Highlights of the conservation areas of Barking and Dagenham are gleaned from https://www.lbbd.gov.uk/conservation-areas-and-listed-buildings
Barking Abbey was built in 666 AD, sacked and pillaged in 870 AD by marauding Danes, and rebuilt in 970 AD by ‘Edgar the Peaceful’. The Manor of Barking was the oldest estate in Essex and remained viable until the arrival of the railways. It had extensive land and property far beyond Barking. It was dissolved and demolished by 1541. The Abbey was the Headquarters of William the Conqueror in 1066 who stayed at there whilst the Tower of London was being built. The Abbey along with the Town Quay was of significant importance to the development of the town.
Curfew Tower or Fire Bell Gate (also known as The Abbey Gate)
The tower was built in1370 and was thought to be the principal of two gateways to the Abbey and is the only part of Barking Abbey still standing. A third gate was created as a misinterpretation of a phrase in a 16th century document. The tower has the Chapel of the Holy Rood in the upper storey. The Rood is a stone representation of the crucifixion (usually made in wood there are only four or five stone ones in the country and as such is part of a crucifixion group’s) and was the object of pilgrimage from late medieval times.
Parish Church of St Margaret’s
The oldest part of the church is the chancel built in the early 1200s. The tower was built over a period of time in three stages ranging from the Norman times with much of it rebuilt in the 1800s in a Gothic style. The church has mainly 15th Century additions. The church evolved from the Abbey, is in a prominent location on Abbey Green, and associated with local families depicted by various monuments and gravestones for example Captain Cook married at St. Margaret’s in 1762. George Jack created artwork for the church (George Jack was a leading craftsman with the Morris Company)’.
A wharf of some kind existed on the River Roding near to the Abbey since its formation. It was part of the land owned by the Abbey until its dissolution. The Town Quay enabled provisions for the Abbey, corn and meal for the local mills to be distributed, and contributed to the growing trade of the town. The Town Quay or Mill Pool as it is sometimes called represented the highest navigable point of the River Roding. In the late medieval period there were three separate wharves at the quay, one for the abbess, one for the leper hospital at Ilford and one for townspeople of Barking. The river was dredged and widened in the early 18th century and this made the whole Roding a major transport route. It was still used as late as the 1960s. It was also the site of the Manbridge, a narrow causeway across the Roding that linked Barking with East Ham. This was the only land route across to London in Barking until the early 1800s. The water mill was owned by the Abbey. The laws of the manor would have prevented people establishing their own mills in the Barking and Dagenham area without special permission and would have meant that the majority of Barking’s residents would have been forced to visit the manor premises.
The Short Blue Fleet
The Short Blue of the Hewett family in Barking was the largest fishing fleet in England during the 19th Century. It was based on the River Roding. The introduction of ‘fleeting’ by Samuel Hewett, which enabled fishing vessels to stay at sea for longer periods, with the daily catch being transported back to shore in fast cutters, and the use of ice to preserve fish, made Barking one of the most important fishing ports in England.
The history of the Barking area can be traced back to Prehistoric times. Evidence of settlements in the area from the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman Periods have been found.
Barking is one of the earliest Saxon settlements in Essex. The settlement was established on habitable ground near to the River Roding, a tributary of the Thames, which was to influence the growth, prosperity and structure of the town over the centuries.
It was the presence of water and good arable land that led to the establishment of Barking Abbey in 666 A.D. adjacent to the River Roding. There is thought to have been a wharf near to the Abbey since its foundation”. The Abbey was to dominate the development of Barking for many centuries.
The new monastery dedicated to St Mary was quickly endowed by the Christian East Saxon princes with land and property, most of which was to become the Manor of Barking.
It was in Norman times that the area rose to greater prominence. In 1066, William the Conquerer moved his headquarters to Barking Abbey, while the Tower of London was being built. The Manor of Barking was the largest and most valuable of the Abbey’s properties.
The earliest reference to a market in Barking comes from the reign of Henry II between 1175 and 117912. It was probably held in lands around the Abbey. Between 1567-8 the Elizabethan Market House was built adjacent to the Curfew Tower had a Justice Chamber on the first floor, a school room in the garret, with the ground floor occupied by the com market and the lower part an open arcade for the weekly market. The town water pump and stocks were in the open space outside.
The demise of the Abbey came in the 16th Century with the reformation at the time of Henry VIII. It was demolished in 1541. Much of the stone was shipped down the Thames for the building of the Kings new house at Dartford, and the roof lead shipped upstream to repair the roof of Greenwich Palace. All that remains of the Abbey is the Curfew Tower and some of the masonry that was reused to build the church15.
The wharf was maintained as manorial property until the dissolution. After the dissolution the Manor of Barking was sold by the Crown to Sir Thomas Fanshawe. In time the ownership descended to the Local Authority. The market place was conveyed to the crown and in 1616 was passed in trust to the Parish of Barking. The market on Saturday’s declined and lapsed in the 18th Century.
