A History of the County of Essex: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1966.
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AGRARIAN HISTORY. (fn. 1)
The Domesday manor of Barking, rated at 30 hides, took in a wide area, which comprised the whole of Barking, Ilford, and Dagenham. (fn. 2) In 1086 it contained woodland sufficient for 1,000 swine. This was a considerable area, but the manor as a whole cannot have been thickly wooded. The ancient parishes of Barking and Dagenham together contained about 19,000 a. The proportion of woodland, reckoned in swine to 100 a., was only 5⅓, compared with over 20 at Waltham Holy Cross, Loughton, and Woodford. (fn. 3) Then, as later, the main forest area in Barking manor was undoubtedly the clay land in the north, where Hainault Forest survived until the 19th century. In 1086 there were actually 150 swine on the manor.
The totals of 74 plough-teams in 1066, and 71 in 1086, show that there was much arable land, though this also was not exceptionally large in proportion to the size of the manor. In the centre of the manor, between the forest and the Thames, the valley gravel favoured early settlement, and much of this area had probably been brought under cultivation well before 1066. The manorial history of Barking and Dagenham shows that the original demesne of the abbey lay mainly in and near the town, while most of the larger free tenements were in Ilford and in Dagenham. One early line of settlement was probably north of the town, along the Roding: the ancient free tenements of Fulks, Rayhouse, Berengers, Wyfields, Cranbrook, Stonehall, and Clayhall were all less than a mile from that river. The south-eastern part of Barking, near Dagenham, may also have been settled early: here were the ancient free tenements of Dagenhams, Malmaynes, and Porters.
In 1086 the manor of Barking included 100 a. meadow. Most of this was no doubt along the Thames, and supported the 114 sheep mentioned in Domesday. The other livestock listed there, in addition to the swine and plough-oxen, were 2 horses, 34 'beasts', 19 goats, and 10 hives of bees. There were also two mills and a fishery.
Open fields certainly existed within the manor of Barking. This is shown by their survival in Dagenham down to the present century, (fn. 4) and Barking parish also provides definite, though scanty proof of it. In 1847 there was still an open field near Porters, immediately west of the Barking-Dagenham boundary. (fn. 5) It comprised 25 a., in eight strips, owned by Joseph Choat (3 strips or 8 a.), Daniel Stratton (2 strips or 6 a.), and Jane Thoyts (3 strips or 11 a.), but all occupied by Joseph and Philip Choat. These strips continue to appear on Ordnance Survey maps down to 1921. (fn. 6) They were probably relics of a larger open-field system. Barking was a parish with many small estates. The lands comprising these often lay in scattered parcels, rather than compact blocks. This was the case with the Downshall estate in 1232–3, (fn. 7) and is also shown in a grant of 1546, relating to land in north Ilford, which includes an extraordinary number of small holdings: virgates, half-and quarter-virgates, and fragments of 2 a. to 5 a. (fn. 8) These scattered holdings may have been, at least in part, the product of open-field agriculture. The scarcity of direct evidence suggests that such open fields as existed were, for the most part, inclosed early. This seems to have happened at Hampstede, near Fulwell Hatch, which may have been an open field but had certainly been inclosed by 1368, when it was referred to as a croft. (fn. 9)
In the south of the parish there were marshland commons, traces of which survived until the 18th century. In 1740 there was a common marsh of 3¾ a. in Ripple level, and near it, on both sides of the Barking-Dagenham boundary, were a number of long, narrow parcels of marsh, lying parallel, the shape of which suggests intercommoning at an earlier date. (fn. 10) Eastbury, Westbury, and Ripple levels then contained 182 parcels of marsh, totalling 1,601 a., and divided among 48 owners, most of whom held land in the 'uplands' of Barking. (fn. 11)
In addition to the common arable and common marshes, there were the common wastes of the parish. Much the largest of these was Hainault Forest, which survived until the 1850's. (fn. 12) A few others, all near the forest, still survived in 1847. (fn. 13) Chadwell Heath, most of which was in Dagenham, included 8 a. in Ilford. It was inclosed in 1867. (fn. 14) Little Heath, which comprised 2½ a. in 1847, still survives, though reduced in size by the modern roads surrounding it.
