This postcard shows Hoath Way in Wigmore in approx 1930. It's a postcard that was postmarked 1939 so the picture must be prior to that. It's titled on the back "Martin's Kiosk Wigmore Kent" and if you look very closely at the photo you can see a building in the centre with a sign on the roof indeed saying "Martin's Kiosk". The houses in the photo still exist but the road is a bit busier. Just to the right of where the man is standing is now the tunnel under the A278 that leads to Hempstead Hill.

 

The same location photographed in 2003. The house on the left is still the same although painted white and the large house still exists . The land with the kiosk appears to now be another house that has appeared between them

Obviously the history of Rainham goes back more than 20 years but this website celebrates the 20th anniversary of going live at the end of December 2000 as a project I worked on over the Christmas break starting with some old family photos of Rainham and Wigmore such as the one below of Marshall Road from 1928. 

Looking back it's fascinating quite how much has changed in that time both around the local area and in the way the website itself is setup and used. One of the first captures of the Rainham history website from Wayback machine is a 2005 version of the site shown below:

Back in 2000 broadband didn't yet exist and all access was via dial up modem so original photos on the site were very small to keep loading speeds down. Looking back at some of the early articles now it's amazing quite how small some of the photos are; one project for 2021 will be to replace some of them with much larger versions that can actually be properly seen.

Another change is that back in 2000 digital photography barely existed and all the photos I was taking for the site were on film. I got my first digital camera in 2002 which really helped for capturing changes in the local area. Pictures like the one below that I took in 2001 were some of the last ones I took with my film camera before mainly switching to digital - it wasn't completely digital as the Nikon Coolpix digital camera didnt have the same quality as my SLR with different lenses. 

The photo below was taken in 2001 before the NHS building was constructed on the A2 High Street opposite Rainham Church on the site of the former Co-op department store. Next door was empty at the time and subsequently became No109 and Eight restaurant before becoming a Turkish restaurant in 2020.

Some of the first digital photos I took in 2003 were of the changes in Orchard Street when new housing was built and to document the M2 widening works and Channel Tunnel rail link over the Medway. Photo below of the M2 at A229 Bluebell Hill looking towards the River Medway at Cuxton.

The site has been through many iterations, initially hand coded in HTML it is now run via a Content Management system (CMS) to handle the number of articles and photos that are on the site.

In numbers the site now has almost 600 articles and thousands of photos of the local area. Most Action Forum magazines since 2001 have been scanned and are available on the site.

I have been very lucky with the help and assistance I have had over the years and would like to thank everyone who has contributed articles and sent in photos for the site. We are still quite light on photos of Rainham from the 1950s and 1960s so if you do have any of those from anywhere around the local area or of any local events please get in touch via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

Memories of National Service by Vic Wickenden

I refer to the article in the recent Action Forum edition by  the Secretary of the local National Service Association  and I would like to convey my experiences. 

I was ‘called up’ to commence my national service on the  1st March 1951 (age 18 years & 2 months). I did my  initial training - 6 weeks - at the army barracks at  Aldershot, then transferred to R.A.S.C. Barracks at  Yeovil, Somerset to complete the full training.  One good thing come out of this experience was I obtained a driving licence. The army engaged local  driving instructors to assist.  On completing the 13 week course, I was posted to the  R.A.S.C. Barracks near Swindon, Wiltshire. 

As I held a junior clerk position in civil street, I was  given a position in the Company’s office, where I  remained until discharged on 28th February 1953.  In March 1952 the entire company were posted to  Germany - Where we were based near Munster. I would  add that I thoroughly enjoyed the remaining years of my  service times, obtaining the rank of Corporal.  However, despite pressure from my senior officers, 1 had  no wish to continue as a regular soldier. 

To summarise I believe National Service was a good  scheme to assist in training young men to become good  citizens. 

Vic Wickenden 

01634 26113 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.        

I was born in Gillingham, but my connection with  Rainham began early. One of my friends at Byron  Road Primary School was Brian Jobber, who lived in  Pump Lane, and when I cycled to his house we often  Went to the centre of Rainham. As a teenager I joined  the church youth club, held in the church school at the  top of Station Road, and run by Captain Ambrose of  the Church Army.

He was a very friendly and approachable man, who got on well with teenagers, and  when he married, the youth club members made a  collection for a wedding present for him and his bride.  Friends I met at the club included Dave Turner, Bob  Wicks, Johnnie Wood and Tom Stonehouse. In the  early 1950s Reverend Jordan was the vicar at St Margaret’s Church. He was later promoted to the post of  Canon at Rochester Cathedral and replaced at Rainham by Reverend Clifford. 

My family had a connection with Rainham from the 19th century. One of my great-grandfathers, Thomas  Wakefield (1846-1928), was the publican at the Three  Mariners in Lower Rainham and his daughter, Eva,  my grandmother (1876-1970), was a pupil at the  church school in the 1880s.  My days at the youth club were interrupted by National Service in the Royal Navy, but soon after my return  and back at the club in 1957 I met the girl who became  my wife, Pat Swallow, who lived in Solomon Road.  We were married at the church in 1960 and the reception was held at the Green Lion. So this year we have  celebrated our diamond anniversary. 

The Green Lion pub in 2001

Some of my outstanding memories of the 1950s are  the cinema, The Royal, in the High Street often known  as the ‘bug hutch’, which had the innovation of double  seats, which appealed to young cinema goers. The  cinema was demolished in 1966 and is now the site of  Lukehurst’s Furnishings.

The Coop was a dominant  feature of Rainham life, with the grocery shop near the  top of Station Road and a larger store in the High Street, with furniture, kitchen equipment, clothes and a  branch of the bank. Much of this area is now the site  of the Health Centre. Across the road stood grocers  Vye and Sons, now a car showroom, next to the Green  Lion. Two other venues, now demolished, attracted  teenagers for dances, parties and other functions, the  hall above the Coop shop in the High Street and the  Church Hall in Orchard Street, on the site of what is now the entrance to Hurst Place.

Photo below of the site following demolition of the old Church Hall in Orchard Street in 2001.

Same site once construction had started

Buses were a frequent sight in the 1950s, run by Maidstone and District Motor Company and Chatham and  District Traction Company. The latter company had  five routes in the Medway Towns and number 2 terminated in the Webster Road cul-de-sac.

The A2 became  quite busy during the 1950s and early 1960s before the  M2 opened in l967. Trains were less frequent before 1959. Before then electrification went only as far as Gillingham and the old Victorian station at Rainham relied on steam trains to Victoria, or a change at Gillingham for the Charing Cross line. 

Photo of Rainham station in the 1980s

Photo of M2 Farthing Corner services in 1960s known as Top Rank Services

To conclude with a later memory. In the summer of  1967 a 30 mile night walk to raise money for St. Margaret’s Church began at the church at l0p.m. and the  route led to Key Street, then the A249 towards Maidstone, turning right through the villages of Burham  and Wouldham, on to Strood and along the A2 back to  Macklands in Station Road, the home of the Mackay-Miller family. Mr and Mrs Mackay-Miller, looked  after the walkers very well by driving round the route  and serving hot soup.  I welcome any comments, including possible corrections in the next issue. 

Arthur Kimber 

22 Asquith Road  Wigmore        

(note: original reference to Tudor Grove changed to Hurst Place for Church hall location thanks to Maria Jarvis for spotting)

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