Of the remaining twelve grand manors in the area, most were demolished in the 19th and 20th centuries but remain as place names such as Westbury, Porters and Parsloes. Valence House and Eastbury Manor House however remain.
From the 14th Century until the second half of the 19th Century the major industry at Barking was fishing, supplying the London market as well as local needs. Industries and services to support the fishing fleet soon located near to the Quay and provided much of the employment for the local area in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Samuel Hewett’s introduction of the commercial use of ice to preserve the fish was the first time it had been used to preserve items other than luxuries”.
By the middle of the 19th Century Barking had grown to be a considerable market town with a thriving fishing industry. The town and road layout was still very much focussed on the Abbey with the Curfew Tower on Barking Broadway as the main north south street leading via Heath Street to the Town Quay, and East Street the main east-west street. By the late 19th century the fishing industry in Barking had begun to decline as the railways provided the rapid transport of fish from the east coast ports, (which were nearer to the North Sea fishing grounds), to London. The Stratford to Tilbury railway line via Barking opened in 1854 and was soon followed by the development of Barking New Town to the east of the Station. The Great Eastern Railway was extended to Yarmouth in 1867 and to Grimsby by the Great Northern. From the 1850s then there was a steady movement of fishermen to Grimsby and after 1865 most of the fishing fleet was transferred to Yarmouth and Gorleston’s.
Access to the river was an important consideration for many of the industries that established in Barking on the back of the market and fishing industries. By the mid 19th century, the nature of industry was changing to include chemical industries and brewing. By 1906 there were at least twenty factories concentrated around the river adjacent to the Old Town of Barking, at least half of which were producing chemicals as diverse as soap making and tar distilleries, to artificial fertiliser and sulphuric acid manufacturers.
The Stratford to Tilbury railway line via Barking opened in 1854 and was soon followed by the development of Barking New Town to the east of the Station, comprised mainly of terraced, bay windowed houses, built with commuters in mind. In 1863 there were sixteen trains a day between London and Southend stopping at Barking, and there was still a choice of two daily carriers to London. Barking Station was rebuilt in 1889, enlarged in 1908 when the line was electrified, and was completely reconstructed, much as we see it today, between 1958 and 1961.
The advent of the railway and the construction of the station, pulled the focus of the town away from Town Quay, which has steadily declined in the 20th Century as local heavy industry in the area contracted with the opening of cheaper global markets.
The market outside the Curfew Tower was briefly revived in the 19th Century before the Market House was demolished and the market finally closed in 1937. A revived Barking market opened in the 1990s for three days a week in East Street and Ripple Road. This has grown in size and popularity since the mid 1990’s and has helped the economy of the town.
The basic structure of the town remained fairly intact until the 20th Century. Between 1921-1932 the London County Council constructed 25,000 homes known as the Becontree Estate as part of the national housing scheme Homes Fit for Heroes after the Great War (1914-1918). It was a low density suburban estate and is the largest council housing estate in the wort°. Although the Becontree is not within the town centre area the significant and sudden increase in population had an impact on Barking Town Centre as it increased the number of shoppers as the Barking part of the Becontree Estate was built with very few shops. This was reflected in the Second World War during rationing when Barking townspeople wanted estate residents banned from shopping in Central Barking shops.
However, it was during the post second war period that Barking Town Centre experienced most change, with the construction of the Town Hall and Assembly Hall (now the Broadway Theatre) the demolition of slum houses and factories on the area now known as Abbey Green, the construction of new estates in the 1970’s to provide decent homes in Hart’s Lane, the Linton’s and the Gascoigne and the construction of new roads such as the A406, the northern relief road, St Paul’s and Abbey Road to ease traffic congestion and improve traffic flow.
The retail heart of the town centre was redeveloped too with the re-building of the lower part of the east side of East Street in the 1970’s and the construction of Abbey Retail Park opposite the Abbey Grounds, on the east bank of the Roding in the late 1980’s. The 1990’s saw more changes with the development of the Vicarage Field shopping centre on the site of the old football ground, construction of the Tesco superstore and hotels on former industrial land on the west bank of the Roding, and the pedestrianisation of East Street and Ripple Road.
Barking Abbey which was founded in the 7th century and the settlement that grew up around it would have certainly influenced the development of the area. There are late 15th century references to Fish Row, which was later known as Fisher Street, and then as Abbey Road. The road is shown on the Fanshawe map of Barking dated 1653 although the houses shown along the waterfront side of the road do not seem to extend as far as the conservation area at this time.
The conservation area is intrinsically linked to the development of the Town Quay and the fishing and brewing industries. Scrymgeour Hewett, a Scotsman, born in 1769 was the founder of the Short Blue fishing fleet. His son, Samuel Hewett was born in Barking in 1797. He revolutionised the Barking fishing industry by pioneering the fleeting system and preservation of fish by ice in 1821.
