St Margaret's, Barking

A Sketch of Ancient Barking, Its Abbey, and Ilford

The Church has been given a copy of A Sketch of Ancient Barking, Its Abbey, and Ilford written by Edward Tuck in 1899.

Edward Tuck, who was Head Teacher of the Boys' National School Ilford, formed at choir at St Margaret's and succeeded in getting a new Organ. He was Hon. Secretary to the funds for the two renovations which happened in 1865-6 and 1883-4. In 1886 he organised a Bazaar which raised 200.00 and freed the church from debt and, with proceeds from a sale of work and collecting cards, he raised funds for the stone pulpit.

In the guide book Tuck gives us an insight into the way in which each age has changed and developed the church building. He pays tribute to the work of the Hon. and Rev. R. Liddell who, he says, "deserves the highest encomiums, and affords an excellent example for others to follow in his footsteps." Tuck elaborates by saying:

"On the Honourable Liddell's appointment to Barking, and first visit to the Church he was struck with its huge round unsightly whitewashed pillars. His suspicions were that they were not genuine but savoured of the vandalising epoch of the 16th century, a period when many of our fine old churches were desecrated, Monumental brasses stolen, stained glass windows reduced to ashes, and many other artistic works effaced with plaster and whitewash. Mr Liddell subsequently experimented on one of the pillars with a pickaxe, and soon discovered that the fine old pillars (which now grace the Church) had been thoroughly cased in with mortar. The work of clearance and restoration was speedily carried out, to the no small satisfaction of the parishioners. Mr Liddell's next work was the abolition of the large box pews, and thoroughly re-seating the Church, which he accomplished with much success. The next innovation was the introduction of gas into the Church in lieu of cotton candles which had hitherto been used. The beautiful stained glass window in the East end of the Church is due to his exertion."

If any Vicar were now to experiment on the church with a pickaxe it is likely that they would find themselves before a Consistory Court!

Tuck also shows us that concern at the pace of urbanisation is not a new phenomenon. "The building mania," he said, had come upon Ilford:

"like a mighty torrent,
Not of water
But bricks and mortar."

Many "ideal land marks" had disappeared together with Ilford's "charming rurality":

"The beautiful walks, with their shady groves and pleasant parks, enhanced by the sweet warblings of the feathered tribes - our open and well cultivated fields. Where are they? Vanished, nay, we might say, "banished."

This covering of the whole district in houses mean that Ilford could no longer yield any more curios like the skeleton of a mastodon which Sir Antonio Brady discovered through his excavations in the area and which he presented to the British Museum. Tuck's description of this discovery enabled him to also write a few words on the way in which researches and discoveries in Geology had, in his opinion, "thrown much light upon the authenticity of the Bible":

"People had the idea that the discoveries made in geology were contradictory to the account of the Creation recorded in the Bible, but it was not so. They perfectly harmonize. The error, if I may so say, laid in the reading - in comparing the days recorded in 1st Chap. Of Genesis with our own days. The former were epochs consisting, perhaps, of thousands of years."

Our history books suggest that geological and biological discoveries in this period were roundly resisted by the Church. This little insight from Tuck's guide book is evidence that this is not the full picture. The Church responded to scientific discoveries in a range of different ways with many, like Tuck, taking a keen interest in new discoveries without this threatening their belief in the truths of the Bible.

The gift of this guide book, then, gives us an insight, not just into the dates and events of the history of our Parish but also into the cultural and social ideas and attitudes of the 1800s. For this we are very grateful to Mrs Barbara Hitchens who has generously given us this gift which will now be placed in display in the church.

The guide book originally belonged to Mrs Hitchen's father Reginald Piercy who ran a garage and workshop on the Barking Road with his father E.W. Piercy. The business had begun at the turn of the century as a wheelwright and wagon builders. Mrs Hitchens, her parents and grandparents were all married at St Margaret's.