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Barking, Essex

Historical Description

Barking or Berking, a town and a parish in Essex. The town stands on a rich flat tract, on the river Roding, 2 miles N of the Thames, and 7 E of London. Its name is a corruption of Burging, signifying the "fortification in the meadow," and seems to allude to an ancient entrenchment, enclosing upwards of 48 acres, and still traceable. The town rose to importance in 670, by the founding at it of an extensive abbey for Benedictine nuns, and it was the residence of William the Conqueror during the erection of the Tower of London, and the place where the Earls of Mercia and Northumberland and many other nobles swore fealty to him on the restoration of their estates. The abbey was founded by Erkenwald, Bishop of London; destroyed in 870 by the Danes; rebuilt by King Edgar; governed after his death by his queen, and at other times by a long series of royal or noble ladies; served throughout all its duration as a prime seminary of the gentry of England; and passed at the dissolution to Edward, Lord Clinton. Nothing now remains of it except a gateway at the entrance to the present churchyard, a square embattled structure, with an octagonal turret at one corner, whose upper part is a room, formerly called the Chapel of the Holy Rood, having large windows in Perpendicular English. The parish church, which stands near the site of the abbey church, is built of Kentish rag, and possesses some Norman and Early English features. It has numerous fine monuments and brasses, some lancet lights in the chancel, and a curious niche in the NW of the nave. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St Albans; net value, £302 with residence, in the gift of All Souls College, Oxford. A new church, dedicated to St Paul, was erected in 1893. The market-house or town-hall is a timbered edifice of the time of Queen Elizabeth. The town has a station on the London, Tilbury, and Sonthend railway, a head post, money order, and telegraph office, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Brethren, Congregational, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels, eight schools, and charities worth about £300 a year. The weekly market, formerly held on Saturday, is now almost extinct; and the fair, which used to be held on 23 Oct., has been abolished. The inhabitants are chiefly market-gardeners, gas workers at Beckton, artisans whose work is in London, and labourers at the chemical manure works in the neighbourhood. The creek of the Roding bears the name of Barking Creek, and has a convenient wharf and a magazine.

The parish of Barking is under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan police, and is governed by a local board of nine members formed in 1882. It was separated from Ilford in 1888 by Act of Parliament, but the sub-district includes Rippleside, a district consisting of a number of scattered farms extending from 1 to 3 miles E. The parish contains 3814 acres of land and 311 of water and foreshore; population of the civil parish, 14,301; of the ecclesiastical, 14,412. Most of the tract between the railway and the Thames is a fertile meadowy flat, called Barking Level, disposed in grazing ground for black cattle, and protected from high tides in the Thames by an immense embankment. This work, as originally constructed, gave way in 1707, with the effect of about 5000 acres being inundated; but it was repaired and strengthened at a cost of about £40,000. The contiguous reach of the Thames bears the name of Barking Reach, is 1¼ mile long, and has, in the middle, a dangerous shoal of 5 furlongs, called Barking Shelf, on which the Grampus of 54 guns was wrecked in 1799. The main outfall of the North London Main Drainage Sewer is constructed on lands in Barking parish, covering an area of 16 to 17 acres, with immense engine houses, settling tanks, and a reservoir capable of holding 39,000,000 gallons of sewage, the whole of which is precipitated by chemical means, the effluent being discharged into the river, and the sludge carried by steamers out to sea. Eastbury House, about a mile ESE of the town, is an old brick building, said by some to have been the residence of Lord Monteagle, and alleged by tradition to have been the place where the Gunpowder Plot was revealed to him.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyEssex 
Ecclesiastical parishBarking St. Margaret 
Poor Law unionRomford 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Barking from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Essex is available to browse.

The Essex pages from the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 is online.


Online maps of Barking are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers covering Essex online:

DistrictBarking and Dagenham
CountyGreater London
Postal districtIG11
Post TownBarking