Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …
Dagenham was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 677 as Daeccenham, from the old English personal name Daecca, and ham, meaning homestead or village. Throughout much of its later history, it remained essentially rural, only beginning to become (sub)urbanised and industrialised in the early twentieth century. It is now part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, created in 1965.
The only surviving relics of the one-time Medieval village are the timber-framed Cross Keys Inn, dating to 1500 or earlier, and the chancel and north chapel of the parish church.
Dagenham Parish Church (St Peter and St Paul)
The church of St Peter and St Paul was originally built – in imported Kentish Ragstone – in the the late twelfth to early thirteenth century (*), and extended in the late fifteenth, when the North Chapel was added. It had to be repaired in the early sixteenth century, with financial assistance from the Fanshawe family, after having been despoiled during the Reformation, and repaired again in the late eighteenth, having by that time started to become structurally unsound.
It was subsequently substantially rebuilt – in brick and salvaged stone – in the early nineteenth century, after the tower collapsed on the morning of the second Sunday of Advent in 1800, destroying the nave and south aisle (**). The architect of the rebuilding was one William Mason, whose work here Ian Nairn has memorably described as “marvellous nonsense” and “pure froth, without a care in the world”.
(*) In part to serve the spiritual needs of the tenants of the adjacent land owned by Barking Abbey.
(**) Providentially, the service that should have been taking place at the time had been delayed by the late arrival of the vicar, who it seems had been searching for his missing keys!