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.
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.
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.
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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