From Wikishire
Jump to: navigation, search
Barking abbey curfew tower london.jpg
Barking Abbey curfew tower and St Margaret's Church
Grid reference: TQ440840
Location: 51°32’24"N, 0°4’48"E
Post town: Barking
Postcode: IG11
Dialling code: 020
Local Government
Council: Barking and Dagenham

Barking is a suburban town in Essex within the metropolitan conurbation. It is about nine miles from central London and is one of 35 "major centres" of the conurbation identified in the Mayor of London's "London Plan".[1]

The town centre forms a large retail and commercial district, which is currently a focus for regeneration.[2] Surrounding it is an extensive and fairly low-density residential area. The former industrial lands to the south are also being redeveloped as Barking Riverside.[3]

Long before urbanisation, Barking was historically a fishing and agrarian village. The economic history of Barking is characterised by a shift to market gardening, and industrial development to the south adjacent to the River Thames. The railway station opened in 1854 and was served by electric London Underground services from 1908. As part of the suburban outgrowth from London in the 20th century, Barking significantly expanded and increased in population, primarily due to the development of the LCC estate at Becontree in the 1920s. The village had so grown by the early twentieth century that a municipal borough was formed in 1931.


The name of the village os Old English and appears as Berecingas, in origin meaning either "the followers of Bereca" (an otherwise unrecorded chieftain) or "the men by the birch trees".

Parish church

The parish church is St Margaret's, a good example of Norman Romanesque architecture. It was once the church attached to Barking Abbey and after the Abbey was dissolved and demolished, the church remained. Captain James Cook married Elizabeth Batts of Shadwell there in 1762, and it is the burial place of many members of the Fanshawe family of Parsloes Manor.


In the manor of Barking stood Barking Abbey, a nunnery founded in 666 by Eorcenwald, Bishop of London. It was destroyed by the Danes and rebuilt about a hundred years later in 970 by King Edgar, and then survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536. After dissolution, Barking Abbey was demolished apart from the parish church of St Margaret, some walling and foundations are all that otherwise remain on the site.

A charter issued between 1175 and 1179 confirms the ancient market right. The market declined in the 18th century but has since been revived.[4]

The ancient parish of Barking covered 12,307 acres of the Becontree Hundred of Essex. As the hamlets of the parish grew into large towns, the landscape changed. In 1888 Ilford and Chadwell were split off the parish to create a new Parish of Ilford, leaving a residual parish of 3,814 acres, which in 1894 became "Barking Town Urban District", then in 1931 the Municipal Borough of Barking until reorganisation in 1965.


Fishing was the most important industry in Barking from the 14th century, until the mid-19th. Salt water fishing from Barking began before 1320, when too fine nets were seized by City authorities, but expanded greatly from the 16th century. Fisher Street was named after the fishing community there. From about 1775 welled and dry smacks were used, mostly as cod boats, and rigged as gaff cutters. Fishermen sailed as far as Iceland in the summer. They served Billingsgate Fish Market in the City of London, and moored up at home in Barking Pool.

Samuel Hewett, born on 7 December 1797, founded the Short Blue Fleet (the land's biggest fishing fleet) based in Barking, and using smacks out of Barking and east coast ports. Around 1870 this fleet changed to gaff ketches which stayed out at sea for months, using ice for preservation of fish. This ice was produced by flooding local fields in winter. Fleeting involved fish being ferried from fishing smacks to steamer-carriers by little wooden ferry-boats. The rowers had to stand as the boats were piled high with fish-boxes. Rowers refused to wear their bulky cork lifejackets because it slowed down their rowing. At first the fast fifty-foot gaff cutters with great booms projecting beyond the sterns were employed to race the fish to port to get the best prices.[5][6]

Until about 1870 the trade was mostly in live fish, using the welled smacks in which the central section of the hull, between two watertight bulkheads, was pierced to create a 'well' in which seawater could circulate. Cod caught live were lowered into this well, with their swim bladders pierced, and remained alive until the vessel returned to port, when they were transferred to semi-submerged 'chests,' effectively cages, which kept them alive until they were ready for sale. At this point they were pulled out and killed with a blow on the head before being despatched to market, where because of their freshness they commanded a high price. People who practised this method of fishing were known as 'codbangers.'[5][6] By 1850, there some 220 smacks, employing some 1,370 men and boys. The Barking boats of this period were typically 75 feet long carrying up to 50 tons. During the wars of the 17th and 18th century they were often used as fleet auxiliaries by the Royal Navy, based at nearby Chatham Dockyard.

