Redbridge Gives You a Blast From Its Past

Be a Part of Redbridge by Living in Ilford

The Historic Site of Redbridge

The name Redbridge has stayed on the map of London for a bit more than five decades. For the last 50 years since its creation, the borough developed its own identity. Diversity among its residence doesn’t tear them apart but develops a community instead, which gets stronger every day. Numerous charity organization in the borough manage to help each and every one of its members, who are in need. Unity is one of the words that we can easily use when it comes to Redbridge - a place, which many are proud to call home and where standing together is a must.

The leafy suburb is one of London's greenest boroughs, with more than 35 parks, playgrounds and open spaces to enjoy. It offers one of the best living environments in the capital. No wonder that Redbridge was pronounced a Fairtrade borough in September 2008, and was ranked the happiest borough to live in according to the Office for National Statistics in 2016. A part of these results is thanks to the local companies that take care for the cleanliness of the Redbridge households.

And if you didn’t hear, Redbridge blossoms every summer. In 2019 will be celebrated 24 years of the borough’s gardening competition – Redbridge in Bloom. The theme this year is tied with mental health and general well-being – A garden for the senses – so mark July in your calendar and go to see the gardens, bursting full with colours, smells and textures.

As Anni Albers famously said Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness , so chances are that you would like the air in Redbridge, since the borough often holds all kinds of imaginative events. In his recent statement, Jas Athwal, Leader of Redbridge Council, elected for the second time in May 2018, accented that it is his commitment to create more spaces, where young minds can be inspired by culture, and to give more opportunities for the borough’s residents to shine.

While waiting to see how the promised bright future will look like, we decided to take you on a journey through Redbridge’s past.


Postcard from Redbridge

Oh Red, Burning Red

As opposed to many of the other London’s districts, this time the origin of the borough’s name is not only unarguable, but in its essence lies a real story from the near past. Back in the days, when this area was open countryside, the Red Bridge carried Redbridge Lane east out of Wanstead over the River Roding. Unlike the other bridges, made at that time in the area, for this construction were used brightly red bricks, instead of conventional white stones. Since the times, and mostly the traffic changed, this wasn’t nearly enough to keep the emblematic bridge from being demolished in 1921.

A few years later, A12 Eastern Avenue dual carriageway was built over the river site. Nonetheless, and despite the current bridge not being red, the name has remained to this day and the current bridge is called Red Bridge on all available maps. Even though the emblematic, offbeat construction was no longer there nowadays, the district continues to carry its name, although the borough was officially established on 1 April 1965.


The Red Bridge of Redbridge

In 1961, due to the major restructure inducted by the government, the London boroughs were set to be cut from 92 to 32. Traditionally part of Essex, the boroughs of Wanstead and Woodford, and Ilford, were decided to be incorporated into the capital. After a long discussion and even a competition run by the whilom popular Woodford Times newspaper, among dozens of proffers, the name Redbridge was chosen. The main motive behind this decision was that the Red Bridge, which was crossing the River Roding, physically linked Wanstead and Woodford with Ilford. That’s how the link upon the waters of River Roding gives its name to the eponymous borough. The same is valid for the borough’s name despite the fact that the emblematic construction is no longer there.


The Waters of River Roding

The Secret That Lies Beneath the Ground

Merely none of the thousand Redbridge passengers, who use the Central Line every day, could possibly imagine the fundamental role played by its miles of underground tunnels during the Second World War. 828 high explosive bombs and 31 parachute mines – that’s the total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Redbridge. London Underground stations were commonly used as a shelter from the falling bombs. More than 170,000 Londoners spend their nights at this improvised refuge and maybe many of them own their lives to it. But that’s not all.


The Secret That Lies Beneath

In September 1940, The Blitz on east London caused severe damage to Plessey’s factory in Ley Street, Ilford, which manufactured vital aircraft parts for the RAF. A new venue was desperately needed, that’s how in 1942 the work in the secret plant, beneath the tunnels of the mend to be tube, began. At its peak, over 2,000 people worked in the underground factory, which was five miles long, 13ft wide and only accessible through the future tube stations. Although the confidence surrounding the site was so exaggerated, only a few local people were ever aware of its existence.

The subterranean factory was staffed almost entirely by women and operated 24 hours a day, producing parts for Lancaster bombers, gear levers for armoured vehicles, shell fuses and cartridge cases. Work began at 7:30 am and often didn’t come to an end before the late hours of the night - overtime hours were something usual. Since the labour was gratuitous, the knowledge that they were doing their bit for the war effort was enough of a compensation for many people. During the war, even King George himself visited the factory to show his respect for the hard work, being done there every day.


The Blitz on east London during the WW2

In 1945 Pressley closed the hidden factory. Afterwards, it took more than a year to rebuild the tunnels back to their previous form and to put the subway in use. Finally, on the 14th of December 1947, the Redbridge tube station was opened.

