Barking

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Barking, Barking, United Kingdom

Barking Reviews

AdamR3723 AdamR3723
186 reviews
Once a famous fishing port Oct 13, 2017
Barking’s name derives from ‘Berecingum’ (meaning Berica’s people). Many of the town’s current multicultural population are unrelated to ‘Berica’s people’. Incidentally, it was Berica (aka: ‘Bericus’ or ‘Verica’), who was exiled from Britain in the first century AD, who persuaded helped persuade Claudius in Rome to attack Britain (see: “Roman Britain and the English Settlements”, by RG Collingwood and JNL Myres, publ. 1937).

Barking was one of the earliest Saxon settlements in Essex. For more than 500 years, before the development of railways that could transport fresh fish (without it rotting) from places further from London (e.g. Yarmouth), Barking’s most important industry was fishing. The town developed around Barking Abbey beside Barking Creek. It was to see the remains of this abbey that I visited Barking. However, on arrival there I took a wrong turn, and headed towards Barking Abbey School, where I assumed the abbey ruins were located.

To reach this school, I passed a large traffic roundabout in the centre of which there is a metal sculpture called “The Catch”. Designed by Loraine Leeson in 2002, the work consists of two net-like structures that contain many metallic fish. This piece of art celebrates the town’s historic association with fishing. Beyond the roundabout, there is an entrance to Barking Park on Longridge Road. The park was opened in 1898 by Barking Town Urban District Council. It is a vast, pleasant grassy open space with trees, a lake, and sporting facilities. Until 2005, it also boasted a miniature narrow-gauge railway.

When I had arrived at the end of the long park furthest from the station, I could see no signs of either an old abbey or directions to it. I entered the Royal Oak pub and asked the five people in it where I might find the ruined abbey. They looked at me blankly. They must have thought that I was barking mad.

I reassessed the situation with the help of the internet on my mobile telephone, and discovered that I had to retrace my steps to the station, and then go further through the centre of the town. A vibrant street market was in progress on East Street. All manner of merchandise was on sale (except books and CDs). People of many different ethnicities were either buying or selling. Part of the market was in a square in front of a Victorian brick building with gables and stone trimmings, bearing the date ‘1893’ and the name above its main entrance ‘Magistrates Court’. It is no longer used as a courthouse.

At the corner of East Street and the Broadway, near the Broadway Theatre, there is a shop whose upper floors are faced with decorative whitish stone in an art-deco design that includes pilasters topped with elephant heads. This was once a branch of Burton’s menswear stores. It was built in 1931. This was the year that the firm adopted the Leeds based architectural firm of Harry Wilson as the company’s in-house architects. In 1937, Wilson was replaced by Nathaniel Martin. The Burton company favoured corner plots for their stores, as typified by their shop in Barking. Their shop exteriors were designed to look like ‘temples of commerce’.

The centre of Barking is overlooked by a tall brick clock-tower, which ‘sprouts’ from Barking Town Hall. This building was completed in 1958. Prior to 1931, when Barking became not only a town but also a borough, the town hall had been housed in what used to be the Magistrates Court (see above). Demolition of buildings to create a space for the present town hall began in 1939, but WW2 delayed further work on it. The present town hall’s construction began eventually in 1954. The building was designed by Herbert Jackson (1909-1989) and Reginald Edmonds.

Just opposite the former Burtons store, there is a park called Barking Abbey Grounds. This contains a graveyard and St Margarets Church, whose earliest parts date from the 13th century. It was built as a parish church in the grounds of Barking Abbey (see: http://www.stmargaretsbarking.org/the-abbey). The gothic church was enlarged greatly in the 15th and 16th centuries. The famous explorer Captain Cook was married there in 1762.

The Abbey was founded in the seventh century by Saint Erkenwald (Bishop of London from 675-193) for his sister Saint Ethelburga (died in about 686 AD). In 1173, Mary Beckett was made abbess of the nunnery, as a reparation for the murder of her brother, St Thomas à Beckett, in Canterbury Cathedral. At the time of the Dissolution, the Abbey was the largest Benedictine nunnery in England. The nunnery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Four years earlier, it had been the third most wealthy nunnery in England.

All that remains of the extensive abbey is a 12th century stone ‘rood’, which is now in the church, and the Curfew Tower. This stone tower with gothic features now functions as the entrance to the east side of the graveyard. Its construction began in the 14th century, and then it was reconstructed in 1460.
BARKING
BARKING old shop signs
BARKING mmarket and Town Hall tower
BARKING Forner Magistrates Court
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