Barking, Barking & Dagenham

A major east London centre, situated south of Ilford and east of the River Roding, little visited by those from outside its immediate hinterland

Hidden London: Barking station revamp CGI

Evi­dence of Roman occu­pa­tion has been dis­cov­ered here and Bark­ing was one of the ear­li­est Sax­on set­tle­ments east of Lon­don, estab­lished on a hab­it­able site near nav­i­ga­ble water. St Erken­wald found­ed Bark­ing Abbey in 666 and William the Con­queror used it as a tem­po­rary head­quar­ters while the Tow­er of Lon­don was being con­struct­ed.

From the 14th to the 19th cen­turies the main indus­try was fish­ing, with a fleet oper­at­ing out of Bark­ing Creek. The town’s pis­ca­to­r­i­al her­itage is cel­e­brat­ed in a sculp­ture at Fan­shawe Round­about. In addi­tion, many of Hen­ry VIII’s ships were repaired and main­tained in the area, barges trans­port­ed local­ly grown pota­toes and onions to the City, and tim­ber from Epping For­est was sent for navy ship­build­ing at Wool­wich.

What lit­tle remains of Bark­ing Abbey

The abbey escaped the first wave of reli­gious sup­pres­sion in 1536 but was dis­solved in 1539. The Crown retained con­trol of the estate until 1628, when it was bought by Sir Thomas Fan­shawe. St Margaret’s church, where Cap­tain Cook was mar­ried in 1762, and the Abbey ruins are now a des­ig­nat­ed preser­va­tion area.

Fish­ing became espe­cial­ly impor­tant in the first half of the 19th cen­tu­ry and the town’s pop­u­la­tion more than dou­bled with­out its area sig­nif­i­cant­ly increas­ing, which cre­at­ed localised slum con­di­tions.

Bark­ing New Town was laid out east of the new Strat­ford to Tilbury rail­way line but its two-storey, bay-win­dowed hous­es were intend­ed for City office work­ers, not trawler­men. The fish­ing indus­try was hit by eco­nom­ic dif­fi­cul­ties from the late 1850s and col­lapsed when the major trawler oper­a­tor moved his fleet to Nor­folk in 1865.

River­side and creek­side fac­to­ries began to pro­vide alter­na­tive employ­ment and Bark­ing resumed its growth, with ter­raced hous­ing of vary­ing qual­i­ty spread­ing out­wards over the rest of the cen­tu­ry. Bark­ing Park opened on Long­bridge Road in 1898 and has been described as prob­a­bly the finest munic­i­pal park in east Lon­don.

From the ear­li­est years of the 20th cen­tu­ry Bark­ing coun­cil pro­gres­sive­ly cleared run-down streets and put up new hous­es and, lat­er, blocks of flats. Between the wars com­mer­cial builders extend­ed the town east­wards to Upney and the Lon­don Coun­ty Coun­cil laid out the vast Becon­tree estate to the north-east.

The largest post-war devel­op­ment was the Thames View estate, on the marsh­es to the south. Even far­ther south, many more res­i­den­tial projects are tak­ing shape in the zone now called Bark­ing River­side. Mean­while, the coun­cil has been over­see­ing the regen­er­a­tion of the town cen­tre, includ­ing a revamp of the grade II list­ed sta­tion (as shown in the CGI at the top of this arti­cle), retain­ing its dis­tinc­tive con­crete roof, which is a mod­ernist ver­sion of a bar­rel vault from a Roman bath – bor­rowed from the Roma Ter­mi­ni sta­tion.

In 2016 Bobby Moore became the first footballer to be honoured with a blue plaque, affixed to 43 Waverley Gardens, where he lived from birth until after he made his England debut in 1962.

Barking was also the childhood home of the footballer Trevor Brooking, England rugby stalwart Jason Leonard and the singer–songwriter Billy Bragg.

Postcode area: Barking IG11
Population: 48,340 (Abbey, Eastbury, Gascoigne and Longbridge wards, 2011 census)
Station: c2c; London Overground (North London line terminus); District line; Hammersmith & City line (zone 4)
Further reading: Richard Tames, Barking Past, Historical Publications, 2002