Ilford once again has a permanent reminder that where residents walk today prehistoric mammoths once roamed the earth.

A plaque on a site described as one of the richest for Ice Age fossils in the world was unveiled on Sunday after the previous plaque was stolen last year.

Prior to the arrival of the Olympic Torch, a ceremony held by the British Pakistani Christian Association revealed the plaque at Ilford Methodist Church in Ilford Lane to the public.

The Uphall Pit, a brick-earth pit near Ilford Lane, was one of three in Ilford in which a treasure trove of remains were discovered in the 1800s including the most complete mammoth skull in this country.

Wilson Chowdhry, the association’s chairman, said: “It was such an important day for the borough. The mammoths are so important to Ilford, they’ve become nationally recognised as one of the most important palaeontological finds.”

Pits close to the present-day sites of the Cauliflower pub and Redbridge Town Hall, both in High Road, also unearthed fossils in the 19th century.

Three amateur geologists – John Gibson, Antonio Brady and Richard Payne Cotton – amassed collections including bones of mammoths, straight-tusked elephants and a giant deer called megaloceros.

William George, an amateur geologist from Barking who worked at Redbridge Central Library for 21 years, told the crowd about the discoveries.

Professor Adrian Lister, a palaeontologist with the Natural History Museum who has studied the Ilford remains, spoke about their scientific significance and brought baby mammoth bones for visitors to touch.

Mr George said: “I think the plaque is absolutely essential. It’s just a fascinating story about the prehistory of Ilford and it really is an important site.”

The original plaque was unveiled as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951. The Association has funded two plaques, a metal one outside and a resin one inside the church and they include images of the skull and a representation of a woolly mammoth.

Ian Dowling, the borough’s local historian, helped with the wording of the plaque and the ceremony included music, face-painting and a barbecue.