St Margaret's, Barking

Curfew Tower

Almost all that remains of the old Abbey buildings is the Curfew Tower or Fire Bell Gate (rebuilt about 1460), with its 12th or early 13th-century stone rood in the upper storey chapel. The Tower is a symbol of Barking featuring in the Coat of Arms for the old Borough of Barking (now on display in St Margaret's Church) and the current Coat of Arms for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.

The Curfew Tower was the central one of three gateways to the Abbey and is the only part of the Abbey still standing. There is no evidence of the Curfew being rung here although a small bell may have been used to summon parishioners to services before the Church Bell Tower was built in the late 15th Century.

The Tower was built in 1370 and rebuilt or reconstructed in 1460. The Tower contains The Chapel of the Holy Rood, given this name because of the stone Rood on the east wall. The Rood dates back to at least the 12th century and at one time was probably fixed to an outside wall of the Abbey, hence the damage to the Rood itself. The Holy Rood, a stone representation of the crucifixion, has the figure of Christ in the centre with St Mary and St John on either side. The Holy Rood has been the object of pilgrimage and veneration from late medieval times. Apparently special indulgencies were granted to those making the pilgrimage. Shields in the corners of the Chapel are those of the Abbey, The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Chelmsford and Barking Borough Council.

In 1955/56 repairs were carried out to the windows and the interior was redecorated. Consideration was given to opening up the two bricked up windows but experts were of the opinion doing so would weaken the structure. New furniture including an Altar Table and rush chairs were installed.

Urgent conservation repairs were carried out between May 2005 and January 2006 to ensure the safety of the Curfew Tower for future generations. The roof over the staircase was replaced and repairs were carried out to some of the timbers on the North side which support the main roof. The main roof was also re-covered. A large amount of defective stone was replaced and the whole structure was re-pointed. The gates and electrical equipment were overhauled, the furniture was renovated and the Chapel redecorated. Funding for these works, which cost in excess of 130,000, was only possible thanks to financial support from The Heritage Lottery Fund, Heritage of London Trust and a significant donation from the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.

Picture gallery

Photos - Curfew Tower

Photos - Essex Churches

St Margaret's & the Arts

A Sketch of Ancient Barking, its Abbey and Ilford

Denis Wakeling

Past life - Present mission

Barking Abbey

Barking heritage

English Heritage


Essex Churches

Friends of Essex Churches