The town of Illford has a local museum that’s not called Ilford Museum, but named after the much larger borough that it’s within – welcome to Redbridge Museum.

Like many local museums, it’s taken over a bit of space in the local library, so a a wander up to the very top floor, and the girl on the desk looked up briefly from her phone as I walked in. Being the only visitor on a Saturday morning, you cant really blame a bored teenager for seeking something else to do.

Like a lot of local museums, they like to show off the odd bit of mammoth, although in this case they have the cast of an entire skull on display — which was found locally and a cast made for display in the 1980s.

The difficulty with a local museum in this area though is the lack of history. This was all fields until fairly recently, and today Ilford is a town where something that’s a hundred years old is a rare find. The area started to build up with the arrival of the railways, but it’s really the post-war era that defines the borough.

They’ve done a decent job though of creating a visually interesting museum, with lots of tall cabinets, looking not unlike warehouse trolleys that are then filled with objects — the high wall they create being slightly maze-like and luring you down the corridors.

About half the museum is given over to “local people stories”, many of whom seem to have moved into the area, so half of their story is about places not called Ilford.

As human interest, they are interesting, but it does feel slightly as if the museum was gifted a lot of space and lacking much else to put in here, filled it with tangentially relevant information boards.

Sir Winston Churchill was the local MP for over 35 years, and gets a whole cabinet dedicated to his life, and a lot of space to his death. I learnt that he was — for a short time — a member of a trade union, as he liked to lay bricks and joined as an apprentice brickie.

One of several famous events in the area’s history was the Woodford Cycle Meet, with nearly 600 cyclists in all sorts of devices turning up from 1883 to 1914. I am sure you can guess why they stopped in 1914.

The area had a rich cycling history though, and I was particularly taken by the early bicycle lamp, in the days before batteries, when they used actual candles on bikes.

Overall, considering the heritage of the area being quite shallow, they’ve done a decent job of presenting a museum that’s quite interesting to visit, and laid out in a slightly industrial style that I personally found appealing.

The museum is open Tuesday to Friday: 10am to 5pm and Saturday: 10am to 4pm. Entry is free.


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2 comments on “Local Museums – Redbridge Museum
  1. Annabel says:

    We took our elder grandson there in 2016 – you can read about our trip (and the museum’s reply) here if you are so minded…

  2. Many thanks Ian for this insightful review, great photographs and I’m glad that you enjoyed your visit to Redbridge Museum. Thanks to a recent National Lottery Heritage Fund award, we will be developing a new permanent exhibition over the next couple of years which is due to open in spring 2021. In the new displays we hope to make the local area’s long history more visible which includes important Ice Age, Iron Age and Roman sites; the connections to the East India Company in the 17th and 18th century which led to many local merchant’s grand houses; Ilford’s rich agricultural heritage and then the suburban developments of the last 150 years. As you note, people moving to Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford over this period has defined the local area which we think is interesting in itself and makes us different to other parts of the country. Hopefully, we can bring this out in the new displays and still retain the personal stories which visitors really relate to. Anyway, reviews like this are always welcome and give us lots of food for thought! By the way, our current temporary exhibition on the 1st floor of the Library is called ‘Eat It!’ and is a family friendly exhibition on the theme of food which runs until 31 August. Oh and our member of staff (who’s definitely not a teenager!)was far from bored when you visited, just busy using her phone to tweet about our exhibitions but sorry if she didn’t manage to welcome you, sometimes she gets too engrossed in her work! Kind regards, Gerard Greene, Redbridge Museum & Heritage Centre Manager

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