In Barking, as in Dagenham, the existence of these three types of ancient common combines with the Domesday particulars to show the early pattern of local agriculture. The ancient settlements in the centre of the parish, probably with arable fields nearby, were flanked on the north by forest swine-pastures, and on the south by marshland sheep-pastures. This pattern also appears in an account of 1321–2 relating to a year's farming at 'Westbury and Dagenham', two farms held by Barking Abbey. (fn. 15) Westbury is clearly identical with the demesne manor of that name. (fn. 16) The farm called Dagenham, which was somewhere near the marshes on the Barking-Dagenham boundary, has not been definitely identified. The only estate of that name, known from other sources, was Dagenham (later Jenkins), which seems never to have been part of the abbey's demesne. (fn. 17) The account shows a welldeveloped system of mixed farming. The largest sowing in that year was of oats (178 a.), followed by rye (112 a.), wheat (92 a.), lenten barley (76 a.), beans (37 a.), and winter barley (5 a.). Sheep-, pig-, and poultry-farming were being practised on a fairly large scale: including those bought and sold, some 700 sheep, 500 pigs, 380 geese, 80 ducks, 800 chickens, and 350 doves, were handled during the year. Most of the sheep appear to have been brought to Barking for fattening, and were then sold, but the account also records the sale of over 100 fleeces. Some milking ewes were kept, but it is impossible to estimate the importance of their produce in 1321–2, since they became diseased and all had to be destroyed before the end of the year. The pigs were pastured at Hainault, at Newbury, and at Cricklewood, a grove at Ilford, where St. Mary's church now stands.
In 1321–2 attempts were being made to bring the marshes under cultivation, but this was difficult and expensive. (fn. 18) Crops sown there were sometimes lost by flooding, as occurred in 1409. (fn. 19) Flooding, indeed, was a perpetual problem, and in the late 14th and 15th centuries there was a succession of floods on this part of the coast which almost ruined the wealthy abbey of Barking, and must have been equally damaging to small landowners, or even more so. (fn. 20) One curious attempt to snatch profit from disaster is recorded in 1489: the local farmers were feeding pigs on small fish washed upon the marshes by flooding. (fn. 21) This practice, which contravened the fishing regulations, shows Barking's two principal industries in collision. By the Dissolution the abbey seems to have reclaimed a good deal of lost land. (fn. 22)
In 1321–2 the harvest at Westbury and Dagenham was reaped entirely by labour service. Harvesting services were still being performed by a few tenants of the manor of Barking in 1456. (fn. 23) A number of tenements, on which services had been commuted for a money rent, were then still known as 'daywerkes'. (fn. 24) Rents were also being rendered by some tenants in the form of oats or ploughshares. (fn. 25) In 1539 the lessee of Westbury was said to have delivered to the abbey each week 6 kilderkins of small beer and all the grains from 8 qr. malt. (fn. 26) The tenants of Westbury still owed reaping service in 1545. (fn. 27)
The dissolution of the abbey seems to have been followed by a local agrarian boom. Several of the new owners of the former abbey lands in Barking were rich merchants whose wealth and business connexions, especially with London, influenced the future development of the parish. The greatest of these men was probably William Pownsett of Loxford, a grazier who died in 1554 leaving property valued at the huge sum of £2,914, including £1,339 in cash. (fn. 28) His animals were all pastured in Barking. There were 520 sheep, valued at £78; 467 were wethers, and of these 349 were pastured in Ripple Marsh, 114 in Loxford ground, and 4 on the abbey site. There were 176 other beasts, valued at £268, including 96 Welsh runts, which had been bought at Birmingham fair the previous Michaelmas. These animals were undoubtedly destined for the butchers' shops of London. Pownsett had a house at Eastcheap from which that end of the business must have been directed. (fn. 29)
Marshland grazing continued to be important in Barking throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Arthur Young, in 1807, notes that Barking's proximity to London created a great demand for grazing land, for which butchers were willing to pay up to £10 an acre. (fn. 30) He also mentions the common rights of pasture in Hainault Forest enjoyed by the inhabitants of Barking. The cattle were sent there as early in the spring, and taken out as late in the winter, as the commoners chose, but the forest was always cleared of cattle in the fence month. A commoner could send in a horse and two cows for every £4 annual rent. (fn. 31) In 1813 the East India Company had a stud adjoining the forest. (fn. 32) About 1811 merino sheep were being pastured on the park and marsh of Bifrons by Lord Somerville, who had recently helped George III to introduce the breed to England. (fn. 33)
