Over the years many well-known companies have been based in Barking and Dagenham. The refurbished gallery displays in Valence House Museum offer a fascinating insight into the many and varied local industries and people's working lives. The Archives and Local Studies Centre holds material such as books, works magazines and photographs. You can also browse our online heritage photo collection.
The first large industrial venture in Barking occurred in 1857, when John Bennett Lawes (later Sir John) built his new artificial fertilizer and sulphuric acid factory at Creekmouth, where the Roding meets the Thames.
As the Barking fishing industry collapsed in the 1860s, new employers moved into the area. In 1866 the largest jute works in the world opened in Fisher Street, employing women and children to make mail sacks from jute imported from India.
Across in Dagenham development was slower. In 1887 Samuel Williams built a new deep-water dock on the Thames, which later became the Dagenham Dock Industrial Estate. (see the Dagenham Breach and Dagenham Dock page for further details).
About 1900 an industrial area began to be developed near the Four Wantz junction. Its most well-known factory was to be Sterling, which began as an electronics and telephone company and later moved into armaments manufacture.
Eastside Community Heritage have recorded memories of many Barking and Dagenham people, particularly in the Working lives of the Thames Gateway project.