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.