The Curfew Tower (or Fire Bell Gate) formed the E entrance to the abbey precinct, and is the only abbey building remaining. It is a 2-storey gateway of coursed rubble and stone dressings, dating from the period around 1500. It has inner and outer archways with 4-centred arches to the E and W, and an octagonal stair in the NW corner. The upper storey formed the Chapel of the Holy Rood, and it houses the late-12thc stone Rood described below. The upper storey was largely rebuilt in the late-19thc.
According to Bede, Erkenwald (Bishop of London 675-93) founded Barking Abbey as a nunnery for his sister Ethelburga before he became bishop. The actual foundation date is a complex issue, but the suggestion of 666 argued in VCH is a reasonable one. In 1066 the abbess was Aefgiva, and her status was confirmed by William I. The formal dissolution of the abbey was in November 1539, when the abbess and 30 other nuns were granted pensions.
|Maximum depth of carving||0.115m|
|Overall height at sides||1.33m|
|Overall height in centre||1.38m|
|Slab 1 (top L) dimensions (height first)||0.35m x 0.46m|
|Slab 2 (middle L)||0.47m x 0.46m|
|Slab 3 (lower L)||0.51m x 0.46m|
|Slab 4 (top centre)||0.43m x 0.46m|
|Slab 5 (middlecentre)||0.47m x 0.46m|
|Slab 6 (lower centre)||0.49m x 0.46m|
|Slab 7 (top R)||0.33m x 0.455m|
|Slab 8 (middle R)||0.47m x 0.455m|
|Slab 9 (lower R)||0.53m x 0.455m|
B. Cherry, C. O’Brien and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 5 East, New Haven and London 2005, 119.
Historic England Listed Building 198236
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 63.
E. S. Prior and A. Gardner, An Account of Medieval Figure-Sculpture in England. Cambridge 1912, 137, fig. 114.
L. Stone, Sculpture in Britain: The Middle Ages. Pelican History of Art, Harmondsworth 1955, 65.
Victoria County History: Essex II (1907), 115-122.
G. Zarnecki, Later English Romanesque Sculpture 1140-1210. London 1953, 31-32, fig. 65.