Barking is a suburban town in England, and forms part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. It is 8.8 miles (14.2 km) east of Charing Cross and is one of 35 major centres identified in the London Plan. It was historically a fishing and agrarian settlement in the county of Essex and formed an ancient parish. Its economic history is characterised by a shift to market gardening, and industrial development to the south adjacent to the River Thames. The railway station opened in 1854 and has been served by the London Underground since 1908. As part of the suburban growth of London in the 20th century, Barking significantly expanded and increased in population, primarily due to the development of the London County Council estate at Becontree in the 1920s, and it became a municipal borough in 1931, and part of Greater London in 1965. In addition to an extensive and fairly low-density residential area, the town centre forms a large retail and commercial district, currently a focus for regeneration. The former industrial lands to the south are being redeveloped as Barking Riverside.