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. 

Freddie Cooper        

Memories of Rainham - MEMORIES OF  RAINHAM SCHOOL FOR BOYS 

Dear Editor, 

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 

Retired Schoolmaster 

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!

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

 

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. 

Freddie Cooper

August 1995

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