District Tube line walk 14: Barking walk to Dagenham East

Walk 14
BARKING walk to DAGENHAM EAST
2 3/4 hours

This line was originally a suburban train line that opened in 1885. District line trains started to run on the line after a junction was built in 1902. The suburban trains continue to use the line but they do not stop between Barking and Upminster.

Routing note: This walk can logically be combined with walk 13 in Barking or with walk 15 in Dagenham East. Barking is an important interchange and you can also combine the present walk with my Fenchurch Street network walk 2 or with my Overground walk 17.

The walk leads you past Eastbury House, a National Trust property that can be visited. This may take you up to one hour in addition to the indicated walking time. If you wish to visit, you should check beforehand as opening times are very restricted.

Beware that many street signs are missing in this part of London. I try to give you clear explanations, but you may wish to load a map on your mobile phone in case you get confused at some point.

This walk enables you to enjoy large parks and a few leafy roads, but you will not be able to avoid significant stretches along suburban terraced housing, a typical feature of the eastern suburbs.

BARKING

Barking station


The station first opened in 1854 on the train line from Fenchurch Street to Dagenham and Tilbury. The direct line via Plaistow was added in 1858 and a train line to Upminster opened in 1888. The present London Overground line to Tottenham and Hampstead opened in 1894, the London Underground District Line trains arrived in 1902. All these lines continue to be available to travellers.

Because the station was such an important interchange, it was deemed sensible to rebuild it in 1960. I am not very enthusiastic about architecture from that period, but it was considered a masterpiece at the time: it is a listed building and it was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1961. Its main title to fame is probably the protruding concrete roof that needs no pillars due to intelligent steel frames and an inclined roof. Despite the kiosks, you do get the feeling of a large, open, airy space inside.

Exit the station and turn R onto the Station Parade
Very soon L down a flight of stairs on a clearly marked footpath named St Awdry’s Walk, merging later into St Audry’s Road
L across the first set of tracks on the footbridge opposite St Erkenwalds Road
R between the two sets of tracks on Essex Road
Ahead under a road viaduct, the road then turns L as Ripley Road
Very soon R Devon Road


At the end R Harrow Road
L before the footbridge in Blake Avenue

St Patrick’s Eastbury

St Patrick’s Eastbury is a pretty unique church, and not only because there are very few anglican churches with St Patrick as their patron saint. To choose the patron saint of staunchly roman catholic and rather restless Ireland for a church in England was understandably unusual.

Striking Art Déco church tower at Saint Patrick’s Eastbury


The church has a very imposing appearance. It was built on plans by architect A.E. Wiseman and opened in 1941. This is an additional unusual item as building a church near core targets of German bombers (London docks and Barking industrial premises) during the worst part of the Battle of Britain certainly demanded a lot of dedication. I was unable to enter the church, but the outside is quite typical of late Art Déco. The view to the church tower from the east is particularly striking.

Blake Avenue divides here in two arms L and R. Ignore both and continue ahead in Denham Way. The road sign is missing; it is the road that enables you to keep more or less in a line with the road that led you to the church.
at the end L along Eastbury House

Eastbury Manor from the back


The manor house was built about 1570 for Clement Sysley, who had a reasonably successful career as a judge and a very successful side business in real estate speculation. The property was used by gentry for about 200 years and was later used by farmers until it was bought by the National Trust in 1918 as a near-ruin. It was then restored and leased to the Council to be used as the local museum until 1941.

The property is associated with the Gunpowder Plot (an amateurish conspiration to blow up Parliament in 1605) as the brother of one of the main culprits lived in the house at the time. This issue is of paramount interest to local historians and there are lengthy heated discussions of it on the internet.

Front of Eastbury Manor
Eastbury Manor seen from the side


The fabric of the building is considered to be an outstanding example of Elizabethan architecture and the H-shape (protruding aisles front and back) is typical of the time. I joined a visit led by an excellent volunteer lecturer and particularly enjoyed the staircase (note the way the steps have been cut with a bias) and the view from the roof.

Understandably, there is not much inside in terms of furniture and decoration, but the beautiful quilt tapestry offered by a local artist to complement the chimney in the main ground floor hall is impressive. You might also enjoy the seriously undulating floor in the top floor hall.

