Dagenham Did You Know Part 2: Popcorn, £5 notes and murder mysteries

Vera Lynn

Vera Lynn - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

From suffragettes to Stormtroopers, popcorn to popstars, the history of Barking and Dagenham is anything but boring.

Vera Lyn's house on Upney Lane in Barking.

Vera Lyn's house on Upney Lane in Barking. - Credit: Archant

But how much do you really know about the borough?

I spent a morning on a special guided tour of some of the more unusual sights, digging up some facts to wow your friends.

Did you know?

One of the 20th century’s most famous songstresses lived in Barking.


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‘Forces Sweetheart’ Vera Lynn spent much of the Second World War years living in Barking.

Born Vera Margaret Welch in East Ham 1917, the iconic songstress performed professionally from the age of seven in working men’s clubs, but chose her grandmother’s maiden name, Lynn, for the stage.

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By the mid-1930s Vera was making regular recordings and radio broadcasts and in 1938 she bought 24 Upney Lane, Barking, where she lived with her parents, Annie and Bertram.

Elizabeth Fry helped to improve living conditions in prisons and launched a night shelter in London.

Elizabeth Fry helped to improve living conditions in prisons and launched a night shelter in London. - Credit: Archant

A favourite with the troops with classic numbers ‘We’ll meet again’ and (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover’, Vera married Harry Lewis in 1941 and rented a separate house in Upney Lane, close to her parents, until 1944.

A popular singer after the war, she was appointed OBE in 1969 and made a Dame in 1975.

Last year she became the oldest living artist to have a record in UK top 20 chart, aged 97.

Vera’s mother Annie Welch was widowed in 1955 and continued to live at 24 Upney Lane until her own death in 1975.

Did you know?

The “Angel of Prisons” was buried in Barking

Perhaps more famous for being on the back of £5 notes than her professional accomplishments, prison reformer Elizabeth Fry was a well-know face in 17th-century Barking.

The memorial to Elizabeth Fry.

The memorial to Elizabeth Fry. - Credit: Archant

An approved minister of the local circuit of the Society of Friends (Quakers), she regularly attended the Friends Meeting House in North Street, Barking, and was buried opposite in 1845.

From 1823 onwards she worked tirelessly to improve conditions for female prisoners at Newgate and on the convict ships.

She introduced prison uniform, religious and elementary education, and gave the women paid employment such as making patchwork quilts.

Did you know?

Dagenham has an intriguing unsolved murder case from the 19th century.

Among the many secrets hidden within the borough, Dagenham contains its very own 169-year-old murder mystery.

Pc George Clark was just 20 when he disappeared while on night duty on June 29 1846.

The memorial to pc George Clark in Dagenham

The memorial to pc George Clark in Dagenham - Credit: Archant

Four days later his mutilated body was found in a cornfield in Rush Green.

Patrolling alone and on foot along a lonely country beat in the Eastbrookend area he is said to have been attacked by a gang of attackers using a variety of weapons.

With none of his alleged killers ever brought to justice, much speculation continues to surround the case, with police colleagues later proved to have lied at his inquest and a local woman claiming her former husband had caught the copper stealing sacks of corn.

A grave stones pays tribute to the young constable at St. Peter and St. Paul Church.

Did you know?

Barking and Dagenham was once the home of popcorn and lemonade.

Maybe not the first place you go to when you think of party food, but Barking and Dagenham once boasted both a lemonade and a popcorn factory.

Butterkist popcorn.

Butterkist popcorn. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

American cinema-confectionary giants Butterkist treated Dagenham residents to the sweet smells of fresh popcorn from their base in Blackbourne Road.

Former Beckton gas worker H F Van opened a Barking coffee shop in 1876, later expanding his business and building a mineral water factory in Axe Street.

By 1890 he had sold out to R White & Sons – a household fizzy drinks name, now owned by who enlarged the factory and eventually produced lemonade in Barking until the building was demolished in the winter of 1972.

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