SUNBURST BOOKS Rainham Kent - February 2024

21 & 23 Station Road, Rainham, Kent. ME8 7RS. 01634 261643. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kent’s largest charity secondhand bookshop.

A brief history

When The Rainham Bookshop was sold in 2006 the new owners continued trading in 17 & 19 Station Road but not in 21 & 23, leaving the previous owners, Hamish and Barbara Mackay Miller, responsible for the rent. The offices on the first floors of both buildings and a part of the ground floor rear were sublet but not the retail space at the front. At the time St Margaret’s Church were raising funds for major repairs to the roof. The campaign manager was Tony Andrews, a retired businessman and member of the congregation. He and Hamish came up with the idea of using the shop fronts as a second hand bookshop selling donated books. Volunteers came forward from the Church and other publicity to staff the shop, Tony took responsibility for administration on behalf of the Church and Hamish publicised it through his magazines Action Forum and The Net. The shop was a success raising worthwhile funds for the Church Heritage Fund and enjoyed by both volunteers and customers.

Then in 2019 Tony’s health deteriorated and sadly he died early in 2020 just as Covid began. In 2020 Barbara developed cancer and died in January 2021. With the impact of Covid restrictions the shop trade fell dramatically and it began to make a loss. Unfortunately the Church could not find anybody to take Tony’s place as administrator so they handed responsibility for the shop to the volunteers to continue to run it or close if they did not wish to continue. Gavin Strudley, the manager, volunteered to keep the shop open as far as Covid restrictions would allow. At the same time Hamish was concerned for the future of the shop as the lease was due for renewal and also for the monthly magazine “Action Forum” which Barbara had edited since 1971. His solution was to form a CIC (Community Interest Company) with volunteer directors and transfer ownership of both to the CIC with all profits donated to local churches, charities, voluntary organisations and some overseas charities. Fortunately new volunteers came forward to take on the editorial and distribution of Action Forum and that is doing well. The buildings, however, needed some major repairs, particularly replacing the extension roof and the front window of 23. Also the gas central heating was not “fit for purpose” and was replaced by electric radiators which work well, are cheaper to run and reduce our carbon footprint.  

Then in the summer of 2023 Gavin was forced to resign for health reasons and Luke Foord took over as volunteer manager with strong support from the other volunteers who wanted to see the shop continue. Both tenants in the first floor offices had prospered and moved to larger premises. It was decided to use the space to expand the retail area and also provide much needed storage space. Over the years there have been many changes to fire and safety regulations including making individual businesses responsible for doing their own risk assessments. Previously the Fire Brigade had made periodic inspections. A professional firm was engaged to do the risk assessment and provide recommendations. The most important of these were completed before Christmas and the rest are in hand.

 SUNBURST BOOKS - Kent’s largest charity second hand bookshop

Plans going forward

The layout of the shop has been changed to make it easier for customers to find what they want. This is an ongoing project. With the extra space we have more books on display that is resulting in a steady increase in sales, particularly as we now take payment by card. Our bestsellers are the reprints of the three Picture Books oh Old Rainham compiled by Barbara Mackay Miller (number 3 with Rosemary Dellar) at £12 each). We have many ideas of what we want to do to increase sales and contribute more to the community in Rainham both as cash donations and with social or cultural activities. These include extending our opening hours to 5.30 six days a week (currently we close at 3.00), listing more specialist books for sale on line and having children’s storytelling and other activities outside school hours.


To do more we need more part time volunteers, some to serve in the shop but others to sort and price donated books as they come in, to list books online then pack orders for posting, to organize children’s activities and to do the necessary admin including bookkeeping. If you are interested in joining the team please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01634 261643 9.00 to 3.00 Mon-Fri.

While walking down Rochester High Street I noticed that the former Elizabeth's of Rochester restaurant had refurbishment taking place that had revealed an old sign beneath the modern exterior. This reads BJ Seeley - Fancy Draper, Glover & Hosier and was located at 154 High Street Rochester Kent.

As can be seen in the picture Elizabeth's of Rochester restaurant was established in 1992 and traded until 2019 when the building was sold and the restaurant closed.


