Directional, the road leading to Barking. John Field in his book Place Names of Greater London says that the name Barking comes from the Anglo-Saxon Berica’s people or settlement. First mentioned in records as Bercingum around AD730, by the first millennium it had become Bercingum and in the Domesday Book in 1086, Berchinges. Norman Gunby however dates the name even earlier in his book A Potted History of Ilford, saying it was first on record as Berecingas in AD695. The road itself however is not an ancient one. In A History of the County of Essex its development is explained: “Plaistow was at last provided with a main road, by-passing Stratford, about 1812, when the Commercial Road turnpike trust built New (now Barking) Road from the East India Docks, across the Plaistow marshes, to East Ham and Barking, with an iron bridge over the Lea by Bow creek, and a toll-gate in Barking Road, near the bridge. That road did not immediately influence local settlement, but it eventually became the main thoroughfare and shopping centre of south West Ham. It was controlled by the Commercial Road trust until the trust expired in 1871.”
The Boleyn Tavern, 1 Barking Road, E6 was built in 1900. It boasts the longest horse shoe bar in the UK, although it is not alone in the claim. For many years it was closely associated with West Ham United Football Club, which was nearby but following the Hammer’s move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016, there were concerns for the pub’s future. However it was bought by the Remarkable Pubs chain in 2018 which said they would be keeping it as a public house. Managing Director Elton Mouna said: “This building should always be a pub and we will make sure it retains all of its Victorian splendour.”
Crime – Murder – gangland – Krays
Sometime on December 12, 1966, a hulking figure cloaked in the winter’s evening darkness was smuggled into 206 Barking Road, East Ham, E6 3BB. For the next 12 nights Frank “Mad Axeman” Mitchell was to enjoy the freedom that had been denied him for much of his 37 years – they were to be his final days. Francis Samuel Mitchell (May 19, 1929 – December 24, 1966) as he was known before earning his colourful sobriquet, was on the run after being sprung from Dartmoor Prison by associates of the infamous sixties gangland overlords the Kray twins. Ronnie Kray had met Mitchell some years before while both men were serving sentences in Wandsworth Prison in the late 1950s. Ronnie had taken a shine to Mitchell, who despite his size was simple-minded, and offered to doing whatever he could for him. In the winter of 1966, Mitchell called in the favour and asked the mob leader for help in getting out. On the face of it there was little in it for the Krays but they agreed, and the man-mountain was spirited away from captivity (it was later revealed this was a simple task as Mitchell had been a prison trustee and, in order for a quiet life, allowed him to visit pubs and roam the moors when working outside the jail’s grounds). He was taken to the flat in Barking Road, then owned by East End bookstall keeper Lennie Dunn. Dunn was to keep an eye on him while a blonde nightclub hostess, Liza Prescott, was there to keep him company. Another man “Mad” Teddy Smith, one of the men who sprang Mitchell, was also there to keep order. Mitchell’s escape was national news, questions were asked how he could have escaped so easily. In the meantime Mitchell sat down and began, with some help, writing letters to the Daily Mirror and The Times newspapers. Explaining why he has absconded, he said that as some being detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, he had no possible release date – this he argued was unfair on him. He told them: “I think that I have been more than n punished for the wrongs I have done.” But after a few days of virtual non-stop sex with Liza, he found life in Barking Road was little better. He wanted to see his family and Ronnie had not kept his word to visit him. Frustrated he turned on his minders and said he wanted to see his parents. With the nation’s police on alert this would have been disastrous for the Kray’s already shaky criminal empire. The decision was taken to rid themselves of this nuisance. At 8.30am on Christmas Eve Mitchell was smuggled into van. He believed that he was being taken to a farm in Kent and – now smitten by the hostess – would be joined by Liza. The van was driven by “Big” Albert Donoghue the other man who had helped him escape but in the back were Freddie Foreman and Alfie Gerrard, almost as soon as the doors opened Mitchell was shot dead. Donoghue thought that 12 shots were fired before Mitchell died. His body was never recovered. Foreman later revealed that Mitchell’s body was bound with chicken wire, weighted down and dumped in the English Channel.
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