Page updated 15 December 2019

Barking Reach - roughly where Sandy Beach was.


The Creekmouth story


Sir John Bennet Lawes, a pioneer in the artificial fertiliser industry and founder of the Rothamsted Research Station, opened a factory at Deptford in 1843.  He later purchased land for his new fertiliser and chemical factory at the remote area of Creeksmouth (as it was then called), near Barking, in 1856-7; goods travelled in and out by river.  But this remote spot was problematic for his workers as they had to travel a long distance across the marshes to reach it, and he rectified this obstacle by building cottages for his men and their families, creating the village of Creekmouth.  At this stage, there was no road to the village; River Road was built about the time of the first world war.  Also around this time, the Barking School Board built a new school in the village, replacing the school located in converted cottages.


In July 1918, journeys to Creekmouth village were added to bus route 23 (Marylebone to Barking) at Monday to Saturday peak hours, running from Upton Park Boleyn and terminating at the Crooked Billet.  In December 1924, under the ‘Bassom scheme’, these journeys were renumbered as the 163 group.  


The original Crooked Billet was replaced by the present building in 1925.  Although the pub sign remains, the business is now the 'River Restaurant', a club.

Photo © Peter Osborn


In 1925, the County of London Electric Supply Company opened 'Barking A' Power Station in Creekmouth, and in 1927 it took over from the small Barking Town Urban District Council power station dating from 1897.  In February 1927, the 163 was extended to the Power Station Gates, and from February 1927 journeys were introduced on Sundays.


At the end of the Bassom scheme in October 1934, the 163 group journeys were all renumbered 23C, the route which served Creekmouth for nearly 40 years. However, during the war, the northern terminus changed from Upton Park to Becontree Chittys Lane. In September 1968, Creekmouth Sunday journeys were diverted in Becontree via Becontree Avenue in place of Bennetts Castle Lane and renumbered 23A; this route was in turn replaced at Creekmouth by journeys on route 62 from July 1969.


Beyond the village and the power station, near what had been known as Sandy Beach, a wartime anti-aircraft facility had left behind about 15 accommodation huts.  Joyce Webster, who was born in Creekmouth Village in 1930, was one of the new tenants. Now aged 88, Joyce attended the Barking RT event on 30 March 2019 in order to relive the ride to Creekmouth on route 23C.


Having arrived at Creekmouth aboard her 23C, Joyce looks a little dismayed at the state of the place.

Photo © Yvonne Thomas


Following severe flooding in 1953, Creekmouth village was abandoned and demolished; all that remains is the former school (now headquarters of a waste management company) and the former Crooked Billet (now the ‘River Restaurant’).  The power station continued operation until 1981, being replaced by a new power station further east which has itself now closed.


The better known Thames Barrier is upstream, so Barking Creek, the outlet of the River Roding, needs its own.  The Barking Flood Barrier is situated next to the nature reserve which replaced part of the village site.

Photo © Peter Osborn


Following 40 years of operation, and at times a very intensive peak service, the 23C last ran in March 1973. It was replaced by an extension of the 156 from Becontree on conversion to one person operation.  In September 1982, following closure of the power station, both the 156 and Sunday journeys on the 62 were withdrawn and replaced in Monday to Friday peak hours only by journeys on the 87.  These were replaced in September 1991 by new route B4, itself replaced in March 1993 by journeys on new route 387 running from Little Heath.  The last bus service to Creekmouth was on 25 October 2013, after which the 387 terminated at Barking Riverside.


References: Creekmouth Preservation Society



Buses of Creekmouth


Creekmouth Power Station in 1979, shortly before both the end of RT operation and the closure of the power station.  RT2671 lays over on route 62, having turned in the turning circle opposite.

Photo © Fred Ivey


Six-wheeler LT473 working a 23C to Creekmouth Power Station, seen at Faircross close to its home garage, Barking.  LTs operated the 23C, occasionally after the war with utility Guy Arabs, until replaced by the RT family in 1950.

Photo © Alan Cross


1948 Dennis Lancet EAW899 was bodied by Whitson for JT Whittle in Shropshire, but the coach soon moved to Josephine Coaches in Barking and then to Pascalls of Goodmayes, the operator in this picture.  The picture shows an outing to the seaside from Creekmouth, with some of Lawes' cottages in the background.

Photo © Creekmouth Preservation Society


RT1901 has some limited custom from Creekmouth on a gloomy weekday in the early 1970s.  The 23C timetable (including 62 on Sundays) is here.

Photo © David Flett


The short-lived B4.  Barking's T131 returning from Creekmouth.

Photo © London Buses by Adam (a very useful website)


In 2009, when the 387 still served Creekmouth, TfL usefully provided a local map on the bus stop.  The route 62 commemoration that year was rather more modest.

Photo © Peter Osborn