|Corner of Cranbrook Road and Park Avenue|
My family moved to Ilford in 1983, a few years after Ilford Limited had closed its base in the town, moving operations to its site in Mobberley, Cheshire, where it continues to this day. I first became aware of the company some ten years later, learning black and white photography at college: the iconic bold san serif lettering on boxes of photographic paper bearing the name of my home town had quite a visual impact, beyond any personal associations. At the time I had little interest in the history of the company, but, partly due to finding Maurice Fisher's excellent Photo Memorabilia website as a result of researching old Ilford plates more recently, this interest in Ilford's history has grown.
I conceived a project to photograph the sites of Ilford Limited in Ilford with an Ilford camera. I bought an Ilford Sportsman camera for 99 pence online, and armed with some Ilfodata HS23 document film, I spent two consecutive afternoons in Ilford taking photographs. After taking the photographs on the first day, I went to Redbridge Central Library. In the local museum there's a small display about Ilford, entitled 'A Worker's Story', about the photographic company told through the experience of Mary Davis, who worked for Ilford between 1958 and 1976, when the company closed in Ilford. Surrounding the documents and photographs in this display are cases filled with Ilford cameras, including the same model Sportsman camera that I had just been using, and films, plates and papers. The highlight of the display is perhaps an Ilford Falling Plate camera, representing the company's first entry into the camera market, something they would not attempt again until the 1940s. Objects from the museum's collection are also displayed throughout the library itself in appropriate places: looking in the photography section, I found a display case on the shelf amongst the books containing an Ilford Sprite, a box of R.52 Panchromatic plates, three rolls of 35mm HPS film and a packet of lantern slide masks.
In the local studies section of the library, I asked if they held any material on Ilford Limited and the helpful staff provided me with a folder full of clippings, a copy of Silver by the Ton- A History of Ilford Limited 1879-1979,2 and four pages of a typed document called 'The Ilford Story'.3 Useful for this project, Silver By The Ton has an appendix detailing the early properties of the company, with sections of the 1864 Ordnance Survey map, showing the original buildings, although it does state that "very little documentary evidence has survived about the factory between 1879 and 1891".4
|Entrance to Sainsbury's Ilford|
|Riverdene Road, looking north-west|
|Riverdene Road, looking south-east|
|Derelict houses next to The Papermakers Arms|
|Sainsbury's car park, view from the top of Audrey Road|
|Sainsbury's car park, looking west|
|Sainsbury's car park, looking south|
|Entrance to Sainsbury's car park from Roden Street|
|Roden Street, looking west|
|View of Sainsbury's supermarket across Winston Way|
|Golding Court, Riverdene Road|
|Industrial building behind Riverdene Road|
|View from Chapel Road towards Roden Street|
1 Alfred Harman's plates were first distributed by Marion & Co of Soho Square: Marion & Co began using the Britannia name for their own plates, and Alfred Harman lost a court case over the trade name in 1886. Silver by the Ton - A History of Ilford Limited 1879-1979, RJ Hercock and GA Jones, and The Ilford Story, unpublished typescript, initialled JCS, dated 11.5.60, held in Redbridge Central Library local studies section.
2 Silver By The Ton.
3 See note 1 above. The document states it was "Reproduced by the Ilford Azoflex Process". Azoflex was Ilford's dyeline document copying process, see advertisement here.
4 Silver By The Ton, p28.
5 At this point Alfred Harman was still making the emulsion in his basement in Cranbrook Road, but coating the plates in the cottage, transporting the emulsion in light-tight jars along Cranbrook Road by handcart.
6 The Ilford Story.
7 British Journal of Photography, June 29, 1888, reproduced in a centenary article in Amateur Photographer, May 16, 1979, p99.
8 The reproduction of the engraving in Silver By The Ton is provided with a key, which locates one of the houses from Grove Terrace, the rest of the terrace does not appear. The engraving does not show Clyde Cottages, which should be in the hazy countryside in the distance behind the factory, but it does show Magdala Cottages, and also mentions Napier Cottages, not shown.
9 'The borough of Ilford', A History of the County of Essex Volume 5 (1966), pp. 249-266.
10 A History of the County of Essex, pp. 249-266.
11 Essex Countryside Vol 32, no. 332 Sept 1984, p35. The source appears to be Silver By The Ton, which states 25,000 plates were ruined in April 1899, Silver By The Ton, p47.
12 Silver By The Ton, p20. However quality control at the new factory at Brentwood was inadequate, and production was concentrated back at Ilford, as, by 1905, "modifications at the drying rooms at Ilford had overcome the problems of atmospheric pollution." Silver By The Ton, p48.
13 Incidentally, Alfred Harman moved out to Chelmsford along this axis in 1886, but returned to another house on Cranbook Road, called 'Langsett', at the corner with Wellesley Road. Silver By The Ton, p150.
14 'The Britannia Works Company Limited A Progressive Institution', The British and Colonial Printer and Stationer, October 1st, 1896, p4. Illustrations reproduced in Silver By The Ton, pp36-37.
15 This may account for the incomplete terrace on the northern side of Audrey Road. Silver By The Ton, pp49-50.
16 At some point this was called the Sheepwalk Inn, but it has now reverted to its original name. http://pubshistory.com/EssexPubs/Ilford/papermaker.shtml
17 "Paper making was carried on at the Ilford Paper Mills, near Ilford Station, from c. 1862 to c. 1923. This business, which gave its name to Mill Street, appears to have been founded by William Simpson & Co., but later passed through the hands of several owners." 'The borough of Ilford', A History of the County of Essex, Vol. 5 (1966), pp. 249-266.
18 "1884: Introduction of Bromide & 'ALPHA' paper", http://www.photomemorabilia.co.uk/Ilford/Chronology.html
19 Silver By The Ton, p137.
20 Silver By The Ton, p137.
21 The British and Colonial Printer and Stationer, October 1st, 1896, p4.
22 A property called 'Rodenside' in a lane south of Roden Street, and the Loxford Social Club in Roden Street itself. Silver By The Ton, p61.
23 Ilford Recorder, Thursday February 28th, 2002.
24 Silver By The Ton, p50.
25 Silver By The Ton, pp61-62.
26 Silver By The Ton, p91.
27 Ilford Recorder, Thursday February 28th, 2002.
28 Silver By The Ton, p37, and The Ilford Story, which gives the opening as 1960, or more specifically "work was completed".
Ilford Chronology on Photo Memorabilia
Silver by the Ton - A History of Ilford Limited 1879-1979, RJ Hercock and GA Jones
The Ilford Story, unpublished typescript, initialled JCS, dated 11.5.60, held in Redbridge Central Library local studies section
The British and Colonial Printer and Stationer, October 1st, 1896
Amateur Photographer, May 16, 1979
A History of the County of Essex Volume 5, 1966. Retrieved from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42730
Essex Countryside Vol 32, no. 332 Sept 1984
Graces Guide British Industrial History
Ordnance Survey maps dated 1864,1896,1919,1938, and 1961-63, retrieved from old-maps.co.uk; but also a large scale rates map, based on the 1896 OS map with revisions of 1912, and a scale model of Ilford town centre from the mid-1980s, both held at Redbridge Central Library.