Barking & Dagenham Local History
                                                                                                           Where History is in the Past

Where History Is In The Past


This account is part of an unfinsihed work by myself on the Manor of Barking from the turn of the 16th century and the Dissolution of  Barking Monastery in 1539 to a period in the middle of the 18th century.

Barking: the Tudor & Stuart Manor

i) General

In late Tudor and Stuart times the Manor of Barking was a patchwork of oddly-shaped fields, many of which had been enclosed at least three-hundred years before, a fact which is indicated on the Vicars Tithe Map, where the pricked lines denote 'baukes'. This word denotes a strip of land which was left unploughed to mark the boundaries between adjacent strips in the common field. The air locally was said to be unhealthy which was caused by the nearby marshes although this provided excellent farming land.

The main concentration of people and property in the manor existed in Barking town, while at Dagenham and Ilford villages both were much lighter, and Chadwell was a mere hamlet. These places can be best gauged on the extracts which survive of the map of the manor. The townsfolk living here were principally peasants, eking out their existence under the Lord of the Manor. In this district an agricultural worker could expect to earn about 8d per day and the hours of toil were both long and hard.

Barking, Ilford and Dagenham contained around 1000 properties in 1540, but not all were connected to the manor. These places began to grow in size at the beginning of the 1600s, as can be seen from the 1609 survey, and the hearth tax returns between 1662-1689. Each area was littered with its manor houses and farms, which often coexisted together. In 1628 the Manor of Barking was sold by the Crown to Sir Thomas Fanshawe.


ii) Barking

The town had a nucleus where most of the buildings lay, which comprised of some 170 dwellings in 1653 and 461 in 1670, and this basic layout of the central region remained unchanged until this present century. Nearby lay the deserted ruins of the monastery, which were excavated by Smart Lethieullier in the 1720s, who had, himself, earlier produced the cruciform plan of the Abbey Church.

The year 1567 saw the Town hall and market place built, near to the Curfew Tower, at a cost of £324 9s 10d; this was encompassed by twenty-two shops. A well was sited to the right of the building, behind the scales and weights stall: while another was in between the angle of Northstrete and Tannerstrete.

Later, Defoe said that Barking, 'was a large market town, but chiefly inhabited by fishermen'; this part of the town’s history is covered further on. The market took place every Saturday, and is given in a list of 1575, which said that this area contained in excess of one thousand people. Other nearby market towns were situated at: Aveley, Romford and West Ham and people who ventured out for provisions travelled to these centres.

In the middle of the 17th century tokens were used for local trading and often indicated the trader’s business on the reverse side. They had no official value and were merely circulated to assist in small cash transactions between customers and local shops and businesses, until their suppression in 1672. Out of 51 traders around this vicinity who utilised these tokens, Barking had 11, Romford 13 and West Ham 6.

There was also an annual fair in the 18th century which took place for three days. The townsfolk of Barking showed their hospitality by offering any traveller who knocked at their doors gin and gingerbread, and not to do so was seen as an omen of ill-will.

By the time of the 1609 survey the central area had eleven alehouses, including three in Northstrete: the George of Elizabethan ilk, the Red Lion, and the Bull (also noted in 1653). Near to the Abbey North Gate stood the Horsepool. The old vicarage also lay in Northstrete. In Heath Street the Ship was sited, which probably dated to the mid-17th century, and near here was the Rose tavern. Other taverns included the White Hind, which later became the White Hart, and the Dolphin in Shop Row, both of which were still noted in 1728.

In Estrete were a number of almshouses (1614), and at its junction with Wyfulstrete a building called the Paddock was situated; this being a Georgian house-- which was almost certainly there in the latter part of the 1600s, as well as to a house named Copehed Hall. Two other buildings of repute, which date from medieval times, were the lazar house of St Laurence's, also in Estrete, opposite the Bull, and chapel of St. Nicholas in Northstrete which was within the old abbey precincts. St Laurences no doubt was similar in operation to the hospital in Ilford, and during the time of the Abbey it had six sisters, who received food from this establishment to feed mainly poor women.

Outside the nucleus lay two other notable alehouses near the marshes, the Ship and Shovel, and the Crooked Billet. Both indicate the activity here, and these inns were utilised by farmers, drovers and others utilising the rivers-- Thames and Roding. Another building of some stature was Bennetts Castle House.


iii) Dagenham

The survey in 1609 lists 74 dwellings in Dagenham, and by 1670 there were 150. The village contained only one thoroughfare-- Crown Street and situated along this was the church, while opposite lay what later became the Cross Keys tavern (1680). A building called George House existed near here from at least 1540, as well as a few gabled cottages. One of these cottages was the site of the slaughter house in the mid-18th century. Later the vicarage was built at the start of the 17th century. Near to the village were a few more structures, these later included the Bull inn (1726).

