The year began with a serious flu epidemic that affected thousands of people in the Medway area  causing high levels of absenteeism from work and school. Blizzard conditions and heavy snow followed causing train cancellations, massive traffic jams, power cuts and severed telephone lines. It wasn't all bad news as Rainham Theatrical Society had staged a successful production of the pantomime 'Robinson Crusoe' to packed audiences at the Oast House Theatre, while Rainham Social Club thrived with tag wrestling matches and regular live bands. Rainham Ladies Choir also did well and at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddford in Wales they finished sixth out of 24 participating choirs.

With expansion of the Parkwood Housing Estate and a rise in the local population, modern facilities were increasingly demanded. This led to the former Church of England School in Station Road being earmarked for demolition followed by the construction or Rainham Shopping Centre with a pedestrian precinct and car park as part of a redevelopment plan for central Rainham. Plans were also drawn up to redevelop Rainham Mark with more space for shopping. In June Gillingham Council bought the marsh near Motney Hill from the Rugby Portland Cement Company for development.

A new school known as the Howard School was constructed at Derwent Way and the teachers and pupils rrom Rainham Secondary Modern School in Orchard Street were transferred there in September. Pupils from the girl's school followed later after the construction of Rainham School for Girls on the same site. With the closure of the Church of England School in Station Road and the transfer of pupils to Orchard Street, the vacant building, which dated back to 1846, was bought by Gillingham Council and temporarily leased to the Rainham and Wigmore Community Association who organised social and recreational evenings at the premises. Local traders contributed 400 items of household furniture for use in the building.

In sporting affairs Rainham Cricketers FC won the Medway Area Sunday League Premier Division Championship and reached the final of the Kent Sunday Premier Cup but were defeated 4-0 by Cat ford United in the final. Rainham Youth won the Medway Minor League Championship while Rainham Football Club First XI finished fifth in the New Brompton League.

During the summer Rainham Cricket Club had an average season while girls from the Rainham Secondary School Athletic Club performed well. At the Faversham Gala Sports Meeting in June Jill Wesson won the 100 yards event and Carol Hooper won the Junior 100 yards. The junior relay team also finished first. Later, at the Bexley Sports Meeting Carol Hooper won three races while Jackie Mudge won the 220 yards event.

In October Rainham held its first ever trade fair which took place at Rainham Social Club attended by an estimated 4,500 people. Opened by the Mayor of Gillingham it proved highly successful. Films were shown, advice given on painting and decorating with dancing, hairdressing and butchery demonstrations and a fashion show. 

The year ended with news that farmers Wakeley Brothers were planning to attract young men into farming by providing them with modern four bedroom houses in Rainham. The old nineteenth century cottages which housed Wakeley Brothers workers lacked modern amenities with outside toilets and no bathrooms. By December 1968 twelve new houses were constructed for the farm workers and six of these were situated in Otterham Quay Lane. This ended an important year in the history and development of Rainham.

David Wood


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