Whatever happened to Chadwell Street - Ilford’s ‘motorway service staton’ for stagecoaches

PUBLISHED: 10:00 16 May 2020

Chadwell Street gave its name to Chadwell Heath. Picture: Ken Mears

Chadwell Street gave its name to Chadwell Heath. Picture: Ken Mears


For centuries, Chadwell Street (sometimes just called Chadwell) was a small but important spot on the map of Ilford’s High Road.

Retired history professor Ged Martin wanted to know what life was like at Chadwell Street, and why its identity vanished in the 20th century.

Chadwell Street was ideally located to serve stagecoach traffic. The fastest coaches changed horses about every nine miles – and a now vanished milestone showed that Chadwell Street was exactly nine miles from Whitechapel, where most of the coaches terminated.

Hence, for hundreds of years, blasts on coach horns warned Chadwell Street’s innkeepers of their urgent approach.

Chadwell Street, says Professor Martin, was a cross between motorway services and a Formula 1 pit-stop.

Then, in 1839, the railway to Romford took away the high-end luxury travel.

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Chadwell Street continued to serve the horse-drawn wagons that carried bulk goods from London to the country towns, and hauled vegetables to feed the capital’s growing population.

Around 1600, Chadwell Street gave its name to nearby Chadwell Heath – previously called Blackheath.

But in the 19th century Chadwell Heath got the railway station, the post office and the police headquarters.

By 1900, it was swallowing up its smaller neighbour.

Suburban London was advancing from the other direction: in the late 1890s, mushrooming Goodmayes suddenly dominated tiny Chadwell.

In 1897, after a memorable fight with Whitehall bureaucrats, Ilford’s school board started Chadwell Primary School – which, almost alone, kept the name alive.

There are horses and tramcars in Ged Martin’s Chadwell Street story, tragedies like the fire that nearly destroyed the place in 1892 – and reminders of the famous travellers who rattled through the tiny hamlet – from Samuel Pepys the diarist to General Booth of the Salvation Army.

Ged Martin’s 20,000-word essay is available, free, on

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