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Ancient History of Ilford

The name Ilford is Saxon. It comes from the old name for the River Roding, The Hyle. It was Hyleford.

It is said that the name Seven Kings comes from a meeting in that area of seven Saxon Kings.

The Red Bridge, after which the borough is named, and which spans the Roding between Ilford and Wanstead, was also known as Hockley's Bridge, probably after a local family. red Bridge is marked for the first time on a map of the environs of London dated 1746.

On Ilford Hill, south side, stands the old hospital and chapel of St Mary and St Thomas. This building is the oldest surviving link of the town's association with Barking and its Abbey. The hospital and chapel were founded in the 12th century. The building was greatly altered in the 19th century.

In 1599 Will Kemp, a Morris dancer, came through Ilford on his way to Norwich to perform his famous dance.

South of Ilford at Uphall there was once an Iron Age fort or emcampment of the first or second century BC, alongside the Roding.

By 1740 there was a daily coach service from London to Ilford. In 1748 there were two daily coaches to Ilford. There were offices for receiving mail in Ilford by the 1790's. The first main post office was in the High Street in 1863.

By 1891 the population of Ilford was about 10,913. By 1911 it had reached an estimated 78,188.

A local industry was brickmaking. Mark Gibbard, a plasterer and bricklayer was granted a lease by Bamber Gasgoyne (patron of the hospital on Ilford Hill) to develop land for building, and in 1771 to develop Spittel Field, Ilford Lane, as a brickfield.

Two names figure in the early housing development of the area, one was A. Cameron Corbett, who later became Lord Rowallan. In 1894 Corbett began work on the Grange Estate. He also built homes at the Clements, Downshall and Mayfield Estates. By 1903 he had built over 3,000 houses in Ilford. Another developer was Peter Griggs, a local councillor, magistrate, and Member of Parliament. He built the Cranbrook Estate.

St Mary's church, High Road, was built 1829-31. It was the parish church until 1902 when the larger St Clement's church became the parish church.

On the site now occupied by the telephone exchange at Ilford Hill was once the ilford house Academy, a private school which started about 1824. The first school board in Ilford was formed in 1890.

Ilford Town Hall was completed in 1901. The building was enlarged in 1927 and 1933.

As the railways expanded, so did Ilford, which had become a popular area for city gentlemen and by 1931 the population had grown to about 131,000. Houses were being built all over the available land and in 1930 some new homes on the Wanstead Lane Estate, Evanston Gardens, were reduced in price to sell the few remaining. A freehold house priced at 885 pounds was offered at 800 pounds. In 1935 a house on the Valentines Park Estate could be purchased for 645 pounds.

Until the rapid expansion started farming was the main occupation, but later other industry came to Ilford. The firm of Ilford Ltd was founded in 1879 by Alfred H. Harman who acquired a house in Cranbrook Road, which he named "Britannia Works". Later the business was in Roden Street.

In 1924 the Plessey Company opened a factory in Ilford and by 1939 it employed 6,000 people. The Ilford Gas Company was formed in 1839 with a capital of 1,500 pounds. In 1901 an electricity power station was opened in Ley Street.

The first public baths in Ilford were in Roden Street, built 1894-5. The High Road baths were opened in 1931. Ilford was constituted a parliamentary Borough in 1918 and in 1926 became a Municipal Borough.

During the second World War 313 houses were destroyed in Ilford and 9,410 badly damaged.

The Odeon Cinema at Gants Hill was opened in 1934 as the Savoy. Matinee performances cost sixpence, ninepence and one shilling and sixpence.

In 1954 a survey of industries in Ilford revealed that there were some 76 manufacturers of different types.

The London Borough of Redbridge came into being as a result of the re-organisation of London government in 1964.

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