Local archive and history information

Information on archives and history collections in Barking and Dagenham.

Visit the Archives and Local Studies Centre at Valence House and delve into our wonderful collection of:

  • maps
  • manuscripts
  • photographs
  • local newspapers
  • books
  • CD-ROMs and much more.

We also offer free use of Ancestry Library and Find My Past Community Edition on our PCs.

Valence House

Contact us

Archive and Local Studies Centre, Valence House, Becontree Avenue, Dagenham RM8 3HT

020 8227 2033



Accessing our archives

You do not need to book an appointment to visit the Archive and Local Studies Centre at Valence House. However, it is advisable to contact us in advance if you wish to view archive material or rare books.

Heritage photograph collections

Our collections includes thousands of old photographs of Barking and Dagenham.

Many are on our Flickr photostream for everyone to enjoy.

Historic Barking and Dagenham on Flickr

You can also look at our Historypin channel where you will find additional photos.

Barking and Dagenham Historypin channel

More than 3,500 images, taken between 1965 and 1977 by our borough photographer Egbert Smart, were digitised and put on Borough Photos as part of the Heritage Lottery-funded 50 Years a Borough project.

Borough Photos

A history of Barking Park

Barking Park was opened in 1898 as the first municipal park in Barking.

It was an integral part of the area’s development in the 19th century after the arrival of the railway and the expansion of Barking New Town.

Park features included:

  • an ornamental garden area
  • a lake
  • an amenity grass area fronting Longbridge Road, containing:
    • a bandstand
    • a small central nursery
    • a bowling green
    • tennis courts

Park facilities were later expanded in the 1930s to include:

  • a lido
  • children’s play areas
  • a putting green
  • central nursery buildings
  • additional bowling greens
  • pavilions and lavatories

Several buildings and pavilions were also added, as well as the paddling pool.

A large pageant was held at Barking Park in 1936 to celebrate the granting of borough status to Barking.

The original lido was architecturally interesting, following the new international style.

The lake was also enlarged at this time, and a boat hire and a miniature railway were also established.

It would appear that the lido buildings were largely rebuilt in or around the 1960s in a bland utilitarian style.

By the 1950s Barking Park was known as the best municipal park in east London, and the lido and lake were well used, with many local people remembering the ‘Phoenix’, a converted paddle steamer on the lake.

Further development occurred in the 1970s with:

  • the construction of an indoor bowls centre and sports pavilion
  • enlarged boat storage sheds on the lakeside
  • Parkview Fitness Academy building near the Park Avenue entrance

Since then, many of the facilities, such as the lido, and the central glasshouse complex in the centre of the park have closed down or been lost, due to changing leisure demands and a reduction in park budgets, a trend that has mirrored national developments.

The park celebrated its centenary in 1998 with a series of events.

Memories of Barking Park

In March 2011 Barking Park was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to:

  • establish an oral history and photographic library
  • create a heritage trail throughout the park
  • conserve and display a historic rowing boat found during the restoration project

The main aims of the project:

  • celebrate and preserve the history of Barking Park
  • encourage all sections of the community to learn about and participate in the park’s rich heritage

All this material is now stored in the archive at Valence House Museum, accessible to the public so that future generations can enjoy the heritage of Barking Park.

Learn more about the park’s rich heritage by following the Heritage trail.

Barking Park Heritage trail leaflet (PDF, 1.22 MB)

Historic film footage of the borough

Barking Park’s history is captured in these British Pathe film clips.

The opening of Barking lido (1931)

Barking becomes a borough (1931

Phoenix paddle steamer on the lake (1949)