The Indian trading company with Redbridge roots

“MY MUM thinks tea comes from Sainsbury’s!” says Edmund Conway, as we both discover that is not quite the case.

India is, apparently, to thank, or maybe to blame, for men and women up and down Great Britain enjoying a cuppa so much.

The story goes that the East India Company bought 214,000lbs of Chinese tea in 1713. Roll on 100 years, and that number had risen to 32million lbs. The rest is history, as they say.

The revelation is one of many held within the posters, artefacts and memorabilia of the East India Company exhibition at Redbridge Museum, Central Library, Clements Road, Ilford.

The exhibition, which has been open for two weeks, explores the history of the trading body and its deep-rooted connection with Redbridge through its employees and their fortunes.

“This is a wonderful exhibition,” says an enthusiastic Mr Conway, 52, of Mansfield Road, Ilford.

“It tells you so many things that you otherwise wouldn’t have known.”

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The East India Company was established on December 31, 1600, when Queen Elizabeth I gave royal approval by charter.

But what do Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford have to do with the company, which traded mainly with the Indian subcontinent and which became the largest multinational business the world had ever seen?

Valentines Mansion, Valentines Park, Ilford, was home to Sir Charles Raymond, an owner of East India Company ships.

Meanwhile Sir Josiah Child ran the East India Company in the 1680s.

He used his massive wealth to buy Wanstead House and live there until his death in 1699.

Sir Robert Preston, who lived in Harts House, Woodford Green, started as a captain of ships before becoming a company director

Two of his ships were named Woodford and they made eight trips to India in the 1790s.

Trainee teacher Claire Andrade was taking notes as she walked around the exhibition, as she prepared to give her pupils an insight into the company and its links with the borough.

She said: “It’s really interesting. There’s a lot of information and it explains things very well.”

The 24-year-old, whose parents were born in Goa, India, added: “I think a lot of people won’t realise that Redbridge has so many links with the company so it’s good it’s being highlighted like this.”

Artefacts and memorabilia at the exhibition include a painting of a cloth merchant, a cutting of chintz fabric, common in Gujurat in the 1700s, together with a replica chintz dress, an opium pipe and a Chinese porcelain plate.

Sri Lankan born Sudarana Joyatissa, 34, enjoyed the exhibition with her 10-year-old son Harsha Meethalawe.

She said: “It’s very nice and very interesting.

“The [chintz] dress looks beautiful.”

Other visitors to the exhibition included little Muzammal Malik.

The five-year-old said he wanted his school to teach him about the East India Company so he “can find out more” about it.

The East India Company and Redbridge: An Exhibition, is open from 11am-5pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 10am-4pm on Saturday.The free exhibition runs until February 26.

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