About 1750 Barking, like neighbouring parishes, also began to grow vegetables for the London market. This trade, which was facilitated by the opening of the Ilford Navigation, (fn. 34) has been described by W. W. Glenny, himself a market-gardener at Barking, in a previous volume of this History. (fn. 35) In 1801 1,014 a. of the parish were planted with potatoes, 88 a. with peas, 51 a. with beans and 330 a. with turnips or rape. (fn. 36) These returns show the importance of potatoes, the acreage of which was larger than that of any other crop except wheat. (fn. 37) Potatoes continued to be the principal vegetable crop. In the period 1810–70 it was usually estimated that 600 a. were planted with potatoes and 150 a. with cabbages. (fn. 38) Turnips, asparagus, onions, apples, plums, currants, and walnuts were also grown. (fn. 39) Crop-forcing was being practised from about 1840. (fn. 40) In the 1860's there were market-gardens at Barking in the town, in Longbridge and Ripple Roads, and at Ilford, in Ilford Lane, High Road, Ley Street, Sams Green, Aldborough Hatch, and Barkingside. (fn. 41) Watercress was grown along the Roding at Uphall. (fn. 42)
The fruit and vegetables grown for London tables were fertilized with London muck. The transport of manure was mentioned in the Roding Navigation Act of 1737. (fn. 43) In the mid-19th century large quantities of night-soil, slaughter-house refuse, and dead animals, were being unloaded at Barking Town Quay and carted through the streets in daylight. A petition against this led to an inquiry by the General Board of Health in 1852. A counter-petition stated that the practice had been going on for at least a century, that during the previous year 200 cargoes of manure had been unloaded, earning an 'increase of labour' to the value of £1,000, and that nearly 80 labourers would be thrown out of work if the 300 a. of market gardens in Barking (presumably the present borough area) were put under corn. (fn. 44) In 1866–9 the Metropolis Sewage and Essex Reclamation Co. was experimenting with sewage irrigation at Lodge Farm, Rippleside. (fn. 45) In 1868–9 360,000 tons of sewage were applied to 120 a. (about half the farm) as fertilizer for rye grass, cereals, sugar beet, strawberries, carrots, potatoes, beans, cabbages, and onions. (fn. 46) A writer in 1887 mentions the large quantities of manure then being used at Ilford: 'they stack the precious tilth in massive banks along the road'. (fn. 47)
Since the end of the 19th century market-gardening, like other branches of agriculture in Barking and Ilford, has declined as arable land has been taken over for building, but it is still carried on in the north-eastern corner of Ilford borough.
The cultivation of cereals continued, alongside market-gardening, in and after the 18th century. No rigid distinction can be made between the two types of agriculture because many farmers in Barking and Ilford grew both corn and vegetables, sometimes by rotation on the same land. Arthur Young, writing in 1807, describes the recent practice of three farmers. (fn. 48) Thomas Pittman (at Loxford) grew potatoes, followed by wheat, clover sown in April, wheat, and potatoes again. He sometimes varied this order because by planting potatoes after clover instead of on corn stubble he obtained better results. James Hatch, of Claybury Hall, had a similar course. Mr. Walters, at Aldborough Hatch, grew turnips, followed by oats, clover, and wheat or rye, the stubble of which was grazed in time for potatoes or turnips to be planted. None of these farmers allowed his fields to remain fallow. Returns for the whole parish in 1801 show that 1,381 a. were then planted with wheat, 433 a. with barley, 618 a. with oats, and 377 a. with rye. (fn. 49)
In 1847 Barking and Ilford together contained some 5,700 a. arable, 3,600 a. pasture, 1,600 a. forest and other woodland, 600 a. commons, roads, saltings, and water, and 50 a. osiers. (fn. 50) There were then some 52 farms of over 50 a.; 22 of these were between 50 and 100 a., 22 between 100 and 200 a., and 8 over 200 a. (fn. 51)
The destruction of Hainault Forest brought the whole of that area into cultivation, and until intensive building began at Ilford in the 1890's there was probably more farm land between Hainault and the Thames than ever before. As late as 1918 there was still a good deal of farming in north Ilford and east Barking, but the building development of the next 20 years sterilized most of the remaining farm land. Today (1964) farming is restricted to the Aldborough Hatch and Hainault areas of Ilford.
