‘Ilford keeps ripping itself apart and then rebuilding’ - Discover the 150-year journey from village to busy town in exciting exhibition

PUBLISHED: 13:31 08 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:31 08 November 2017

The 150 Years of Building Ilford exhibition at the Redbridge Museum.

The 150 Years of Building Ilford exhibition at the Redbridge Museum.


Ilford is a rural village which imports goods via a barge.

Ilford has changed so much in the last 150 years. Picture: Ken MearsIlford has changed so much in the last 150 years. Picture: Ken Mears

No, I am not leading you on a creative thinking exercise but taking you back 150 years.

With housing developments popping up and Crossrail regeneration projects it is easy to think that drastic change is a new thing, but in reality, the town is constantly evolving.

An exciting exhibition at Redbridge Museum has documented this transition and put on an innovative collection of photos, research, and video about the journey.

“Ilford keeps ripping itself apart and then rebuilding,” said Gerard Greene, museum manager at Clements Road, Ilford.

The collection is filled with beautiful picture of bygone Ilford. Picture: Ken MearsThe collection is filled with beautiful picture of bygone Ilford. Picture: Ken Mears

“This exhibition is not about commenting on whether the developments are good or bad but presenting the facts.

“It is great for people to learn about their area as when you care about where you live you are invested in it.”

Although Gerard said the exhibition is a “work in progress”, much like Ilford, as I explore the room I am blown away by the professionalism of the free display.

This isn’t a few posters on a wall but a meandering journey through the rises and falls of the “capital” of our borough.

ILR_WK45 150 years of building Ilford 20171101-4150ILR_WK45 150 years of building Ilford 20171101-4150

As a born and bred resident I still learned many things about Ilford and was enchanted by the glamorous era of the Hippodrome and the wealthy period in which the decadent town hall was born.

I was equally captivated by the great fire of Ilford, the loss of the Pioneer Market, right up to controversial Pioneer Point and modern planning applications for the town.

“Rather than a gentle evolution of Ilford over many years, it appears there are often periods of intense activity that change the physical landscape,” added Gerard.

“The period around 1900, the early 1960s, the mid-1980s and our own time are such examples. The pace of change in just a few short years around 1900 was dazzling - it is hard to imagine a place of green fields and farmland disappearing overnight as houses were built.

“It is clear that those who created a new suburb around 1900 were immensely proud of what they achieved, through the development of housing, shops, schools, parks, transport and even the humble sewage system, without which modern life wouldn’t function.”

Gerard explained that the impact of the 1960s’ high-rise buildings is often overlooked.

The collection also tries to reflect current challenges and concerns around housing developments and since the 2000s, the demand for housing has rapidly increased and new apartments have sprung up in the town centre.

“The last few years have been challenging for Ilford for all sorts of reasons but it has a rich history and this is worth celebrating with the hope that this heritage can inform future developments,” he said.

“In some small way, the museum also hopes the exhibition will foster a sense of pride in the local area for local residents and encourage everyone to explore both Ilford’s past but also its future.”

The museum team said it has been fascinating to delve through rich collections to put the exhibition together.

It took 12 months to make and community groups and schools collaborated on it.

Pupils from Woodland Primary School, Loxford Lane, Ilford, really got stuck into the project researching and then making a building from Ilford’s past using blueprints.

“Having looked through resources at the Redbridge Library and on the internet the children chose to study the Ilford Super Cinema that was bombed during the war,” said Alexis Mojzes, lead humanities teacher at the school.

“With the discovery of the actual blueprints by Sue in the archives, the children attempted to create a computer-generated design of parts of the building.They then had the opportunity to interview and film members of the Ilford Historical Society to get a feeling of what life was like in the past.

The pupils not only visited the former site of the Super Cinema, where Wilko stands today, but developed their research, design and interviewing skills.

Building Ilford runs until June 9, 2018.

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