The new Tilbury estate off Station Road including Finwell Road in Rainham was built in the late 1960s and my parents moved there in 1967. This is the photo of the house shortly after they moved in.
The purchase price of a new bungalow in 1967 was £4150. The same house now is estimated by Zoopla to be worth £407,000!
After the article about The Missing Rainham Bypass - Rainham Southern Relief Road Maggie Francis has kindly passed on this copy of Action Forum showing the plans for the road and the rest of the area from 1965 which originally were for a full ring road around Rainham in addition to the bypass. The full story is below
THE RAINHAM PLAN — 30 YEARS ON
I recently noticed a report which indicated that Gillingham Borough Council had agreed to compulsorily acquire land on the northem side of Longley Road which they considered an eyesore and I wondered if the members were told that it was the Council which caused the original blight.
This goes back thirty years when a plan was produced (reprinted herewith) by consultants, after an exhaustive survey, for the regeneration of the village. I started the process by putting down a motion of ‘no conﬁdence’ in the Planning Committee who had been turning down applications for the enlargement and the development of shops in Rainham High Street. This was brought to a head when Woolworths applied to enlarge premises, now Lukehurst’s main shop, which had previously been a cycle shop with the old cinema adjacent. The Council refused this application with others and I considered that the natural development of High Street shopping was being stiﬂed to the detriment of Rainham residents. I knew that the Borough Engineer strongly favoured a new Shopping Centre and I felt that the refusals were part of a plan to bring that about. My censure motion created a degree of personal acrimony but the Council resolved to appoint consultants to advise on the future shopping needs and its location and changes which might improve the central area of Rainham. I considered this a waste of public funds as if a new shopping centre was to be created then there were only two possible locations in close proximity to the top of Station Road which has always been recognised as the central point of the village.
One of these sites was where the shops were ultimately built and the other was between Station Road and Ivy Street, just behind the Co-operative store which was then open land having once been the grazing area for Jacobs dairy. The plan proposed by the consultants went far beyond what was anticipated but it included various pet ideas which had been ‘ﬂoated’ by senior officers and some members from time to time. A major bypass was included, running parallel south of the A2 from Holding Street to just east of Miers Court Road which itself would be widened and rebuilt leading into a new loop road running eventually along the line of Hothﬁeld Road and Tufton Road and then sweeping south around the outside edge of a new shopping centre served by large car parks and a bus station. Readers will note that the bottom of Orchard Street was diverted to connect up with the new loop road under a major ﬂy over. Rainham High Street and the top of Station Road would be for pedestrians only with no through trafﬁc between Holding Street and Miers Court Road.
It is interesting to see the number of shop units recommended, less than half of which have been built and some of those are empty. The Council adopted the recommendations in total. I was strongly opposed as I considered that the centre of Rainham would be divided into four distinct areas: (I) south of the bypass; (2) between the bypass and the High Street, with hardly any provision for access; (3) between the High Street and the loop road; and (4) north of the loop road. Both routes of the proposed bypass and the new loop road with other properties covered by the plan caused an immediate blight. The whole of the area on the south side of Tufton Road to the north side of Longley Road was a “reserved space’ all of which caused consternation and a great deal of worry to numerous residents who realised that their properties were devalued and probably could not be sold. Both Gillingham Borough Council and the KCC had to buy properties along the routes of the proposed roads and of course the route of the proposed bypass (as amended) is still in the structure plan so much of that area is still blighted.
Some residents in Station Road moved and I know that Wilkin’s the hardware shop on the comer of Tufton Road had to be acquired. Whilst many residents were worried and some probably lost money inevitably there were other landowners who prospered by the proposals. Much of the shopping centre and car park was a cherry orchard and the Co-operative shop was built mainly on the old school site. I left the Council in I967 and have no record of when the proposed new loop road was deleted from the plan but it was in for some years and blighted the area of land in Longley Road which is now the subject of concern and possible acquisition. To the best of my knowledge this land was owned by Holden’s, a ﬁrm of builders, who applied for various developments which were refused.
It just shows how Authorities produce plans which have a profound effect upon residents for good or ill for many years. The main point made by the consultants was that every effort should be made to ‘recapture an intimate village atmosphere otherwise Rainham would be swallowed up by the ever-expanding Medway Towns and would completely lose any identity or character of its own’. I leave readers to decide if the slightest vestige of ‘village atmosphere’ remains. It was considered that the eastern part of the Borough had a potential population of 40 to 50,000 which would justify a new shopping centre but it was emphasised that this should not be large enough to pose a threat to the main centres of Chatham and Gillingham (how different from the attitude adopted over the Savacentre).
The consultants claimed that their plan would preserve and improve the character of the village but in my view one of the main errors was the demolition of the old Church School at the top of Station Road, this took away one of the four buildings in that area which were necessary to preserve the soul of the village and its retention would have enabled community activities to have been centralised in a building to which many of us already had a close attachment. So what have we got from the grandiose plans of thirty years ago — we have a shopping centre comprising about half of the shops then proposed with a car park but no bus station. Many of the retail shops in the High Street have become banks, estate agents or ofﬁces, the bypass has never been built but remains in the plan causing blight along its proposed route and the new loop road which caused so much concern to residents was presumably subsequently removed from the plan.
