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From the Ilford Recorder - Thursday May 22nd 2003:


Family, local dignitaries and former pupils gathered to dedicate a memorial to a man who played a leading role in children's education for 35 years.

A magnificent granite stone marking the spot where William Stansfield Torbitt lies was unveiled at Barkingside Cemetery in Longwood Gardens, Barkingside. on Thursday - 130 years after he was born,

The gravestone replaces the dilapidated stone which had stood at the site since he died in 1945.

Etched on the new headstone is a picture of William Torbitt Primary School and a reference to his post as director of education from 1903 to 1938.

Cllr Ronnie Barden. chairman of area committee four which donated 1,000 towards the cost of the new memorial, said: "We are delighted to do this. It is of great historical significance.

"The grave now stands out. It is great to see his relatives here."

Mr Torbitt's grandson, also called William, was unable to attend but his wife Truda and two children Charlotte. 11, and Anna, eight, flew over from Namibia, Africa, for the occasion.

The girls laid flowers at the site and Mrs Torbitt read out a speech from her husband.

Mr Torbitt wrote that his grandfather devoted his entire working life to education and described the school in Eastern Avenue, Newbury Park, as his "living memorial".

He continued: "I hope this new memorial adds a little touch to local history and provides a point of interest to any who may pass this place."

The family paid tribute to former pupil Geoffrey Gillon whose dedication to his former school

and efforts to secure funds, ensured the new grave was erected.

Mr Gillon said he was pleased with the mason's work and that so many people had turned up to the ceremony.

"If the stone just had his name on it some people may have said 'was he something to do with the school?' but people will no longer have to ask," he said.

"All the information is there for everyone to see."

Redbridge Mayor and school governor, Cllr Vanessa Cole said:

"It is nice that good things are remembered."

Headteacher June Hill said she was very impressed with the stone and said it was fitting that his grave was restored.

Jeff Sawyer, who was a pupil at the school in 1950, was also present along with his wife Pat. who works there.

Their two daughters were also pupils.

Ex-pupils have set up a website –


Message from Bill Torbitt.

Your worship (Mayor of Redbridge), councillors, dear friends.

Thank you so much for coming to the dedication of my grandfather's memorial today Despite best intentions, it has not proved possible for me to attend in person However. I have asked my wife to say a few words on my behalf.

It is almost exactly 100 years ago today that my grandfather was appointed director of education for Ilford When he was born in 1873, llford was still largely rural, with a population of a few thousand inhabitants, sensibly remote from the conurbation which was about to engulf it. By 1903, although there were still many working farms in the neighbourhood, Ilford was now decidedly a urban centre as well as a London dormitory suburb   Electric trams had just been introduced, and new schools, churches, parks and hospitals were all under construction William Torbitt.was employed by the new council to help educate the children of the area.

In fact he devoted his entire working life to this, and held the position of director of education for nearly 35 years. Shortly before his retirement,, the newly built Infants school at Newbury Park was named after him - an honour which he said he accepted with surprise and gratitude. The school of course plays an important part in the community to this day, and is his living memorial. 1 am very glad that his new gravestone bears a depiction of the school, and I'm happy that the head teacher and other officials of the school are gracing us with their presence today, as well as many others who have attended it. I know it has a thriving 'alumni' organisation Though unfortunately I have had little physical contact, 1 am proud that 1 too bear the name of this successful and illustrious place. The actual building is a classic and elegant work of 1930's architecture (many other examples of which have sadly been lost) and [ trust it will so stand in its prominent position for many years to come.

My family and I live on the other side of the world, in Africa, in an environment which could not be more different than where we are today. But of course this is where we originate, so I am glad that I had the opportunity to have William Torbitt's grave restored, which was in a sorry state and in fact unrecognisable before. From the pictures I have seen, 1 think the masons have done a beautiful job. A suitable tribute has also been made to Kathleen, William Torbitt's wife, who is interred with him.

I would like especially to express my thanks to Geoff Gillon, without whose enthusiasm and assistance (and efficient email') this undertaking would have been impossible, especially at my remote distance I would also like to thank the Council for their generous financial contribution to the work.

There are even some people who have taken an interest in my family tree since this project began, and even before, and have uncovered information which I have been totally unaware of. I thank them for their kindness and interest.

In conclusion I hope this new memorial adds a little touch to local history and provides a point of interest to any who may pass by this place. Thank you all once again.


A MEMORIAL at the grave of a former Ilford dignitary is set to become a reality after councillors agreed to donate 1,000 towards costs.

Geoffrey Gillon asked area committee four councillors, meeting on Thursday at Redbridge Diabetes Centre in Buntingbridge Road, Newbury Park, to help fund an official memorial at  the grave of William Torbitt.

Mr Gillon, 55, pictured, a former pupil of William Torbitt School in Eastern Avenue, Newbury Park, said the school's founder died in 1945 and his son was not able to give him a memorial befitting his position.

Director of education for Ilford from 1903 to 1938, Mr Torbitt is buried in Barkingside Cemetery, Longwood Gardens, Barkingside, where a simple headstone marks his grave.

Now Mr Gillon wants to replace the crumbling headstone with a black granite memorial, costing 2,400. Relatives of Mr Torbitt, living in South Africa, have already given 1,000.

"We are looking for about 1,000" Mr Gillon told councillors. "The existing grave has a heavy concrete base and it would not be ethical to remove it now, but we want to put a black granite head stone there with some reference to his place in the community."

Cllr Ronnie Barden said: "I would personally support 1,000 being put forward."

Cllr Graham Borrott said: "I think we should be absolutely certain before any monies are given. We must see the appropriate information and provided we get that I would support it."

Councillors agreed to donate 1,000 towards the cost of a replacement head stone subject to a full financial report.


A DEVOTED former pupil wants to raise money to provide a fitting memorial at the grave of an Ilford dignitary.

Geoffrey Gillon, formerly of Leyswood Drive, Barkingside, has dedicated his life to William Torbitt School in Eastern Avenue, Newbury Park, where he was a pupil until 1959.

He now hopes to provide the proper memorial its founder never had because his son died in World War Two.

Mr Gillon, 55, set up a website about the school's history, which has helped him get in touch with past pupils. He is now trying to replace the decaying headstone at the grave of its founder William Stansfield Torbitt in Barkingside Cemetery, Longwood Gardens, Barkingside, with a black granite memorial.

"The original gravestone was very simple," said Mr Gillon.

"Mr Torbitt's only son, an officer in the British Army, had died as a prisoner of the Japanese and was, therefore, not around to provide the sort of memorial fitting for Mr Torbitt's role in the community,
"He was Ilford's director of education and, from archive photographs, it seems that he was chosen to represent the borough at civic events such as the reception of royal visitors."

The new headstone is. intended to include an engraving of the school. It would also make mention of Mr Torbittt's role as director of education from 1903 to 1938.

Mr Gillon said the cost of a replacement stone was around 2,400.

While Mr Torbitt's grandson, who lives in South Africa, is prepared to donate 1,000, Mr Gillon is appealing  to area committee four to contribute a further 1,000.

"It serves as a civic memorial and, for that reason I would hope that (he local authority might see fit to contribute towards the cost," said Mr Gillon.

Committee chairman Cllr Ronnie Barden said, while he could not promise Mr Gillon he would be granted his request, he encouraged him to attend the next meeting and forward his demands.


William Torbitt Website

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