Rainham A Century Ago by Freddie Cooper

Action Forum, May 2001

Almost all houses had fairly large gardens and even in the 1920s and 30s most new properties had a depth of 200ft.  The Rainham Horticultural Society had a Committee comprising mostly of eminent local personalities.  They held a large show on the last week in July with spacious marquees and popular sporting activities at the Recreation Ground.  This was a memorable day out.   There was also a competition between the Council and C of E Schools and I recall being selected with Harry Howting (now in Gloucestershire) to prepare our tray from produce collected that morning from the School gardens all for a prize of 7/6d (37p).  We took great care in digging, cleaning and arranging the vegetables trying to find six of each species which were the same size. A separate Horticultural Improvement Society was formed in 1906 with the express purpose of bringing about better cultivation of cottage gardens.  Both organisations met at the Lion Hotel as did many of the other Societies, as mine host, Mr W.P. Curling,was involved with many local activities including Treasurer of the Cycling Club and official handicapper for the athletic and cycling competitions, some of which were for professionals.  

There were two Cricket Clubs, Rainham playing at Siloam Farm, Chapel Lane (now Miers Court Road) and the Methodists played nearer home at the Recreation Ground.  In a similar manner there were two football clubs, with Rainham having a ground at White Hill where teams were prominent in the I st and 2nd Divisions of the New Brompton and District Leagues with another in the Sittingboume and District League.  The Club also held the Kent Junior Cup, the United Methodists had two teams in the New Brompton Free Church League with home games at the Recreation Ground. 

Rainham Cricket Club in 1902

Rainham was a hotbed of soccer and several of our players went to professional clubs prior to and after the War. I suppose the most notable were George and Maurice Tadman who played for Charlton, the former being recommended at one stage as England's centre forward by a national newspaper columnist. Alee Grant, Stan Huggins and Ware played for various clubs pre war and Jim Nobbs, Reggie Day, Bill Dennis and Lew Collins all turned out for Gillingham during and after the War.  Lew also played in goal for Arsenal and fortunately both Jim and Reggit! still live among us. 

The only resident who, to my knowledge, played cricket for Kent was Charlie Wright, a fast bowler during the 1920s and early 30s who attended the C of E School but moved to Rodmersham before attaining school leaving age.  

This is the Rainham I remember in the early years of my life in the 1920s. I feel privileged to have grown up here but feel sad that much of the Rainham I knew has subsequently been destroyed.  

Freddie Cooper


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