THE CHANGING FACE OF RAINHAM
By Freddie Cooper, Action Forum November 2002
It was encouraging to see so many residents at Joe Ennis’s slide show depicting ‘Old Rainham’ and I was pleased to answer questions afterwards. I wonder if the obvious new interest in the history of our locality is being adequately catered for by present organisations. Many properties have been lost in the High Street and many more are likely to be fundamentally changed or demolished as residential development replaces business premises so I checked with the directory to compare the area depicted in most of the slides around the turn of last century.
The population of Rainham in 1901 was 3,693 (probably around 40,000 for the same area now), employment was mainly in agriculture and brick or cement making, farming was in the doldrums and many residents were very poor as they were not paid for production lost due to inclement weather and most families had many more children than now. It was a make and mend society and few would travel outside of the village for purchases so Rainham shops would have provided every need and there was plenty of competition.
The High Street, going east, started at the Cricketers on one side and The White Horse opposite, all properties to the west were then in London Road and, like many of our roads at that time, neither were numbered so postmen had to quickly learn where everyone lived. The advertisements in Kelly’s Directory of 1908 give, perhaps, the best explanation of life just nine years before I was born and emphasise the origin of two of the most influential inventions of our time.
That for The White Horse quotes telephone number 10 and shows pictures of both a horse drawn charabanc for outings and a brake to transport residents or to collect commercial travellers from the station by appointment. It obviously took advantage of the new motorised travel as in addition to providing ‘Livery and Bait Stabling’ it also had a ‘Motor Garage and Pit’. The proprietor was Mr Charles Adie whose son Leigh succeeded him and I believe that grandson Ron continued later. Prior to the Adie’s Mr Sayer was ‘mine host’ and it was he who, it is said, planted a chestnut tree in front of the Church to commemorate the birth of each of his children.
The Cricketers had no advert in Kelly’s but that in The History of Rainham (Kent) by Edwin Harris published in 1917 was equally interesting. The proprietor Mr C.W. Shaw had taken oVer from Mr Harry Charles Taylor and advertised that it was ‘Home from Home’ and ‘the place to spend a pleasant holiday’. This hostelry also had ‘Stablmg and a Motor Garage’.
Mr Arthur Tucker, two doors down from Pudding Lane, was Watchmaker Jeweller and Optician and he advertised ‘table and pocket cutlery’, with ‘private room specially fitted out with the latest appliances for sight testing’.
Rainham A Century Ago by Freddie Cooper
Action Forum, March 2001
I was studying the information on Rainham in my copy of the 1908 issue of Kelly's Directory and I realized how very useful these had been to me over the years and yet 1 am sure many residents do not know that copies for most years between 1890 and 1974 are available for inspection at the Gillingham reference library. Bagshaws containing similar information go back to 1870 and ceased around 1900. Kelly's were issued annually for neighbouring areas such as Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham, it's worth remembering that information about Rainham will be in the Sittingbourne and Milton District issue before 1929. They show an alphabetical index of all residents and their address at the time and also a list of roads showing addresses and the location of residents so it's quite easy to find information about anyone living in the towns at the time. Data about institutions and activities make the issue a fund of local knowledge.
Rainham's population increased after the railway came in 1858, seven years before it was 1115 but by 1871 it had become 2082 living in 425 houses, 50 years later it was 4335. In 1908 Berengrave Lane had 5 houses, Century Road only 1 (Waiter Kinimins in Ethel Villa), Roberts Road (then Robert Street) had 2 (Frederick Charlesworth and John Puxtey). Even Maidstone Road (then Bredhurst Lane) had no properties south of where Herbert Road now stands. None of the roads were numbered in sequence as there were so many empty plots so each block as built was called Terrace, Villas or Cottages and each house was numbered within that block. Employment was largely agricultural, bricks and cement and the principal crops were fruit (mainly cherries), hops and wheat, there were a large number of market gardens. Lord Hothfield was Lord of the Manor and the Parish, previously known as Renham, which has been inhabited from ancient times as has become evident from remains found.
The Parish Council was the largest in this part of Kent being entitled to 13 members who met on the first Wednesday of each month. The Chairman was Dr F.W.H. Penfold and committees comprised Lighting and Watching (including Fire Brigade), Footpaths, Recreation Ground, Library and Reading Room and Finance.. Street Lighting was by gas and I remember Mr Holloway cycling round every evening and morning to rum on each light, he carried a stick with hook and was most expert in pulling down or pushing up the short arm just under the light almost without stopping. The Recreation Ground was presented by Lord Hothfield in 1887 to record the Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. In 1908 it had a prepared cycle track and cricket pitch with water laid on. It is of interest to note that it was open from 6am every day of the year.
Rainham was very proud of its Fire Brigade formed in 1901, a motor engine was purchased in 1921 mainly from public subscription, the 22 volunteers were called out by maroon. The Parish Free Library and reading room was established at the turn of the century in the ground floor of the Temperance Hotel, Station Road (next to Paynes just south of the station). The lending Library was only open from 7 to 9pm on Mondays.
The Council School (now Meredate) in Solomon Road was erected in 1906 for all ages at cost of £4,500 and was considered to be 'the perfect type of a modern scholastic establishment' with 250 places which could be expanded to 400. The National School (later C of E) at the top of Station Road had been built in 1846 and was enlarged in 1878 and 1884, to hold 600 (205 Boys, 190 Girls and 205 Infants) in 1908 549 scholars were attending. Some of my contemporaries will be interested to know that even in 1908 our Head teacher, Mr G.R. Bone, and the two Miss Campbells were already on the staff and the Girls' teachers included Miss Rickells. Nearly all female staff were unmarried and 1 believe that it was an act of 1941 which allowed married women to be appointed.
