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Late Victorian Barking






The main town of Barking in 1890 was still situated round the St. Margaret's Church and Town Quay area, where there was a large proportion of cottages; there were also numerous small cottages to the west of the railway. The more up market part of Barking was found at the northern end of North Street. Today however only two dwellings of that period survive.  The civil parish of Ilford had been created out of Barking, (becoming separated at the end of the previous decade); it became a local Government District on the 8th August 1890. Barking Town in 1891 had a population of 25,214. Some development had, and still was taking place east of the railway, (which at this time was still known as Barking New Town) but principally that area remained mostly agricultural.  

The town had expanded southwards, and the majority of the streets between King Edward's Road and Fisher Street had been laid out by the beginning of this period. In Gascoigne Road between 1891-94 terraced houses were constructed; these were built to accommodate the lower classes of workers in the area, and probably meant for people who had local jobs.

Barking Bdy, 1917.jpg

Barking North Street, looking towards Broadway, circa 1900


Life and working conditions were extremely long and hard for people of Barking and Dagenham, who toiled chiefly in the fields, especially in the Winter time, when the strong winds used to blow across the lush green marshes.Generally they were poorly housed, and toiled laboriously for long hours and for small amounts of pay. During bad Winters the workers in building and agricultural industries suffered much hardship. One such Winter was in 1890 at Christmas time, when the editor of the Church Magazine commented on it, and deplored its effects. In contrast to this from Spring to early Summer the months of 1891 produced constant blue skies and unbroken sunshine from March to July. Then after a short break of unsettled weather, another spell of fine, bringing not only a drought but a crisis in the gas industry. The long hours of daylight meant that nobody was using gas, and many of the workers were lying idle at Beckton, and turned to the 'demon drink' in one of the towns many public houses. Other workers of Barking were engaged in hay-making, pea-picking or weeding.


The major industries in the town at this time were the gas works at Beckton, the jute mill and the fertiliser plant at Creekmouth. As already seen agriculture still played a large and vital role. By 1890 there were also a number of foundries in Barking. Among the smaller undertakings were R. White's Mineral Water Company, Glenny's Brewery and Randall's Maltings.


The jute works was in Fisher Street and a cruel blow was struck, to the mainly female orientated work force, in 1891 when it was closed down for good, (after a number of scares a few years previous), and various relief measures were brought into operation by the Church Council, otherwise these poor and unfortunate folk would have had a difficult struggle. These measures were highlighted in the St. Margaret's Church Magazine, and during July one hundred and sixtyfive coal and grocery tickets were issued. Twenty-three of the redundant girls were sent to Dundee, through the kindness and good offices of the Bishop of Brechin, a town which also had a jute industry. Some of the redundant girls went into domestic service; these being helped by a charitable group called the Ladies Committee.



The work of St Margaret's helped many of the needy of the town, and donations came from the Church Alms Fund. A Blanket Charity Club was also maintained, and annual warnings were given if the blankets were not returned by a set date, which could mean the loss of the persons membership.


Others were helped by numerous organisations such as the Ladies Committee, Barking Charity Trustees, a Clothing and Coal Club and a 'Lying in fund'. The church also employed its own district nurse, and her services were available to anyone who needed them. In addition to this was a Frost Fund which was obviously used in the Winter. A member of Barking Philanthropic Society whose principal duty was feeding the poor children told how, in times of terrible weather, some of the children had to be 'thawed out' before they could be given their meals.


Life & Death


It was clear that the 'demon drink' did have very adverse effects on family life, and many of the women must have cursed the early opening and late closing of the local inns. An isolation hospital was built on Upney Meadow in 1893 and was named Barking Hospital.


Death was highlighted in the Church Magazine as being, 'always around the corner' and it was quick to stress this point. In 1891 there was 452 baptisms recorded, while in the same period 91 children under twenty months were buried; these facts emphasise the magazines statement well. This was a staggering figure when other age groups are added!


Religious denominations of various sorts were well served in the district, by places of worship and meeting houses; in evidence were: Roman Catholics, Congregationalists, Baptists, Wesleyans, Brethren and Quakers.




