Tucked away in Valence Park, in the middle of the huge Becontee Estate, is this fab and unexpected museum. It showcases the history of the local area, including Dagenham, Marks Gate, Chadwell Heath and Barking. And, in case you doubted, there is a lot of history. The building was a manor house dating back to the medieval period and the remains of a moat still partly circle the museum. The galleries, recently renovated, are light and welcoming, the displays are interesting, and the labels readable. The museum showcases the oldest wooden idol found in England( )(great for archaeology geeks!), Roman coffins, and material from Barking Abbey. The Abbey dated to Saxon times and was so important William I stayed there during his conquest. And then Henry VIII destroyed it during his, erm, conquest. The galleries follow the story of the borough into modern times, with the founding of the estate and interesting facts who knew so many famous footballers came from the area? There is a café on site(freshly baked cakes, mmm) and you could easily spend the day at Valence House. Which is good, as the site is a little awkward to get to. But well worth it. With the summer holidays looming, this could be the perfect place for a family visit. Plus it is in the middle of a park and it is free!