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.