R Sisley Road. No street sign here either, it is the road that enables you to walk past the main entrance to Eastbury House

At the end L Blake Avenue
Cross the main highway into Upney Lane, the road turns a little L

UPNEY

Upney Underground station


The station opened in 1932 on the existing train and Underground line.

The building is a construction in brick with rather simple cubic shapes. This was a typical style in the early 1930s, inspired by architecture in the Netherlands and Sweden. The idea was that a building should reflect what it is used for with no unnecessary fussy decoration.

Lake in Mayesbrook Park in November

Continue on Upney Lane
R The Drive
Ahead into Mayesbrook Park


This is a large park landscaped in 1934 as part of the planning of the new suburb of Dagenham. After several years of strong fiscal revenues in the 1920s, the government felt able to address one of the main social issues in London at that time, the fact that working class families very often had to live in derelict Victorian tenements as they could not afford the properties offered by developers like the Metropolitan Railway. The local authorities bought a few large farming estates and country houses in the marshy areas between Barking and Upminster, laid roads and had developers build modest but modern terraces all over the place. Every 1/2 mile or so, a large area was set aside for public amenities like schools and sports grounds around large parks. Because of the marshy ground, the parks were landscaped with lakes.

Lake in Mayesbrook Park in July


Like all large parks in the 1930s, Mayesbrook Park was planned with all sorts of amenities like a putting green, a bandstand, pavilions, a paddling pool… An area was set aside for a potential ornamental garden but this was never built because the approaching war forced the government to redirect the funds to weapon systems. Technically, the funding came from charities, but they depended themselves ultimately on local authorities or on subsidies for part of the plans.

Sunset in Mayesbrook Park


Mayesbrook Park feels very barren as it was difficult to create an exciting park in a perfectly flat area with a waterlogged gravelly ground. In comparison with other locations in London, the trees did not grow well. What did work well was the large boating lake, now a nature reserve attracting lots of waterfowl. My route keeps close to the lakes because it is the more varied and interesting part of the park.

Mayesbrook Park

Cross the park bearing slowly R in order to walk across the dam between the two boating lakes
Exit the park after the lake near the car park

Art Déco venue on the edge of Mayesbrook Park


From here, you can see a rather conspicuous building called the Roundhouse. Built in 1936, it was a commercial venture centered around a pub but it also fulfilled the functions of a community centre as local authorities did not operate such facilities themselves in the 1930s. The striking geometric shapes, the white colour of the walls and the unusual lettering are all hallmarks of quality Art Déco design. The architect was not a celebrity, he was the house architect for a beer company. He was usually asked to build very traditional designs but his one well-known foray into creative designing is a real success. The rooms are still used occasionally for concerts by tribute bands but the heyday of the venue in the 1980s when it housed the most exciting rock concerts in London is long ago.

Cross the main road into Rugby Road. The street sign is missing but there is a clear blue signpost showing the way to the Underground station

Rugby Road is a typical terrace road from the development of the suburbs in the 1930s. It is a boring environment in my opinion but you must realise that people had very long working hours and spent most of their free time in their vegetable plot behind their houses so that parks and entertainment locations were only an issue on Sundays. What strikes me as seriously inconvenient though is the long walk to the shops considering that people had no choice but to walk every day as fridges were an unaffordable luxury with many houses not even having electrical power.

At the end of Rugby Street, you can detour R on Gale Street for the station

BECONTREE

Becontree Underground station


The station opened in 1926 on the existing train and Underground line in prevision of large developments planned in the area. It was originally called Gale Street Halt for a few years but the name was cumbersome and was simplified in 1932 on the occasion of the construction of additional platforms.

The building is nearly identical to that at Upney.

Small green space off Gale Street


At the corner of Gale Street with Rugby Street, there are two green spaces. The small one along the highway ramp is surprisingly well kept with even a few rose bushes but the more important one is obviously the park.

Otherwise, walk into Parsloes Park
Walk first ahead past the lake towards the tennis courts, then half R towards a former pavilion and a car park using a narrow paved path.
Cross the car park and walk on the grass in a straight line with the previous path, ignoring the fact that paved roads lead left and right. You are walking due East.
You will reach the very far eastern corner of the park.

