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Barking Park (also known as Barking Town UDC Recreation Ground)


Barking Park opened as Barking Town UDC Recreation Ground in April 1898, the first municipal park in the borough. Its original layout included a bandstand, ornamental gardens, bowling green, tennis courts and a large boating lake. The park keeper's lodge at the south-west entrance was built in 1902. Tree planting included alleys of plane and robinia, with the oldest area of landscaping by the lake. In 1919 a war memorial was erected. Other facilities added over the years included a children's paddling pool, 18 hole putting green, and an impressive Open Air Swimming Pool or Lido with ornamental cascade (all now closed but to be refurbished/restored in 2010). The 1930s light railway re-opened in April 2009.

Barking Town Urban District Council Recreation Ground opened to the public in April 1898, the first municipal park provided as the Barking New Town area was developing following the arrival of the railway. By the 1950s the park was being described as 'probably the finest municipal park in East London'. The original layout and features included ornamental gardens, a bandstand, bowling green and tennis courts, and a large boating lake with duck nesting islands. The Park Keeper's Lodge at the south-west corner was built in 1902. Planting included alleys of London plane and Robinia, and other exotic trees still found in the park include maidenhair and foxglove trees; an avenue of horse chestnut trees was planted by Prince George on his visit to the park in the mid 1930s. The original layout had included a small central nursery that was later expanded.

The oldest part of the park landscaping is by the lake, which was formed by damming the Loxford Water that runs in a separate channel adjacent and forms the boundary with LB Redbridge. In 1919 the war memorial was erected, recently restored (2008). Additional features were provided over the years and included a miniature railway in the 1930s; children's paddling pool; 18 hole putting green; football pitches as well as more bowling greens, pavilions, and toilets. An Open Air Swimming Pool or Lido, designed by Mr R A Lay, Engineer & Surveyor to the Council, was built with funds raised from the Minister of Health and the Unemployment Grants Committee, at a cost of £13,000. Ornamental cascades provided for the aeration of the water. The lake was extended at this time and today is some 910m long. The Lido was opened on 2 May 1931 to music from Beckton Gas Light Military Band, and exhibitions of swimming and 'high and fancy diving', races and a water polo match. The Lido and boating lake were popular and well used, and at one time a converted paddle steamer, The Phoenix, was an attraction on the lake.

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20th Century

In October 1931 a large pageant was held for the Charter Celebrations to mark the granting of borough status to Barking, which included a Historic Pageant and an Industrial Exhibition both held in the park, the latter in a specially constructed exhibition hall measuring 13,000 sq. ft. The Charter was presented by HRH Prince George.

Although the 1970s saw some new facilities, including an Indoor Bowls Centre and Sports Pavilion, other features including the Lido, which closed in 1988, and the central glasshouses have been lost.

21st Century

The park is now (2010) undergoing restoration with funding from HLF, which was secured in February 2008. Final amendments are being made to the project timetable, with an estimated start date of May 2010 for the restoration and improvement works, with a completion date of Spring/Summer 2011. Consultation on seating, skate areas and planting proposals have been undertaken with the local community including the Friends of Barking Park. The planting will provide seasonal colour and variation whilst reflecting the late Victorian layout of the ornamental area. Consultation with groups such as Abbey Children's Centre, Barking and Dagenham Youth Forum and local special need groups have been completed over the proposals for the relocated play areas, Skate Park and for the new wet play area located on the site of the former Lido.

The Barking Park Light Railway, which had closed in 2006, was formally re-opened to the public on Saturday 11 April 2009, with a community open day to celebrate the event. It runs from the main gates in Longbridge Road to the boating lake and is a 7¼ inch gauge railway, with a 'Drewery' type locomotive that was hand-built in Kings Lynn by a model engineer, and a 'Class 15' built from a modified kit. The passenger carriages are all handmade.

Key Information





Principal Building

Parks, Gardens And Urban Spaces





Open to the public





  • London Parks and Gardens Trust