Outside the village area were two 16th century farmhouses: Padnalls and Sheepcotes, while a third-- Hooks-- was of the 17th century.  Many other farms and their related structures existed including: Eastbrook, Gale Street, Osbourne's and Roselane.

Hokestreete was now Oxslough Lane (1738), and this intimates that this was probably a droveway for cattle or oxen. On what is now Dagenham Road, a building called the Bell House exists which is dated from the early 17th century. It was named this because a bell was tolled from the belfry to signal the days end to workers in the nearby fields. Close by is the Farmhouse, which is shown on Chapman & Andres map of 1777.

The original Three Travellers public house dates from the 18th century. The Chequers, which was mentioned in 1717 when a person was located hanged nearby, originally stood at a point today where Heath-way and Broad Street meet.

A number of early structures were constructed around the hamlet of Becontree Heath from at least the early 14th century, and possibly earlier. Evidence suggests that Clay cottages may have originally been from this period and were rebuilt by a Tudor yeoman out of puddled clay; the walls were covered in reeds and then plastered, and it had a thatched roof. Bentry Heath House was built at the beginning of the 16th century and is mentioned in the 1609 Survey. It has two-storey's and is a brick dwelling with dormers and a tiled roof and lies near the Becontree Heath, and still remains today.

iv) Chadwell

Chadwell as a hamlet certainly existed prior to 1594, when it is marked on John Norden's map of the county as 'Chawdwel' [add Norden]. The hearth tax returns suggest that Chadwell had expanded significantly to around 105 dwellings during 1662-1671. However, we know prior to this date that Wangey House was only one of a few structures standing here and it is likely that many of these hearths were inside Wangey, and the figure is in this case misleading. In Chadwell two alehouses are noted: The White Horse in 1602, and the Greyhound dates back to at least 1666. These came in to being to serve travellers along the Great Essex Road.


v) Great Ilford

The village of Ilford grew around an island area called 'Spurle Grove', being part of the hospital grounds. This region comprised of 60 families in 1650, and about 50 houses in 1653. By 1750 this had probably risen to 120 dwellings. The main alehouses in Ilford were on the north side of the High Road-- the Angel and the Blew Boar; a further inn was the Green Man and this is recorded in 1764. Other smaller outposts existed north of the village, including Barkingside and Little Heath.


vi) Hainault Forest

The forest areas had been organised in to baliwicks and by the 16th century the baliwick of Hainault had been segmented and the East and West Walks were created, which are shown on the map? A perambulation took place in 1641 which further defined the parameters of the forest; this included the detachment of the Liberty of Havering.


vii) Dagenham Breach and the Marshes

A bad breach in 1539 around the estuary of the Beam River caused Dagenham Pond to be created. A further breach occurred here in 1621, and this water became known as the Gulf and was contained by Cornelius Vermuyden. An Act of Parliament (1695) said it would be retained for game. In 1707, this pond was enlarged by an additional breach, which penetrated the bank of the River Thames at Dagenham Marshes. As a result, severe flooding took place, which ruined many of the local landowners and had its effects as far as Dagenham Village.

A very heavy tide in 1713 caused the silting up the Thames with sand deposits causing a hindrance to navigation. An Act of Parliament was swiftly passed the following year to tackle the problems which had been created. Works to stop the breach were undertaken from 1716-1720 by a Captain John Perry. Today a large area of water still exists called Dagenham Lake or the Breach.

In Barking, the marshes were also breached in the time of Mary, and £300 was sent to the Surveyor to help with its repair. By 1724, Defoe says that the marshes stretched all the way up the Thames from Bow and malaria was commonplace. Another disease which had reared its head from time to time was smallpox, and in a letter by Bamber Gascoyne to John Strutt he writes the following, '... upon my honour I do not believe the small pox is in any house in Barking nor has it been for some time...'. The highway from East Ham to Barking had marshland on both sides, but the roadway was in fine condition.


Prior to the Elizabethan age many of the homes in the manor were little more than hovels with bare earthen floors with low thatched roofs. In their centre lay a hearth, which had no chimney. These dwellings were dirty and full of vermin, and damp mists would have swirled around the town, rising from the nearby watercourses, making them almost inhabitable.

