Memories of Ilford as a tree-lined rustic village

The view down Ilford High Road looking towards Seven Kings, 15 years later, c.1880.
Alf Porter’s fu

The view down Ilford High Road looking towards Seven Kings, 15 years later, c.1880. Alf Porters furniture shop now has the prominent site. - Credit: Archant

Percy Wright sat in his snowed-in home in Montreal, Canada in January 1939 thinking about his upbringing back in Ilford which he’d left around 1900.

Sitting there he decided to pen a letter to the Ilford Recorder (published January 19 1939) asking if his old buddies still remembered him and the time when Ilford was a rustic village.

Percival ‘Daddy’ Wright (1879-1976) grew up in Sylvan Road, Ilford where the Ley Street bus garage and multistory car park is now.

His memories were sharp: the Drill Hall and Thompson Rooms where the Ilford Volunteers (Percy was a member) drilled and there were one penny readings of Charles Dickens and magic lantern shows.

He also remembered Edward Tuck, head teacher of the National School, great elm trees around the High Road and the prominent chestnut trees along Cranbrook Road.

There were the Seven Wonders – elm trees, that stretched down Ilford Lane to Barking.

Mrs Augur sold sticky toffee in her shop whilst Mrs Carter next to the Havelock pub was notable for her halfpenny turnovers which he ate on the way to school.

Most Read

In front of Ilford Hall on the High Road where Harrison Gibson was, there was a finger post which pointed the way to Stratford where he and his young friends met and on Wednesday mornings watched as droves of cattle and sheep were driven along the road to Romford market.

In front of the Havelock, from Adams Field where Redbridge Town Hall is now, Percy witnessed a balloon ascent and breath-taking parachute jump. These were popular death defying events before World War I.

He recalled his old friends’ wonderful nicknames: lamplighter ‘Dusty’ Fry, ‘Froggy’ Tillett’s tobacconist shop, ‘Rooney’ Hallows, ‘Waxey’ Fred Willis, ‘Fishy’ Fred who kept a donkey in his parlour and ‘Cow’ Alf Silcox.

Percy had worked in Ilford’s Post Office as a telegraph messenger boy and through the Victorian period there were multiple daily deliveries. We know he fought with the Canadian army on the western front during the First World War and came to Ilford.

But we don’t know if any old pals wrote back to him.