Barking Town Heritage Project

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Barking Heritage Mural - by Jake Attewell

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

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.

  • 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

  • Voters decide on new mural design for Barking!

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    More than 160 people voted on artist Jake Attewell's designs for a heritage wall in Short Blue Place, Barking.

    All three designs were popular but just over half of the voters preferred his first mural design (see above). Jake said, 'I’m really pleased that so many voted and that the design was a crowd favourite. I’m really looking forward to getting started on the painting. Feel free to come down and say hello and to follow the project's progress on the Instagram page.

    Ninety years after the John H King draper's in East Street displayed landmark buildings and trades from Barking's heritage to celebrate the Barking Town Charter of 1931, Jake Attewell will create a contemporary 2021 take on Barking's heritage - much of it lost, but still valued by residents past and present.

    At the apex of the wall there will be an illustration of early twentieth century East Street, including a tram which Jake hopes to illuminate and animate when the mural is launched in September. Below he has incorporated the Bascule Bridge which carried the trams over the Roding to Beckton Gas Works, once a vital transport link for many Barking people employed there. The Curfew Tower represents the only remaining part of Barking's once formidable Abbey - soon to be recreated as a bronze model in front of the Curfew Tower. To the left is Wellington Windmill (1815-1926) which once stood close to the London Road Bridge between the River Roding and Back River. The Roding flows through the design (as it does through Barking) to the quay, where fishing boats abounded when it was the country's busiest fishing port with the world's largest fleet. After the last of the Short Blue smacks, as they were known, and cutters had departed the quay, it remained important to the industries along the riverside and continues to be an attractive focal point for Barking today.

    These elements were all part of the brief informed by the research undertaken by the project's Heritage Volunteers and a public survey on Barking's heritage, which took place last summer.

    Alongside Jake's street-style mural, mosaic artist Tamara Fround will be creating a heritage trail leading from Abbey Green to Short Blue Place, depicting other lost heritage, such as the Tudor Market Hall/Leet House, maybe the jute weavers and spinners, classic high street stores and more.

    A digital Barking Heritage Trail produced for the borough's Street Tag app is also due to launch this Spring to provide more information and photographs from the local archives at Valence House, an exciting update for walkers in the area who have access the app.

    We are grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for funding this project, with support from Be First. We will keep you updated here, on the progress of the heritage wall and trail and launch event later in the year. If you would like to get involved, you can sign up on the Guest Book section of this web page.

  • Your vote will count!

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    Mural artist, Jake Attewell, is asking local residents to help him decide which of three possible designs he should paint on the wall in Short Blue Place, Barking this spring.

    He has three stunning suggestions and wants residents’ help to decide which celebrates Barking’s heritage best.

    “I’ve spent a lot of time researching Barking’s fascinating history,” says Jake, “and I would love it if local people would take a look at my designs and decide which they think captures that history most effectively."

    “I will paint the option that people prefer,” he adds, “so every vote will count”.

    Jake was commissioned by Be First, the Council’s regeneration organisation, to paint the mural, after he won a competition to design artwork for the heritage wall above McDonalds on the corner of Short Blue Place and East Street, Barking. The commission forms part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund's programme of activities which also includes a heritage trail of mosaic installations by artist Tamara Fround.

    This vote closed on Tuesday 23rd March but you can sign up to find out more about the Barking heritage programme on the guest book page.

  • East End artist to celebrate Barking's 'Lost Heritage' in East Street

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    Jake Attewell (also known as Itaewon) will be designing and installing a ‘Street Art’ style mural representing Barking’s Lost Heritage’ on the wall of McDonald’s Restaurant, East Street, in 2021! Substantial funding has been received from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to commission this Heritage Wall as part of the Barking Town Heritage Project.

    You may recall that the Heritage Wall Brief was launched in Oct 2020. We received 14 submissions which were carefully considered by a short-listing panel (of ten), including Council and Be First staff, Barking Heritage Volunteers, and members of the local community. Six candidates were then interviewed by the project’s panel, and we are now pleased to introduce the successful candidate…

    Jake is a gifted and industrious young artist, who grew up in South Korea, graduated from Arts University College Bournemouth, and is based in Stratford. He is a visual artist, who paints street murals and studio-based works, which suggest, ‘a layered accumulation of architectural references, combined with aspects of graffiti’ - he has exhibited and curated two solo exhibitions of his artwork. One of his most recent mural commissions was his Clara Grant mural in Bow, designed and installed for the London Mural Festival, last autumn.