The majority of larger houses by late Tudor and Stuart times were a mixture of wood, bricks and plaster with tiled roofs. The smaller places were single-storied and timber-framed with jettied fronts, thatched roofs and had chimneys; these smoke stacks were Tudor additions and were built in to the new (and many existing medieval) properties.

Some larger dwellings comprised of a hall with two aisles similar to what is discovered in a church. These 'wings' were reached by cart ways and were found especially on many of the alehouses; these had been linked together to form an entrance to the courtyards at the rear.

The 16th century Town Hall in Barking was a two-storey weather-boarded, timber-framed building with plaster panels inside; the roof was covered with tiny red tiles. It consisted of four open bays on the ground floor, which were utilised as the corn, butter, and poultry markets; the fourth bay contained the manorial standard bushel, chained to a post. This was encompassed by wooden shops or stalls. At the rear of the Town Hall in Shop Row were other dwellings which according to Frogley were much older.

Nearby lay the old vicarage in Northstrete, where it met the corner of Churchgate Strete; this was a timbered abode, and had a mounting block and pole to tie horses too.

The manor house of Eastbury (which stands today) was built in 1572-73, and is 'H-shaped' in design with cross-wings, which are joined by a wall at the southern end to form an enclosed courtyard. The building itself is three storeys high, being made from red bricks. It has many close-knit twisted chimneys, regular fenestration and gabled frontages. Jenkins manor house was old and large, being made mainly from wood and was encompassed by a very deep moat.

By the late Stuart--early Georgian era, many of the abodes constructed lacked the splendour of their predecessors. The larger structures were more classical in style, built mainly with bricks, and had a symmetrical facade and large oblong sash windows. Valentines in Ilford and Woodlands, Dagenham are good examples of this style.

The centre of Barking by this time probably consisted of a number of cottages, like those which had been erected in Axe Street from at least from the 18th century. Parts of some houses and cottages did survive from the medieval era through to the 19th century, and even more remarkably the beginning of this century, although some repairs and alterations had obviously taken place.

Two buildings of some repute lay in the village of Dagenham, the first, the Cross Keys inn, was constructed in the 15th century: the second the vicarage is dated from the early 17th century, although the front of the building carries the figures 1665-- both are timber-framed structures.

Other buildings worthy of a mention are: Valence Manor House and Hooks. Valance was once much larger and occupies a medieval moated site. Its plan is in an 'L-form' and dates largely from the 17th century. It is timberframed and plastered, with two-storeys, and the west wing has attic dormers. Hooks Hall farmhouse, on the other hand, is dated from around 1690, and is also timberframed and built of bricks with a tiled roof.



i) grazing

The nearby common marshland of Barking and Dagenham, comprised of 536 acres in Dagenham, and 1,601 in Barking, and existed all along the Thames. Most of Dagenham was linked with agriculture, but unlike Barking, none of the big city graziers had penetrated here, which may have had something to do with the late survival of the commoner’s rights in the marshes.

These regions made excellent grazing for sheep, which themselves provided produce for the markets-- a meat which Defoe described as, 'marsh-mutton'. Also, these flocks gave wool. Deer were found in the woodlands; as were pigs, which were fattened and then destined for the London market. Cows were grazed on the uplands and along the borders of the streams. It can be seen that meat was an important part of these people’s diets, and formed around 75% of this. A slaughter house was located in Shop Row near the market place, being near the Dolphin.

ii)  dovecotes

Dovecotes, which were many folds, were another vital source of meat, particularly in winter, whereby flocks of domesticated pigeons were kept, with each roost containing a few hundred pairs. These existed at: Barking at Westbury Manor, and at Tates Place, North Street, Eastbury, Ilford, Goodmayes and Padnall Farm.


iii)  agricultural workers

It is not surprising that a vast number of people worked in the   fields growing corn and peas, and gathering wheat and the freshly discovered potato, which both had the added bonus-- a by-product of starch, which was used for stiffening ruffs.

In 1601 at the Summer Assizes a proclamation was issued for the suppression of starch making in order to prevent wheat from being converted as such; this was no doubt linked to the series of poor harvests (see paragraph below). This lists 29 people-- including a William Brooke of Great Ilford-- the majority of which were found guilty.

The crops themselves, in Essex, were often seriously affected by the weather which gave bad harvests in 1562, and between 1594-97. Often these famines would lead to riots and rising prices. These poor harvests were off-set by a number of good years, including 1592 and 1593, and this undulation in fortunes appeared to be the pattern of the day.

