Barking Town Heritage Project

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Barking Heritage Mural - by Jake Attewell, illuminated by Bertie Sampson (Immersive-me)

With help from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are putting local heritage at the heart of changes to Barking town centre, with a focus on East Street and the surrounding conservation area.

Our aim is to conserve and commemorate historic buildings in the East Street area and to research and inform residents and visitors, about the stories behind the high-street stores and local heritage.

Our team of volunteers will develop a historic legacy by contributing to the creation of town trails and tours, learning resources, exhibitions and a permanent mural in East Street.

We hope that you can join us in ensuring that our local heritage continues to be a positive and relevant part of Barking’s evolving cultural identity.

Leave your details below if you are interested in becoming a Heritage Volunteer or if you have any questions .

With special thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Library, who have provided support, training and access to their archives and photograph collection, including all of the heritage photos on this webpage. Contact for further information on local archives.

With help from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are putting local heritage at the heart of changes to Barking town centre, with a focus on East Street and the surrounding conservation area.

Our aim is to conserve and commemorate historic buildings in the East Street area and to research and inform residents and visitors, about the stories behind the high-street stores and local heritage.

Our team of volunteers will develop a historic legacy by contributing to the creation of town trails and tours, learning resources, exhibitions and a permanent mural in East Street.

We hope that you can join us in ensuring that our local heritage continues to be a positive and relevant part of Barking’s evolving cultural identity.

Leave your details below if you are interested in becoming a Heritage Volunteer or if you have any questions .

With special thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Library, who have provided support, training and access to their archives and photograph collection, including all of the heritage photos on this webpage. Contact for further information on local archives.

  • 'Our Barking' is blessed! New heritage exhibition opens at St Margaret's Church

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    Barking’s Heritage Volunteers are pleased and proud to present three years of research in a ‘pop up’ exhibition which has opened this week at St Margaret’s Parish Church – a building which is woven into the fabric of Barking’s ancient heritage- the oldest parts dating from the 1100s…

    George Westbrook and his detailed map of Barking Creek

    Mark Adams, the new vicar of Barking, has accommodated the heritage exhibition in the church sanctuary and it will be accessible to the public Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 11am-2pm. Mark says, “Being Vicar of St Margaret’s is a great privilege. It is extraordinary to think that I now lead the worshipping community on site that has been a centre of prayer and worship for over 1300 years. St Margaret’s is still a place of prayer and worship today; home to vibrant and inclusive Christian community which meets together every Sunday morning at 11am and at other times during the week. If you would like to find out more about St Margaret’s, both its past and its present, then check out our website or come along any Sunday morning. You would be most welcome!

    Reverend Mark Adams - in mufti Church warden, Carol Brabender, has been a member of the church for 53 years, since moving to Barking from the London’s East End in 1967, and warden for the last 9. Carol has recently received royal approval from The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall at the Royal Maundy Service in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Carol was one of the recipients of a purse of silver coins, or Maundy Money, in gratitude for her commitment to charities such as St Margaret’s Café for the Community. Prince Charles said, ‘Enjoy your day!’ and Carol certainly did!

    Usually Carol can be found managing the café in the church refectory, Tuesday-Thursday lunch times. The cafe is part of the church centre and also supports mental health groups and hosts the local Asian and BME community. Carol has been singing, baking, raising funds and serving the church and wider community for many years. She was nominated to receive the Maundy blessing by Bishop Guli of Chelmsford. Whilst the first female Bishop of Barking, Reverend Lynn Cullens, recently visited the parish church, whose origins lie in the nearby abbey - which was led by women for centuries!

    Carol is photographed with her hand upon her beloved church, shown next to Barking Abbey, before it was demolished during Henry VIII’s reformation. This model is going to be reproduced in bronze, as part of the improvements in front of the Curfew Tower. You can read more about the history of Barking Abbey, in the new Exhibition and in the Church’s own display about this amazing institution. Other historic buildings featured include the Curfew Tower – the gateway to and only remaining part of the ancient abbey, the Tudor Leet House and market-place and the grand homes which graced Barking Town in past centuries.

    Sue Hamilton with her researchThe role of the River Roding and changes to transport are also key themes in our humble heritage exhibition produced by the Abbey and Barking Town Centre Heritage Project – funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and managed by Be First on behalf of LBBD. The sustainable wooden exhibition panels were created by staff and students at B&DC, project managed by student graduate and technician Jake Chatters.

    Eric Feasey - impressed with the exhibition panels and happy to discuss the history with our visitors

    The improvements to the public space in front of the Curfew Tower, restoration works in East street and Heritage Mural and art trail are also part of this project which will be completed this year.

    Alex Lynch recreating the look of a Barking Fishing Wife

    Come along to find out more about Barking’s heritage including fun facts and opportunities to dress up as Barking folk from the past including monks and nuns, fishermen and their wives, dockers and jute workers – a workforce of women and children, in their wooden clogs!

    The exhibition will be moving on to the Barking Learning Centre in June, where it will be extended to include panels about Barking’s high street and restoration works and will include more models of Barking -created by pupils from Gascoigne Primary School… We will also be present at the exhibition, in St Margaret's Church, with fun activities, during Barking's Bike Fest event on Saturday "1st May! We hope to see you soon!