This saw fish being stored in ice houses. The first Icehouses were built in Fisher Street. The ice was collected from nearby fields in East Ham that were flooded by opening sluice gates along the Roding and Back River which once flowed parallel to the Roding to the easel.
People came from miles around to collect the ice as they were paid for the amount they had collected and could earn quite well. The main profit though was from the marsh owners, tradesmen and others who sold the ice to the Hewett company’s.
It is claimed that the bell on the Curfew Tower on Abbey Green was rung to summon people to church before the Church Bell Tower was built or to warn of the “Curfew” but another suggestion is that it was to signal warning of high tide or bad weather as well to let people working on the marsh know that the working day was ending.
The fishing industry was a major local employer and by 1850 the number of fishermen equalled a quarter of the total population of the parish (Barking and Ripple). Samuel Hewett turned the fishing concern into a company and retired to Yarmouth where he died in 1871. Samuel Hewett is buried with his wife at St Margaret’s in Barking just north of the conservation area.
Development in the 19th and 20th Centuries By the late 19th century the fishing industry in Barking had begun to decline as the railways provided rapid transport of fish from the east coast ports, which were nearer to the North Sea fishing grounds, to London. The Stratford to Tilbury railway line via Barking opened in 1854 and was soon followed by the development of Barking New Town to the east of the Station. The Great Eastern Railway was extended to Yarmouth in 1867 and to Grimsby by the Great Northern. From the 1850s then there was a steady movement of fishermen to Grimsby and after 1865 most of the fishing fleet was transferred to Yarmouth and Gorleston.
Access to the river was an important consideration for many of the industries that established in Barking on the back of the market and fishing industries. By the mid 19th century, the nature of industry was changing to include chemical industries and brewing. By 1906 there were at least twenty factories concentrated around the river adjacent to the Old Town of Barking, at least half of which were producing chemicals as diverse as soap making and tar distilleries to artificial fertiliser and sulphuric acid manufacturers. This extract from Mr. Frogley’s Barking describes the brewery industries importance as local business in Barking:
It was customary for farmers to brew their own beer to supply the workers in the fields with refreshment at harvesting time and on other special occasions. Barking Brewery was started by Dr George Glenny in 1864 to meet the demands of a few local farmers who had neither the plant nor the necessary skill to produce satisfactory beer themselves. The first brew was made in the potato shed of William Wallis Glenny and, apart from farm consumption, the first cask of beer was purchased by Dr Galloway of Cambridge Road, Barking. George Glenny sold the business to his brother, Thomas W. Glenny (d.1914), who acquired a site on the east side of Linton Road and built the Brewery. Trade increased from month to month, licenced houses were acquired, and the business grew to one of considerable importance. Until its purchase by Taylor Walker & Co. at the end of 1929, the Brewery employed about 30 hands, possessed 15 licensed houses, and sold 16,000 barrels a year.
A brick malthouse next to a windmill behind the Fishing Smack was bought in 1738 by Jeremiah Bentham (father of Jeremy Bentham). A later malthouse was built in 1866 for Randells & Co (Randells, Howell & Co were malt roasters located on Fisher Street). It was subsequently enlarged over a portion of waste ground called Donkey Park (a field adjoining the malthouse)19. The function of the Malthouse was to receive and store barley malt brought by barge on the River Roding. The malt then went to the brewery on Linton Road.
The original Fishing Smack public house (92 Abbey Road) was at the entrance to Hewett’s Wharf in Fisher Street and was damaged by a boiler explosion at the Hewett’s works in 1899. The main part of the pub building was retained, the front façade rebuilt, and the building extended in 1901. A pot and bottle store was added in 1924. The building was enlarged in 1980s. R. Bauckham was the publican in 1855. The Seabrooks were licensees from 1863 to 1906.
Dagenham Village is shown in the 1653 plan below and comprised of a single street known as Crown Street. There were buildings along most of the north side with some on the south side including St Peter and Paul’s Church, and a few buildings at the junction of the road to Rainham. Dagenham Village was slightly bigger in 1805 but growth was slow in the 1century even after the coming of the railway. The village retained its village character right up until the 1960s when it was to be redeveloped.
Crown Street was one of the most important roads in the area, the London to Tilbury road with a crossing point over the River Beam at Dagenham Bridge. The 1777 map above shows how the village was linked to the important manors and settlements in the area. The Manor of Parsloes just to the west of the village was owned by the Fanshawe Family who have been associated with Barking and Dagenham for over four hundred yearsa. One of the family Thomas Fanshawe became Lord of the Manor of Barking when his father died in 1651. The Manor of Barking comprised of Barking, Ilford, and Dagenham (including Dagenham Village).
The core buildings of this early settlement of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, the Cross Keys pub, and The Vicarage survive, but the majority of the buildings that formed the main part of the village and dated back to the 1300s have been lost.
Part of the historic road pattern survives today although Crown Street has been truncated by the construction of the lbscott Close housing estate and as such has lost its strategic function.