Due to these poor harvests radical measures were ordered by the Essex County Bench, and were imposed by justices and high constables. A precept existing in the Mildmay archives, signed by George Harvy of Marks, Dagenham, JP is addressed to the high constables of Becontree, and is a summons to all local dealers to meet before him at Barking; they were also asked to produce their licenses. The notes at the end suggest that the men had to sell any extra grain in this emergency.

About 1750 the manor of Barking and its environs, those places nearest the city, started to develop market-garden produce for London. The Roding Navigation Act helped to assist this growth in 1737, when the channel was opened to barges and other craft between Barking Mill and Ilford. This produce consisted of the vegetables listed above, plus beans, turnips and wheat (which was by far the largest crop on the manor), which were all transported. This nearby land was fertilised by barges carrying dung from the city via the Thames and the Roding. In Dagenham there was no one crop or vegetable that dominated the scene, just a mixture of produce. Various fruits, hops and nuts were grown in fields, and this is borne out in their related names: e.g., apples, barley, beans, cherries, hay, hazelnuts, pares, peaches and walnuts.

iv)  Reed Workers

Reeds were grown at Horseshoe Corner on the bank of the Thames, and also the rivers Roding and Beam. A vast quantity existed in Barking Creek alone and this is borne out by the fact that 2000 bolts of reeds were cut from the marshes here in 1654. Reeds themselves were utilised for thatching and basket-making.


v)  beer-making

Viniculture was prominent just outside Barking town next to two thoroughfares: Vineyard Lane, and Viners Lane, and hops were grown on the meadowland by the Mayesbrook and at numerous other places within the manor. The barley and hops would have been used in beer-making, and this is recorded in the town in 1626.


vi)  tanning

Tanning continued to be a vital Barking industry, and one such was a Thomas Fletcher, who left 'all his bark, tan, fats, hides and leather' in his will. The oak-bark came from Hainault and was used for actual tanning purposes.  The timber itself, which was chopped, was sent via carts to the Town Quay, then shipped to the nearby naval dockyards. It is clear from the following place name that this trade took place at Tannerstrete, on its northern side at the rear of one of the dwellings where the stream, later called Loxford Waters, flowed. Here the edge of the water would have been covered with wild plants, tall grass and overhanging trees.

Tanning took place in Ilford at Barkingside, being indicated by Tannersbrook, and this was the name for the northern portion of the Cranbrook. These waters were used to steep the hides in to soften them to make harnesses, reigns and other leatherware.

Much evidence exists for Dagenham that the industry was thriving from at least the 15th century onwards. In 1440 a John Truelove was fined for selling badly tanned hides. This may have taken place at the building which became the Cross Keys earlier in its history as this once had a tanning yard.

vii)  general

Dagenham Village had two tailors in 1573, and a pinner and bowyer are reported here in 1519. Cloth was placed in the Tenterfield at Westbury. Another flourishing industry appears to be brick-making, and this is in evidence in the form of field names in Parsloes and Valence, and at Westbury. Tiles may have been produced in the following areas, near Aldborough Hatch and Eastbury, this is hypothesised by field name evidence. A kiln house is noted near the Dolphin in Barking Town: while field name evidence also suggests that a limekiln was situated around the Town Quay area, which was no doubt for agricultural usage. Blacksmiths were also prominent and one such at Great Ilford, in 1592, left in his will, 'tools, irons and coals, and all his wares'. Other trades included: carpentry, spinning, dyeing and oysters and trades allied to the fishing industry.


xiii)  milling

A windmill was located on the manor of Marks on the Havering side in 1365 and 1479. It is likely that another still existed on this same site during the 16th-18th centuries. Another mill was situated on Wyfields manor in 1567-1574 and one at Uphall in 1634. On the Hornchurch bank of the Beam River (near Dagenham Hospital), a mill lay in 1610 and this is marked on a map from this period. In Barking, a windmill was positioned near Eastbury House, sometime before 1746, on the northern side of the main road: while the lease of the watermill at the Town Quay was in the hands of Thomas Maffett for a period of 40 years from 1597. A second watermill was located in Aldborough Hatch, near to Perryman's dwelling; this was powered by two mill ponds which were fed by the Cranbrook.


ix)  fishing

Barking was beginning to thrive as a fishing port in the 16th century. This is borne out in a presentment from the Becontree sessions, held at Barking in 1574, which notes for Town Ward that 'all that inhabit there are fishermen'. This must have been incorrect as we know other trades are listed in the town from the mid-15th century onwards. During this era, however, Barking was still not a premier port in the country with the limits of its industry being around the Thames estuary. Wills of this time mention a number of fishing vessels, including: cock, hebbing, lighter, and peter boats.

