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Barking was an important fishing port before the coming of the railways. Until the mid-16th century, development was centred on Barking Abbey, which was founded in the 7th century. The ruins of the abbey survive as a scheduled ancient monument.

Part of this complex, the 15th century Curfew Tower, still stands at the entrance to St Margaret's churchyard.

The tower has long been considered a landmark in the town and featured as a heraldic device in the arms of the former Urban District Council.

The contract carried out by RWA using heritage lottery funding, included renewal of the roof coverings in sandcast lead, replacement of oak beams in the floor and roof structure, and the restoration of limited areas of eroded stonework.