The opening of direct rail links between the North Sea ports and London meant that it was henceforth quicker to transport fish by train from these ports straight to the capital rather than waiting for ships to take the longer route down the east coast and up the River Thames to Barking. In addition, by the 1850s the Thames was so severely polluted that fish kept in chests quickly died. Consequently, the Barking fishery slipped into decline in the second half of the nineteenth century. The decline was hastened by a storm in December 1863, off the Dutch coast, which caused the deaths of 60 men, and damage estimated at £6–7000. Many of its leading figures, including Hewett & Co, moved to Great Yarmouth and to Grimsby. By 1900, Barking had ceased to exist as a working fishing port, leaving only street and pub names and a large modern steel sculpture entitled "The Catch" as a reminder of its former importance to the town.[7] The sculpture is sited in the roundabout at the end of Fanshawe Avenue.[8] The local fishing heritage is recorded at Valence House Museum.

Economic development

Boat building has a long history at Barking, being used for the repair of some royal ships of Henry VIII. In 1848, 5 shipwrights, 4 rope- and line-makers, 6 sail-makers and 4 mast-, pump-, and block-makers are listed in a local trade directory. Hewett & Co continued in boat building and repair until 1899. Other industries replaced the nautical trades, including jute spinning, paint and chemicals manufacture. By 1878 Daniel de Pass had opened the Barking Guano Works (later de Pass Fertilisers Ltd, part of Fisons) at Creekmouth. Creekmouth was also the site of the major Barking Power Station from 1925 until the 1970s, burning coal shipped in by river; the current station known as Barking is further east near Dagenham Dock. In the 20th century new industrial estates were established, and many local residents came to be employed in the car plant at Dagenham.

Thames disaster

On 3 September 1878 the iron ship Bywell Castle ran into the pleasure steamer Princess Alice in Gallions Reach, downstream of Barking Creek. The paddle steamer was returning from the coast, by way of Sheerness and Gravesend with nearly 800 day trippers on board. She broke in two and sank immediately, with the loss of more than 600 lives, the highest ever single loss of civilian lives in the territorial waters of the United Kingdom. At this time there was no official body responsible for marine safety in the Thames, the subsequent enquiry resolved that the Marine Police Force, based at Wapping be equipped with steam launches, to replace their rowing boats and be better able to perform rescues.[9]

The town

Town centre

The Barking Town Centre area is being regenerated through a number of schemes. Currently, the town centre is one of the most deprived areas of Barking according to official indices.

Plans for the new town square were unveiled in September 2007. The development is part of the metropolitan mayor's 100 Public Spaces. The redevelopment was completed in 2008, designed by muf architecture/art and Allford Hall Monaghan and Morris. It won The European Prize for Urban Public Space.[10]


Rivergate Centre, Barking

The Barking Riverside development is part of the larger Riverside project for the conurbation, which aims to regenerate the riverside area of metropolitan Essex by providing new homes, jobs, and services. Barking Riverside is a 350-acre[11] brownfield land and therefore needs site clearance and the removal of overhead power lines before it can go ahead. Construction began in 2008, and the development is due to be completed around 2025.


  • Football: Barking FC were founded as early as 1865. The team merged with East Ham FC to form Barking & East Ham United in 2001 but this club soon went out of business and a new Barking FC was reformed

Cricket, basketball and hockey are also popular sports in the area.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Barking)