  • Barking Mothers Through the Ages by Simone Panayi

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    It has been a positive and eventful women’s empowerment month in Barking and Dagenham. Last weekend some of the Barking Heritage Volunteers joined up with the East End Women’s Museum to guide a Women of Barking Walking Tour around the town centre.
    Tour guide, Alexandra Lynch, opposite St Mary and St Ethelburga's RC Church, Linton Road, beside the new House for Artists

    The event was so popular that an additional date has been added and free tickets can be booked here: Women of Barking - Walking Tour Tickets, Sat 9 Apr 2022 at 11:00 | Eventbrite

    Three Lamps, Abbey Green, a place of protest - jute workers and sufragettes spoke out...

    It was a wonderful celebration of Barking women and as Mother's Day approaches it is worth sharing some of their stories, focusing on Barking mothers through the ages.

    Research undertaken for the Barking heritage project has uncovered several stories of Barking mothers from across the centuries who we can nominate and admire. It is the perfect time to introduce you to them. They are not all famous, but they are all mothers linked to Barking, with stories which should intrigue and even inspire others, this Mother's Day.

    The earliest Barking mothers were nomadic hunter-gatherers and migrant farmers who sought out these marshy lands close to the Thames. The women and their families relied on their knowledge of nature for their survival and left little behind to reveal their daily lives. The first Barking women to appear in written records were the nuns of Barking Abbey – which was established in the early years of Saxon Christianity, in AD666.

    The ‘mother’ superior of this religious house was known as the abbess and during its earliest days she was overseeing monks as well as nuns and all the abbey's lands and interests. The first of these powerful women was Ethelburga who was gifted her elevated position and responsibilities by her brother Erkenwald, who was abbot of Chertsey before he established Barking Abbey for his sister, and later became Bishop of London. Both were cannonised by the early church for their local miracles. Bede the venerable Saxon monk and author, wrote about the founding of the Abbey and the life of its community. The abbey was more than a spiritual sanctuary it provided important social services for local people too.

    Frogley's sketch of the Holy Rood in The Curfew Tower

    Charity was an essential component of abbey life, including care of the sick, especially the poor. In the twelfth century abbess Adeliza founded a leper hospital at Ilford, which survived the dissolution. Alms for the poor included food (pittances), clothing and money as well as Alms-houses. The abbey also contributed to the local economy by acting as an employer on a large scale.

    Another service was the care and education of patrons' children. Members of the Tudor royal family, including Edmund Tudor, father of King Henry VII, were sent to Barking Abbey to be raised by the abbess. The final abbess, Dorothy Barley, had several godchildren, many of whom were mentioned in her will - they came from the most important Essex families. The nuns themselves were well educated - creators of textiles, glass, artworks, dramas, music, songs, books, and manuscripts. Historians are in awe of their achievements and contributions to religion and culture across the centuries, including probably the first play script written by a British woman, Katherine of Sutton, Abbess 1358-76. The abbey probably had the longest tradition of female literacy in Britain before it was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1539. Find out more here.

    Mothering Sunday, does not refer to the mothers we celebrate on Mother’s Day but the annual opportunity for workers to return home to their ‘mother’ church. This custom which dates to the sixteenth century enabled people such as servants, to attend their parish church, and visit their family, including their mothers of course.

    We recently discovered a Barking mother in the parish records when we were researching the Oyles family (merchants of Dutch heritage). This name is marked on Thomas Fanshawe’s 17th century manorial map, showing who leased his land in the Manor of Barking. The Oyles family had the land north of East Street, at that time.

    Thomasina Oyles (born 1693), probably the daughter of William and Margaret Oyles was possibly related to another Thomasina Oyles who was buried in St Margaret’s churchyard in 1689 and John Oiles whose children were baptised at the parish church in the 1650s. We are more certain that she married city banker Robert Surman and the young couple moved into Valentine's Mansion, in Ilford, in 1724. They had two daughters Thomasina and Sarah. The only other details we know of this mother is that she died in 1734 aged 41, leaving behind her husband and teenage daughters. She did not disappear into history, as they raised a tomb for her within St Margaret’s parish church and her brother Thomas Oyles, a deputy of the ward, was buried beside her in 1743. Sadly, her daughter Thomasina died following childbirth in 1750 at the even younger age of 30, and was also buried with her mother, and uncle in the family tomb. The church organ was later erected over these tombs and we still wonder if these members of the Oyles family or their earlier relatives had lived at Cobblers Hall in East Street.

    The famous Quaker prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry (nee Gurney) born in 1780, was buried in the nearby Quaker Burial Ground in 1845.

    Tour guide, Sue Hamilton, in the Quaker cemetery, now gardens, in North Street

    The Society of Friends (as the Quakers were known) believe that all people are equal in God’s eyes – this led them to despair at inequalities in society and endeavour to improve the lives of the enslaved, and the poor, women, and children. Elizabeth was a mother of eleven children and if that wasn’t a challenging enough, she is famous for initiating the reform of prisons, particularly for women and their children - who were incarcerated within them… In 1818 she was the first woman to give evidence at a House of Commons committee, during an inquiry into British prisons. She also raised concerns about conditions in prison ships, asylums and hospitals besides the lives of the poor in general. She advocated for the education of working women and better housing conditions for those living in slum conditions. She also established the original soup kitchens. Mrs Fry’s reports and suggestions were gradually enacted across Europe

    Quakers remained humble in life and death and refrained from ornate tombstones often preferring unmarked graves. Hopefully Elizabeth will not mind if we praise her achievements today – there is now a memorial to her in the gardens where she was buried, opposite the Sikh Gurdwara on North Street. Her portrait is also engraved into the marble of the glorious new Gurdwara building.

