Barking Abbey was founded by the Saxon Lord Erkenwald in 666AD, he later became Bishop of London. The Abbey became very rich and influential because of its royal patronages. It was closed in 1539 and demolished soon after. Today only the Curfew Tower remains standing and an outline of some of the buildings is also visible. The area is maintained as a green public open space by the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham.
The Parish Church of St Margaret of Antioch is situated in the grounds on the south side of the Abbey ruins.
Captain James Cook the explorer was married here on 21st December 1762.
The last Steward of the Abbey, William Pounsett was given the right to appoint the Vicar of St Margaret’s a right now Shared by All Souls
College, Oxford, the Bishop of Chelmsford and our Churchwardens. Three marble slabs on the Wall of the North porch give the names and date of appointment of all the recorded Vicars of Barking from 1315 to now.
The oldest part of the present building is thought to be the Chancel which was built in the early 1200′s during King John’s reign. The church began life as a chapel for the local people and worship was lead by a chaplain from the Abbey.
The Bell Tower was added in the late 1400′s and houses a Peal of 8 bells. In 1772 the ceilings of the Nave, Chancel and Sanctuary were covered in plaster, which was removed from the Nave in 1842.
In 1991 an extension was added to the south side to improve the facilities (see our architect’s website for details). The Centre houses the Church office, Dove Bookshop and Refectory. Refreshments and lunches are served in the Refectory on weekdays.
The church has a number of interesting memorials and benefaction boards. These record the lives of many local people both from Barking and the surrounding areas of Beehive, Ilford, Parsloes and Dagenham, reminding us that the influence of the Abbey covered a wide area. These provide us with information about the churches links with the City of London, in particular the Poulters Livery Company, and of the fishing industry that flourished in Barking until the railways came.
The War Memorial in the Inner North Aisle has a new wreath placed on it each Remembrance Sunday by the British Legion and reminds us of those who gave their lives in the service of their country in the two World Wars.
A number of Saxon relics can be found around the church and some interesting stained glass windows. The Fisherman’s Window in the Youth Chapel was designed by the Architect and Designer-Craftsman George Jack, who worked for the William Morris Company and was a significant figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.
The church organ is now located in the Inner North Aisle having been moved from a gallery at the West End. It has three keyboards, pedals and an impressive case and pipes from an earlier 18th Century instrument.
Further historical information can be found by clicking on the following links:
Barking Abbey - see also Ilford Hospital Chapel(founded by the Abbess of Barking in or about the year 1145 AD) and All Hallows Barking(situated next to the Tower of London and built on land owned by Barking Abbey)
St Margaret’s Church - East of London Family History Society
St Margaret’s Church - Essex Churches