The weather in Ilford was so wet in 1903 that residents on Empress Avenue had to be rescued from their homes by boat. In 1929, Europe's weather was at the mercy of a violent anti-cyclone in the Northeast of the continent. The temperature in Ilford hit a low of -8C and rivers and ponds froze to such a thickness in Essex that skating became a common pastime. One of the worst weather events to happen in London was on 5th-8th December 1953. 4000 people died in London as a result of the smog and in Ilford, the toxic fumes meant that people were not allowed to use their open fires and so were extremely cold in their homes that winter. One Ilford lady took 3 hours to reach the maternity hospital by ambulance because the weather did not clear the smog and was only able to get there because a nurse walked the whole journey in front of the vehicle, directing it. It was with great relief that she gave birth to a baby girl.
It is hard to believe that much of what we call London was once wild woodland and home to many creatures that are now extinct. Ilford was once the preserve of the Mammoth and in 1860 the only complete Mammoth skull to have been found in Britain was uncovered by archaeologists. It is now on display in the Natural History Museum in central London. The earliest evidence of human settlement in what is now Ilford is an earthwork camp called Uphall Camp from the 2nd century BC. Ilford's strategic position on the Roding River also meant that the Romans occupied the area and the village of Great Ilford became a staging point on the Roman road to Colchester. It was the coming of the railway in 1839 that led to an explosion in growth. A new commuter class was created and Ilford became a popular place within which to live and from which to travel to the city. Ilford also became the location of many industrial and commercial businesses. Perhaps most famous were the factories of Ilford Photo, founded by Alfred H Harman to make photographic development plates.
Ilford is the birthplace of a number of actors and actresses. Perhaps most significant is Dame Maggie Smith, winner of many awards including 2 Oscars. Others include Tamzin Outhwaite and Sean Maguire. The DJ, television personality and inventor of Mr. Blobby, Noel Edmunds, was also born in Ilford. Former Essex and England Cricket Captain, Nasser Hussain grew up and went to school in Ilford, as did former boxing world champion, Nigel Benn.