    Perhaps Elizabeth Fry was inspired by another famous mother who briefly lived in Barking - Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary had a turbulent and transient childhood moving from place to place as her father tried and failed to elevate himself and turned to alcohol instead. Meanwhile Mary escaped his abuses by wandering along the Barking levels and enjoying nature, especially laying down to look up at the sky! The sky really was the limit for her, as young Mary educated herself to become a companion, governess, journalist, philosopher, translator, and famous author. Her most renown and influential text was A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Strict Quaker Mrs Fry was unlikely to have approved Mary’s bohemian lifestyle, which seems unrestrained by eighteenth century mores and thoroughly modern, but most likely shared her progressive views on the rights of women!

    Whilst reporting on the Revolution in France, Mary became pregnant but was jilted by her lover, which led to two failed suicide attempts and a complicated life as a single mother to Fanny. Yet she managed to find love and happiness once more with philosopher William Godwin. They married in 1797 and their daughter Mary Shelley (nee Godwin) was born soon after. Tragically the feminist philosopher was lost to complications following childbirth 11 days later. A light that burned as bright as it was brief, was not put out on her death, as her works have had an enduring legacy especially for modern women for whom she beat a path towards equality with men. Whilst Mary Shelley, her second daughter, married a Romantic poet and created a classic novel with universal themes – Frankenstein - which burst onto the page, stage and screen, and has remained popular ever since. Its horrifying representation of the monstrous and tragic consequences of a man acting as God, has not lost its impact or relevance. Her mother would have been proud of her too…

    Continuing on a theme of trailblazing mothers linked with Barking, Susannah Mason married a radical young doctor, Hugh Herbert Mason, who argued for improvements in the lives of the poorest Barking residents and established a dispensary on Broadway where poorer customers could pay a small subscription which would cover future medical costs in an era before the NHS. Meanwhile Susannah, became a mother to Edward and Marianne and a member of several local boards aiming to improve the town – including the Burial Board which managed the creation of Rippleside Cemetery and the Education Board which opened the first council schools, including Gascoigne - the headteacher's logbook shows she visited regularly. In 1894 she stood for election for the newly established Urban District Council and was duly returned as its first female councillor (her husband was not elected, but was voted in as the first Chairman). In 1897 however their only daughter Marianne tragically died of ‘croup’ aged just seven. It was her mother who is recorded as commissioning an artist to create dedicated stained glass windows in the new Rippleside Chapel – conceived by local architect CJ Dawson as non-denominational place for spiritual reflection. Marianne lies in an unmarked grave next to the Dawson family but her name and even her portrait remain with us, as the artist beautifully recreated her likeness in glass… In the wake of Marianne's death, the Mason family returned to their childhood origins in the midlands, following a faithful service to Barking and dedication to improving the lives of Barking Residents.

    In the late nineteenth century there was a large female workforce in Barking, mainly employed at the extensive Jute Works, located at the southern tip of Fisher Street (now Abbey Road). In her recollections Mrs Story (nee Stearne) recalled that many of the skilled female weavers had been brought in from Dundee and the spinners from Ireland. They were known for their ‘plaid (tartan) shawls’, braided hair and when they were at leisure their ‘highly coloured dresses’.

    Over a thousand people were employed there including hundreds of ‘outworkers’, sewing sacks at home, who were mostly local women and children. Eliza Bailey of Wall End – the tiny hamlet just west of the Roding River, was recorded as a Jute worker at eight years of age, in the 1871 census. Probably starting out as a sack sewer, by 1881 teenage Eliza was a spinner. She married Joseph Roe in 1883 and became a mother to 10 children!

    Ellen Brick, a working mother, was also discovered in the 1881 census. She was an Irish jute worker who was living in a female household in Heath Street. Ellen had at least six children, her two eldest daughters worked fulltime at the Jute works and her thirteen-year-old son worked ‘half time’. Another female jute worker from Ireland is recorded as living with them but there are no men recorded there, perhaps they were working away from home or maybe the women and children were self-sufficient…

    Another example of a household of women and children was that of Ann Withers, a sack sewer from Sligo, Ireland. She lived with her children at 10 Weatherals Court in 1881. Her eldest daughter Sarah is also listed as a sack sewer, but Mary who was only 14 is noted as a more skilled ‘jute weaver’ in the census, and her older brother George as a ‘jute worker’. Nora Sullivan another Jute Worker from Ireland, and her four children lodged with them. Again no men are listed, although twenty years earlier when Ann was living in the notorious Flower & Dean Street (Spitalfields’ Rookery) – ‘perhaps the foulest and most dangerous street in the whole of the Metropolis’, she had a husband, aged 61, over 30 years older than her. He was a labourer who could well have died before 1881. These working mothers and their children seemed to manage to get by, by living and working together with their children (who were not listed as 'scholars' for long)…

    Meanwhile Mathilda and John Forrester, of Hart Street had migrated from Scotland and were both 'overseers' at the Jute Works. Their eldest daughter Mathilda, aged 13, is also recoded as a Jute worker. This family returned to Scotland when the Jute works closed in 1891. The closure of the works had a devastating impact on the workers who had been employed there. Several charities were employed to relocate many of the women to Scotland, Ireland, and Canada, to transfer them to domestic service, or to support their daily needs. St Margaret's Church Magazine noted that during July, '165 coal and grocery tickets were issued' to those in need! Thank you to Felicity Hawksley and Lesley Gould for these findings as they continue to investigate the Barking Jute workers and you can read Felicity’s previous article on the Jute Works here.