In 1890 the Vicar of Barking decided to throw open a yearly event called the Annual School Treat to all the elementary children in the town. This meant that there was no less than 2136 kids to be catered for. They assembled at 1.30 pm and marched in procession around the town centre. There was the children of the Church School, headed by the Town Band. The remainder of the children were behind these. They arrived at the Vicarage Field and scattered to enjoy the 'fun of the fair' for which each child had appropriate tickets. To ease congestion when tea was served the tickets were different colours, either red, yellow or green. A flag was raised, and holders who had that ticket colour were lined up and marched off to tea. The day ended at dusk with a firework display to which the parents and others were admitted. Five years later the Annual Treat catered for 3600 children, who were placed in groups of 900, and it was a duanting task for those who had to feed and amuse such a vast gathering of youngsters. 1895 marked the last year of Dr. Hensley Henson's ministry in Barking, and the following year the Annual Treat was restricted to children of the Church School only, as clearly an event of this magnitude was becoming far beyond their resources.


In July the Vicarage Field was used for massive shows of dogs, poultry, flowers and local industries. An interesting insight into the development of technology of the late 19th century was contained in the Report of the Show for 1892. It claimed it was a novelty for the people of Barking to listen to the opera performed by the English Opera from a tent in the Vicarage Field. The National Telephone Company achieved this by connecting a temporary line between the tent on the Vicarage Field and the 'live' performance via Messrs White's telephone, (presumably R. Whites minerals). The programme was relayed on both evenings of the show between 8 pm and 10pm, but no details are given of the means of amplification by which the Barking audience enjoyed the performances. 

The local village school was not only used to teach the children; it was a focal point for the whole community, and a place of social gathering. Situated their was a Men's Club, a place where they could relax after putting in a hard days work on the local farms.

Barking Park was opened in 1898, and the head-gardener of Loxford Hall was placed as its superintendent. As for public houses, there were 37 establishments selling alcoholic refreshments in Barking. Often the sale of beer was just part of a retail business, as in the case of Charles Clark of New Road, opposite the 'Bull' in North Street.



The education of the town was catered for by a number of different schools in the area. These included the Church of England in Linton Road which was Roman Catholic; the Wesleyan in East Street and a Baptist in Tanner Street. Plus there was a Ragged Sunday School, which

was conducted in Heath Street. 

Up to 1892 the children of Barking attended a school, which was built on a site acquired from Sir Edward Hulse, by the Church School Committee, along with a school mistress's house. The village children were taught their in two small classrooms. The majority of these pupils were transferred to Gascoigne School when it was opened in 1892, which involved alot of them having to walk along way from their homes. This was the first Board School in Barking, being designed by C.W. Dawson. In addition to this, Castle School helped to alleviate the problem further for the children of Rippleside when it was opened in 1898. Other professional schools in the community were Miss Emma Bentail, principal of a Ladies School at 16, Cambridge Road and Miss Emily Wilding, who conducted a 'high class school' at 25, Linton Road.


Creekmouth Village


Southwards across the marshes stood the village of Creekmouth. The Lawes Chemical Company owned most of this estate and were the local benefactors. The villages school was two cottages, which were provided by the Company. The cottages were made into one building, and comprised of one large room and two small classrooms. These premises provided by Lawes were also used, like the Rippleside School, for religious and social gatherings, for this rather isolated community. Lawes closed the village school in 1892, when Gascoigne opened, and the Vicar of Barking asked if the old school could be used and given the appearance of a church. This the Company agreed to.


Once a week or so the villagers would travel to Barking Town with intentions of buying their provisions. Part of the road to Barking was in a very bad state, and the other portion was subject to a toll. To avoid payment of the toll and the discomfort of the long trek, some of the villagers would walk along the river bank to Kingsbridge marsh, which they would cross at a point at the end of King Edward Road, and then proceed into town from there. Other dwellers were lucky enough to possess a boat and would row up with the tide to the Town Quay, moor their vessel, do their shopping in the town, and return home on the out-going tide. There was no difficulty in doing this as many of the shops were open to 11 pm or later on Saturdays.


