Creekmouth Village began to rise out of the remote marshes, alongside the River Roding, in the mid 1850s. All that had existed in this solitary area since early 1700 was The Crooked Billet Inn and the first, stone built gunpowder magazine. When agricultural scientist, John Bennet Lawes arrived to build his chemical and fertiliser factory along the riverbank, he realised that he would need somewhere nearby for the workers in his new factory to live.
There was already a group of six little houses, no more than hovels, really, huddled together, close to the riverbank. Mr Bennet Lawes arranged for another 11 cottages to be built alongside the original 6. As the workforce grew so did the village until there were fifty cottages in total, built in two rows with a ‘backways’ between them. Despite the village growing in numbers of residents, no more cottages were ever added to the village.
Most of the cottages were in the usual Victorian style comprising a kitchen & parlour with a steep staircase leading up to a small landing with two similar sized bedrooms leading off. The toilet would be in a type of small shed at the end of the garden. In those days there was no running water and the cottages were lit by gaslight or oil lamps. Water was collected by two wells but later two stand pipes were fitted and residents queued to collect their water from them. For some reason no’s 15 and 16 had been knocked into one large house with 5 bedrooms. The migration through this larger house was constant with, it seemed, many residents taking their turn to live in such luxury. Along with its 5 bedrooms it also had a parlour, ‘long room’ , sun lounge, kitchen, separate scullery and bathroom. The toilet was outside but joining the house, so no trips down the garden to the privy, for them.
From School to Church
Shortly after the completion of the cottages three of them, in them middle of the back row, were knocked into one large building which was to become the school. The end doors were blocked up, leaving one door, in the middle, as the school entrance. It comprised a hall and a classroom at each end. When the Barking School Board, foolishly, decided to close the school some 30 years later, the vicar from St Paul’s Church asked Mr Bennet Lawes if it could be used as a mission church. Mr Lawes readily agreed and paid for all the refurbishments, including a stained glass window, pews, altar and font. The Mission Church became – apart from The Crooked Billet Inn – the focus for village gatherings such as weddings, tea parties, dances, wakes, to name but a few.
There were two further houses in the village. They stood apart from the two rows of cottages and were originally built for the gunpowder magazine storekeepers. They were known as Magazine Cottage 1 and Magazine Cottage 2 but at some stage the second dwelling became know as Kames Cottage. There is no record of how or why the name was changed and no-one by the name of Kame ever lived in the village. The only person who ever had their birth registered at Kames Cottage was Shirley Dickerson (nee Davey), descendent of William Davey, tar distiller of Creeksmouth. However, the name of Kame eventually disappeared and the house reverted to Magazine Cottage 2`.