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Ilford Redbridge Town Hall.JPG
Town Hall on Ilford High Road
Grid reference: TQ445865
Location: 51°33’32"N, 0°5’8"E
Post town: Ilford
Postcode: IG1-IG6
Dialling code: 020
Local Government
Council: Redbridge
Ilford North, Ilford South

Ilford is a large town in Essex, within the metropolitan conurbation. Ilford is a significant commercial and retail centre surrounded by extensive residential development.

Ilford is bounded in the west by the A406 North Circular Road and the River Roding and is contiguous with Barking to the south, Gants Hill to the north and Seven Kings to the east.

Historically a small rural village, Ilford's strategic position on the River Roding and the London to Colchester road caused it to develop as a coaching town. The arrival of the railway in 1839 eventually accelerated that growth and as part of the suburban growth of towns in the neighbourhood of London in the 20th century, Ilford significantly expanded and increased in population, and a municipal borough was formed in 1926, which lasted until 1965. In 2011 Ilford was announced as the fastest-growing tourist destination in Europe, bizarrely.[1]


Ilford was historically known as Great Ilford to differentiate it from nearby Little Ilford nearby.[2] The name is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ilefort and means ford over the Hyle; an old name for the River Roding that means "trickling stream". Little Ilford shares the same origin.



The only complete skull of a mammoth discovered in the United Kingdom was unearthed in 1860 at the site where Boots the Chemist now stands in the High Road. The skull can now be seen in the Natural History Museum and other prehistoric animal remains can be seen at Redbridge Museum, Central Library, Ilford. Redevelopment has destroyed much of the evidence for early Ilford, but the oldest evidence for human occupation is the 1st and 2nd century BC Iron Age earthwork known as Uphall Camp. This was situated between the Roding and Ilford Lane and is recorded in 18th century plans.[3] Roman finds have also been made in the vicinity.[4] A nearby mound called Lavender Mount existed into the 1960s, when it was removed during building work at Howards chemical works. Excavation has shown that the latter may have been a 16th-century 'beacon-mound'. Archaeological discoveries are displayed at Redbridge Museum.[5]

Economic development

Ilford straddled the important road from London to Colchester. The Middlesex and Essex Turnpike Trust controlled and maintained the road from 1721. The River Roding was made navigable for barges as far as Ilford Bridge from 1737.[4]

Ilford remained largely rural until its expansion in the 19th century. This brought about brickworks, cement works and coal yards to service the new buildings, largely centred on the River Roding. In 1839, a railway station was opened on the line from Romford to Mile End. The early businesses gave way to new industries, such as paper making and services such as steam laundries and collar making, to provide for the new commuting class created by the railway. A number of major businesses have been founded in the town, including the eponymous photographic film and chemicals manufacturer Ilford Photo.[6] This was founded in 1879 by Alfred H. Harman, a photographer from Peckham, who established the business in a house in Cranbook Road making gelatino-bromide 'dry' plates.[3] The business soon outgrew these premises, and its headquarters moved to a site at Roden Street until 1976 when the factory was closed. Many Ilford Limited products are displayed at Redbridge Museum.[5]

The radio, electronics and telecommunications company Plessey, founded in 1917 in Marylebone, moved to Cottenham Road in Ilford early in 1919 and then to Vicarage Lane where became one of the largest manufacturers in its field. During Second World War, the factory was heavily damaged by bombing and the company carried out much of its manufacture, with 2,000 workers servicing a production line, located in the underground railway tunnel between Wanstead and Gants Hill.[3] In 1955, the company employed 15,000 workers, in sites throughout Ilford and neighbouring areas, with an extensive research department.[3]

BAL-AMi Jukeboxes were manufactured at 290-296 High Road, Ilford, during the 1950s, which also served as the headquarters of the Balfour (Marine) Engineering company.[7]

Suburban expansion

By 1653, Ilford was a compact village of 50 houses, mostly sited north and south of the current Broadway[3] and the area was distinctly rural. In 1801 the population of Ilford was 1,724 and by 1841 it had grown to 3,742.[3] It had a population of 41,244 in 1901 and occupied an area of 8496 acres. 2,500 houses of the vast Becontree Estate, built by the London County Council from 1921, were within the boundaries of Ilford; the addition caused a rise in population of 11,600 by 1926.[3] The Central Line service of the London Underground to new and former main-line stations in the area began in 1947[8] and the population of the Municipal Borough of Ilford peaked in 1951 at 184,706, declining to 178,024 in 1961 (the last census before the borough was abolished).

Notable events

Kensington Gardens was the location of the 1922 murder of Percy Thompson by Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters.[9]

John Logie Baird, who invented the television, moved to Ilford in the mid/late 1920s to work on his new invention. He worked in a workshop on the roof of the Plessey premises in Ley Street which has long been demolished to make way for new housing.


Ilford has a very large ethnic-minority population. Ilford North has the 4th-highest Jewish proportion of residents in the 2001 census.[10] The Hindu, Muslim and Sikh population number some 30,000.[11] The South Asian community in Ilford speak a variety of languages, including Tamil, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.[12]

There is a sizeable Irish and Polish community in and around Seven Kings / Goodmayes.


Ilford railway station
  • Ilford railway station: overground
  • Gants Hill tube station, on the London Underground Central Line.

It is planned that the Liverpool Street-Shenfield service will become part of Crossrail.[13] The first stage of the East London Transit begins at Ilford.[14]


  • Cricket: Ilford Cricket Club plays home games at Valentines Park (a ground was opened in 1897)
  • Football:
    • Ilford FC
    • Waltham Forest FC,

- who both play at the Cricklefield Stadium.



  • Ian Dowling Valentines Park, Ilford: A Century of History (1999)
  • J E Oxley Barking and Ilford: An Extract from the Victoria History of the County of Essex vol 5 (1987)