Most of the menfolk at Creekmouth worked in the local fertiliser industry, (Lawes or de Pass Fertilisers), and others along the river. A few houses were built during this time near the factories, but the rest of old Ripple Ward stayed rural.




Railway timetables were given in The Barking, East Ham and Ilford Advertiser and were a regular feature. Railways in the early part of the decade had 'Cheap half day holiday excursions' to Laindon during May and June, as well as other Summer holiday trips. Typical prices were: 1st class, 2/- [10p]: 3rd class, 1/- [5p]. The Tilbury Railway Company in 1892 was carrying between 2000-3000 workmen a day for a fare of thruppence [1½p].


The May holiday of 1893, saw 35,000 excursionists at Southend, brought down by The Tilbury Company and The Great Eastern Company, many of these came from the Barking and Dagenham areas. In 1898 Barking train fares charged by the LTSR, (London, Tilbury & Southend Railway Company) were as follows:-


Barking to East Ham, one penny [½p].

Barking to Burdett Road, fivepence-ha'penny [2½p].

Barking to Bromley, tuppence ha'penny [1½p].



Town Quay and Canal Schemes


The annual licence for the grid-iron and piles at the Town Quay was fixed in 1895 at a price of £2.


A number of canal schemes were also proposed to link Romford with the River Thames by way of Dagenham, but these came to nothing, barring some unfinished workings to the west of the River Beam, and north of New Road. These were undertaken in the nineteenth century.




The shops on Saturdays in Barking remained open until 11 pm or even later! Many people would come from the villages nearby such as Rippleside or Creekmouth to do their weekly shopping. Some of the more fortunate shoppers from Creekmouth travelled up the Roding at high tide by rowing-boats and moored at the Town Quay, before travelling back on the ebbing flow.


By late 1893, many of the shops were closing early at 8.30 pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Shops in this decade still included Gosling's Boot Store, John Bissel and D. Molenkamps.


Also included in the trading and professional community were Miss Mary Jackson, a staymaker of Ivy Cottage. There were two retail bird fanciers, one at Broadway, the other at Back Lane Cottages; and an oyster bar at 22, Broadway with a medical botanist in the same street. A herbal drink manufacturer occupied premises in North Street; and from 7, Fisher Street, Thomas Rayment traded as a rag 'n' bone man.


Local Crime


The police station and its force in Barking in the 1890's was situated in North Street. There were 2 inspectors, 3 sergeants and 26 constables - a big force for a town the size of Barking. But this may well have been needed to quell trouble coming from one of the towns 37 inns, where alcoholic refreshment was available.


Local crimes included many cases of murder, suicide and poisoning. Numerous people throughout this time were found drowned in Barking Creek. There were also incidents of child neglect; assaults on police; burglary and arson. Other more minor cases included horse and cart accidents or offences; highway robbery; animal stealing, ie) horse, cattle, sheep and goats etc); plus countless cases of drunkenness; vagrancy and bilking, (fiddling) of fares.


Penalties for stealing were for young offenders the birch: older offenders were fined around £1. For child neglect the sentence could be three months hard labour. Drunk and disorderly was a fine of approximately 10/- [50p]: or 14 days imprisonment. 

Rippleside Village


Rippleside then was only a small village, stretching from the cemetery to the Chequers in Dagenham. Along Ripple Road were isolated farms and groups of cottages, which were occupied mainly by farm workers. Ripple Road itself was fairly narrow and overhanging trees, which were in the main elms, were seen on each side of the road, which was bounded by high banks and hedges.

