Post People: Engaging Barking and Dagenham in history of St Margaret’s Church
PUBLISHED: 10:00 02 June 2017
Matt Benjamin, 24, tells Sebastian Murphy-Bates how he helps put people in touch with their history as heritage engagement officer at St Margaret’s Church
“I started my role in November 2016 after studying history at the University of Hertfordshire and researching for Spires Heritage, which funds church repairs.
“There’s a lot of variety working with the heritage team at St Margaret’s. At the moment we’re working on the final stages of a new guide book for the church, which is designed to engage normal people who drop into the church and should be available by the end of June.
“We’ve had three guide books since the 1920s, but we felt it important to update and upgrade. We wanted a professionally produced book like we have for the Abbey. Myself and the team at St Margaret’s, along with help from Spires Heritage, have led the research to go into greater detail and explore finer points that may have been missed before.
“I also give guided tours of the church and the Abbey Ruins for school pupils.
“We’ve also got interpretation panels around the Abbey, which are part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project.
“As somebody who was born in Barking and has lived in Dagenham all his life, I really think it’s important for local people to understand their heritage.
“Barking Abbey was one of the largest in the country. It’s hosted Jasper Tudor – who was Henry VII’s uncle – and important local families such as the Fanshawes and the Gascoignes are buried in the grounds of St Margaret’s. We’ve also got a window designed by the New York-born architect George Jack, which celebrates our historic fishing fleet.
“Echo Down the Years is a free classical music concert we’re having at our church in North Street, Barking, written by Jonathan Rathbone and Paul Whitnall. It’s all about the history of the area and how it’s changed since William the Conqueror stayed here in 1066.
“The show, which starts at 7pm on Sunday, June 25, is free to attend but it is ticketed. You can get yours from our parish office or from Broadway Theatre in Broadway, Barking.”