    On receiving the Barking commission Jake said,

    “I am extremely honoured to have been chosen to complete The Barking Heritage Mural Project. It is extremely important that we take interest in history, whether it be local, foreign, or natural, as it provides us the key to understanding how the world around us has come to be. There are so many beautiful elements to Barking's history that I wish to include… I'm very much looking forward to getting started as it is such a great location and I believe I can create something that Barking residents can be really proud of. “

    The local community will also get the opportunity to choose the final design to be painted on the Heritage Wall, by taking part in a vote organised by the artist, and there will be opportunities for local people and students to engage with him throughout this process…

    Tamara Fround, a popular mosaic artist, who has installed several works around the borough in recent years, has also been awarded a commission to create a mosaic heritage trail - linking historic Barking (Town Quay, Abbey Green & Curfew Tower) with the Heritage Wall mural in Short Blue Place. This community inspired trail will also be largely funded by the Heritage Fund as part of their Barking Townscape Heritage Project!

    You may have noticed that our project page's main photograph depicts John King's display of Barking's Heritage in 1931, commissioned to celebrate the Barking Charter and royal visit that year. His store listed as 35 East Street, was probably situated next to Fawley House (before it was divided into 33 & 35) in the gap which is now Short Blue Place. It is fitting then that Barking's latest celebration of its heritage will be painted on the facing wall in Short Blue Place, ninety years later!

    These new art works will not only celebrate Barking’s past heritage, but also represent a bright future for Barking - as somewhere which celebrates art and culture and works with the local community to create a better place to be…

    This story is reported in the Barking & Dagenham Post Newspaper:

  • Heritage Workshops on the updated Conservation Area Appraisal - recordings now available

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    Thank you to everyone who attended the National Lottery Heritage Funded workshops on Heritage Conservation in Barking. The first workshop focused on the abbreviated ‘user-friendly guide’ to the Abbey and Barking Town Centre Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan, and included practical advice for building & business owners and residents in the Conservation Area…

    If you were unable to attend and would like to view the presentation, by Purcell Heritage Consultants, the video recording of Workshop 1 is attached in the bottom right hand corner of this webpage:

    The second workshop provided a more detailed review of the conservation area appraisal & management plan and applying for planning permission within it. These workshops were run by historic conservation professionals and aimed to be accessible to everyone from shop owners to residents and supporters of local heritage.

    Historic England presented the latest guidance on non-listed buildings in Barking Town Centre. They explained their role in designating and protecting heritage assets and also briefly touched upon guidance for looking after Locally Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and other historic buildings.

    You can find out more about decision-making within conservation areas, and how significance is assessed - looking at buildings which make a positive contribution to the character of conservation areas (and explaining the difference between positive & negative contributors) by visiting:

    Both workshop recording are now available on this link - see the icons on the right hand side of the page...

    If you would like further information on the Conservation Area Appraisal or User Guide please contact:

  • Heritage Conservation Workshops - Tuesday 26th January & Tuesday 2nd February, 2021

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    For Barking heritage enthusiasts there are two free workshops available online during this winter lockdown. The first is entitled: An Introduction to Heritage Conservation and its key themes are - opportunities for enhancement of historic buildings, including the benefits of improving shop fronts and re-instating historic features; an explanation of historic building conservation and the most likely types of building you will come across in Barking, the importance of conserving built heritage and approaches to heritage conservation. It will also cover practical guidance on the maintenance and repair of historic buildings.

    The second workshop has a slightly different focus as an: Introduction to heritage legislation, policy and guidance - this develops themes from the first workshop by examining the new conservation area appraisal and will include input from Historic England and our own planning officers. There will also be an opportunity to ask your own questions.

    To take the opportunity to make these Tuesday afternoons a time to learn more about historic conservation in Barking - please email for an invite to either or both of these free workshops

    The workshops are funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, hosted by Be First Regeneration - working with Barking & Dagenham, and presented by Purcell Consultants with input from Historic England.

Page last updated: 12 October 2021, 21:52