There are several references to viniculture in Barking. Vineyard Lane (now Ripple Road — King Edward's Road) occurs in 1456. (fn. 52) In 1597 there was a vineyard adjoining the site of the abbey. (fn. 53) A map of 1653 shows Vineyard Field south-west of Westbury manor house, on the opposite side of the road. (fn. 54) The great vine of Valentines is mentioned elsewhere. (fn. 55)
The accounts of the reeve of Westbury and Dagenham for 1321–2 list in great detail the running expenses of what was evidently a large water-mill, belonging to Barking Abbey. (fn. 56) This may have been identical with one of the two mills mentioned in Domesday, and it was probably situated near the abbey, at the point where the Roding joins Barking Creek, on or near the site certainly occupied by Barking mill, sometimes called the 'great mill' from the 17th century onwards. (fn. 57) Barking mill appears to have descended, after the Dissolution, with the manor of Barking. In the 1850's it was on lease, at £400 a year, to Francis Whitbourne, who had spent £8,000 on it. (fn. 58) Later it was occupied by T. D. Ridley & Sons, who operated it, partly by steam, until about 1890, afterwards retaining an office there, but concentrating production at Chelmsford. (fn. 59) The mill stood on the north side of what is now High Bridge Road, which spans Barking Creek at its junction with the river. In 1832 it was a large gabled building with a smaller weather-boarded structure, probably a warehouse, to the south of it. (fn. 60) The warehouse was replaced c. 1870 by a four-storied building of stock brick, connected to the older mill by a bridge over the road. The old mill, which had lost its front gables in the 19th century, was demolished in 1922, together with the early-18th-century mill-house which stood beside it. (fn. 61) In 1964 only the four-storied warehouse, then a plastics factory, was still standing.
The Wellington mill, thus named because it was built in 1815, was a windmill, situated immediately east of Back River, and south of New (now London) Road. It was a weather-boarded smock mill, with an early-19th-century brick house beside it. It was occupied in the later 19th century by Francis Whitbourne, and subsequently by the Firman family, who by 1906 had converted it to electric power. It was demolished in 1926. (fn. 62)
There are occasional references to mills elsewhere in Barking. In 1243 William and Geoffrey Dun, who had erected a windmill, gave an undertaking to Barking Abbey not to erect any windmill or watermill in future within the manor of Barking. (fn. 63) There was a mill on the manor of Wyfields in 1567–74 (fn. 64) and one on the manor of Uphall in 1634. (fn. 65) Both were no doubt on the Roding. A windmill is shown at the south end of Fisher Street (later Abbey Road) in 1777. (fn. 66) A steam mill at Ilford is listed in 1848–86. (fn. 67)
MARKET AND FAIRS.
A charter of Henry II, issued between 1175 and 1179, confirming the possessions of Barking Abbey, mentions appurtenances 'in the market place and outside'. (fn. 68) The market place is further mentioned in 1219 and in 1456. (fn. 69) The ownership of the market was held by the abbey until the Dissolution, when it passed with the manor of Barking to the Crown. In 1616 the king conveyed the market, the market place, the market house, and other buildings to Samuel and John Jones, who thereupon settled them in trust for the parish. (fn. 70) The king evidently retained some market rights, since these were included in the grant of the manor made by Charles I to Sir Thomas Fanshawe in 1628. (fn. 71) In 1662 Fanshawe's grandson, Sir Thomas Fanshawe (d. 1705), conveyed the market house and 24 shops to the churchwardens of Barking and others in trust, the income to be used for poor relief. (fn. 72) The market and its premises remained subsequently under the control of the parish, and in 1898 were vested in the trustees of the Barking and Ilford United Charities. (fn. 73) During the 18th century the market declined and was discontinued for a time. (fn. 74) It was revived in the 19th century, but apparently did not flourish. The vestry augmented the income from the site by letting the market house for social purposes. (fn. 75) The house was demolished in 1926. (fn. 76) The market, which was always held on Saturday, survived for a few years longer, but had been discontinued by 1937. (fn. 77)
The market house, which was designed to serve also as a court house, was built in 1567–8. It stood in the middle of the market place, 50 yds. from the parish church. (fn. 78) The Queen agreed to pay the cost of erection, the local inhabitants that of preparing the site and building sixteen shops, and some sheds, in the market place. An investigation carried out in 1595 found that the inhabitants had maintained the shops and sheds from the rents (about £1 yearly) and market dues, and for a time they had also kept the market house in repair, but had ceased to do so because of a rumour that it was likely to be granted to 'concealers'. (fn. 79) Plans and drawings contemporary with the enquiry (fn. 80) show that the house consisted of two stories and an attic. Four bays on the ground floor were arcaded and open to the street on both sides, for use as a corn market: here was kept the town's standard bushel. At the north end of the ground floor were the staircase, and the parish cage, which contained the stocks. The first floor was occupied by the justices' chamber, the court room, and the parish armoury. This floor was lighted on the east by a line of small mullioned windows set high in the wall and running from end to end of the building, with three larger windows at intervals. A later drawing shows that the west side was lighted by a similar line of small windows only. (fn. 81) The attic, a single long room with three windows facing east, was then used as a school. At the north end of the building was a small bell-cote. The original fittings of the court room included a dais at the south end, above which were the royal arms of Elizabeth I, in plaster relief, and, in the windows, glass also decorated with the royal arms. A stone bearing the initials E.R. and the date 1567 was embedded in a chimney stack at the south end of the building. In front of the house stood the pillory and on the north, south, and east sides rows of shops and sheds. The south row included the butter market, and the east row a shed containing the weights and measures.