Mature trees in Parsloes Park


Parsloes Park is quite similar to Mayesbrook Park in terms of size and date of completion (1935). The main difference is the ground as Parsloes Park was heathland rather than riverside gravel. The plans included only a smaller boating pond while there would otherwise be mostly wide open spaces for informal sports. Apart from a few older trees dating back to the garden of the original mansion (demolished in 1925), the lakeside bushes are about the only interesting amenity left. It looks a little like the local authorities had exhausted their funds by the time they started to landscape the park.

Wide open spaces in Parsloes Park
Lake in Parsloes Park

Half R Parsloes Avenue
R Heathway

DAGENHAM HEATHWAY

Dagenham Heathway Underground station


The station opened in 1932 on the existing train and Underground line. It was originally called plain “Heathway” but this caused confusion with stations called “something Heath” and the name was changed in 1949.

The building is nearly identical to that at Upney and Becontree.

Continue a little on Heathway
L Church Elm Lane
R Manning Road, the road turns L near allotments, then R again
At the end L Ford Road
Very soon R into a footpath marked with a blue sign for Old Dagenham Park

Good suburban Art Déco


You will reach a small library building at the corner of the park. It is a good Art Déco design appropriate for a modest structure. The tiered front combines interestingly with the semi-circular portico while avoiding any feeling of heavy neo-clacissism.

You can detour R into the park itself, but you should come back to the footpath afterwards

Daffodils in Old Dagenham Park


The park is a bit more interesting than most in the eastern suburbs because it is the core of the new suburb, near the parish church. It warranted therefore careful planning and attractive amenities like a formal garden and a bowling green. What it did not get was a lido (every suburb had one, but it is located elsewhere in the borough) or a bandstand (that has fallen quite out of fashion by the 1930s due to radio receivers slowly becoming more widespread in households). I give you a picture both of the more formal area close to the suburb centre and of the more typical open space in the further reaches of the park.

Old Dagenham Park

The footpath ends at the foot of a council estate tower
L along the road then R in order to walk around the tower (called Thaxted House)
Follow the main road half R (Siviter Way, but the street sign is missing)
L Church Lane

Dagenham parish church


You will soon reach the parish church of St Peter and St Paul. The church had to be rebuilt in 1805 when the tower crashed into the nave but the parish kept the proportions and materials of the old building, dating in part to the 15th century. The building is listed because of the unusual porch. Few churches were built in the middle of the Napoleonic wars and you can enjoy a somewhat quirky combination of slightly oriental arches (anything Egyptian was much the rage), of mock medieval crenellations (very fashionable since the 1770s for country properties although less for churches) and traditional gothic windows. And we finally have a very Georgian, neo-classical portico with fluted columns.

St Peter and St Paul’s Dagenham

Rest of a medieval house in Old Dagenham


Close to any church, you can of course expect an inn. The Cross Keys are the only old lay building that has survived from the old Dagenham village. The inn is mentioned in documents from 1708 but the building is clearly much older and started as a hall house probably in the 15th century. The irregular wooden beams are clearly old while he bricks on the ground floor are modern. Admittedly, only the street front is old.

Creative park bank near the Dagenham war memorial


While you pay attention to the area, you might notice a lovely bench near the war memorial. The bench back seems to be the work of an experienced tradesman who took pride in showing typical motives from the village: fish in the river Thames, a tractor plowing a field, the trains that made Dagenham into a suburb.

Ahead Exeter Road
Ahead on the footpath (marked with a green signpost for Reede Road)
Cross the train tracks using the footbridge
Ahead along Pondfield Park to the first road

Pondfield Park


The park was landscaped in the 1920s when the local authorities found out that this particular piece of land was not suitable for construction due to a brook. The park extends further beyond Reede Road but this northern section is plain grass a little like in Parsloes Park. The southern part of the park which you walk along is more interesting with a few planted bushes providing some colour. I am not sure that they provide much in terms of flowers, my picture is in November anyway.

R Reede Road
R Cambeys Road, the road turns L
At the end R for

DAGENHAM EAST

Dagenham East Underground station


The station opened in 1885 together with the train line and was originally called plain “Dagenham”. The station was renamed in 1949 because of the renaming of Heathway station.

The original building was demolished when additional platforms were built in 1932. The present building is again nearly identical to that at Upney.

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