If you’ve ever wondered why there’s a statue of Sir Winston Churchill on Woodford Green, the reason is that from 1924 to 1964 the parliamentary constituency of Wanstead and Woodford was represented by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who led Britain to victory in the Second World War.


Sir Winston Churchill's Statue on Woodford Green

No Wisdom is Greater Than Kindness

Today Dr Barnardo's village is mainly linked to highly appreciated properties, because of its perfect location, providing the ideal haven from the hustle and bustle of the city. All the architectural gems of this important conservation area have been respected. The church, with its iconic tower and famously stained glass windows, remains and the clock tower still keeps the hour. Charming, isn’t it? But there’s something much more valuable than owning a home there and it is kept in the village’s history.


No Wisdom is Greater Than Kindness

For over 150 years Barnardo's Village has been keeping its promise to protect children and young people. The 19th century was a dark time in the history of Great Britain. Poverty and disease were so widespread that one in every five infants died before their fifth birthday. The children had to live in terrible conditions, with no access to education and even to food. When a cholera epidemic swept through the East End, leaving 3000 people dead and many children orphaned, a young man named Thomas John Barnardo gave his word of honour to do his best to help the ones in need. He decided to abandon his medical training and devote himself to helping children living in poverty.

It all started in 1867. Since Barnardo knew how essential proper education is, his first step was to set up a ragged school, where children could get a free basic education. In 1870, Barnardo opened his first home for boys. It offered not only the vital shelter they needed, but the ability to learn a craft as well. The boys were trained in carpentry, metalwork and shoemaking, which easily could give them a good start in life, beyond the borders of the asylum.

At the beginning, there was a limit to the number of boys who could stay there, until one sorrowful story changed this for good. One day, an 11-year-old boy knocked on the home’s door only to be sent away, because the shelter was full. Two days later, he was found dead of malnutrition and exposure. From this moment on, Barnardo vowed never to turn another child away.


Dr Barnardo's Village

Barnardo’s work was radical for its time and highly admirable. All kids were welcomed under his roof. The shelter accepted all children, no matter of their status, including black and disabled children, and those born outside marriage. Barnardo strongly believed that each and every child deserves the best possible start in life, whatever their background was. This philosophy still guides the charity today and is its primal principle.

In 1873 a home for girls was opened, its main goal was to support girls who had been driven to prostitution and to protect them from sexual exploitation. By 1900, the Barkingside garden village had 65 cottages, a school, a hospital and a church, and provided home – and training – to 1500 girls. By the time he died in 1905, the charity had 96 homes caring for more than 8,500 vulnerable children.

Today the charity, founded by Barnardo, keeps honouring his promise to support children in need of help – regardless of their circumstances, gender, race, disability or behaviour.


Dr Barnardo's Village Today

The Place, Where 9 Centuries Met

Known locally as The Hospital Chapel, Ilford Hospital Chapel is one of the gems in Redbridge's Crown. Listed as Grade II building by English Heritage, it is the oldest building in the London Borough of Redbridge. Among its many fascinating monuments, you can see the dazzling Burne-Jones windows.

The Chapel was founded circa 1145AD by Adelicia (Adeliza), Abbess of Barking, as a hospice for 13 aged and bedridden men. First, it was dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, but later, Mary Becket became Abbess in succession to Adelicia, and she arranged for the name of her brother, Thomas à Becket, to be added to the dedication in his memory.

Not all parts of the construction date back to the beginning of the previous millennium. The nave and chancel of the present building were erected during the 14th century, and the north wall is formed by the original Norman wall, when the Chapel was founded. Through the prolonged time of its existence, the building was owned by numerous landlords until finally, it’s administration was taken over by the Abbess Adelicia Charity, formed in 1982 by Lord Salisbury. This Charity still owns and administers the Chapel site.

The Hospital Chapel has a series of open days each year and admission is free. It is open for mass every Thursday as well.


The Ilford Hospital Chapel

Concluding With a Few More Landmarks

This amazing borough is a keeper for much more inspiring stories and significant places - the sophisticated Valentines Mansion and its lovely gardens; the ancient parish church - St Mary's Church in Woodford; the rich history, dating back to the Prehistoric era; the Redbridge Museum; the impressive building of the Town Hall, stands as an impressive Victorian landmark in the shopping precinct – just to name a few.

Redbridge has a lot more to tell but let us finish with a not so well-known fact. Redbridge was mentioned in the first radio series of Douglas Adams's “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”. It was pointed as the birthplace of the fictional character Paul Neil Milne Johnstone, who was described as the worst poet in the universe. Don’t panic – it’s just a figment of the fantastic author’s imagination, in reality, it is much more likely Redbridge to be the birthplace of a rising star in literature, since the education provided here is among the best in the capital.


The Old Town Hall

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