    It has not been easy to find out about Barking mothers in the past, with limited documented evidence of the women who lived in past centuries, but the painstaking detective work is very rewarding. Every precious insight into our foremothers’ lives is a revelation and inspiration to the women of Barking today.

    As we celebrate our mothers this weekend, we might spare a thought for those who went before us - many struggled to survive poverty and childbirth and some bravely paved the way for better living conditions and greater opportunities for their sisters and daughters and women living today…

    Thank you to Karen Rushton, borough Archivist, and Teresa Trowers, Local Studies Librarian for all their dedicated support for this project and helping us to find out more about the Barking women who came before us. Visit the Valence House website for further information. We look forward to discovering more when the East End Women's Museum opens in Barking, you can find out more about them on their website. As always we thank The National Lottery Heritage Fund for funding this project!

  • Buildings on Parade - restoration works in Barking

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    We are polishing up the Edwardian buildings in Barking’s Town Centre, as part of our Townscape Heritage Project largely funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund with additional investment from the building owners, in the town-centre Conservation Area.

    This is the crest on the 1907 United Westminster Charities Block, 1-11 East Street.

    They were built by the charity, on land donated to St Margaret’s Hospital, Westminster, by King Charles II in 1636.

    These buildings were eventually sold in the 1990s and are currently being repaired and restored to their former glory. HBS have ensured that the Edwardian Dutch Gables have been made safe and carefully restored. The windows have been mended, painted and also replaced where they were beyond repair. The stonework was not repainted but restored to its original condition - which is now considered the most sustainable way to manage old buildings (as proposed by The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings). This building has also been steam cleaned and the brickwork and mortar joints repaired.

    Jasmine Jandu, a student from Barking College, studying for a T-Level technical qualification in design, surveying and planning for construction has been enjoying her weekly work experience placement, with the contactors, Havering Building Specialists (HBS) since November 2021. Jasmine, who has braved working at height, said: “I love it – it’s amazing, brick restoring and laying. I’m learning so much.” The team at HBS are pleased to have Jasmine too, saying she is, ' a pleasure to work with, very polite and a great listener, also not afraid to ask questions!'

    Learning from the experts – Jasmine has been re-pointing the bricks using lime mortar rather than cement and restoring the worn and often unsafe masonry including on the roof of the building.

    Jasmine up on the roof (35 East Street) with HBS - taken by Leslie Bowen, with kind permission Further along East Street, closer to the station, is another regal row of purpose-built shops with upper-floor residences. These began at 83 East Street but were re-numbered 1-9 Station Parade during the twenties. We had not found an exact build date for this row in the borough’s Archives, but the HBS team recently removed the post-war rendering on 1 Station Parade and revealed a damaged but clearly visible and ornate date of 1906.

    Photo of dated emblem on 1 Station Parade - courtesy of Leslie Bowen, HBS

    The uncovered crest confirms that this is another row of Edwardian stores, predating the 1907 parade next to The Bull. HBS also revealed the original timber windows, at number 1 – which have been covered up for around seventy years. These will be repaired rather than replaced. A photo recording the regeneration of bomb-damaged London Road shows the wrap around advertisement for Radios which first covered the windows on the corner of Station Parade and Linton Road. Photo: LBBD Archive

    The ornate date had previously been covered by a huge image of an Indigenous American, advertising a cool new footwear, Moccasins, probably in the 1920s (LBBD Archives)… Originally Gosling’s Store had been more well known for its boots and in an older photograph the building emblem is clearly visible above the glass frontage. As glass became more affordable, it became a key feature of Edwardian Architecture, including ornate and stained glass.

    Early twentieth century photograph of Station Parade (LBBD Archives) - thanks to the restoration works this original feature can be viewed once again.

    Another marvelous discovery, during these restoration works, overseen by Be First and Focus Consultants, is the mid-twentieth century glass and copper signage used by renown toy maker and seller of fancy goods, JT Worricker.

    The entrepreneurial young craftsman opened his first store, probably at 38 East Street, around 1898, a photo, taken between 1902 and 1906, with his young wife Ethel, shows Joseph Worricker's wooden horse walkers and local postcards…From the Worricker's Collection in the LBBD Archive

    When the United Westminster Charities opened their parade in 1907, with resplendent shopfront lighting (preceding streetlights) Worricker’s had a new store at number 3. This photo from the LBBD Archive, shows an intriguing display, with a range of wooden handled skipping ropes hanging from the doorway, enduring favourites: dart boards and scooters, and even a hospital (upstairs) to repair dolls. The best clue to the date of this snap is a new American import of, the ever popular board game, Monopoly, first sold in the UK in 1936…

