Redbridge Museum will open a new permanent exhibition later this year exploring local history. Here, Museum Officer Nishat Alam looks back on Her Late Majesty’s visits to the borough, including Wanstead
By the time this issue of the Wanstead Village Directory goes out, it will have been almost two weeks since the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. As the longest-serving monarch in British history, the event was incomparable to anything most of us will have seen in our lives. In this article, I look back at the Queen’s visits to Redbridge over the years.
The then Princess Elizabeth’s first visit to what is now Redbridge was on 9 May 1945, the day after VE Day. The Royal Family visited Ilford on a tour of parts of east London that had been most affected by bombing during the Second World War, meeting local civil defence workers outside the bomb-damaged Ilford Super Cinema across the road from Ilford Station.
Elizabeth visited Ilford again on 25 October 1949 to celebrate the 1,000th house built by Ilford Council as part of the new welfare state after the end of the war. Local people gathered in crowds to catch a glimpse of the young princess, and several residents were lucky enough to meet her in their new homes (see photo above).
In 1952, Elizabeth became queen and was crowned the following year on 2 June 1953. Peter Lawrence of Woodford, aged 10 at the time, remembers that “the Coronation [was] the event that brought people into the television age,” with many across the country buying a TV set to watch the first-ever televised Coronation. Local people also bought souvenirs like plates, teacups and biscuit tins, many of which are now in the collections at Redbridge Museum. Street parties were held across Redbridge to celebrate the Coronation. Residents decorated their streets with Union Jack flags and bunting, and came together for food, singing and dancing. Similar festivities took place for the Queen’s jubilees over the years, including the Platinum Jubilee four months ago, which marked 70 years of the Queen’s reign.
The Queen made her first visit to Wanstead on 9 May 2002 as part of her Golden Jubilee tour of east London. She and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the allotments on Redbridge Lane West, where they met members of the Redbridge Food Futures project which supported people with learning disabilities, many from the Woodbine Clubhouse in Wanstead. The Queen was even presented with a basket of vegetables grown on the allotment! Plot holders Donald Doody and John Harrison met the Queen.
She was back in Redbridge on 29 March 2012, this time to Valentines Mansion in Ilford as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour. At the Mansion, the Queen viewed exhibits from Redbridge Museum as part of the ‘London Pride’ art and design festival and remarked: “Goodness, how things have changed!”
And how! The passing of the Queen brings about the end of an era characterised by several momentous events that have left a lasting impact on the social, political and cultural landscape of the United Kingdom. As a new chapter in British history begins, the new Redbridge Museum will look back on the past to allow new and existing audiences to understand how and why we are where we are today.