BARKING (District/Hammersmith & City)
LONDON TUBE RAMBLES WALK (about 2 miles)
Barking is an area with many interesting historial associations.Fishing was a key industry, especially in Victorian times, with a large fleet operating out of Barking Creek. For centuries the Town Quay was a trading centre, and an old Granary still stands there on the edge of the Mill Pond.
Not far away is the Curfew Tower, or Fire Bell Gate, (rebuilt c 1460). This is the only remaining building from the once important Abbey. Originally begun in AD 666, later destroyed by Vikings, the abbey was re-founded in the tenth century under royal patronage, the roll of abbesses including queens and princesses. In the sixteenth century it met the fate of other religious foundations, being disbanded by Henry VIII. Eventually the site became a quarry and a farm. Some of the walls of the old buildings are still visible.
To discover what is left of the old Barking, turn right out of the modern Tube station and walk down Station Road and the (pedestrianised) East Street with its large, lively market (Tues,Thurs, Fri and Sat, 9am - 5pm). After about five minutes you will come to Short Blue Place. Actually, a lot of it is bright orange - the name comes from the fishing fleet that was owned by the Hewett family who lived in the house on the corner. An iron sign hangs from the wall depicting a Victorian fishing boat made in Barking. Full details about the Hewetts here (pdf). Opposite is a cheerful red brick building from the Edwardian era, with lots of decoration - the former Magistrates' Court. If you peep down Grove Place a little further on you will see a contrasting building, the 1959 Town Hall in the clean, unfussy style of the 1930's/50's. East Street curves slightly, and at the end an old stone tower faces you across Broadway. This is the Curfew Tower mentioned above and the abbey ruins can be found to the right of it. On the left is St. Margaret's Parish Church, where the explorer Captain Cook was married in in 1762. Inside there are some excellent monuments, including one to the sea captain John Bennett who died in 1706. His actual tomb is in the churchyard (on the right near the wall that surrounds the Abbey ruins) and has a carving of his ship, The Lennox on one side. In the church itself is a magnificent memorial (south aisle), with ships, plus navigation instruments and a splendid bust of the Captain himself. For those interested in mysteries, this link should keep you happy for a long time, suggesting as it does that Bennett and his family were involved in a sophisticated and lucrative smuggling scheme.
Near the altar is a very different kind of monument commemorating Sir Charles Montagu, soldier and politician, who died in 1625. He is shown seated in a tent as if on the eve of battle, leaning wearily at a table on which are his helmet and gauntlets, while the entrance is guarded by sentries. It is a remarkable picture of a moment of weakness before conflict. In the event he lived to the (then) ripe old age of 61. At the West end of the church stands an enchanting seventeenth-century font with a bird carved on the Victorian painted cover (see St. Margaret's website under 'History/George Jack'). You can visit the church when the tea shop is open, usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 10-3pm - but check before making a special journey. Access is through the modern extension. One last comment - don't miss the fishy-themed embroidered kneelers! The church and its surroundings are surprisingly peaceful - the traffic whizzes round just far enough away for it to be an astonishing contrast rather than a distraction.
To get to the Town Quay, go behind the church and through the churchyard - head for an open green space to the left. Walk across this towards the main road (Abbey Road). Cross at the lights to the Town Quay and take the short winding path through trees to get to the Granary and Mill Pond where there are still boats to see on the River Roding. Look out for the delightful tall lamps with silhouettes depicting scenes from Barking’s past. The signs on the bridge are somewhat puzzling - 'Flood wall, do not remove'. If you want to see the future of Barking, turn right from the Town Quay and walk along Abbey Road to find some imaginative housing blocks and, further on, the amazing transformation and extension of another old granary. To read an in-depth history of this fascinating area go to the Victoria County History.
Photos: (To enlarge, click on image)
Lamp post at Town Quay
Boats in River Roding/model of fishing boat built in Barking 1866 (hanging in East St)
St. Margaret's Parish Church and Abbey archway/John Bennett Tomb
Memorial to John Bennett
Memorial to Charles Montagu
Old granary at Town Quay, overlooking Mill Pond
Extension of old granary, east side of river (original granary chimney in background)
This is just one walk from the many at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings to be found in the area covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to go to www.londontuberambles.co.uk to see the other destinations explored . You'll be amazed at what's out there!