Barking (St. Margaret)

BARKING (St. Margaret), a parish, and formerly a market-town, in the union of Romford, hundred of Becontree, S. division of Essex, 23 miles (S. W.) from Chelmsford, and 7 (N. E.) from London; containing 8718 inhabitants, of whom 3751 are in the town of Barking, exclusively of 987 men and boys engaged in the fishery, who were at sea at the time of the enumeration. The name of this place, formerly written Berking, is by some deduced from the Saxon words Beorce, a birch-tree, and Ing, a meadow; by others from Berg-Ing, signifying a fortification in the meadows, probably from an ancient intrenchment about a quarter of a mile on the road to Ilford, of which there are still considerable vestiges. The town derived its early importance from a very extensive and distinguished abbey, founded in 670, by Erkenwald, Bishop of London, for nuns of the Benedictine order, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which was governed by a long succession of abbesses, of whom many were of noble, and some of royal, descent. In 870, Barking was burnt by the Danes, the abbey destroyed, and many of the nuns were massacred, and the rest dispersed; but the abbey was afterwards rebuilt, about the year 970, by Edgar, whose queen, Elfrida, presided over it after his decease; and at the Dissolution its revenue amounted to £1084. 6. 2¾. Soon after the Conquest, William retired to the town, till the completion of the Tower of London, which he was then building to keep the citizens in subjection; and here he was visited, during the preparations for his coronation, by Edwin, Earl of Mercia, and Morcar, Earl of Northumberland, with many of the English nobles, who swore fealty to him on the restoration of their estates.

The town is situated on the small river Roding, which, after flowing in two branches, unites with the Thames about two miles below: it is lighted with gas, by a company recently formed. The inhabitants are principally occupied in the fishery; a number of vessels sail to the Dutch and Scottish coasts, and, on their return, the fish is forwarded to Billingsgate in smaller vessels. There is a convenient wharf at Barking creek, which is navigable to Ilford for vessels of eighty tons' burthen, by which the neighbourhood is supplied with coal and timber; and near it is a large flour-mill, formerly belonging to the abbey. A fair is held on Oct. 22nd. The upper part of the building which was formerly the market-house, is appropriated to the purpose of a town-hall: attached to it is a small prison. The parish comprises a considerable portion of Hainault forest, and is divided into four wards, namely, Barking Town, Ripple, Great Ilford, and Chadwell: it is seven miles in length from north to south, and about four in breadth from east to west. The lands are fertile and highly cultivated, and many hundred acres in the vicinity are appropriated to the cultivation of potatoes for the London market. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £19. 8. 11½.; net income, about £900; patrons and impropriators, the Warden and Fellows of All Souls' College, Oxford. The church is a handsome structure, with a lofty tower of stone; it consists of a nave, a south aisle, two north aisles, and a chancel, and contains some ancient monuments. A church has been erected at Ilford, which is now an ecclesiastical parish; and there are churches at Aldborough-Hatch and Barking-Side, and a chapel attached to St. Mary's Hospital, Ilford. The dissenters have several places of worship. Of the conventual buildings of the abbey there now remains only the gateway, over which is the chapel of the Holy Rood: the arch is finely pointed, and enriched with deeply receding mouldings: above is a canopied niche under a fine window of three lights, the whole forming a square embattled tower, with an octagonal turret at one of the angles. It is called the Fire-bell gate, from its having anciently contained the curfew. Among the ruins of the abbey have been found a fibula and a gold ring, on which were engraved the Salutation of the Virgin, and the letters I. M.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.