The Berengrave Estate was one of the main large estates in Rainham. Situated along the length of Berengrave Lane, it had been the Queen Court Estate before it was sold by auction in 1824.
The Holmoaks area is built on the part of the Berengrave Estate, where the actual house stood. Chilton Court seems to be the the site of the actual Berengrave House. Several walls in the area are old boundary walls of the house and were retained as much a possible when the modern estate was built.
The Chilton Court development has actually got 16 houses, not 14. The other two are actually in Berengrave Lane, next to the white bungalow. Those two and the two next to them in Chilton Court are built, it was said, in the carriage drive to the big house. The big house had cellars, which is a bit worrying........Presumably they were made safe when the development was done. It is thought that the house lay diagonally across the site, so it’s possible the cellars are actually under the road. No one has disappeared yet, as far as we are aware.
The well found in one of the gardens has had to be filled in as it was rather dangerous.
Location of the estate compared to the modern road layout
The extracts from the following document seems to be associated in some way with a decision about the future of Berengrave House. No idea what this was in relation to, but the actual typewritten document is not very well presented or written.
This is a small section from what was probably a longer report written around 1969 relating to the Berengrove Park Nursing Home, Berengrave Lane, Rainham.
It goes on to say “I shall report on three aspects of the above property’
1). It’s historic and aesthetic value
2). It’s state of repair.
3). It’s potential for conversion and future use.
“Occupation of the site can apparently be traced back to Doomsday when it was owned by the Crown and used for a hunting lodge. This oldest building being destroyed in a relatively recent fire.
The land was given in alms by the Crown to St Catherine’s hospital and leased to Rochester Cathedral who used it together with Cozenton as a monastery.
The existing building dates, I would suggest, in parts from the 16th Century to the present time, the main front being late 18th century.
The building does possess a picturesque charm resulting from the mellowing by time of a piece meal construction but could not be described as a good example of any of the periods of architectural style represented in it”.
The state of repair section indicates that it leaves a lot to be desire in terms of the condition of the roof, walls, floors, structural woodwork, chimneys, windows and electrical wiring amongst other things.
“Assuming that their present condition would require the replacement of ground, first and second floors thus enabling changes of level the potential for conversion with a great deal of work and the possible incorporation of lift might possibly make it able to continue in its present use or as an old people’s home. Conversion to flats might be possible, or offices for an organisation requiring mostly small spaces. Or it might be employed as a children’s home, but would be lacking any larger spaces for a school or youth club”.
The conclusions go on to say: “It seems doubtful whether this building should be saved on aesthetic grounds, but should it be extensively repaired and altered it would make an attractive building”.
All floors and the roof would need to be replaced, brickwork repointed and joinery replaced for safe occupation.
In 1971 the houses in Chilton Court. where it seems likely Berengrave House stood, just off Holmoaks, were built.
From a letter from Alan Major in 2019 when shown the copy of Action Forum about Berengrave House.
Is the Berengrave House in Berengrave Lane the same one that had an orchard down to the Cricket Field with a photo of the boys by the gate in the traffic-less lane?
I went to that house many times when a retired Col Iremonger and his wife lived there in the 1940s-50s. He was involved with various organisations and at the local printers where I worked (Panda Press) we did his varied printing, forms, instructions etc.
Surely they haven’t demolished that lovely old house?
Me and my father used to pick some of his fruit for him; for some reason he had a lot of damson trees and we picked them. We were paid by the hour, otherwise it would have taken a month of Sunday’s to fill a Kipsey bucket for a fixed sum.
One Saturday afternoon I was in the garden at 21 Tufton Road when a hit and run German bomber flew over the area. The bomb doors opened and a large bomb was dropped out. He was obviously intending to destroy the bridge in Berengrave Lane carrying the railway line but the bomb veered away from the line and fell in Col Iremongers orchard and smashed all the greenhouses’.
Following the publication of this article Robin Kemp posted a couple of photos of metal artefacts he'd discovered in his garden. One appears to be part of the fence that originally surrounded the front of the house and the other seems to be some form of agricultural tool.
RAINHAM’S CORONATION CELEBRATIONS by Freddie Cooper
Continued from March 2002
In 1953 the population seemed to be captivated by the Coronation of our young Queen and almost everyone entered into the spirit of the occasion. Rainham was proud to play its part. The most heated arguments occurred aﬁer the event when the Committee had to decide how to dispose of a balance of £164 which was left alter all accounts had been paid. Many ideas were eventually eliminated in favour of a village clock. Barclay’s Bank, at the junction of Station Road and the High Street, was one obvious location but Mr C.D. Lake, the Deputy Borough Engineer, who still lives in Wigmore, suggested that the Church Clock be renovated and a new face placed on the western side of the Tower.
He had ascertained that the clock mechanism had been constructed around 1730 by William Gill of Maidstone and that this originally operated an hourly strike on the tenor bell. Apparently the peal of bells go back to the l6th century and the treble and No. 2 were provided by parishioners in 1913 in memory of King Edward VII and the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary. Mr Lake suggested that the chestnut trees on the grass bank be removed and new trees planted in the churchyard, this would have thrown the Church tower into more prominence and given a wider vista along the High Street. Apparently the Vicar at that time was quite keen on the project and thought that a small additional contribution could be made. The arguments in Committee created our ﬁrst real divisions, the Church scheme seemed to follow a precedent but a most vocal group considered it wrong in principle to apply money, which had been raised by residents of all faiths and none, upon the Parish Church. The arguments that everyone would view the clock were not persuasive enough.