The Lower Rainham National School, built in 1876, accommodated 80 and it was full. Miss Bertha Atkins held a private school in a small hall in Church Path near the High Street. Sgt Jenner of Station Road was in charge of two constables, Thornas Fielder and William Smith, who would have been known personally to residents.
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Rainham A Century Ago by Freddie Cooper
Action Forum, May 2001
Almost all houses had fairly large gardens and even in the 1920s and 30s most new properties had a depth of 200ft. The Rainham Horticultural Society had a Committee comprising mostly of eminent local personalities. They held a large show on the last week in July with spacious marquees and popular sporting activities at the Recreation Ground. This was a memorable day out. There was also a competition between the Council and C of E Schools and I recall being selected with Harry Howting (now in Gloucestershire) to prepare our tray from produce collected that morning from the School gardens all for a prize of 7/6d (37p). We took great care in digging, cleaning and arranging the vegetables trying to find six of each species which were the same size. A separate Horticultural Improvement Society was formed in 1906 with the express purpose of bringing about better cultivation of cottage gardens. Both organisations met at the Lion Hotel as did many of the other Societies, as mine host, Mr W.P. Curling,was involved with many local activities including Treasurer of the Cycling Club and official handicapper for the athletic and cycling competitions, some of which were for professionals.
There were two Cricket Clubs, Rainham playing at Siloam Farm, Chapel Lane (now Miers Court Road) and the Methodists played nearer home at the Recreation Ground. In a similar manner there were two football clubs, with Rainham having a ground at White Hill where teams were prominent in the I st and 2nd Divisions of the New Brompton and District Leagues with another in the Sittingboume and District League. The Club also held the Kent Junior Cup, the United Methodists had two teams in the New Brompton Free Church League with home games at the Recreation Ground.
Rainham Cricket Club in 1902
Rainham was a hotbed of soccer and several of our players went to professional clubs prior to and after the War. I suppose the most notable were George and Maurice Tadman who played for Charlton, the former being recommended at one stage as England's centre forward by a national newspaper columnist. Alee Grant, Stan Huggins and Ware played for various clubs pre war and Jim Nobbs, Reggie Day, Bill Dennis and Lew Collins all turned out for Gillingham during and after the War. Lew also played in goal for Arsenal and fortunately both Jim and Reggit! still live among us.
The only resident who, to my knowledge, played cricket for Kent was Charlie Wright, a fast bowler during the 1920s and early 30s who attended the C of E School but moved to Rodmersham before attaining school leaving age.
This is the Rainham I remember in the early years of my life in the 1920s. I feel privileged to have grown up here but feel sad that much of the Rainham I knew has subsequently been destroyed.
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Rainham's war memorial at St Margaret's Church, lists the names of 99 men who died between 1914-20.
The men of Rainham represented a variety of military Services. For example, 23 joined the Royal Navy, 12 served with the local, Buffs (East Kent Regiment), two men fought for Australia, and four represented Canadian regiments.
Two men, Colour Sergeants Thomas Swan (AIF), and Francis Baker (Buffs) were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Details from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, reveals the age of 69 of the Rainham men, which ranged from 17 to 61years.
It also provided addresses and family details of many of the men who fell in the First World War. For example, the memorial includes brothers, fathers, sons and husbands. At least 14 men lived in Station Road, six in Ivy Street, and three from Tufton Road. Others lived in 'cottages' along Bredhurst Road, London Road and other Rainham addresses still present today.
The Rainham men listed are buried locally, and throughout the world, including France, Belgium, India, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and Russia. Many others have no known Grave.
The loss of 99 Rainham men would have had a considerable impact on a small, closely knit population of around 4000 people, dependent upon agricultural labour.
We can only imagine how the war touched the lives of so many Rainham families.
For example, see the following three men, who lived in William Street:-
|Rank||Name||Service||Age||Date of Death||Address|
|Pte.||Edmund Couchman,||Royal Navy,||20,||27/5/15||69 William Street|
|Pte.||Albert Coppin,||Lanc. Fus.,||19,||24/5/15||53 William Street|
|Pte.||John Bolton||Royal Sussex.||22||6/9/18||42 William Street|
It can be seen, that these men were the same age when the Great War began, and lived nearby each other in the same street.
Their loss would have been tragic for any family, and particularly, as the first two men died within three days of each other.
Rainham would have been continually affected by such casualties, which escalated as the war progressed. For example, the Rainham memorial reveals 7 men lost in 1914, 15 men in 1915, 22 men in 1916, another 22 men in 1917, 24 men in 1918, and 6 during 1919. Another two men recorded on the war memorial died in 1920.
Two Rainham men, died when HMS 'Princess Irene' was sunk on 27/5/15, and another three men were lost on the same day, when the Cruiser, HMS 'Natal' went down on the 30/12/15..
It may be of interest that 2nd Lieutenant, Harold Greenhalgh recorded on the war memorial, was the Headmaster of the Rainham Council school. The Landlord of the local pub also lost a son.
The Rainham memorial records the names of those that died during the War. It does not include the wounded, or all those who also served during the First World War. I am sure many local families, or those with a Rainham connection could add to these details? Electoral registers would show where more of these people lived? Census and Parish records would reveal more about their families? Local business directories would indicate their occupations? Newspapers of the day may provide photographs of these servicemen, as well as individual details?
I hope someone may research this, so that those names recorded on the Rainham memorial, and all the others who served will be remembered. The memorial is not only a record of Rainham's contribution and sacrifice, but also rich source of local history. The full listing of names on Rainham War Memorial is now complete at Roll of Honour
REQUEST FOR HELP WITH TRACING NAMES ON THE RAINHAM WAR MEMORIAL
The 2007 Remembrance day service was well supported with the church packed and standing room only.
A transcript of some of these names is provided in the following link.
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