The First Families

Although the Crooked Billet Inn and the stone-built gunpowder magazine had been at Creeks Mouth since the mid 1700s, little is known about the very first residents.

The first documented families living at Creeks Mouth are from the 1841 census. The village, as such, wasn’t built until the mid 1850s but there were three very distinct styles of dwellings and indicating the possibility that the first 5-6 houses were built long before the rest of the village.

There were 6 families living at Creeks Mouth in 1841. Moving forward to the 1861 census the addresses were listed thus: 1-6 Factory Cottages. 1-6 Creeks Mouth Cottages, plus Magazine Cottage 1 & 2 and the Crooked Billet.

According to the 1841 census, John Chapman, 51, was the licensed victualler of the Crooked Billet. He lived there with his wife, Mary, who was only 25. There are no children recorded and it is to be wondered if John had previously been widowed with grown-up children. They did, however, have two lodgers: Charles Rogers, 72, and 16 year old Sarah Rouse. Most probably Charles worked as a potman and Sarah, a servant.

Life was likely quite harsh and very busy for John and Mary, living in such a remote spot, surrounded by fields and marshland on the exposed, southern tip of Barking. The Thames and Roding were busy rivers with sailing barges and fishing smacks back and forth. Fishermen were known to moor up at the inn, for a yard of ale, on their way out to fish in the surrounding rivers and sea. They would also stop off on their way to the town quay, with their catch.

Even before the famous Hewett family and their Short Blue Fleet, came to Barking, fishing had been the main industry of the town. Mr Frogley (Mr Frogley’s Barking; 1st edition), states that “Beyond Creekmouth the water was salt at high tide and every variety of fish was caught there.” In the village at this time lived just 6 more families: Police Constable Jefse Rose and his wife Louisa; Fellow Police Constable George Patrick, who was widowed and lived there with his 3 children: Mary, 16, George, 10, and Peter, 7. Henry Curtis was the gunpowder magazine storekeeper, living in his cottage with wife Esther and their 7 year old daughter, Susannah and Esther’s sister, Elizabeth Fallover.

Three fishermen lived at Creeks Mouth at this time: James Osborn who was a widower & lived with his twin daughters Mary & Elizabeth, 20. William Jones and his son, Charles, were also fishermen.

The only other family living in this remote spot was John Young, an agricultural labourer on one of the surrounding farms, together with his wife Ann and their 10 year old son John.

One would assume that the youngsters traveled the two miles along the towpath, to get to Barking and to school. Their leisure time must have been spent, as was those from future generations, running and jumping in the fields, across ditches, along the foreshore of the river, searching for newts, frogs and anything else that may have been of interest to their young minds.