Looking around Barking today, it is hard to believe that the town was once Britain's busiest fishing port. By 1850 at least 220 fishing smacks were operating out of Barking, their crews averaging eight men and boys. This success was overwhelmingly due to the Hewett family, who owned the Short Blue Fleet.
The town was full of businesses supporting the fishing industry, such as shipwrights, mast makers, sail makers, ships' chandlers, water keg makers, pork cask makers, net makers, knitters of fishermen's sweaters, makers of waterproof clothing and boots, and ships' biscuit bakers.
The fishermen and boats of Barking were also regularly employed by the Royal Navy in times of war.
Barking's fishing industry came to an end in the 1860s when the Short Blue Fleet was transferred to Gorleston in Norfolk. The Hewetts retained a ship repair yard at Barking until 1899, when it became the epicentre of a devastating boiler explosion which killed ten people.
Visit the River industries gallery at Valence House Museum to discover more.
Barking Fishing Fleet information sheet