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Discover the layers of smells and stenches that tell the story of Barking's rich industrial past. From the fragrance of thriving fisheries to the stench of the sewage works, manure to match makers, and fertiliser fumes to fizzy pop factories. Explore 200 years of stories via the sense of smell.


Throughout history it has been common planning practice to locate noxious–smelling industries downwind of the capital city and, for a hundred years or so, from the mid-nineteenth century, they gathered in ever greater numbers around Barking Creek: bitumen & asphalt producers, paint and chemical works, fertilizer factories, gas product works and rubber goods amongst the iron foundries, breweries, soap factories and timber mills. Barking Creek, its water's gutter getting ever fouler by the decade, was effectively cut off from the town. Out of sight maybe, but certainly not out of mind - its smell made certain of that.

Barking’s reputation for pungent smells was founded by its fisheries; it was developed by the pungent whiff of manure hauled through the town to its expanding market gardens; and it was firmly established by the foul consequences of Joseph Bazalgette’s Northern Outfall sewer. The Barking Stink is an innovative heritage project, seeking to explore these stories via the sense of smell to bring it to life for children, young people and adults alike.

The Barking Stink is a heritage project produced by Thames Festival Trust, in partnership with Valence House Museum. Exploring the industrial heritage via the sense of smell, the project includes pop-up exhibitions, located in Barking and South Bank, schools workshops, animated film resources for teachers, oral histories and a programme of talks, walks and workshops. Supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and Thames Clippers. Thames Clippers is working towards extending their River Bus service to Barking Riverside in the near future, with the support of local stakeholders.

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