32 bor­oughs

The civic buildings of London


Visit 32 town halls

London has been divided into 32 boroughs since 1965, when Greater London was created. Before that, outer London was either Kent, Surrey, Middlesex and Essex, with a much smaller County of London within.

Inspired by seeing Enfield’s mini megaliths at one end of a New River walk, my plan was to spend the bank holiday weekend traversing London, to find the name of each borough as presented on the town hall, and take a picture of it.

Town hall collage


Things have progressed since the era of Victorian civic architecture. Many (maybe all) London boroughs are combinations of multiple previously-existing districts. This rationalization not only left the halls in places like Acton, Finsbury and Stratford surplus to requirements, but in many cases led to the council needing to build anew to accommodate the larger organization.

Any given council function might be run from anywhere, but it’s the town hall that you would try first if you had a problem and didn’t know where to go, so I used the published contact addresses to guide me. But although some councils played along—those which keep the under-one-roof town hall concept on a larger scale (Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham), those that have gone for a campus effect (Hounslow) or just an office building (Kensington and Chelsea, Croydon), many boroughs’ official address wasn’t the likely-looking town hall (Islington) or there wasn’t a likely-looking town hall at all (Bexley)

Even when I could identify the right building, seven boroughs didn’t use the name of the borough anywhere on the facade. I guess you know where you are already, if you have to visit. In some cases I had to wander about a bit before I found some other sign with the borough’s name.