    Intriguingly if you research the history of this game, Charles Darrow is credited with its invention, the original counters were claimed to be charms from his daughter’s bracelet (iron, purse, lantern, racing car, thimble, top hat, battleship, cannon, and rocking horse). He sold the game to Parker Brothers, but had previously purchased the proto-type from Elizabeth Magie. Lizzie patented The Landlord’s Game in 1904 and had created it two years earlier. Emerging during the Edwardian era her game was intended to illustrate the role of rents in society and to promote taxation – she was a follower of progressive economist Henry George. Also a feminist, she believed women as capable as men in professions, as inventors and business owners - it is a harsh irony that a man took sole credit for her game for decades and that it became famous as a pursuit of rich monopolies rather than generating prosperity to be shared by all…If you look closely at the photo from the thirties, not only do you spy Monopoly, but also Glass signs advertising TOYS, DOLLS and FANCY GOODS, either side of the doorway.

    These were later replaced by those recently uncovered by HBS, which in turn advertise popular products from the fifties and sixties: SPORTS GOODS, MECCANO SETS & SPARES, TRI-ANG TOYS and LEATHER GOODS.

    The middle panels each side, are wonderful Ws for Worricker’s, complete with copper embellishments.

    With the kind permission of the building owner we are hoping to use Lottery funding to carefully remove, restore and exhibit these examples of high street history, reminders of the hey-day of local shopping…

    Worricker opened another store at 103 East Street (now 21 Station Parade) which was famous in Barking not only for its toys but its nursery equipment. Worricker and his sons, Cyril and Stanley, catered for and benefitted from two post-war baby-booms in the twentieth century! After Joseph’s death in 1962, one obituary described the one-time woodturner and book seller as a ‘Baby Carriage and Toy Dealer’. Meanwhile his son Cyril, who took over the business was locally revered for his charity work, especially as a Friend of Barking Hospital (Upney), where a ward was named after him…Joseph Worricker also left a legacy for Barking in his historic Post Card collection which provides a substantial amount of the historic photographs of Barking in the borough’s archives

    Local property owner, Barbara, once lived close to Worricker’s double-fronted store, at 15 Station Parade, above her family’s Newsagents. As a young child she remembers the excitement she felt when she visited Worricker’s and playing with her pram and dolls, as well as going to John’s café, nearby, with her father, Bert Key.

    Barbara took this photo of her father outside the family store, in 1983

    E C Hewett’s was named after her maternal grandfather - a contemporary of Worricker - he opened his store, on the parade, in the early thirties. Barbara’s fond memories of living there include, watching the Barking carnival go by from the rooms above the shop, and later helping downstairs. She recalls the rush for plush, boxed, cards purchased by cheery chaps, for their wives and girlfriends, along with their usual paper and cigarettes on Christmas Eve... You can read more about her memories of Barking in our next Stories Behind the Stores feature, on this webpage!

    The restoration works at 1-5 Station Parade, which include another building owned by Barbara’s family, have focused on the upper floors where the rooves, windows and facades have been restored (see above). The shop front of 5 will also be improved and 3 is getting a new door and sign on the side.

    Colin Bannon, Heritage Townscape Officer for the project, said that he is very pleased with the quality of the workmanship shown on the restoration works!

    The project is ongoing and will hopefully include further buildings from the Woolworth’s row (11-23 East Street, with its prominent pilasters) built in 1927 and perhaps the most well-known of Barking’s Edwardian parade’s the remainder of the 1910-11 row built by Councillor Arthur Blake.

    Blake’s corner with its renown Ironmongery was damaged by a bomb in 1941. Barking lost a fine corner building with a neo-baroque clocktower but its name remains in local lore.

    The remainder of the row with its ornate masonry, red brickwork, and triangular pediments, is in need of some TLC and hopefully some of these old Edwardian buildings will benefit from the project too... If you would like to find out more about this heritage project please contact

  • Shining a Light on Barking's Heritage

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    Bertie Sampson, of Immersive-Me, created the mural magic which illuminated and animated Jake Attewell's Heritage Mural, in Barking's Short Blue Place, last week - bringing Barking's past into the present for new generations of residents to enjoy! This was made possible by Be First Regeneration with the support of the National Lottery's Heritage Fund! The light-show brightened up a cold, dark November evening and inside a TSA classroom family friendly craft activities took place: There were opportunities to create mini murals and mosaics and decorate gingerbread - a traditional food of St Ethelburga Fayres at this time of year, in Barking's past...

    Fabulous florescent face paints and glowing jewellery were available alongside craft activities
    McDonald's restaurant, whose gable wall is painted with the new mural, and brightly lit during the event, kindly supplied children's drinks for the event and the TSA a warm space and hot drinks for the adults!

    Mural Magic event - shining a light on Barking's heritage, in Short Blue Place

    The event would not have taken place without the dedicated Barking Heritage Volunteers who are stalwarts of the project - researching at the Local Archives (who sourced the old photographs and images which inspired the mural), guiding and supporting the artists and local schools, and bringing the stories of the past to life for new audiences!