Medway Archives records that Benjamin Joseph Seeley (1856-1910) traded as a general draper, glover, hosier, and milliner, on this site from the mid-1890s until his death

BJ Seeley Fancy Draper, Glover & Hosier Rochester


According to the Evening Standard "The wonderful Tudor buildings where Elizabeth's of Eastgate is housed date back to the 16th Century, with many original features still intact. 
Elizabeth's was quoted in the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens as the home of Uncle Pumblechuck.  At the turn of the 20th Century the building was known as Mr Seeley's Drapers, providing the local women with all their drapery requirements."

This photo from approximately 1900 shows Seeley Drapers shop when it was trading. Photo from Medway Archives


The total length of this walk is about 6 miles. However by studying the map you can quite easily work  out shorter walks if you wish.    From Rainham Church (1) go along the Church path by cemetery. Bear left into Beverley Close, cross  into Wheatcroft Grove. Bear right and take the  tarmac path on the left past no 64 to Mierscourt  Road (2). Turn right and after about 200 yards you  will see some rough steps on the left leading into an  orchard.    Go half right, following the tree line, cross the  track leading to Siloam Farm and go through a wide  gap in the hedge. Carry on through the orchard to a  pole in a line of tall trees. Go through the trees, tum  left and follow the field edge round to a stile onto  Meresborough Road (3). Go right to Meresborough  Farm and turn right at signpost (4). Go uphill past  houses. Just past a Nursery one the left is a footpath  signpost and a steepish bank (5). (Opposite is a path  leading back to Mierscourt Lane). If you go up the  bank you will walk between some bushes to a stile.  This is a moment for big decisions!  

The footpath continues over the stile in a straight  line to the corner of a wood in front of the pylon  you can see ahead. However the field is often  obstructed by ploughing or growing crops and can be very difficult or muddy. So, if you feel you can’t  face it return to the road and continue uphill to  Farthing Corner, cross the Motorway and take the  first lane to the left. You will soon rejoin the walk at  (8) outside Matts Hill Farm. If you decide to cross  the field follow the edge of the wood round to the  left, following the Motorway fence, go over a stile  (7) and continue to a subway under the M2. Follow  the wide track bearing right. Watch out for an open  space on the right and go through the trees to the  motorway fence. Follow this to the left to a stile.  

Cross the stile and follow a dilapidated fence to  another stile. Cross the corner of the field ahead, go  over a low wire fence and cross an orchard to a stile  by a gate at the far side, leading into a road opposite  Matts Hill Farm (8). Turn left and follow the road.  If you kept to the road without attempting the field you are now back on route. On the right is Queendown Warren Nature Reserve, having many  entrances, splendid views and best of all peace and  quiet - an ideal spot for a picnic.  

Go back to the road and follow it round to the  left over the motorway (9). Turn left at the next  junction and continue passing Spade Lane and South  Bush Lane on your right until you reach the Oasts at Meresborough again (4). Go through an iron gate on  your right into a wide, farm track.  Folldw this for about half a mile then turn off left  (10) between old and new orchards, to a broad grassy track leading beside orchards to a hop garden.  A path runs diagonally through the hops to Meresborough Road (alternatively, carry straight on  through orchards tum left and then right and follow  a wall on the left to the A2 (11). At Meresborough Road turn right to the (former) Man of Ken pub, then follow  the A2 left to your start point.  

Keep to the paths  
Keep dogs under control  
Do no damage  
Leave nothing behind  
Walk carefully on roads facing oncoming traffic  
Close gates

