Where is Creekmouth? This is the question that is always asked of the society members, whenever they attend a history fair or make a presentation to schools and other, local societies.
The Forgottten Area
It is sad that this area of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham had, for so long, simply been forgotten. Creekmouth is rich in history, particularly industrial. The disastrous collision between The Princess Alice pleasure steamer and the Bywell Castle, collier, which happened just off the shore at Creekmouth, was largely unknown amongst locals until the society, through their talks and with the help of local media, brought it to the attention of the people of the borough. Sir John Bennet Lawes, agricultural scientist, and Sir Frederick Handley Page, pioneering aeronautical engineer, both had factories at Creeksmouth.
The area that is referred to as Creekmouth stretches in a west-east direction between the River Roding and Dagenham Dock. From south to a northerly direction it begins at the River Thames and incorporates, what is now, the Barking Riverside area. However, before building took place in the area, this inhospitable, marshy land stretched right up to the area of the A13. Take a look at our map.
Before the first buildings – the gunpowder magazine and Crooked Billet Inn – appeared at Creek’s Mouth in the 16th century, there was nothing, except marsh walls, to be seen in any direction, save for creeks, streams and drainage ditches, which helped form a natural floodplain. Prior to this, during the Saxon period and beyond, it is likely the whole area was under water.
The area was possibly used for grazing sheep and cattle and further reclamation of the land took place for agricultural use, although breaches in the marsh walls were common, allowing the salty sea water to flow in. During this period, fishing became an important part of the town’s industry and, by the early 19th century, as the fishing fleet grew, it became the most important industry of all, in the area.