Barking Town Heritage Project

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The shop front of John H King's Draper's - with a huge art display above the shop - showing landmark buildings and trades from Barking's heritage - to celebrate the Barking Town Charter of 1931.

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 historical homes.

Our team of volunteers will develop a heritage 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 historical homes.

Our team of volunteers will develop a heritage 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.

It would be great if you could share your views in the Barking Town Heritage Survey. There is a prize draw and a lucky winner of a Fire HD 8 Tablet and vouchers for some lucky runners up too!

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 localstudies@lbbd.gov.uk for further information.


Tell your story

These Stories behind the stores aim to reveal the historical origins of the buildings and locations of East Street and Barking Town Centre, and remind us of the local heritage which has often been lost to Barking residents. 

With the help of the Council's Archives and Local Studies Library we aim to research the stores and residences in our project area.  Some of the buildings still exist but many have been moderated, demolished, rebuilt, or redeveloped, often more than once. We hope to rediscover past uses and the people who lived or worked there and re-tell their stories to new audiences.

If you have any personal or family memories or knowledge from other residents about any of the buildings or locations mentioned here you are welcome to share  them with us...

Thank you for sharing your memories and stories with us.

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    The impact of Britain's colonial past on Barking's heritage

    18 days ago


    Tucked away in the tiny print of Victorian newspapers is a local story that should be shared this Black History Month and beyond – an incredible and inspirational story of transcending the suffering of slavery, to fight for freedom and equality. In October 1888, Revered W B Brown, and his wife, were on a lecture tour entitled, ‘Scenes in Slave Land’. They had travelled from Baltimore, in America, to speak out against slavery and addressed Barking Baptists at the temporary Baptist Chapel on Ripple Road (not the earlier chapel on Queen’s Road, sketched by Frogley, and before the beautiful Tabernacle... Continue reading

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    When Barking's Public Offices became a Magistrate's Court by Sue Hamiliton (retired magistrate)

    2 months ago

    In 1893 Barking's Public Offices were built on land in East Street that was previously a market garden. When borough status was conferred on Barking in 1931 it was decided that a new Town Hall was needed, and plans were approved in 1936. Due to austerity, the building of the Town Hall was halted until after the war and it was not completed until 1957.

    Meanwhile Barking Council fought to have a much needed Magistrates court in the old Public Offices and eventually received Home Office approval. Alterations were made to the building to make it suitable for use as... Continue reading

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    Barking's Public Offices

    3 months ago

    Of the borough’s listed buildings, the grade II* Barking Public Offices, also known as ‘Barking Magistrate’s Court’, is the only one with Victorian origins and remains one of the most imposing buildings in Barking and Dagenham. The imminent borough architect, Charles James Dawson, submitted its plans in July 1891 and Thomas W Glenny laid the foundation stone in 1893, underneath which, were placed: copies of a national and local newspaper, The Essex Times periodical and three silver coins. It cost £15,085 to build and was opened in October 1894, by philanthropist Mr J. Passmore Edwards, who also donated a thousand... Continue reading

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    Crime and Punishment in Barking Part 1: House of Correction and the Tudor Leet House by Sue Hamilton

    5 months ago

    House of Correction

    There was a House of Correction established in East Street, Barking under control of the Justices of the Peace to serve Becontree Hundred between 1609 and 1791 for criminals and lunatics. It was repaired and extended in that period but abandoned when new premises were designed by John Johnson, Surveyor to the County of Essex.

    The new building was on half an acre in nearby North Street, according to James Howson, the borough archivist in the 1970s, it was, 'about 400 yards north of St. Margaret’s Church, Barking and on the west side of the street.' It... Continue reading

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    The impact of World War Two on Barking Town Centre by Simone Panayi

    5 months ago

    Volunteers for the NLHF Barking Town Heritage Project have been sharing their findings about key buildings on East Street: the art deco Burton building, engraved with elephants, Marks & Spencer’s cream coloured corner store, of 1935, and Woolworth’s pilasters... These stores disappeared due to changes in fashion and commerce, but the buildings remain – other buildings have vanished…

    At this inauspicious time, when only a few shops and services remain open, we are reminded of previous crises, such as World War Two, when there were over 1700 bombing incidents across the borough and thousands of casualties, including, sadly, 426 lives... Continue reading

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    Marks & Spencer's - the original penny bazaar by Simone Panayi with Lesley Gould

    7 months ago

    The Barking Heritage Project has been celebrating the stories behind the stores and old buildings of East Street and the surrounding area. Barking town centre has changed a great deal since commerce first developed around its Saxon Abbey. Various shops have come and gone, and we want to share the tales they left behind.

    Continuing the theme of penny stores, the first one in Barking was probably, ‘The London Penny Bazaar’ on The Broadway. It can be seen in an old post card from the borough’s archives - this sepia photograph was taken before World War I, as it was... Continue reading

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    Pawnbrokers and Penny Stores

    8 months ago

    After the festive period, gift giving and indulgence follows the contrastingly bleak winter months and a period of self-deprivation: alcohol free, less calories and reduced spending… It is time to look back to thriftiness in Barking’s past - shopping here a hundred years ago involved pawnbrokers and penny stores.

    During the nineteenth century Robert Willet, inherited a drapery business (selling cloth), from his father, John, who became a Pawnbroker on North Street, by 1881. Around this time, Philip Barton owned the Unredeemed Pledge Stores at 5, East Street. He sold items that had been pawned and not reclaimed.

    Moneylending... Continue reading

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    'The Full Monty' - Burton's in Barking by Simone Panayi

    10 months ago

    Barking’s Curfew Tower or Fire-Bell Gate, where a curfew bell tolled until the early twentieth century, is the grand gateway to historic Barking - St Margaret’s Church, Barking Abbey ruins and the old quay beyond. When viewed from East Street, it is framed by two more heritage buildings! On the corner of North Street, is the 1925 rebuild of The Bull Inn, which, as an establishment, has possibly been present since the abbey gate, opposite, was first built in 1370. There were no rooms at the inn this Christmas unfortunately, as it undergoes redevelopment, before offering accommodation for Barking visitors... Continue reading

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    Abbey Lodge - East Street, by Simone Panayi

    about 1 year ago

    Many Barking residents will remember that before Sam99’s, 23-25 East Street hosted Woolworths - a stalwart of high streets across the country. The American, Frank Woolworth, whose ancestors were from Woolley in Cambridgeshire, founded the British branch of FW Woolworths, noting in his diary, ‘I believe that a good penny and sixpence store, run by a live Yankee, would create a storm here...’ The first store opened in Liverpool (where he had first docked) in November 1909 and the last closed in January 2009. After more than a hundred years of inflation, it is of no surprise, and actually apt... Continue reading

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