As late as 1912 the building was comparatively little changed. The small lights on the east side, the ground-floor arcades, and the dormer windows had, however, been blocked, and the bell-cote, dais, and stained glass removed. The cage was boarded up, although it had been used until a few years earlier. The former justices' chamber and the room below had become a caretaker's house. (fn. 82) By 1921 the house was in poor condition. (fn. 83) After its demolition the timbers were preserved, and some were used in 1958 to make the main gates of the new town hall. The Elizabethan royal arms from the court room are now (1963) in the strong room of the town hall.
In 1792 a fair was held at Barking on 22 October. (fn. 84) Lysons (1796) equated this with the feast day of St. Ethelburga, the first abbess of Barking, which falls actually eleven days before. (fn. 85) The change was presumably due, here as elsewhere, to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. Presumably the fair was of medieval origin. In and after Lysons's time it was controlled by the market trustees. It was abolished by Order in Council in 1875, when it was said to have been held on 22–24 October. (fn. 86)
Fairlop Fair (fn. 87) was founded early in the 18th century by Daniel Day (1683–1767) a block- and pump-maker of Wapping, who owned a small estate near Hainault Forest. (fn. 88) When he went to receive his rents there, on the first Friday in July, he used to take a party of friends to eat bacon and beans in the shade of the Fairlop Oak. (fn. 89) By about 1725 this private picnic had developed into a regular fair. The block- and pump-makers of Wapping used to go there in a large boat mounted on wheels, accompanied by others in wagons, on horse-back and on foot. (fn. 90) The roistering that accompanied the fair displeased the authorities, who made several attempts to suppress the fair, but it survived Day's death, the destruction of the oak, and even the disafforestation of Hainault. About 1856 the government inclosed the site of the fair and shut out the public. The fair was then held successively opposite the 'Old Maypole' at Barkingside, in a field farther along Fencepiece Road, and opposite the 'Bald Hind' at Chigwell. Later it moved back to the 'Old Maypole', where it was still being held in 1900. (fn. 91) It appears to have lapsed soon after that.
The Fairlop Oak, one of the most famous of Essex trees, stood about a mile north-east of Aldborough Hatch, on or near the site of the present Hainault recreation ground, Forest Road. (fn. 92) Peter Kalm, the Swedish naturalist, who visited it in 1748, measured the circumference of the trunk, at a height of 4 ft. from the ground, as 30 ft. and the spread of the branches as 116 ft. (fn. 93) By the end of the 18th century the tree was moribund; a writer of 1791 thought that its decay had been hastened by the lighting of fires in the bole during the fairs. After further damage by fire in 1805 the oak was blown down in 1820. Part of it is said to have been made into a pulpit and reading-desk for the new church of St. Pancras, Woburn Place (Lond.). The remains of the tree were uprooted with the rest of Hainault Forest in 1851. (fn. 94) In 1909 a new oak was planted in the recreation ground, on a site thought to be that of the old one. (fn. 95) Another tree, called the 'new Fairlop Oak' was planted on the green at Fulwell Cross in 1951. (fn. 96)