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Barking and Dagenham lies to the east of central London. Areas of interest within the borough include the ruined Anglo-Saxon Barking Abbey, built in 666AD. The Abbey is the venue for the Barking Carnival, taking place in May, which has an open-air concert of classical music as well as children's rides and a pageant.
The Broadway Theatre, situated within Barking Town Centre, is one of the last places where you can see a traditional East End variety show, featuring top acts, tea dances and amateurs. The Dagenham Town Show takes place at the beginning of July including trade and craft stalls, funfair, concerts and arena displays. Valence House, a stunning 17th-century building, is now a museum and treasure trove of local historical information.
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.
Boat building has a long history at Barking, being used for the repair of some royal ships of Henry VIII 1848, 5 shipwrights, 4 rope- and line-makers, 6 sail-makers and 4 mast-, pump-, and block-makers are listed in a local trade directory. Hewett & Co continued in boat building and repair until 1899. Other industries replaced the nautical trades, including jute spinning, paint and chemicals manufacture. In the 20th century new industrial estates were established, and many local residents came to be employed in the car plant at Dagenham.