    Heritage volunteers: Lesley, Sue, Felicity, Alex & Eric with Council Leader Darren Rodwell, artists Jake Attewell and Tamara Froud and Simone Panayi (heritage project engagement)
    Photographer: Andrew Baker

    Tamara Froud's new mosaic of the National Lottery's latest Heritage Fund logo - funders of the Heritage Mural and Art Trail

    Tamara Froud, the talented mosaic artist who created the Central Hall mosaic, also in Short Blue Place, and a lovely logo of the National Lottery's Heritage Fund, opposite Jake's mural will be installing further stunning heritage mosaics around Barking in the new year. A bronze model of Barking's historic Abbey, in front of the Curfew Tower, will join the heritage mosaics and mural in 2022 as part of a new heritage art trail for the town centre!

    Maquette for bronze model of Abbey, by Setworks - which they have kindly donated to the project and was shown at the event

    We will keep you posted on the progress of the trail and improvements to the public realm in front of the Curfew Tower, as well as the restoration works on the old buildings along East Street and Station Parade! Please also see the Be First article about the Mural Magic event, with video clip: Mural magic shines a light on Barking’s heritage – Be First London

    If you would like to find out more about the project, including funding for restoration works on old buildings in the town centre, please contact:

  • Mural Magic in Barking, Wednesday 24th November

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    Jake Attewell's Heritage Mural will be illuminated at a free event which, 'shines a light on Barking's Heritage' on Wednesday 24th November. Come along to enjoy this magical experience with free craft activities and face-painting, hot drinks and decorated gingerbread for ticket holders. You can obtain your free tickets on Eventbrite, using this link:

    Event details:

    Jake's mural will be lit up by fellow artist and creative technologist, Bertie Sampson. Barking's Heritage volunteers will also be on hand with activity fun for all of you who obtain your free tickets. The mural will be lit up from 6.15 until 8pm and activities held in a nearby college classroom, on Short Blue Place. Come along to brighten up your evening!

    Barking Heritage Volunteers enjoying Tamara Froud's mosaic of Central Hall - also at Short Blue Place, and part of a heritage art trail of mosaics, mural and model - of Barking Abbey at the Curfew Tower, which will be completed in 2022!

  • Jake Attewell Paints the Town - a heritage mural for the future

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    For those following the progress of the Barking Heritage Mural - Jake Attewell has completed the installation of his design which commemorates Barking's past! The striking homage to Barking's origins includes, the Saxon Abbey, represented by its remaining gateway (The Curfew Tower), the fishing industry which grew up around it, the engineering feat of the Bascule Bridge, which carried trams over the Roding to Becton and at the apex - East Street, a thriving high street with trams in the early twentieth century...

    You can view the mural on the gable wall of McDonald's overlooking Short Blue Place, in Barking Town Centre, where Tamara Froud's mosaic of Central Hall is also located - the first of her installations for the Heritage Art Trail.

    There will be an event to celebrate both the mural and the mosaic trail in November - shinning a light on Barking's Heritage - look out for further information... With thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for funding this project!

  • Return of Central Hall - the first installation in a heritage art trail for Barking

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    Barking’s Wesleyan Central Hall, designed in 1925, built in 1928 and damaged by a V2 Rocket in 1945 was demolished in 1957 making way for a new Methodist Church, in London Road.

    This striking Art Deco building with aesthetic lines, prominent glass windows and crowned by a metal dome and spire had a memorable, if short lived place in the heart of Barking, for almost three decades. In recent years the site of this grand place of entertainments and worship has been converted into a public space, known as Short Blue Place, and mosaic artist Tamara Froud has recreated this attractive building from Barking’s past in alcove, a few paces from where it once stood.Central Hall replaced earlier wooden and brick chapels, built by the Wesleyans in East Street in the nineteenth century. The first Wesleyan preacher to address Barking people was John Cennick in 1750, and John Wesley himself visited in 1783 and 1784. By 1791 Methodism was consolidated in Barking by John Childs a Soho shoemaker who had sent six of his workers to live and preach in Barking. The twentieth century Central Hall cost £50,000 to build and was largely funded by a £30,000 donation from future movie mogul J Arthur Rank. Perhaps unsurprisingly the new venue included a cinema as part of its temperance aims - to entertain the local people without the supply of alcohol. Meanwhile a Capitol Cinema also replaced the old Wesleyan Chapel on the opposite side of East Street - these were two of several screens for movie goers in Barking, in the early twentieth century - it was the hey day of film, before televisions became widely available. Variety shows would also be performed at Central Hall for a 1500 capacity audience, before World War Two.

    During the war, damage claims and salvaged furniture were dealt with at Central Hall and at least one local couple had their wedding reception there! Mr Wheatcroft was told that his parents’ reception took place there in 1945. One of the most tragic days of that war for Barking people was Sunday 14th January 1945. A V2 Rocket hit St Paul’s church, Ripple Road, just after the service, where eight people were killed and 52 seriously injured, including the choir boys. Despite the falling masonry, the papers reported, the priest, still praying, was unharmed… Later that evening fourteen more local people were killed in another V2 incident in London Road, which destroyed much of the rear of Central Hall. The main façade and dome did remain standing (although the dome was reportedly damaged) and can be seen in newspaper reports of the building’s demolition in 1957. Several local people on social media history groups, remember attending Sunday School, Brownies and Guides there in the post war era and one person even recalls having a piano recital there! It is good to hear people’s memories of local places and we hope that everyone will enjoy Tamara’s mosaic whether they knew the original building or not… A QR code will be placed in the alcove, next to the mosaic to allow visitors to find out more about the history of Central Hall while admiring Tamara’s mosaic.

