The wartime history of Ilford Town Hall

Ilford Town Hall circa 1910.

Ilford Town Hall circa 1910. - Credit: Archant

Once upon a time, when the Ilford Town Hall building housed the adult, children’s and reference libraries, all the books in the adult section were covered with rexine, giving them an expensive uniformed brown leather look, with the title and reference number in gold block.

Most impressive, but as a teenage reader seeking books on the first war in the air, they had been easier to locate in the privately owned library shops of the period.

The reason being, the books retained their original dust jackets, giving a clue to the contents by the trade mark on the spine, the sundial of John Hamilton Ltd, for example, had published a good selection of Great War airmen memoirs, before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

A nominal fee of a few pence back then, entitled you to borrow a book for a week.

Living in Windsor Road, I had the good fortune to have two library shops in the Ilford Lane, within five minutes walk of home, plus the Town Hall library only a ten minute walk via Woodlands Road.

My first book borrowed from the Town Hall children’s library had been The Rescue Flight by W.E. Johns, eighty years on I do not recall the binding being rexine, but I became a ‘Biggles’ fan until old enough to join the senior library.

One painful wartime memory of the Town Hall library took place during the Blitz, after my school had been closed for weeks, I met a teacher on the steps of the Oakfield Road entrance, who informed me that the school, had reopened a week ago and to be there Monday morning!

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A wartime Wings for Victory week, found a captured ME.109 on display in the Town Hall car park.

I had already seen close up a JU87, Stuka dive bomber; towed tail first along the Ilford lane towards the Broadway, minus its wings of course, although traffic volume was much lighter back then, due to petrol rationing.