And that ‘spot’ is Barking Abbey, which was once home to England’s first French king, William The Conqueror (WTC), who famously led the Normans to victory in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Barking Abbey initially served as a monastery when it was built in the seventh century for former Bishop of London’s sister, Saint Ethelburga. It is thought she became a nun to give marriage the swerve, as her promised husband, King Edwin of Northumbria, was a pagan.
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Death after death saw control of the abbey handed from woman to woman until the fabled year of 1066, when it was captured by WTC following his defeat of Harold Godwinson’s Anglo-Saxon army.
And what made things even more humiliating was the fact that WTC didn’t even set up shop there permanently: it was a temporary stay while he built a nice central London pad, which we know as the Tower of London.
Barking Abbey has also seen controversy over the years from none other than everyone’s favourite king, Henry VIII.
In 1539 it was dissolved as part of his famous dissolution of the monasteries, which, in short means he confiscated all the income and kept it for himself.
To make matters worse, Henry VIII then proceeded to have Barking Abbey demolished, which took 18 months as it had to be done by hand. But cunningly, he reused some of the materials: some of the lead was used to rebuild Greenwich Palace’s roof, and some of the stone was used for his new manor in Dartford.
Further demolishments in the late nineteenth century means that today, only the Curfew Tower and the abbey’s footprints and footings remain.
The Curfew Tower, also known as the Fire Bell Gate, is the only part of the abbey not in ruins.
The original tower was built in 1370, but the current one was built around 1460.
Above the gateway is “The Chapel of the Holy Rood”, named for the 12th-century stone rood (crucifix) displayed within it.
It has been repaired several times, in 1955/56 the chapel was redecorated and the windows repaired.
In 2005/06 the tower underwent a £130,000 repair, the staircase roof, and the covering of the main roof were replaced, and the tower’s masonry was re-pointed, with the irreparably damaged stone replaced.
The tower is now a Grade-II* listed building, and is featured on the coat of arms of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.