By Charles I time Barking had 20 vessels, each with four men-- these were probably the towns first smacks. This growth was so rapid that around the year 1630, there was a petition to a Secretary Dorchester by a number of the towns fisherfolk who were concerned about the size of the trawl which some of the local boats used, amongst other things, and new rules were proposed to correct any abuses. A list of banned fishermen was drawn up, which included the names of their vessels. By May 1635, it appears that a further petition of five-hundred fishermen of Barking, had resulted in legislation being passed by Parliament, which vetoed the utilisation of a trawl. This did not deter these men initially, as the following month 36 trawls were seized at sea.

Many of the manors had their own fish-ponds, like the monastery of Barking once had. Sited in Jenkin's seven-acre grounds were in fact two rather large ones: while a further lake existed at Aldersbrook called the 'Great Canal', which was stocked with carp and later a variety of fish.

The earliest Quarter Sessions rolls begin in 1556 when two 'single' Barking men were presented as 'loiterers'. This terminology generally refers to an unmarried man or women not in employment.

A Statute of 1563 was passed concerning a master and his apprentice, and a minimum fixed term of 7 years training was passed, and it became illegal for anyone to exercise a craft unless he had served this full term, which commenced after the age of 10 to under 18. For non-adherence to this a hefty fine was payable up to £2 per month.

Annual wages varied quite wildly the highest being £3 6s 8d to as low as 13s 4d for men, and for women £1 6s 8d.

i) Manor Houses

By this period many fresh manor houses were built, and others were rebuilt or altered. Our region had already lost the following manors: Berengers, Emlingbury, Gallance, Malmaynes, Stonehall, and part of Cockermouth had been merged with Spurrel's Farm. Other original manor houses had been demolished and subsequently rebuilt; these include: Aldborough Hatch, Dagenham (or Jenkins), Frizlands and Gayshams. The 16th century Parsloes dwelling, was modified around 1619: while Clay-bury, Clayhall, Cranbrook, Downshall, East Hall, Fulks, Loxfordbury, Marks, Rayhouse, Wangey, Wyfields (and probably Newbury and Porters) remained unchanged.

A number of new dwellings were also built: Eastbury House was constructed in 1572-73 on land owned by Clement Sysley and Westbury and Bifrons were constructed in the early 18th century, and possibly Uphall. The manor house of Valence, which still stands, is mostly from the 17th century, although the original structure was much older and some of this still exists in the buildings centre. Valentines was built in 1696-97 and also remains today.


Life & Times

i)  general

In Mary's time, an invalid Barking man, Hugh Lavercock, was burnt at the stake for his religious beliefs. This era saw the rise in highway robberies, and anyone who ventured forth stood the chance of being waylaid and robbed. This is dealt with further on in Chapter? It was commonplace to see 'apothecaries' or quacks, who were unqualified people who practised the healing arts; these are evidenced in Barking, Dagenham and Chadwell Heath.


ii)  Gunpowder Plot

In 1605, there was an attempt to blow-up the Houses of Parliament. Legend links Eastbury House with this, but this is totally unfounded, as Lord Monteagle, who was supposed to have been there at the time when he received a letter warning of the conspiracy, said, himself, that it was at Hoxton where he received this. In fact, the only connection is that a man called, 'Faukes, alias Johnson' hired a vessel from a sailor-- Henry Parish-- who resided in Barking, 'to carry him and another man, disguised, to Gravelines'. Parish himself, was a bit of a rogue and is noted renting a vessel some six years earlier.

iii)  Civil War

The Civil War commenced in 1642 and most of the county was on the side of the Parliamentarians, and the force of Puritanism was well pronounced, barring a few exceptions-- the most notable of these being the Fanshawe’s who were Royalists and owned land in Dagenham, Goodmayes and Ilford. This caused Sir Thomas Fanshawe to be fined, and Sir John Fanshawe's manor at Parsloes in Dagenham to be sequestrated until the Restoration when it was returned to him. Some of the Fanshawe’s fought for the King: while others were forced to flee the country to Jersey or France.

The endowments of Ilford Hospital were also sequestrated by Parliament owing to Richard Fanshawe’s political persuasions. Under order from the Committee of Plundered Ministers the hospital had to pay £50 of its tithes towards the poor benefice of Pattiswick, while only the remainder went to fund the hospital chapel. It was clear though, that there was not enough money to support both foundations, so in 1654 the sequestration order was dropped and from then on, the full takings went to the hospital.

