Otterham Quay in 1900
For centuries Otterham Quay had served as an important port on the Rainham side of the parish of Upchurch. Agricultural produce from the area had been shipped to different locations in the south-east while small boats journeyed as far as the European coastline. It’s believed that a young Sir Francis Drake may have learnt to sail from here on a small vessel that regularly sailed to the Belgian coast. With the construction of the brickfields during the mid 19th century, barges transported finished bricks to other locations and delivered dung for local farms.
The brickfields brought more work to the area so that in 1900 the majority of men living in the Otterham Quay area were employed there. In Caroline Row situated near ‘The Three Sisters’ pub the occupants were mainly brickfield workers who included Jim Styles, Jessie Tyler, Ted Ansted, Tom Anderson, Robert Denness, Walter Kitney, Bill Martin and their families.
The demand for brickfield workers in the area led to the construction of several pubs. In 1900 there were three in Otterham Quay. ‘The Three Sisters’ which is the only one surviving had been constructed in 1863 at about the same time as the brickfield. In 1900 Bill Edmonds served as landlord with his wife Rose and gained fame as an organiser of the popular Rainham Cycle Club. In 1900 brickfield workers Richard Parr and Fred Whikman lodged at the pub along with a servant named Edith Wills who worked there. At the bottom of Windmill Hill stood ‘The Lord Stanley Tavern’ run by Edward Holman and his son Joe. The building had been constructed in the late 19th century and was named after Thomas Stanley Wakeley a partner in Wakeley Brothers fruit business and a local evangelical preacher who held prayer meetings in ‘The Old Granary’ in Otterham Quay. ‘The Lord Stanley Tavern’ building was converted into a grocer’s store in 1918 by Mr Barnes. Opposite and close to the wharf stood ‘The Anchor and Hope Tavern’ managed by Tom and Georgina Russell. This pub got trade mainly from visiting bargemen and boat crews.
George and Caroline Richens ran the only shop in Otterham Quay, a grocer’s and pork butcher’s store situated close to ‘The Three Sisters’ public house. A slaughterhouse existed at the back of the shop. The shop operated for the first part of the 20th century.
Athough Wakeley Brothers owned most land in the area there were resident farmers like Tom Denness, his wife Ellen and their five children lived at Natal Cottage located on Natal Farm. Farm workers lived at Amelia Cottages nearby. In 1900 workers included a horseman named Edward Preston, his wife Lavinia and their three children. Next door lived a waggoner named Robert Cripps with his son, daughter and a lodger named Robert Loft.
During 1900 a row of thatched cottages belonging to Wakeley Brothers known as ‘White Huts Cottages’ burnt down after a spark from one of the chimneys caught the thatch alight. According to a contemporary ‘East Kent Gazette’ report the buildings were razed to the ground within 45 minutes before the fire brigade arrived from Rainham.
Some of the buildings that existed at Otterham Quay in 1900 remain today while ‘The Anchor and Hope,’ the ‘The Lord Stanley Tavern’ and Caroline Row have disappeared, a private housing estate exists where the brickfields once stood and development has taken place at Four Gun Field situated between Canterbury Lane and ‘The Three Sisters.’