Lost treasures were a tragedy for us all

AS SOON as the POST recalled the fire that ravaged Barking s old library in Ripple Road in the 1960s, residents phoned in with their memories of the incident. Former deputy leader of the council, Terry Wade, was a young man in his 20s who had just moved t

AS SOON as the POST recalled the fire that ravaged Barking's old library in Ripple Road in the 1960s, residents phoned in with their memories of the incident.

Former deputy leader of the council, Terry Wade, was a young man in his 20s who had just moved to Marks Gate with his young family, but he was still very fond of Barking.

He said: "I have always been a Barking lad and Barking had always been where we had our congregations.

"I remember the devastation when this absolute idiot set fire to the library. People were so shocked by it.


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"He probably did not realise the damage he had done - all those treasures that were lost.

"Presumably he had not checked if anyone was in the building or not. It could have been a lot worse."

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The teenage arsonist, who entered the library in the middle of the night on April 4, 1967, unknowingly ushered in a new era for the borough's library users and the town's architecture.

Mr Wade said: "We know things change all the time.

"But when you are forced to change it always feels a bit more poignant.

"He took away a bit of our history."

Former Dagenham Post and Barking Advertiser reporter, Anthony Richards, would agree.

He said: "Had the library not been burned down, it would have made an immense difference to the borough.

"They would not have dared to build those new buildings in the town centre."

The 73-year-old said he had already stopped working at the Advertiser to join the paper in Dagenham but had used Barking library for research quite frequently.

Mr Richards said: "When I first came to Barking in 1965, the library struck me as a beautiful building.

"It was immensely popular. It retained the pride and dignity of the borough."

He remembers an overwhelming sense of anger among residents after the fire.

"Mostly everyone was angry. They said whoever did it should burn at the stake.

"What else could you do? What had been a beautiful building was just a wreck," he added.

The only item that was saved was the Book of Remembrance with the names of servicemen killed in the Second World War, according to Mr Richards.

Another person who was deeply affected by the fire was the library's chief librarian at the time. Mr Richards said: "He was a very old English gentleman who was immensely attached to the building. The fire devastated him.

"Now the service is still good but the appearance of the building is a disaster."

Mr Wade also disapproves of the brightly coloured, ultra-modern structures overshadowing the town hall.

He said: "I'm particularly sad that the old town hall is being covered up by high buildings.

"It is a lovely building and it should be shown in all its splendour.

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