Strong Royalist sympathies in the area can be gauged from one such outburst which occurred in Fisher Street (1645), Barking, where the wife of a fisherman called a Robert White a 'roundheaded rogue' and other obscenities. On another occasion she said that the preacher of the town-- Peter Witham-- was 'a papist dog'.

In Dagenham the results of this conflict saw the vicar of the local church turfed out of his livelihood, and the Keeper of Hainault Forest was deprived of this office.

The moated Manor of Marks was itself under siege by the Cavaliers. Its owner, Carew Harvey Mildmay, (a Parliamentarian), had to flee to the nearby forest, and the troops then moved on to Romford.

During the run-up to the siege of Colchester, in 1648, a retreating Cavalier force was forced in to a minor tussle at Bow Bridge. It retreated along the Great Road, after camping at Stratford, and was further engaged in scuffles at Ilford and Chadwell Heath.

Owing to much uncertainty the forests of Essex were under the jurisdiction of Parliament during and after this time, and there was much illegal hewing of wood. In the mid-17th century the 'great fall of ye woods began', mainly for the increase in the King's navy. This was perpetuated in the following hundred years.

After the Restoration there was much uncertainty and perversion in the county and many men were released from the royal navy.


iv)  plague

The Plague significantly affected Barking in 1574 and 1582 with many deaths; while in 1603 there was a total of 381 interments, and 230 in the bubonic plague of 1665; and 90 deaths were reported at Romford. This gives us a hint that many people had fled from the city to escape its onslaught, and had merely brought it into the country areas, in spite of the villagers attempts to keep the infected away. It became common place for parents to appoint guardians of their children in their wills in case anything untoward happened, especially during the plague years.

There were so many plague victims from the 1665 epidemic that burial grounds were chosen outside the city, one such was in Dagenham on an area named Frog Island-- this is now part of Fords. This was also used to inter a number of victims of the Great Fire which happened the following year.


v)  postal service


From Elizabethan times a form of this service existed, and this utilised the Great Essex Road and its intersections which emanated from it between London and Harwich. The mail was conveyed one a week in 1625, and eventually stage posts for fresh horses were set-up with postmasters along every 'postal' road such as this-- these became post towns. Many of these masters often ran the local inn, and it was he who provided the horses for the post boy.

The first known date of a service in Barking is 1692, and in this time a footpost existed run by the London Penny Post. This was brought in by William Dockwra in 1680, and also excepted parcels up to 1lb in weight.

Many letters were sent by coach and if they were bound for the provinces they went through London, and then despatched on other coaches. A cost of 5d was charged for local letters to the city. To reach York from Chadwell Heath took a letter four days.

The Post Office Act of 1711 recognised all letters passed between different post routes and towns, which did not pass by way of the city. The country was also segmented into 6 divisions and Essex came under the control of the eastern district. Mail was to be regularly checked along these roads by Surveyors.



i) general and officials

The Town Hall in Barking contained a court house, while nearby were the stocks, and a pillory which lay on the forecourt, and this is highlighted in a drawing from 1595. A cage was sited to the right of the building and was used as a gaol.  These forms of punishment were to deal with the petty offenders, who were either put in one of these devices or received fines and accounts survive for the town to register these from 1556.


However, more serious cases were sent to the county gaol in Chelmsford to await Quarter Sessions, or the Assizes. Dagenham and Ilford, for local government purposes, came under the Manor of Barking's authority. However, Gallance, Marks and Cockermouth, all in Dagenham, once had their own court barons, whose main role was to administer the land on the manor in question and to appoint minor officials to assist in this work.


 Petty sessions at Barking were held here on the first floor of the Town Hall, along with its related records and the Justice chamber. These sessions are mainly concerned with unlicensed alehouses and vagrants, and the petty constables’ presentments were received by several Justices of the Peace. By about 1750 these were shifted to the Angel Hotel in Ilford and were now known as 'out of sessions'.


Many officials existed in the town including the Clerk of the Market, whose task was to control this area, and to allow the towns-people to set up stalls in a designated place, and to control the weights and measures, and other illegalities. The Clerk also had powers to protect the poor by banning all undesirable sellers or pedlars, and meted out fines for market offences. A deputy clerk existed for every hundred who carried out 'sessions' normally in a village rather than a market town, but in Barking's case the Clerk of the Market Sessions for the Becontree Hundred occurred in the town.