THE STORY OF MACKLANDS HOUSE in Station Road, Rainham Kent   

The story of Macklands House begins some 300 years ago. The oldest  map of Rainham found so far is dated 1735 ,found in the Archives at County  Hall, Maidstone in Kent.It shows a farmhouse, a barn and a farm building,  marked MACKLAND. In the village, the church is marked with a tower; across  the road are the Parsonage and the Vicarage. A map of Kent of 1736,  dedicated to Lionel Sackville, shows "Macklands" towards Otterham Creek.  The first sign of an owner living there is from the census of 1861,  when a Mr.J.B.Ward, an officer at the Sheerness Dockyard with his sister  Letitia, aged 21,and two bothers are listed. V.L.B.Ward was a Captain in the  2nd Warwick Regiment and Will Ward was a Surgeon in the Royal Artillery.  In 1871 the House was up for sale and no one appeared to be living  there. The Estate Agent, Mr.John Trott & Son advertised it as ‘A Freehold  House with Land and Stables. Kelly's Directory for 1878 shows the family of  Mr.William Wakeley in residence, with his wife Helen, both aged 45, and a  daughter Bertha, aged 17. They had a cook, Fanny Wickenden, from London,  aged 19 and a housemaid, Julia Paskins, aged18. A brother, Joseph, and his wife Annie were visiting - quite a full house.  Around 1880, Mr. Wakeley transfomed the house by adding to the  back and making a new entrance facing the garden. This was then laid out  'to lawns, flowerbeds and trees, with a yew hedge to divide the fruit and  vegetables from the front portion.

The large garden had a number of trees  which included a Wellingtonia, a Cedar, two Horse Chestnuts, a walnut, and a double row of Spanish evergreen Oak trees down the drive. 

 Macklands House Rainham in 1980

The four sons all farmed and were known as ‘Wakeley Brothers’, a well  known local group of farmers for many years.  In 1912, the house was sold to _Mr. E. Bates, who brought his large  family from Chatham to enjoy the space and country around.The family took  an active part in the village, with helping everyone decorate the church at  festivals. One son became the Scout master, and another ran a club for  boys, both starting the local Toch H group, above the old Blacksmith‘s and  both joined in the local activities. One daughter, Phyllis, was married at St.  Margaret's Church in 1935 and the reception was held in the garden of the  Macklands.  After two World Wars and the family growing up and leaving home,  Mr.and Mrs. Bates moved to Birchington in 1946. They sold the house to Mr.  and Mrs. Dalton, but they also left in 1947, when Mr. and Mrs. Walter moved  to the Macklands with their daughter Angela. They had lived in Rochester and in Gillingham, but found Rainham too far away, although they stayed  there until 1957, having sold off part of the top garden in 1954. 

When the Mackay-Miller's took the house that year, they worked hard  to care for it, and again joined in the local activities, using the garden and  the cellars of the house. The elder son, Hamish, and the daughter, Pippa,  were both married at St. Margaret's Church, with the receptions held in their  garden.  To save the premises from becoming a building site, the house was sold to the World Property Housing Trust, by Mr. and Mrs. Mackay-Miller,  with Preservation Orders on several trees.  It has since been discovered, that the family of Sir John Hawkins, who  sailed against the Spanish Armada in 1588, lived at the Macklands.        

The plans for the Housing Trust were prepared and sent to Gillingham  Council, which then took a further 18 months to approve them. Sadly, there  was a long delay in the rebuilding and a great deal of damage was done by  vandals. Holes in the roof and broken windows allowed damp to get in, and  the gardens became overgrown, and quickly the whole site became derelict.  In May 1980, work began on the development for the Housing Group.  The house was split into 4 one-bedroom flats on the first floor and a three  bedroom flat for a resident Warden/Caretaker,at the top of the house, with a  kitchen, guest room and a communal lounge, all on the ground floor. The  Cedar tree was cut down to make way for the 16 one-bedroom bungalows  built in the grounds. All the units are to be occupied by the elderly.  Work was completed on July 27th 1981. Some residents moved in that  year and others in 1982. The Mayor of Gillingham, Councillor Harry Blease,  unveiled the plaque and a vote of thanks proposed by Mr.Mark Cato for the  W.P.H.T., and refreshments were served in the Communal Lounge.  It is now a very popular housing establishment run by Sanctuary  Housing Association. 

Vida Bates, April 2001.        

This promotion for shopping in Rainham was published in Action Forum magazine and shows some of the shops that were trading in the area in 1977.

Rainham Shops in November 1977


Historical tales

Rainham Life

Local Events


Action Forum is a free monthly magazine that is distributed to the Rainham area covering Wigmore, Parkwood and Hempstead as well. This archive covers old copies of the magazine dating back to its initial publication in 1969 and give a fascinating glimpse into life in Rainham over the last 50 years.

Link to Article Index - Action Forum Index - Photos and Articles from 1969 onwards