Ilford Guide: History, Culture, and Key Attractions in East London’s Multicultural Hub


Ilford, a significant town in east London, England, lies 9 miles northeast of Charing Cross. Nestled in the London Borough of Redbridge, it falls within Greater London’s ceremonial boundaries. The 2011 census recorded its population at 168,168, a notable segment of the borough’s 303,858 total.


Recognized as a metropolitan center in the London Plan, Ilford boasts a bustling commercial and retail core encircled by extensive residential areas. Its strategic position on the transport corridor connecting London with coastal Essex, highlighted by the A12 and a central railway station, underscores its regional importance. Ilford’s demographic landscape has evolved with increased immigration, making it one of England’s most multicultural towns.

Historical Development

Early History

Initially, a rural settlement in the ancient parish of Barking, Essex, Ilford’s location by the River Roding and the London-Colchester road made it a significant coaching town. The advent of the railway in 1839 spurred its growth, eventually integrating it into London’s conurbation.

Administrative Changes

In 1888, Ilford separated from Barking, forming its own civil parish and later becoming a municipal borough in 1926. The area experienced significant growth and population increases in the 20th century. The 1965 administrative reorganization led to its incorporation into the newly formed London Borough of Redbridge.


The name ‘Ilford’ was historically documented as ‘Great Ilford’ to distinguish it from nearby Little Ilford. Recorded as ‘Ilefort’ in the Domesday Book, the name translates to “ford over the Hyle” (Hyle being an old Celtic name for the River Roding).

Ancient Governance

Manor of Barking

Dating back to a 735 AD charter, the Manor of Barking spanned areas including Barking, Dagenham, and Ilford. Initially held by Barking Abbey’s nunnery, it played a significant role in the region’s early administration.

Ancient Parish Structure

By the late 1100s, the Manor of Barking was served by two parishes—Barking and Dagenham, an uncommon arrangement given the manor’s size.

Separation from Barking

Throughout the 19th century, Ilford gradually gained autonomy, with significant developments like joining the Romford Poor Law Union (1836) and forming the Romford rural sanitary district (1875). In 1888, it became a separate civil parish and urban district.

20th Century Expansion

The suburban growth of London dramatically increased Ilford’s population, leading to its status as a municipal borough and eventual inclusion in Greater London.

Modern Administration

Ilford is represented in the UK Parliament through the Ilford North and South constituencies and forms part of the Havering and Redbridge London Assembly constituency.

Historical Highlights

Prehistoric and Iron Age

The discovery of a mammoth skull in the area and evidence of Iron Age settlements like Uphall Camp underline Ilford’s long-standing human presence.

Economic Evolution

From its roots in agriculture, Ilford transitioned into industrial and commercial significance in the 19th and 20th centuries, with key industries including photography (Ilford Photo), electronics (Plessey), and various others.

Cultural and Historical Notes

  • The birthplace of actress Maggie Smith.
  • The site of the notable Thompson-Bywaters case in 1922.
  • World War II connections, including a memorial in the United States honoring an Ilford man and others who died in a training accident.

Written by Gm professional accountants based in Ilford

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