave the whole of the original site to the College and finally achieved the physical separation of Palace and College. The new People's Palace was opened in 1937, providing a concert and dance hall. However, postwar conditions meant that the People's Palace was no longer financially sustainable, and in 1953 it came on the market. In 1954 it was acquired by Queen Mary College. Then in 1956 it was renamed the Queen's Building by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and became an integral part of Queen Mary College.


Arranged by function, by subject, chronologically and by format and original order where possible.

Access Information

The Archives are available for access in the Archives Reading Room located on the 2nd Floor of the Mile End Library. The Archives Reading Room is open Mondays to Fridays 9am-4pm by appointment only. Contact the Archives for more information: Archives, Main Library QMUL, 328 Mile End Rd, London E1 4NS, telephone: 020 7882 3873, email: . For more information about the Archives see the website:

Other Finding Aids

Alternative Form Available

The Palace Journal has been digitised and is available to view on the website

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Susannah Gillard Sept 2012.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for copies for research or publication should be made to the Archivist: Main Library QMUL, 328 Mile End Rd, London E1 4NS, telephone: 020 7882 7873, email: .