Barking Celebrations

Soap illustration by Monteagle Primary School year 4 children

Barking had several annual celebrations, from street parties to Barking Carnival. Over the years the social and food smells of the food and drinks served would have changed, but the good memories of those participating remain the same. From hot dogs to toffee apples, cinder toffee to bonfires, these are collective community memories smells shared by many.

Here are some memoirs of these well remembered community occasions:

“In 1890 the Vicar of Barking decided to throw open a yearly event called the Annual School Treat to all the elementary children in the town. This meant that there was no less than 2136 kids to be catered for. They assembled at 1.30 pm and marched in procession around the town centre. There was the children of the Church School, headed by the Town Band. The remainder of the children were behind these. They arrived at the Vicarage Field and scattered to enjoy the 'fun of the fair' for which each child had appropriate tickets. To ease congestion when tea was served the tickets were different colours, either red, yellow or green. A flag was raised, and holders who had that ticket colour were lined up and marched off to tea. The day ended at dusk with a firework display to which the parents and others were admitted. Five years later the Annual Treat catered for 3600 children, who were placed in groups of 900, and it was a daunting task for those who had to feed and amuse such a vast gathering of youngsters. 1895 marked the last year of Dr. Hensley Henson's ministry in Barking, and the following year the Annual Treat was restricted to children of the Church School only, as clearly an event of this magnitude was becoming far beyond their resources.”

In July the Vicarage Field was used for massive shows of dogs, poultry, flowers and local industries. An interesting insight into the development of technology of the late 19th century was contained in the Report of the Show for 1892. It claimed it was a novelty for the people of Barking to listen to the opera performed by the English Opera from a tent in the Vicarage Field. The National Telephone Company achieved this by connecting a temporary line between the tent on the Vicarage Field and the 'live' performance via Messrs White's telephone, (presumably R. Whites minerals). The programme was relayed on both evenings of the show between 8 pm and 10pm, but no details are given of the means of amplification by which the Barking audience enjoyed the performances.

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