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Changing face of the borough's places of worship

PUBLISHED: 13:59 15 May 2008 | UPDATED: 09:10 11 August 2010

Dagenham Parish Church

Dagenham Parish Church

A NUMBER of new churches have been set up in the borough in recent years as various communities make Barking and Dagenham their home. These recent additions to the religious tapestry are following in a long tradition of faith groups who have founded place

A NUMBER of new churches have been set up in the borough in recent years as various communities make Barking and Dagenham their home.

These recent additions to the religious tapestry are following in a long tradition of faith groups who have founded places of worship in the borough.

There was a time when there were only two churches to choose from, and both of these are still standing proudly today.

St Margaret's, next to Barking Abbey, and St Peter and St Paul Parish Church, Dagenham, both date from the 13th century.

Up until the end of the 14th century there were two vicars in the Parish of Barking. The 'northern' served at the Parish Church while the 'southern' was based at the Abbey Church.

Many others have followed, but these historic places of worship remain the focal points of Church of England worship in the borough.

Roman Catholics opened their first church, dedicated to St Ethelburga, in a temporary building around the back of the Red Lion Pub in Barking way back in 1858.

Their first proper church was St Mary and St Ethelburga in Linton Road.

Catholics were one of the first groups to start working on Dagenham's Becontree Estate, and a number of churches have since been built there.

Baptists held their earliest meetings in private licensed rooms around Barking during the 1600s and early 1700s.

Their first church was erected in Queen's Road, Barking, in 1850, but this was later sold off to an obscure religious sect called The Peculiar People.

As a replacement they built a tabernacle in Linton Road, Barking, in 1893. The church is still in use today, and is one of the most attractive buildings in the Town Centre.

Also in use today is the Sikh temple on the corner of North Street and the Northern Relief Road.

This started life as a meeting house for The Society of Friends, better known as The Quakers.

It was converted from part of an old house in 1673 and was partly rebuilt in 1758. The modern building dates from 1908 and became a Gurdwara for the burgeoning East London Sikh community in 1970.

It stands over the road from the burial ground where famous Quaker prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry is buried.

The Quakers bought the plot in 1672, a year before the meeting house was set up.

In his excellent book, 'Barking Past' Richard Tames mentions several prominent Quakers who hail from the town.

John Fowke, who died in 1691, was a major landowner and son of a Lord Mayor of London.

William Mead, who died in 1713, was a wealthy linen draper who owned the manor of Gooshays in Havering.

Along with George Whitehead, another prominent member of the church, Mead met the King several times to argue the case for better treatment of the Quakers.

Another of the great non-conformist churches, Methodism, was brought to the town by open air preachers around 1781.

Their founder, John Wesley visited Barking in 1783 and 1784. At first the group met in a wooden hut, then a hired room, and finally built a chapel on the south side of East Street.

This was demolished when the Central Hall was built across the street in 1928, most of which was destroyed by a German rocket attack in World War Two.

In Dagenham the first chapel was built on the south side of Beacontree Heath around the turn of the 19th century.

Another was built in Dagenham Village in 1846 and the two congregations later came together around 1875 and built Beacontree Heath Methodist Church.

Muslims started meeting for prayers in 1968 in a three bedroom house which was specially licensed as a mosque by the council.

The present Barking Mosque, in Victoria Road, was officially opened on May 5, 1995, and then extended later to its present size.

A Jewish synagogue was established in Heath Street in 1926. The hall was closed in 1939 under a municipal redevelopment scheme, and Heath Street itself seems to have been erased from the map.

Jews in Barking were without a home for the next ten years until 1949 when they amalgamated with the synagogue at Becontree Avenue which continues today.


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