Whatever the intentions, Rainham was destroyed as a village a long while ago — it’s just part of the sprawling conurbation of Medway which looks like spreading ever further in future years.
I grew up in Rainham & Wigmore in the 1970s and went to school at Fairview Infants and then Juniors where the headteacher at the time was Mr Queen. The walk to school seemed like a couple of miles going up from Edwin Road to Drewery Drive but looking now on maps it says only a mile! It's surprising how many shops and businesses that used to exist even what I consider that recently (although it's now over 40 years ago!) no longer exist. Walking school buses are seen as a new thing and certainly weren't known as such in the 1970s but we did much the same by meeting friends at different points on the route to school picking up more people as we went.
Walking up Edwin Road there was Munden's Newsagent on Durham Road opposite the junction with Edwin which is now a private house. I'd stop there on a Friday to get my weekly comic and spend a few pence on Space Dust or some similar sweet with the remaining money. Later on it was Smash Hits to find out the latest pop news. On the corner of Edwin Road towards East Hoath Woods there was another shop, initially a DIY shop as I recall, then video rental and finally general store before closing in the late 1980s and converting to flats.
Going along Springvale there was the Smallholders Club which still exists although now much bigger and on the opposite corner of Springvale & Woodside (number 55 Woodside) was a butchers shop shown in Kelly's Directory as Fred Beal, Butcher. Again that's now a private house. Going up Bredhurst Road there was a dairy on the right hand side. Originally this was Terry's Dairy but was bought out by Unigate in the 1970s
Memories of teachers at Fairview School include Miss Davison, Mr Roome, Mr Thomas, Mrs Bone, Mrs Terry and Mr Baker who I remember smoking a pipe and the very distinctive smell of pipe smoke afterwards! Every summer the Fairview Schools had a June Fair to raise money for the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and I remember my parents helping out setting up stalls over several years. My mum was a keen baker and would often be baking trays of cakes or biscuits to sell at the fair. One attraction was the Fancy dress competition and the photo below is of Fairview Junior School fancy dress competition approx 1981.
My grandmother lived on Woodside and after school we would often go to her house for dinner and being near to school it was a convenient place to get collected from later on. If she'd ever run out of any items for cooking dinner she'd send me along to the Co-operative store at the end of Woodside that then became a pet store and is now a takeaway and Raj Rani.
View of Woodside looking towards Hoath Lane where the Co-op shop was located
As a keen stamp collector as a child the other place I regularly visited to buy new stamps when they were issued was Wigmore Post Office. I can't remember when it happened but it has been extended and the internal layout changed significantly since then.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s it was envisaged that the centre of Rainham would be bypassed so that traffic didn't need to queue through the section between Orchard Street, Station Road and Mierscourt Road. This was known as the Rainham Southern Relief Road and there was was another scheme - the Gillingham Northern Relief Road A289 & Medway Tunnel- that did go ahead with the Medway tunnel construction. You can see some of the old maps covering the Rainham area and the plans for the M2 here. The M2 was built in 1962/63 and this reduced a lot of traffic through Rainham but there was still a bottle neck around St Margaret's Church and Station Road where the road couldn't be widened.
The aerial view below shows the approximate route that the bypass would have taken.
Photo below of old bungalow and former Lukehurst warehouse opposite Thames Avenue junction in 2001. These buildings have been demolished and this area has now been redeveloped as a block of flats
To enable a bypass to be created a corridor of land was acquired or kept undeveloped south of Rainham between Maidstone Road and Mierscourt Road that would allow a road to be constructed at some future point. For whatever reason this road never took shape and eventually the land was sold off which allowed the building of the Gatekeeper Chase, Rainham Millennium centre and various housing developments along the route where the land was undeveloped or retained. This also enabled the redevelopment of the old Rainham Church hall on Orchard Street/Hurst Place into flats as a result of the Millennium centre construction.
This was Orchard Street in 2003 when the buildings in the photo above had been cleared.
The start of the bypass would have been almost opposite Holding Street where there is now a new housing development in Ashurst Place. You can see the overgrown land to the right of the terraced houses in this photo.
View from the church tower looking towards Gillingham showing the route the bypass would have taken with the new housing development in centre shot.
The Millennium Centre to the left and new houses in Gatekeeper Chase in centre and Ashurst Place off A2 to the right are very clearly visible in the photo below and mark where the route of the Rainham bypass would have gone.
By 1997 the scheme had officially been abandoned and the land was being released for planning permission and construction of new housing.
The proposed development included brownfield land between Orchard Street and Church path as well as orchard woodland between Church Path and Mierscourt. With the help of the newly elected Paul Clark MP the local residents managed to protect the woodland areas shown in the map below as A, B and C. However development in areas D, E, F and G did proceed which resulted in the Millennium centre in area E, Gatekeeper Chase in area D being accessed via Hurst Place and new flats on Orchard Street in area G and Gatekeeper Chase in area F.
New block of flats in area F visible from Orchard Street in 2003 before redevelopment of the plot labelled G. Millennium centre is visible in the distance behind the flats and St Margaret's church to the left behind the tree.
View up Orchard Street from A2 showing the development plot G with the new houses in Gatekeeper Chase to the left in distance.
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