This old library in east London is being turned into a café and heritage centre

London is constantly changing – and it feels like that’s the case more than ever right now, with new developments like this new south London housing project and the new Putney embankment. However, as much as the sparkly, shiny new builds might dominate the spotlight, breathing new life into historic sites is just as fascinating. And now it’s been announced that one east London library is the newest heritage site to be given a makeover. 

Canning Town Library, which dates back to 1894, is now due for a serious glow up. Approval to give the Grade II-listed building some TLC was granted after a unanimous vote by committee members last Monday (October 23), and it’s set to become a state-of-the-art heritage centre with a café. 

The building has fallen into disrepair since 2017, when the library moved to Rathbone Market. Since then, the structure has become an ‘unloved and deteriorating shell’ according to one (rather harsh) planning officer. The refurb has been made possible thanks to a chunk of Newham Council’s £6.2 million Levelling Up funding, which was granted in October 2021. 

To make sure the upgrades abide by listed building requirements, each floor will retain its historical features. The ground floor will be a café, archive reading room and digital media suite. The first floor will be a let to community group, though also include a staffroom and staff kitchen, while the second floor will be a new learning space with a small rooftop extension. 

While all this means the building might not look too different, it’s an exciting example of the efforts being made to preserve little patches of London’s history. If all goes to plan, the old library should reopen in 2026. 

Sustainable development and Time Out

We cover all the city’s latest developments, including all the restorative upgrades to historical buildings and areas. Have a look at the plans for the massive glow-up of The Strand, or the proposed makeover of these gorgeous Bermondsey arches

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Listen to Time Out’s brilliant new podcast ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’: episode 12 with Paul Feig in Mayfair is out now.

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