Traffic away from the main town area was principally vehicles going to and from the many small farms. In the evenings wagons and carts laden with market garden foods left the farms in the evening, stopping at one of the inns on the way, as they went en-route to Stratford and the London markets. The drivers of the wagons quite often nodded off to sleep on their box-seats, so it was lucky the horses appeared to know the way as well as the waggoners. When the weather was cold they often wrapped themselves in sacking as they went on the journey. Ripple Road during this time was quiet and tranquil. There was no street-lighting in this region. In the Summer months the surface of the road became very dusty, which was very much a disadvantage to the road users. In the middle of the village near Lodge Lane, (now Lodge Avenue) was a wheelwright's shop where wagons and implements for farmyard use were made. Near to this was the village blacksmith who shoed the horses and manufactured various tools out of iron. In addition to this was a few small village stores, which supplied the tiny community's needs. If they needed anything other than the basics, it meant a long walk into Barking. 

Ripple Road, c.1900 (2).jpg
Cemetery Entrance, Barking.jpg

Ripple Road, just beyond Upney Lane, c.1900

Rippleside cemetery gates, c.1900.




The main form of lighting in the borough was oil, which was used on many of the illuminated roads in the early part of the decade. Oil costs though were gradually rising: and by 1894-5 they were £987 per annum; two years later they had risen to £1,298. However, many of the roads still remained unlit, especially the side-streets. Gas-lighting was not uncommon though, especially in the busy areas of the town, like the Broadway, which was fitted with a further lamp in 1895, due to there being inadequate light in that area. Ripple Road was one of the roads that had no lighting in the Rippleside area.



The first step taken to improve lighting dramatically in the borough was on the 13th October 1896. From this a survey was carried out in 1897 to find the cheapest running costs from the three sources of power: oil, gas and electricity. Only oil and gas were already in use, so the electricity running costs had to be estimated. An application was granted in 1898, to borrow £15,000 for the erection of an electric lighting plant.

The Barking gas rate for 1892 was 4/6d [22½p], Per 1000 cu. ft. In 1894, Barking council proposed fitting every house with penny in the slot meters. These fittings and meters, including the laying of the pipes, would be included in the price of the gas.

Local News


Apart from the criminal aspect, district news revolved around other things and was listed in the local newspaper for the area. The Barking, East Ham & Ilford Advertiser, whose offices were at 1, Longbridge Road. The news was written without sensationalism, and many of the stories had no dramatic element in them at all. Throughout this time it was priced at a ha'penny, and usually contained only 4 (or 2 large double-sheets) pages; the front one of these being solely classified advertisements.


On page two was the main news item, official advertisements and reports and notices of local interest. Further news items were carried on page three, including accounts of court proceedings. The back page had classified adverts under a number of numerous headings such as: 'Lost and Found' - 'Men and Lads Wanted' - 'Domestic Servants' - etc. The first picture, which was a photograph turned into a drawing to assist printing, appeared in an early 1892 edition, and was that of Mr Alderman W.W. Glenny; JP.

News items printed included, general developments in the town and surrounding areas; like the erection of new roads, buildings and places: as well as demolition of the old. In addition to that were accounts of the gas, electric and transport industries, which were all expanding rapidly at that time.

Some other shops at this time were: -


C.F Soul, (1890) 1, Westbury Terrace: Baker, Grocer and Tea.James R. Carwell, (1892) 141 St. Ann's Road: Importers of Musical          Instruments.

A typical price for a harmonium with eight stops was around £8 10/- 0d [£8.50p].W. Duffield, (1892) 17, Broadway: suppliers of jam and boiled sweets.

Stahls, (1893) Heath Street: Butchers.J.W. Garland, (1894) East Street: Lighting.

Clarkes Stores, (1898) General Stores, (dairy produce, tea, tinned-foods, wines and spirits).

Joseph Hart, (1898) Broadway: Grazier and Butchers.

E. W. Barnett, (1898) Wakering Road: Cycle & Cycle Manufacturers.

S.A. Bowyer, (1898) East Street: family Butchers.

Pelling Stores, (1898) Broadway: General Stores.

The Bon Marche, (1898) 9, Heath Street: Novelties; Ladies and Gents wear; also Toys and Dolls.

Carters, (1899) 59 & 61 Axe Street: Hairdresser and Tobacconist.

Town Quay, frozen, 1905_edited.jpg

Town Quay, frozen in 1895

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