Others included, the beadle who collected the rents, and one is mentioned in the survey of 1609, and a constable and bailiff who had the job to round up stray animals and put them in a manorial pound, which was situated in Shoprowe. This may have also been done by the person who detained them.


ii) Assizes

Assizes originated from the 12th century, and were made up of two or more judges who toured on a regular local circuit three times per year to administer civil and criminal justice, and many local cases were tried at Brentwood or Chelmsford. The Quarter Sessions, which commenced in 1361, were held every three months (Easter, Midsummer, Michaelmas, and Epiphany), and here sat the county justices. Normally in attendance was the High Sheriff or his deputy, plus the high and petty constables. Barking being a large area had four constables, one for each ward-- these being Town Ward, Great Ilford, Chadwell and Ripple, from at least 1440-41. [145].


iii)  witchcraft

One of the most serious crimes in the 16th-17th centuries dealt with by the Assizes was witchcraft, and as many as 550 cases occurred in Essex, and this is not surprising as it was once known as the 'witch county'. This may have had something to do with the severe Catholic traditions that once existed here during the time of the Abbey. The most infamous case was that of the three witches of Dagenham, who were all indicted in 1589 for bewitching several people to death. At Chelmsford they were hanged outside the court. After 1701 there are no further cases, and an Act of James I was repealed in 1736, and witchcraft was no longer a statutory or ecclesiastical offence.


iv)  gypsies

Gypsies too, were another problem and the first account of them in the country was the early 16th century. This so-called menace was quickly quelled by an Act of 1530 which exiled them. A further Act of 1562 made all contact with gypsies an offence. In 1608, four Barking people were hanged for feigning to be gypsies after being found guilty at the Chelmsford Assizes.


v)  larceny

Stealing in many cases was a crime punishable by death, but when a verdict of 'ignoramus' was returned, offenders were allowed clergy. In 1572, a Barking labourer was hanged for taking a horse, as was another man who was found guilty of highway robbery in 1621.


vi) legislation (poor law)

The first real local authorities were the Vestries and the first records from Barking and Great Ilford are from 1666.  Their main tasks were: street maintenance, burials, charities, general upkeep of buildings and poor relief. These duties were carried out by churchwardens, overseers and surveyors. Dagenham’s Vestry minutes do not begin until the late 18th century, however churchwardens accounts exist from 1673-81.

Everybody in the 12 to 60 age bracket had to have employment, other-wise, under the Statute of Labourers (1563), they were made to work on the land as servants.

It was the Poor Law Act of 1576 which enabled ' houses of correction' to be set-up, and these were under the control of the Justices of the Peace. One is found in Barking in East Street in 1609 and was there for about 150 years. Its main objectives were to force those out of work to take on jobs and this was brought about by strict discipline and instruction in social and religious aspects.

Under this Act all orphans were forced into being apprentices to somebody with a job. This had the effect of relieving the parish of this responsibility. All inhabitants in work were liable, unless, it appears, they paid a fine, which gave them the option to for-go these obligations.

Another Act of 1598 set up the appointment of overseers to manage the poor. The Justices of the Peace could force the overseer to give them relief. These JP's also administered county affairs and carried out tasks connected with highways, licensing and other parochial affairs which had been brought to their notice by the Vestry.

A work or poor house was opened in Barking in 1722 and is described in the Tithe Book of 1727/28 as lying in Northstrete [nr. parcels 945, 946]. Prior to this date it comprised of four buildings before being converted to house paupers. Relief of the poor was carried out principally by the payment of pensions.


Surveys & Taxes

New surveys and rentals took place which listed all: properties, fields, marshes, pastures and houses. Included was a survey of the manor in 1540 which was compiled by the Minister for the Court of Augmentations. A Land Revenue Miscellaneous Book was compiled in 1609, which needed every tenant to be interviewed-- a task that took up the time of four commissioners and nineteen jurors. A third survey of the manor was made in 1622, when a payment of £60 was made to a surveyor for this purpose.

Many fresh methods of taxation were brought in, which were reviled by the people. These include: Land Tax, Ship Money, Coal Duty and the Hearth Tax of 1662. The latter of these imposed a levy of 2/-, biannually, on all 'hearths' in buildings. The only exempt people were those who were too poor to pay. It was however, short lived and abolished twenty-seven years later.

Coal Duty was imposed on all loaded wagons and carts which passed specially erected posts. These payments went to help in the rebuilding of London after the fire in 1666. These ' coal duty posts' were positioned at the limits of the old city, and one such was placed at Rush Green and remains to this day.


