Why Is Chadwell Heath So Obsessed With Moby Dick?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 77 months ago
Why Is Chadwell Heath So Obsessed With Moby Dick?
Moby Golf

Chadwell Heath, in Barking and Dagenham, seems to be obsessed with whales. Whalebone Lane runs for three miles, flanked by Whalebone Grove and the Moby Dick  pub (now a Toby Carvery of the same name). The pub gives its name to the road junction, locals know as Moby Dick, the other side of which is the Moby Golf Course.

So, Chadwell, what's with this whale infatuation?

The answer currently lies at the Valence House Museum, in the form of a set of whale bones.

Several stories are floating around as to the whale's origin, but the most widely accepted is Daniel Defoe's account that a whale washed up on the Thames in a storm in 1658, on the night before Oliver Cromwell died — although presumably the two events were unrelated.

What happened to the whale immediately after its death is unknown, but from a few years later until the 1870s, its jaw bones were used to form an arch at the junction of Chadwell Heath High Road and what is now Whalebone Lane, marking a local tollhouse. Here, they became quite the local landmark.

When the tollhouse was demolished, the bones were moved to a nearby house, where they stayed until 1941. The house was destroyed in an air raid, and the bones were taken to the Valence House Museum, where they are on display in The Whalebone Gallery today.

Chadwell Heath's not the only area of London with a whale connection — check out this blue whale bone in Barnet. The Grant Museum of Zoology also has a complete whale skeleton, although it's not currently on display.

Last Updated 13 October 2017