That is why an ‘English Electric’ Arctic clock is still situated on Barclay’s Bank building with a plaque to the left of the front door. Incidentally Gillingham Borough Council maintained it until 1998 when Medway assumed responsibility. I have frequently telephoned when it has stopped and I hope that others will do the same. The present officers are Mr Strila and Mr Dray on 331151. Perhaps our Rainham Councillors will also note the arrangement which has been reasonably honoured for 50 years but Councils do need reminding at times.
Memories of Rainham - MEMORIES OF RAINHAM SCHOOL FOR BOYS
In reply to Michael Croucher’s article on Rainham Secondary School for Boys in December 2000 AF, like many old Rainham boys, my brother and I attended the old Orchard Street School, now St Margaret’s Junior School. I started there in September 1945, leaving in December 1949 as a prefect. I was somewhat surprised that Mr Croucher didn’t mention the backbone senior staff, namely Harry Thomas (Science) and Bert Newell (Art). Both were on the staff before the war along with others like Mr Sargeant. The names of others, after more than half a century, I sadly can't recall. Mr Smith I can recall, however, was headmaster when my brother Frank and I began there; although short in stature he ruled with a rod of iron. During our second and third year Mr Smith retired, to be replaced by Mr Bacon, who I recollect swept down the hall for his ﬁrst assembly complete in black gown to the amusement and sniggers of all us boys sat as normal cross-legged on the ﬂoor.
Other staff I can call to mind with respect are Bill Taylor, my old form master, whose old Morris car I have helped to start with a push with the help of other lads on cold nights after school. Teachers with cars were a rarity in the 40s and 50s. Harry Thomas did own an ageing pre-war Austin Six I remember. Mr Sargeant I remember well with great respect; he taught woodwork and TD. Sadly he died during my ﬁnal year. I recollect all of us prefects led by (Bomber) Ronald Ware, headboy, attending his funeral at Rainham Church. Mr Smith taught us metalwork assisted by Mr Clark who came to the school on interview in his Royal Naval Chief's uniform. Mr Johns taught us history, I have him to thank for my interest in the subject which has lasted a lifetime. Like Mr Croucher I too have been on the receiving end of Mr Brown’s size 12, assisted by an overweight Mr Morris, who also took us for music before the arrival of Alf Springate.
Maths was taught by Billy Bones as we called him. Mr Bowden was his real name — he had an amusing habit of rhyming a boy's name to what might happen if he didn’t stop talking. A great friend of mine was Alan Barrett Danes. Mr Bowden would recite ‘I’ll give you such pains Danes’. Mr Patterson taught us how to grow spuds in a straight line in the school garden, when all we were really interested in was looking at the girls in the school next door, namely Rainham Girls. Although both schools occupied what was in reality one building divided into two schools, the consequence if caught eyeing one of the girls while in the building was a fate too dire to mention; however, in the school garden it was permissible, resulting in rows of spuds far from straight and a l great interest in gardening or rural science as it later became.
The school in Orchard Street in 2003, now St Margaret's Infants and Junior School
Careers education was almost non-existent in those initial post-war years, apart from the odd school outing or a visit from some heavily ringed naval ofﬁcer from the Dockyard. I can call to mind going only on one visit to a building site which today is Damson Way, being told as we clambered in and out of unﬁnished houses (no hard hats in those days) that many building trades would be taught to us if we became apprentices. The foreman emphasised that the building site language would come naturally. This was said in response to a barrage of newly acquired grammar from young apprentices who only the previous term had been our fellow pupils at Orchard Street. The late Harry Thomas, and especially the late Herbert Newell gave me the push and the incentive I needed to take the ﬁrst initial steps towards teacher training and qualifying as an art teacher in 1957.
Over the intervening years Bert became a good friend I was privileged to be invited to Mr Bacon’s retirement function at the newly built Howard School. After 42 years in the job I enjoyed I too am now retired and have a lot to look back on thanks to Rainham Boys’ at Orchard Street.
(Howard School below)
John K. Austin
As can be seen from the plans below the grandly named Broadview Garden Estate consisted of Broadview Avenue, Herbert Road and Arthur Road. The estate was sold off as individual plots of land for residents to build their own property on but the developer had a series of designs that had to be used hence the reason many of the houses have a similar look and feel despite the years that have passed.
What is now Orchard Street was at the time just a road that joined Broadview Avenue through to Arthur Road. It didn't continue any further towards Rainham although the Church path footpath did exist and Maidstone Road also continued to the A2.
The adverts offered a choice of building plots from £30 Freehold and boasted of Company Water mains on the estate and gas supply being available, that roads and paths would be made and offered Railway Bus and Tram services. It was described as "The finest building estate in Kent".
The vendor was C.E. Andrews of Wigmore House, Wigmore, Chatham (interesting that it was Chatham not Gillingham given as the address)
You can see the rural nature of Rainham at the time of the land sales in this 1930 aerial photo of Rainham
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