    This mosaic is the first of several heritage art works to be installed in Barking this Autumn. There will be more mosaics depicting Barking’s heritage including representations of ‘Protest’ at the Three Lamps, Abbey Green, based on designs by pupils at St Margaret’s Primary School. Also including, Jake Attewell’s Mural on the side elevation of MacDonald’s in Short Blue place and a bronze model of Barking Abbey as part of the improvements to the public realm at the Curfew Tower. Barking Heritage Project’s heritage trail is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and managed by Be First Regeneration on behalf of the London borough of Barking and Dagenham.

    We hope you enjoy these permanent installations, which will culminate in an illuminating event which will ‘shine a light’ on Barking’s heritage this autumn…

  • Flaming Hot at Phoenix Park - mural workshop

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    It was a balmy evening at Phoenix Park on Abbey Road, this week, when, @itaewon_artist (Jake Attewell) and youngsters from the local area completed the mural displaying the name of the new pocket park, in bright colours. The design was based on a brief provided by the Gascoigne residents who co-designed the park – the bold illustrations represent the role of the park, to provide a place to: play, grow (plants, such as fragrant flowers and edible vegetables) exercise, meditate, and socialise of course… Jake really enjoyed sharing his knowledge with ‘fledgling’ artists,

    “I had an amazing couple of days painting with the residents of Gascoigne estate. The youngsters were so passionate about the project and were very eager to put their own creative flare on the design which is indicative of the talent and ingenuity running through the Gascoigne community. It was also fantastic to meet some of the budding creatives from the area who will be entering the industry soon, I have high hopes for them.”

    Up and coming young artist, Emmanuel, aka @oreyeni_arts from nearby Riverside, was keen to help and says he has been admiring Jake’s work and following him on Instagram. "When I heard about the mural at Phoenix Park, I knew that I had to go, it’s very rare that you meet another artist who is a pro, in the area I want to work…it was a pleasure to meet him. I love working with the community on projects like murals as they give people an emotional connection between them…” He’s up for adding his own bespoke art to any available hoarding and has already worked with Be First on ‘artworks made by the community for the community’. Emmanuel will be starting a university degree in Art in September, having an unconditional offer – based on his portfolio and the numerous local projects he has previously been involved in. If you are interested in what he has been up to visit: and for any requests please contact:

    Another young student, Sophie, who lives very close to the new park, is awaiting her GCSE results, including art – she showed her artistic flare as she involved herself in the painting of the mural. Sophie is been planning to start a beauty course in September and certainly has a good eye for colour and became very skilful, over two evenings, creating different effects with the paints! Several younger children also got involved and painted a whole boarder of flowers along the hoarding too. Together Jake and the budding artists have created a very cheerful and engaging entrance to the new park – which has its formal opening on Saturday 31st July.

    Beside Jake’s contribution – celebrating the role of the park in the local community, the Barking Heritage Project (funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and managed by Be First), will be at the opening event, encouraging local people to share their own stories about work and play in the local area, for a new digital heritage/story trail, to be created by Street Tag and Pen to Print.

    Two of the project’s heritage volunteers, Alex and Sue have been researching Gascoigne’s past and pounding the streets of the Gascoigne Estate in recent weeks to create an engaging route for their guided ‘Gascoigne Heritage Tour’, which will take place at 1.30 pm on Saturday 31st July (meeting at the Phoenix Park) – please email to book your place in advance. There will also be opportunities to sign up for the tour, at the Gascoigne Heritage stand, in the park, on the day… Residents will also be invited to share their ideas for a Gascoigne Heritage mosaic and nominate a location for it. So come along to the Phoenix Park opening event to find out more about Gascoigne’s heritage, to share stories from your family’s past and celebrate Gascoigne’s future heritage too!

    Jake will be back in Barking again this summer creating the Barking Heritage mural in Short Blue Place on the wall of McDonald’s – look out for more information and events connected with this, in coming weeks…

  • Merry May Days & Jolly Jaunts in June

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    Before the Whitsun half term, pupils and staff in Year 5 at Gascoigne school went on riverside tours along the Roding to find out more about Barking’s fishing history and received maps and photos of Barking’s past from Valence House Archives & Local Studies Library as well as plans of the new Gascoigne developments from Be First. The old photos, maps and new plans were used to create models of Barking in the past and the present. The Barking Heritage Project had lottery funding available for some of the materials for the model making and the pupils did an amazing job! Under the guidance of Ms Cole-Davis, the history leader at Gascoigne, the pupils displayed their remarkable reconstructions at the end of May. Ms Cole-Davis declared the exhibition a success, saying, ‘The children presented well and there was positive feedback from the staff, pupils and parents.’ Photographs show the impressive models and information that were on display and the general public will be able to view these for themselves at the Phoenix Park opening event (which has been postponed until late July). The Barking Heritage Volunteers and myself are really looking forward to seeing these reconstructions of Barking’s past and comparing them with models of the current estate as well as finding out more about the future plans for the Gascoigne area of Barking.

