I remember when all this were nowt but fields
ONCE UPON a time this borough was covered by green verdant fields and nearly half the population was employed in agriculture. Now there is only one farm left in Barking and Dagenham – Warren Farm in Whalebone Lane North. But wind the clock back 200 years
ONCE UPON a time this borough was covered by green verdant fields and nearly half the population was employed in agriculture.
Now there is only one farm left in Barking and Dagenham - Warren Farm in Whalebone Lane North.
But wind the clock back 200 years and you would see a very different place where inhabitants either toiled in factories or in the fields.
Much of the farmland was taken up in growing vegetables and grain that would be taken up to the London market.
In 1801 over 1,000 acres in Barking was covered by potatoes and another 500 acres by other vegetables.
Grains such as oats, rye, wheat, lenton barley and winter barley covered another massive area of land, around 500 acres.
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These crops were reaped by unpaid labourers who would receive their payment in kind.
The famous Glennys family started out as market gardeners and then progressed into farming and had a huge swathe of land in what is now East Street and in Chadwell Heath.
In fact Francis Glenny, who tended the farm in Chadwell Heath, won a prize from the agricultural society to encourage London farmers to grow more vegetables.
Their farm had the largest number of livestock in the borough boasting hundreds of sheep, pigs, chickens, geese, doves and ducks.
The sheep were fed on the marsh which used to be on the boarder of Barking and Dagenham and then taken to the London butchers.
Of course it was not just the meat that was valuable, sheep fleeces were used to make clothing and their skins were used to make parchment.
Some ewes were also kept for milking which was then used to make cheese; just 20 ewes could produce enough milk to make 850 pounds of cheese.
Sheep were the favourite livestock of farmers in the area because they were cheap to care for, would eat anything and had many uses.
Another major farmer in Barking was Mr Pittman who had around 300 acres and was one of the only farmers to keep oxen.
He had 100 bullocks which were kept in the largest bullock house in the country and fed on left over potatoes from his crops.
Pittman mostly rotated his crop growing between potatoes, wheat and clover.
Also popular in the borough's farming community were other items such as, turnips, cabbage, onions, cucumbers, strawberries, apples, plums, asparagus, rhubarb and walnuts, which were grown from time to time.
At harvest time when more hands were needed to bring in the crops girls from North Wales would be hired.
On Upney farm in 1866, the farmer Thomas Circuit introduced a new style of cultivation called intercropping.
Vegetables such as cucumbers and onions would be sewn between rows of rye.
But not all farms in the borough were so diverse and forward thinking, in 1847 it was recorded that Porter's Lodge farm was still using medieval methods.
It is noted that 25 acres of land was divided into eight strips with three separate owners, much like the old feudal system.
In Ripple ward there were two big land owners situated in Loxford Hall and Eastbury Manor house, much of their land was looked after by tenants.
The huge importance of agriculture to the borough is evident in almost every facet of daily life in Barking and Dagenham.
Forty five percent of people here were employed in the industry and that would include trades that depended on it, such as blacksmiths, basket makers, leather cutters, saddlers, marsh-men and cattle dealers.
Now-a-days the huge influence that agriculture had on this borough is a fading memory as more and more fields turn into roads and houses.