Ilford is a town in east London, England, located 9.1 miles (14.6 km) east of Charing Cross. Ilford Town is also the administrative centre of the London Borough of Redbridge. Identified as a metropolitan centre in the London Plan, Ilford is classed as a significant commercial and retail centre for the wider south east of England.
Ilford’s significant commercial and retail centre is surrounded by extensive residential development. Historically a small rural settlement in southwest Essex, its strategic position on the River Roding and the London to Colchester road caused it to develop as a coaching town. The arrival of the railway in 1839 eventually accelerated that growth and as part of the suburban growth of London in the 20th century, Ilford significantly expanded and increased in population, becoming a municipal borough in 1926. Since 1965 it has formed part of Greater London.
Ilford makes up part of the IG postcode area. Adjacent to Ilford; to the west of Ilford Hill and the North Circular Road, is the E postcode area.
The population of Ilford, comprising the wards of Aldborough Hatch, Barkingside, Cranbrook, Clementswood, Gants Hill, Goodmayes, Loxford, Mayfield, Newbury Park, Seven Kings, and Valentines was 168,168 in the 2011 census.
To the west of the town is Stratford and the West End, east is Romford, north is Epping Forest and south is Barking.
Ilford straddled the important road from London to Colchester. The Middlesex and Essex Turnpike Trust controlled and maintained the road from 1721. The River Roding was made navigable for barges as far as Ilford Bridge from 1737. Ilford remained largely rural until its expansion in the 19th century. This brought about brickworks, cement works and coal yards to service the new buildings, largely centred on the River Roding. In 1839, a railway station was opened on the line from Romford to Mile End. The early businesses gave way to new industries, such as paper making and services such as steam laundries and collar making, to provide for the new commuting class created by the railway. A number of major businesses have been founded in the town, including the eponymous photographic film and chemicals manufacturer Ilford Photo. This was founded in 1879 by Alfred H. Harman, a photographer from Peckham, who established the business in a house in Cranbrook Road making gelatino-bromide ‘dry’ plates. The business soon outgrew these premises, and its headquarters moved to a site at Roden Street until 1976 when the factory was closed. Many Ilford Limited products are displayed at Redbridge Museum.
The radio, electronics and telecommunications company Plessey, founded in 1917 in Marylebone, moved to Cottenham Road in Ilford early in 1919 and then to Vicarage Lane where became one of the largest manufacturers in its field. During World War II, the factory was heavily damaged by bombing and the company carried out much of its manufacture, with 2,000 workers servicing a production line, located in the underground railway tunnel between Wanstead and Gants Hill. In 1955 the company employed 15,000 workers, in sites throughout Ilford and neighbouring areas, with an extensive research department. BAL-AMi Jukeboxes were manufactured at 290-296 High Road, Ilford, during the 1950s, which also served as the headquarters of the Balfour (Marine) Engineering company.
By 1653, Ilford was a compact village of 50 houses, mostly sited north and south of the current Broadway and the area was distinctly rural. In 1801 the population of Ilford was 1,724 and by 1841 it had grown to 3,742. It had a population of 41,244 in 1901 and occupied an area of 8,496 acres (34 km2). 2,500 houses of the vast Becontree Estate, built by the London County Council from 1921, were within the boundaries of Ilford; the addition caused a rise in population of 11,600 by 1926. The Central line service of the London Underground to new and former main-line stations in the area began in 1947 and the population of the Municipal Borough of Ilford peaked in 1951 at 184,706, declining to 178,024 in 1961 before being absorbed into Redbridge and Greater London in 1965. At the 2001 Census the combined populations of the Ilford North and Ilford South constituencies was 196,414.