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A Topographical Dictionary of England (1831) by Samuel Lewis

“BARKING, a parish in the hundred of BECONTREE, county of ESSEX, comprising the market-town of Barking, and the wards of Chadwell, Ilford, and Ripple, and containing 6374 inhabitants, of which number, 2580 are in the town of Barking, 23 miles (S. W.) from Chelmsford, and 7 (N. E.) from London.

The name of this place, formerly written Barking, is by some considered to be derived 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, at the distance of about a quarter of a mile, on the road to Ilford, of which there are still considerable vestiges. It appears to have been of an irregular quadrilateral form, enclosing an area of more than forty-eight acres, defended on the north, south, and east sides by a single, and on the west side by a double, intrenchment, and having on the north-west an outlet to a spring of fine water, protected by a high mound of earth.

The town derived its ancient importance from a very extensive 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 the nuns (many of whom were massacred) dispersed. The abbey was afterwards rebuilt, about the year 970, by Edgar, whose queen Elfrida presided over it after his decease: at the dissolution its revenue amounted to £1084. 6. 2. Of the conventual buildings there 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 were found a fibula and a gold ring, on which were engraved the Salutation of the Virgin and the letters I. M. Soon after the Conquest, William retired to this 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 preparation for his coronation, by Earl Edwin of Mercia, and Earl Morca 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.

The inhabitants are principally occupied in the fishery, having a number of vessels which they send to the Dutch and Scotch coasts, and, on their return, the fish is sent to Billingsgate in smaller vessels. There is a convenient wharf at Barking creek, which is navigable to Ilford for ships of eighty tons' burden, by which the neighbourhood is supplied with coal and timber; and near it is a large flour-mill, formerly belonging to the abbey. Many hundred acres of land in the vicinity are appropriated to the cultivation of potatoes for the London market.

The market is on Saturday: a fair is held on October 22nd. Constables and other officers for the town are appointed at a court leet, and a court under the lord of the manor is held every third Saturday, for the recovery of debts under 40s.

The town hall is over the market-house, an ancient building, chiefly of wood, erected in the reign of Elizabeth, to which a small prison is attached.

The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Essex, and diocese of London, rated in the king's books at £19. 8. 11 ½., and in the patronage of the Warden and Fellows of All Souls' College, Oxford. The church is dedicated to St. Margaret. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists.

Sir James Campbell, in 1641, bequeathed £666. 13. 4. for founding and endowing a free school, which sum was invested in the purchase of a rent-charge of £20, on lands in the county of York. The schoolhouse, having become ruinous, was taken down, and a workhouse erected on its site, in which the children of the poor are taught by a master and mistress, to whom the rent-charge is paid.

In 1686, John Fowke, Esq. bequeathed certain estates for the maintenance of eight boys in Christ's Hospital, London, two of whom are to be chosen from this parish. National schools, for boys and girls, are supported by subscription, and a few of each sex are also clothed. An infant school, in which there are one hundred children, has been recently established.

There are two unendowed almshouses, one containing four tenements, the other six.”

From Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of England (1831) - copyright Mel Lockie 2016