The year began with a serious flu epidemic that affected thousands of people in the Medway area  causing high levels of absenteeism from work and school. Blizzard conditions and heavy snow followed causing train cancellations, massive traffic jams, power cuts and severed telephone lines. It wasn't all bad news as Rainham Theatrical Society had staged a successful production of the pantomime 'Robinson Crusoe' to packed audiences at the Oast House Theatre, while Rainham Social Club thrived with tag wrestling matches and regular live bands. Rainham Ladies Choir also did well and at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddford in Wales they finished sixth out of 24 participating choirs.

With expansion of the Parkwood Housing Estate and a rise in the local population, modern facilities were increasingly demanded. This led to the former Church of England School in Station Road being earmarked for demolition followed by the construction or Rainham Shopping Centre with a pedestrian precinct and car park as part of a redevelopment plan for central Rainham. Plans were also drawn up to redevelop Rainham Mark with more space for shopping. In June Gillingham Council bought the marsh near Motney Hill from the Rugby Portland Cement Company for development.

A new school known as the Howard School was constructed at Derwent Way and the teachers and pupils rrom Rainham Secondary Modern School in Orchard Street were transferred there in September. Pupils from the girl's school followed later after the construction of Rainham School for Girls on the same site. With the closure of the Church of England School in Station Road and the transfer of pupils to Orchard Street, the vacant building, which dated back to 1846, was bought by Gillingham Council and temporarily leased to the Rainham and Wigmore Community Association who organised social and recreational evenings at the premises. Local traders contributed 400 items of household furniture for use in the building.

In sporting affairs Rainham Cricketers FC won the Medway Area Sunday League Premier Division Championship and reached the final of the Kent Sunday Premier Cup but were defeated 4-0 by Cat ford United in the final. Rainham Youth won the Medway Minor League Championship while Rainham Football Club First XI finished fifth in the New Brompton League.

During the summer Rainham Cricket Club had an average season while girls from the Rainham Secondary School Athletic Club performed well. At the Faversham Gala Sports Meeting in June Jill Wesson won the 100 yards event and Carol Hooper won the Junior 100 yards. The junior relay team also finished first. Later, at the Bexley Sports Meeting Carol Hooper won three races while Jackie Mudge won the 220 yards event.

In October Rainham held its first ever trade fair which took place at Rainham Social Club attended by an estimated 4,500 people. Opened by the Mayor of Gillingham it proved highly successful. Films were shown, advice given on painting and decorating with dancing, hairdressing and butchery demonstrations and a fashion show. 

The year ended with news that farmers Wakeley Brothers were planning to attract young men into farming by providing them with modern four bedroom houses in Rainham. The old nineteenth century cottages which housed Wakeley Brothers workers lacked modern amenities with outside toilets and no bathrooms. By December 1968 twelve new houses were constructed for the farm workers and six of these were situated in Otterham Quay Lane. This ended an important year in the history and development of Rainham.

David Wood


I found this old road atlas that covered the UK and showed the road network in Kent in 1964 when the M2 motorway had just been built and opened and the M20 was known as the A20(M) and only bypassed Maidstone from Allington to Hollingbourne. It's hard to imagine now but the M20 was only completed in 1989 to link Hollingbourne to Folkestone!

Road Atlas of Great Britain 1964 - Front cover


Plan of UK Motorways 1964

Plan of UK Motorways 1964

Start of M2 going off page

Map showing the new M2 opened in Kent 1964

Map showing the new M2 opened in Kent 1964

Map showing the new M2 opened in Kent 1964

Map of M2 motorway 1964

Map showing the A20(M) Maidstone Bypass now known as the M20 



Hempstead Valley Shopping centre (aka Savacentre) near Gillingham Kent was constructed in the late 1970s just outside the village of Hempstead. It opened on 17th October 1978 so has just celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2018. These photos showing the construction of Hempstead Valley were kindly sent by Chris Shade. You can see the large sign showing the original name of Savacentre. A current photo of Savacentre is shown on the Hempstead Valley website

Since the 30th anniversary in 2008 there has been significant redevelopment at the Hempstead Valley shopping centre to modernise areas of it. You can view the plans on the Hempstead Valley website here When it was completed in 2015 it made a huge difference to the appeal of the centre as a shopping and leisure destination with restaurants added outside.

What may seem commonplace now was groundbreaking in 1978 as there were very few other out of town shopping centres of this size at the time. Hempstead Valley was the second Savacentre (Washington Tyne & Wear opened in 1977). At the time of opening Savacentre was one of the largest out of town shopping centres in the South East. The original Picnic Parlour was the first Food Court in the UK. You can see more info about Sainsburys Savacentre here

When originally opened the main shop was Sainsburys Savacentre, the brand they originally created for their large hypermarkets. At the time Sainsburys was by far the largest supermarket in the UK with Tesco trailing far behind – a far cry from the current situation with Tesco leading the field. The originally Hempstead Valley offered 250,000 square feet of shopping space but when the centre was redeveloped in the early 1990s with an extension and new shops like M&S being added, this was increased to 330,000 square feet.

The challenge is to remember all the original shops that were there when the centre opens….Sainsburys, Presto (which then became Safeway) - but which others?
So far the following shops have been suggested for the original opening

NSS (Newsagents) then became Forbuoys
Our Price
Post Office (not one of the original shops)
Sainsburys Savacentre
Thomas Cook
Presto Supermarket
Wimpy Burger Bar

Later additions when the extension was added in early 1990s were WHSmith, Marks & Spencer.

Notice in the aerial shot the area to the bottom right which was developed for large housing estates shortly after the shot was taken.

Photos on this page are clickable to view higher resolution versions.


Savacentre, Photos of Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre 1978:Looking towards Savacentre Hempstead Valley from roundabout

Looking towards Savacentre Hempstead Valley from roundabout

Petrol station would be to middle right of photo

Photos of Savacentre Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre 1978:Looking towards Hempstead Valley from Sharsted Way

Looking towards Hempstead Valley from Sharsted Way

Underground car park to right of shot, Abbey to left of shot

Photos of Hempstead Valley Savacentre 1978

Looking towards Hempstead Valley from roundabout
Petrol station would be to middle right of photo

Photos of Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre 1978: Looking towards Hempstead Valley from Sharsted Way

Looking towards Hempstead Valley from Sharsted Way
Underground car park to right of shot, Abbey to left of shot

Aerial photo of Hempstead Valley Savacentre 1978

Aerial photo of Hempstead Valley Savacentre 1980
Sharsted Way runs along left hand side of photo

These are copie of the 1869 local OS map and an original 1931. It’s alarming to look at the total loss of the orchards and farmland even since 1931….which I suppose is getting on for 100 years ago now.
The third map shows the planned developments known about as of September 2018 - there are lots of new houses planned for Rainham, can it cope with such an increase?

Rainham Map - 1869


Rainham Map - 1931


Rainham Map - 2018 Planned New Housing Development



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