I’ve visited Barking twice before on my ‘Memories’ travel to the ends of the Transport for London (TfL) network. The station serves as the end of the Overground to Gospel Oak and the Hammersmith & City Line to Hammersmith. But today, almost three years to the day from my first visit, and over two years from my last visit, it’s at the end of the c2c line.
Hang on, c2c operates out of Fenchurch Street through to Grays, Southend and Shoeburyness, doesn’t it? Yes, but it also operates a limited service from Liverpool Street via Stratford to Barking when there is engineering work and some weekend services. So there we have it, my third visit to Barking in as many years.
I wrote the following over two years ago: With eight platforms serving The Overground, District, Hammersmith & City and the c2c, this is a busy station but desperately needed modernisation. Classically styled predominantly in concrete, it has a very tired functional feel to it. Thankfully, there are plans to regenerate the area, although it’s unclear when developers will do this. The main street level concourse is cavernous with a high vaulted concrete roof which I suspect on warmer days makes the area unbearably hot, and there are attempts to revamp the platform furniture with Tfl styled seating.
Has anything changed? Not really, other than the retail units inside the main concourse has been demolished. Progress is slow.
Those who follow me know I try to avoid retracing my steps when I return to the same location to get a broader view of the area, the community and its history, so it’s a quick canter through the town as I head towards the River Roding.
Developers these days engage with the local community and local schools as part of the considerate constructor scheme, and I was inspired to take this shot after seeing a school child’s painting on some hoarding around a building site.
I wasn’t particularly looking for the shot, but as I walked between some buildings, it was there staring me in the face. The photo is of the Town Hall Clock Tower and a distant residential block in Ripple Road. The long focal length makes the two buildings look side by side, but they are about a hundred metres apart. Nevertheless, it has become an almost iconic, certainly recognisable image of Barking.
Walking towards the Town Hall at midday, I saw a crowd gathering and chanting, with one resident using a megaphone to get his point across. This was a planned protest by residents of the River Ward who were protesting against introducing a new Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in their community.
A CPZ is an area where parking controls are introduced to protect the parking needs of residents, visitors and local businesses. In a CPZ, parking bays are marked on the carriageway to indicate where cars can park. However, residents complained there had been no local consultation, and that marked parking bays were ludicrously small, with some not large enough to even park a car.
The protestors were loud, demanding to speak to a member of the council. They wanted the CPZ scrapped and a new consultation ensuring the council considered residents’ parking needs. The press was present to capture the moment, and so was I. So I left them to it.
The River Roding
This article by Paul Tannin of London’s Lost Rivers and Derelict London (with thanks) describes the river’s flow. Rising near Stansted Airport and flowing through Essex, the river forms the boundary between the London Borough of Newham and the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham. As it flows through Barking, it becomes the tidal Barking Creek before joining the Thames at Creekmouth.
There’s a long and rich history of how Barking Creek was the home of England’s largest fishing fleet and how the advent of the railway saw its decline. Read the story of the Hewett Family’s involvement through their Short Blue Fleet.
Some of the historic buildings remain, and if you head to the Ice House Quarter along the riverside, you’ll get a glimpse of the past with some sensitive work to the Ice House, Maltings and Granary.
Barking Barrage was constructed, not as some think as flood defences, but more to regulate the river level upstream to allow boats to reach The Thames at high tide. There’s a brilliant short film here, from Film London, which describes the story of the Barrage and the area’s history. It’s well worth a look if you have an interest in local history.
The Barrage defines the point where the river becomes the creek, and the film explains how shipping can continue to pass during high tides and how fish and eels can pass up and downstream at all times.
The footbridge across the Barrage allows pedestrians to enjoy the Pool upstream where boats are moored and downstream across the wetlands to Creekmouth. Here, a 38 metre wide flood barrier has been constructed as part of the Thames’ flood defence system. The barrier is held aloft by two 40 metre high towers, which allow the passage of boats at high tide and is a local landmark visible from some distance away.
The Ice House Quarter
This commercial section has been sensitively restored and maintained by a locally based construction company Rooff, a family-run business that cares about protecting buildings and their heritage.
The Quarter comprises The Ice House, Maltings and Granary, and their name alone describes their historical references. These have now been repurposed as residential, commercial and community spaces promoting the arts and is a hub for local talent through The Boathouse and Bow Arts Studios. It’s an area described as ‘A beautiful location for a fashion or film shoot, or simply a place to chill out and relax by the river’.
As you approach the Boathouse Cafe and Bar’s stairs, you’ll see three stained glass artworks designed and created by local artists Jamie Owens and Duncan Smith representing the area’s rich history of commercial fishing and Maltings. This one depicts the original 1860’s Maltings.
Fashionable riverside residential properties seem to be the norm nowadays, and the River Roding is no exception as the areas on either side of the Pool demonstrate.
The new Teal apartment complex at Fresh Wharf Dry Dock Square on the west side and the Riverside Urban Village along Roding Wharf Square are what I would describe as classic examples of modern 21st Century London Living. They are individually distinctive but very samey – seen one you’ve seen them all. I’m in no doubt the property developers would disagree with me.
There are some redeeming features – old and new street furniture, which helps to add character. These Bullrush Screens on the east banks are pretty attractive and somewhat symbolic of their historical surroundings.
To end my day at Barking, I’m standing on a viewing platform that forms part of the island in the middle of the Pool along which Highbridge Road crosses. The area has a railing seating area looking easterly down the river, with occasional welded knots. I wonder if this was the manufacturer’s trademark? Have you seen them before?
Picture of the Day –
I’m inside the Ice House Quarter, aptly named as this is where local fishermen who sailed from Barking Creek would land and store their catch before being transferred to London’s fish markets.
This striking roofline is part of this complex, and the sun’s full glare on the slated roof makes this a fantastic image. The historic building’s (re)construction is sympathetic with its historical references and a credit to its developers, who seem to care about such connections.
- Location: The Ice House Quarter, Abbey Road, Barking
- Date/Time: Monday 11th October 2021 1:30 pm
- Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 54mm; Film Speed – ISO100
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