Pictures show rich history of Barking

A sketch of a crumbling Eastbury Manor House, a photograph of a Victorian vicar who denied the virgin birth and a 1950s Odeon poster – just a few of the images that keep Barking’s rich and fascinating history alive.

Last week the chairman of the Barking and District Historical Society, Bill George, revealed the stories behind these pictures and many more.

He spoke of the famous faces that have passed through Barking over the past few hundred years, including Alfred Russel Wallace, an explorer, geographer, naturalist and political commentator who was one of the forefathers of the theory of evolution.

Legend had it that he lived in a haunted house in Barking the 1870s. “He is most famous for coming up with the natural selection theory of evolution at the same time as Charles Darwin,” said Bill.

“Darwin gets all the credit because Wallace was side-lined due to his belief in spiritualism.”

Another well-known figure was Herbert Hensley Henson, who became the vicar of Barking in 1888. At the tender age of 25, he was the youngest vicar in the Church of England at the time.

“Within six months he had increased his congregation from 250 to 1,100 souls,” explained Bill. “Unfortunately, however, Henson suffered from stress and had to take a less strenuous position in Ilford.

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“When he left Barking in 1895 he preached a sermon in which he painted a portrait of Barking as a corrupt city like ‘Sodom and Gomorrah – prostitutes in the streets, local government corrupt, apostles of hatred propagating hatred, everywhere a reign of suspicion’. He later went on to become Bishop of Durham despite denying the virgin birth and resurrection,” added Bill

One of the featured images is a sketch of the great hall in Eastbury Manor House, drawn in 1837.

For many years the Tudor building was a grand home occupied by a number of wealthy residents but fell into disrepair in the 19th century.

It was narrowly saved from demolition by the National Trust in 1918 and has since been restored.

Also included in Bill’s talk is a glass plate painting of the Princess Alice Steamer which collided with a cargo ship on September 3, 1878 and sunk at Tripcock Point near Barking.

“Horrendous screams were heard at Creekmouth,” said Bill. “Six hundred and fifty passengers and crew were trapped and drowned in raw effluent as the sewage works had unfortunately emptied their sewerage into the Thames one hour earlier.”

Another well-known disaster in Barking history is the explosion of a faulty boiler at Barking fishing company Hewitt & Co in 1899.

“A defective pressure gauge caused the boiler to burst and fragments were flung in all directions. One piece was carried across a field and struck a bakers, going through a wall, a bedroom floor and into the kitchen,” Bill explained.

“The enterprising owner charged sightseers a fee to view the wreckage with the proceeds going to a relief fund. Walls were thrown down and ‘men were cast about like feathers’.


“Six were killed outright, 11 wounded and a further two later died.”

The talk, at Harp House, in Helmore Road, Barking, finished on a happier note looking at entertainment programmes featuring well known musicians Jack Parnell, Edmundo Ross and Ted Heath who performed at the Odeon Theatre in Barking in the early 1950s.

The society’s next talk will be by museum curator Jonathon Catton on October 1 and is called Thurrock: Unusual and Strange Histories.

It starts at 7.45pm at Harp House and is free for members and �1.50 for non-members.