From the East End to Essex: The story of Redbridge’s Jews

Jewish members of Gants Hill's Chabad Lubavitch observing a religious ceremony.

Jewish members of Gants Hill's Chabad Lubavitch observing a religious ceremony. - Credit: Archant

In our weekly column celebrating Redbridge’s past, Rochelle Scholar from Eastside Community Heritage takes a look at the startling transformation of the borough’s Jewish community.

Post War, many Jewish people, who had arrived as immigrants and settled in the East End, migrated east towards Redbridge – an affluent and desirable borough. By 1970 the Jewish community in Redbridge was fast growing and boasted a Jewish population of 30,000,

Europe’s largest. Synagogues, Kosher delicatessens, Kosher butchers, Kosher restaurants, banks and schools all opened up. The proportion of Jewish children was so high at Ilford County High School that on Jewish holidays the teachers, according to Simon, “knew…they could never teach anything new because so many people would be away”. For 40 years a thriving Jewish community existed.

Slowly demographics shift. In the mid to late 2000s, younger members of the community began moving out of Redbridge further east to places like Chigwell, Golders Green, Stamford Hill. Today, the Jewish people here, as Kenneth puts it: “…Reflects the age of the community… A lot of them are in their eighties and nineties a lot of them tend not to come out anymore which is a shame but their numbers have drastically gone down”.

The main synagogues have amalgamated and Jewish life in the borough is less overt.

However, the Jewish population in London has always been on the move and the shift to new community groups in the Borough is a feature of London life. John told us how, “…If you study the history of Jewish people they came to the docks to start with at…Stepney, moved into Bethnal Green, Mile End, Bow then went to…Forest Gate, from Forest Gate they moved to Ilford, from Ilford they go to Chigwell, from Chigwell they’re now going out to areas of North West, Epping…it’s very easy to trace people, the families, how they moved, which they still do”.

The interviews featured in this piece will form part of the exhibition, ‘East End to Essex’ which will be on display Winter 2016. For more information contact