    Meanwhile two of the heritage volunteers Alex and Sue have been crafting a heritage walk for the Gascoigne Estate. They have been researching the history of this unique site and have been rambling along the Roding River and through the streets of the Gascoigne area over several weeks now, as they put together a tour of historical sites for local residents to find out more about the locality and inspire them to share their own memories and stories of the local area. An inaugural Gascoigne Heritage Walk will take place on the afternoon of the opening of the Phoenix Park on Abbey Road – the new Pocket Park, co-designed by: residents and landscape architects, the client, maintenance teams and the contractor, and funded by Be First and Wates. The park has the honour of being featured in the London Festival of Architecture this year! The Barking Heritage project are delighted to have booked a place at the opening event with the Heritage Walk (which people will be able to book onto in advance and on the day) and hosting a stall - with opportunities to discuss old photographs of the area and themes of: work, leisure, schooling, play, fizzy drinks and other treats and refreshments enjoyed in Barking… We will be gathering memories to share on the new digital heritage & storytelling trail of Gascoigne which will be added to the Street Tag App, with support from Seun Oshinaike and the digital design team at Digi Lab and funding from Pen to Print, as well as our own lottery funding. The Barking Town Centre digital heritage trail for Street Tag & Pen to Print launched in May and we hope to have the Gascoigne trail ready for September.

    On the other side of the borough Valence House Museum, the heritage volunteers were finally able to revisit the Archives and Local Studies Library to return to their research of the area. We were covering topics such as the history of Transport, the Gascoigne Estate, St Margaret’s Vicarage in Ripple Road, East Street, Austin’s Timber Works (built on the site of Hewitt’s Wharf) along the Roding and the Bascule Bridge and tram route over the Roding to Beckton… Felicity is producing a great addition to our Stories Behind the Stores feature on the latter topic!

    Meanwhile our commissioned artists Jake Attewell and Tamara Fround have been planning engagement activities. Jake has been working with the Gascoigne Residents Forum to create a design to transform the hoardings at Phoenix Park and even joined a few of us to help get the Pocket Park ready for opening – by painting inside the park… Tamara will be working with St Margaret’s School in June, where Year 5 pupils will find out all about the history of Protest in Barking and produce design ideas for Tamara’s mosaics around the base of the Three Lamps, on Abbey Green, close to their school, where in the past, protestors would meet to demand change!

    Entrance to Phoenix Park which will be transformed by 'Itaewon' and the GRF Three Lamps, Broadway - site of 'protest' mosaics designed by St Margaret's pupils and created by Tamara Fround Felicity organised a visit to Jake's Clara Grant mural at Bow and researched this remarkable headmistress who did so much for the poorer children of the East End including the creation of the Farthing Bundle...

    Clara Grant Mural by 'Itaewon' at Bow

    Photo of children with their 'farthing bundles' courtesy of the Roman Road website - see for further details about Clara Grant
    June has been a busy month for schools work. After a difficult year of coronavirus and social distancing - the pupils of St Joseph’s School have really appreciated the opportunity to go on class tours of Barking. The Year 4s found out about the history of transport in Barking with walking tours and historical sources workshops. The year 5s enjoyed a Victorian Barking Tour and drama activities using props and costumes and the Year 2s will be finding out more about Old Barking too, with a recreation of old shops in their classroom, including a Soda Bar – like Henry Van created close to their school!

    Year 4 - Transport Tours

    Finally, the film students met the June deadline for their BETEC Diploma coursework and, as a result of their research, filming and editing over this difficult school year have produced three films on Barking's Heritage for their fellow students! These will also be shown at the final pop up exhibition for the project early next year!

  • History buffs take to the streets!

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    An interactive heritage trail is being launched this week on the streets of Barking.

    The digital trail, which can be accessed on a smart phone using the pioneering Street Tag app, uses augmented reality technology to encourage people to tour the streets of Barking to discover its rich history and tell their own stories.

    The app allows users to see images from the local archives, hear stories and read about Barking’s past at key sites such as the Abbey ruins, the Curfew Tower and Town Quay. Crucially, participants can also add their own photos, reminiscences and even poems, and the app rewards participants who walk and share the most.

    The Barking Heritage Trail is the first stage of an ambitious new collaborative project - the Pen to Print Digital Storytelling Trail - which will be extended across the borough over the course of the year. The heritage element uses content developed by Barking’s heritage volunteers, with backing from Valence House archives, Be First and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Later stages will feature a host of other creative input, such as poetry, illustration, photography, podcasts and film reflecting the creative talent of the borough.

    Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership and Engagement, said: “You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this exciting new heritage trail. The Street Tag app is really simple to use, so whether you’re on your way to work or just out walking the dog, you can find out more about Barking’s past and share your own stories at the same time!”

    Simone Panayi, Be First’s Heritage Engagement Manager, said: “Our heritage volunteers worked with the local archives to research Barking’s key historical monuments, and then teamed up with Street Tag inventor, Seun Oshinaike, to bring their stories to life and available to all.

    “Street Tag is fun to use and encourages people to walk and exercise more, providing information about interesting places to visit and engage, and offering points for getting involved”.

    Lena Smith of Pen to Print, added: “The Barking Heritage Trail is the first element of the Pen to Print Digital Storytelling Trail that we plan to launch during this year. Focusing on the Becontree Estate in 2021, we’re asking local people to start sending us their stories, fact or fiction, about anywhere in Barking and Dagenham and in almost any format to add to the trails now. Details of how to do this are on our website.”

    More information, including how to download the Street Tag app, is available at

Page last updated: 28 Apr 2022, 05:38 PM