History comes home

Woodford---Monkhams-workers-(C)-Redbridge-Heritage-CentreBuilding workers on the Monkhams Estate in 1918. © Redbridge Heritage Centre

Redbridge Museum will open a new permanent exhibition later this year exploring 200,000 years of local history. In the third of a series of articles, Museum Officer Nishat Alam looks at some of the items on show

One notable transformation visitors will see when Redbridge Museum reopens later this year will be in the section we call ‘From Village to Suburb’. This part of the museum looks at the period between the end of the 19th century and the 1930s, when the borough saw a rapid growth in population. The new displays will showcase more objects from our collection, exploring the changes that took place as Woodford became a suburb.

The railway came to Woodford in the mid-19th century, with stations at Woodford and George Lane (later South Woodford) opening in 1856. This was a key catalyst for the transformation of the area over the next 80 years. With a direct link into the city, professionals working in London began to move into places like Woodford and surrounding areas that offered the peace and fresh air of the countryside, with the possibility of a quick and convenient commute to work.

Following the creation of the Woodford Urban District Council in 1894, local services improved with the building of new roads, sewage pipes and electric street lights. Churches and hospitals were also established to serve the growing community, as well as schools such as Woodford County High School for Girls, which opened in 1919.

By the 1930s, 1,600 houses a year were being built on the former farmland of Woodford. It was during this period between the two World Wars that Woodford experienced rapid growth, bringing welcome change to the village. Many people were attracted to the new semi-detached houses built in Woodford in the 1930s, which were fitted with gas, electricity and the latest household appliances. Construction also began on new Underground stations, although these did not open until after the Second World War.

Much like today, the people of Woodford enjoyed a buzzing community life. There was plenty to do, like shopping on George Lane or watching movies at the cinema on the High Road, which first opened as the Majestic in 1934. From very early on, many people joined clubs for sports and hobbies, including Woodford Cricket Club and the Woodford Photographic Society, both founded in 1893.

In 1934, Woodford merged with Wanstead to form a new urban district, which became a municipal borough three years later. By the end of the 1930s, Woodford had transformed into a fashionable suburb while retaining its quiet village feel – a lasting quirk that continues to attract new residents today.

The new displays at Redbridge Museum will feature a variety of objects and photos from our collection to illustrate how Woodford transformed from village into suburb.

Redbridge Museum is located on Clements Road, Ilford. Visit swvg.co.uk/rm
To complete a survey on what else should go on display, visit swvg.co.uk/rms