Religion & Charities

Various religious orders sprang up in the manor from the mid-17th century onwards. There were Presbyterian gatherings at both Aldborough Hatch in the 1660s and Barking town.

A meeting of Quakers also took place at Barking in 1658; it was these people who formed the Society of Friends. They later purchased half-acre of land, for a burial ground, in 1672, and a hall named 'Tate's Place' the following year. This structure was erected in the time of James I. There is evidence that some of these people may have originated from Dagenham.

A third order was that of the Baptists, who around the year 1700 held meetings in licensed houses in the town. A Congregational church existed on the site which later became the Broadway Market and was dated from the 17th century.

The earliest known act of charity in Barking seems to date from 1566, where 'one good load of charcoals to the poor of the parish' were given in a will of Mrs Alice Leonard. It was common practise to leave an amount of land in a will or indenture; Alice herself, twelve years prior to her will had made an indenture which enabled a certain amount of lands to be surrendered for charity purposes.

Under the directions of William Pownsett of Loxford Farm 13/4d was given to 40 poor people each year by a deed of 1594. A 5½ acre piece of arable land called 'Cotlands'-- which was part of Cornerlands-- was also employed for poor relief being granted as such by Sir Thomas Fanshawe in 1679; he also left the Town Hall and its adjoining land an property to the parish of Barking.

Bread was also handed out to the parish’s poor at the discretion of the churchwardens, this occurred in 1741. Another to give aid to the poor was Sir James Cambell who bequeathed £100 in 1641. This act of leaving money was not uncommon after this time and various amounts were left for poor relief, as well as goods. Other monies were left to pay for children’s education or towards apprenticeships.

In Dagenham wills, rent charges were left to provide poor relief from 1657 onwards. There are also signs that the parish possessed almshouses in 1673-81, with their maintenance coming from the church rate.

The Leper Hospital called St. Mary's and St. Thomas, Ilford consisted of a chapel, almshouses (rebuilt 1719), chief house, and lodgings for the priest in 1560. It was in the hands of the Fanshawe’s from 1566, being passed to them by the Crown. It finally ended up under Sir Crisp Gascoyne, after 1668. This was utilised mainly as an almshouse, but also catered for the sick and the poor.

The chief house or masters house was a large structure situated SSE of the chapel. It was utilised as an inn (1737-87), named the Green Man, although remaining the property of the hospital.

Six other chapels are known to have existed. The first of these was in Hainault Forest from about the 15th century. Another was at Barkingside about 1653: while the third lay at Aldborough Hatch from at least 1730, being a place of Anglican worship, a fourth named St. Anne’s is noted in Barking Parish in 1572. Others were connected with manor houses including one each at Clayhall and Dagenhams [sic].

Between 1550-1750 some restoration and building work was carried out on St. Margarets Church, Barking, this included the construction of the outer north aisle and chapel, and the porch. Other features added in the 16th century was: a piscina and window. A font exists there from c.1635 [178].

The church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Dagenham, received substantial repairs and ameliorations between 1580-1630, which included the alteration of the north chapel in to a vestry. Many 16th century items remain in the church, as do a number of monuments, brasses and plaques of local dignitaries.



It was a man called Daniel Day who founded Fairlop Fair in the first quarter of the 18th century; these 'fairs' had originally commenced as just private picnics but had gradually developed. Day and friends used to eat bacon and beans under the shade of Fairlop Oak, a large and famous tree which stood near Aldborough Hatch.

It appears likely that bowls were popular during this time and there was a bowling green at Westbury near Barking town, and another at Ilford village. The manor houses were a place where balls and parties took place, and duels of honour were commonplace in this time.



Few Tudor and Stuart children were taught to read or write, and even fewer girls had any schooling at all, barring the fortunate ones. Often education would be gained from the parents or guardians. Some of those better off would be taken in by a well-to-do family after the death of a guardian, and often monies would be left in a will for this purpose.

An attic room over the court house provided the earliest known school in Barking in 1595; this measured some 57 feet x 9 feet. Monies left by Sir James Cambell helped to provide a free school in the town in North Street by 1649, and this is depicted on the map of 1653.

Ilford had no schools prior to the start of the 18th century. On the other hand, Dagenham may have had a boy’s and a girl’s school in the final decade of the 17th century. Probably a fifth of the village was children, amounting to 200. In local wills money was left for education which appears to be the case right through this period.