Plans to improve area around Barking’s Curfew Tower get green light

The Curfew Tower in Barking. Picture: Be First

The Curfew Tower in Barking. Picture: Be First - Credit: Be First

Plans to improve the area around a 500-year-old tower in Barking town centre have been approved by councillors.

The area around the Curfew Tower will be opened up with better landscaping after Barking and Dagenham Council’s planning committee gave it the green light.

Located at the end of East Street, the tower - also known as Abbey Gate or Fire Bell Gate - serves as the main gateway to the ruins of Barking Abbey and St Margaret’s Parish Church.

It is the last of three gateways left standing after Henry VIII dissolved and destroyed the holy site between 1539 and 1541.

Councillor Cameron Geddes, cabinet member for regeneration and social housing, said: “We’re massively proud of our heritage. For too long the Curfew Tower has been obscured from view.

“These plans will give this building of huge historic significance the setting it deserves.”

A bronze model of the Saxon Abbey, to which the Curfew Tower was the main gateway, will also be installed to help visitors interpret the site and better understand the history of the ruins.

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The project, which will be undertaken by the council’s regeneration organisation, Be First, will reuse existing materials on site such as the Yorkstone flags and granite sets and includes works to trim and maintain most of the existing trees. The project has been given funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

David Harley, Be First’s head of regeneration, said: “With substantial new development in Barking town centre, it is important to cherish Barking’s rich history.

“These public realm works will enhance the setting of the historic Curfew Tower, raising awareness of the area’s heritage, and create an attractive calm space for people to relax and have lunch.

“This forms part of a wider National Lottery Heritage Fund project involving local schools and volunteers.”

The tower is Grade II* listed, with the original medieval belfry built in 1370.

The current tower dates from around 1460, but the upper storey was largely rebuilt in the late 19th century.

Its name comes from the tolling of the bell, reminding people to extinguish all fires and lights before the nightly curfew.