Originally built as a small chapel outside the walls of Barking Abbey. Over the centuries the building has been greatly enlarged to the main parish church it is today.
Known also as 'The Fire Bell Gate' and 'The Abbey Gate', the Curfew Tower was the central of three gateways to Barking Abbey, and is the only part of Barking Abbey still standing. The names Curfew Tower and Fire Bell Tower arose from the tolling of the bell from the tower before the curfew to tell people to extinguish and relight all fires and candles at certain times or hours, under heavy penalties; a custom enforced by WIlliam I and abolished under Henry I. Barking, along with many other towns continued the tradition, which did not come to an end in Barking until 1900.
The Curfew Tower contains the Chapel of the Holy Rood, in reference to the stone rood set in the east wall. The rood dates back to at least the 12th century and was probably damaged when the Abbey was destroyed and many Roman Catholic images were defaced.
The Holy Rood, which is dated to between 1125 and 1150, is a rare stone representation of the crucifixion. It has been an object of pilgrimage and veneration from medieval times, with special indulgences being granted to those who made the pilgrimage.
Four shields adorn the corners of the ceiling; these are the shields of Barking Abbey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Diocese of Chelmsford and Barking Borough Council.