I was born in Gillingham, but my connection with  Rainham began early. One of my friends at Byron  Road Primary School was Brian Jobber, who lived in  Pump Lane, and when I cycled to his house we often  Went to the centre of Rainham. As a teenager I joined  the church youth club, held in the church school at the  top of Station Road, and run by Captain Ambrose of  the Church Army.

He was a very friendly and approachable man, who got on well with teenagers, and  when he married, the youth club members made a  collection for a wedding present for him and his bride.  Friends I met at the club included Dave Turner, Bob  Wicks, Johnnie Wood and Tom Stonehouse. In the  early 1950s Reverend Jordan was the vicar at St Margaret’s Church. He was later promoted to the post of  Canon at Rochester Cathedral and replaced at Rainham by Reverend Clifford. 

My family had a connection with Rainham from the 19th century. One of my great-grandfathers, Thomas  Wakefield (1846-1928), was the publican at the Three  Mariners in Lower Rainham and his daughter, Eva,  my grandmother (1876-1970), was a pupil at the  church school in the 1880s.  My days at the youth club were interrupted by National Service in the Royal Navy, but soon after my return  and back at the club in 1957 I met the girl who became  my wife, Pat Swallow, who lived in Solomon Road.  We were married at the church in 1960 and the reception was held at the Green Lion. So this year we have  celebrated our diamond anniversary. 

The Green Lion pub in 2001

Some of my outstanding memories of the 1950s are  the cinema, The Royal, in the High Street often known  as the ‘bug hutch’, which had the innovation of double  seats, which appealed to young cinema goers. The  cinema was demolished in 1966 and is now the site of  Lukehurst’s Furnishings.

The Coop was a dominant  feature of Rainham life, with the grocery shop near the  top of Station Road and a larger store in the High Street, with furniture, kitchen equipment, clothes and a  branch of the bank. Much of this area is now the site  of the Health Centre. Across the road stood grocers  Vye and Sons, now a car showroom, next to the Green  Lion. Two other venues, now demolished, attracted  teenagers for dances, parties and other functions, the  hall above the Coop shop in the High Street and the  Church Hall in Orchard Street, on the site of what is now the entrance to Hurst Place.

Photo below of the site following demolition of the old Church Hall in Orchard Street in 2001.

Same site once construction had started

Buses were a frequent sight in the 1950s, run by Maidstone and District Motor Company and Chatham and  District Traction Company. The latter company had  five routes in the Medway Towns and number 2 terminated in the Webster Road cul-de-sac.

The A2 became  quite busy during the 1950s and early 1960s before the  M2 opened in l967. Trains were less frequent before 1959. Before then electrification went only as far as Gillingham and the old Victorian station at Rainham relied on steam trains to Victoria, or a change at Gillingham for the Charing Cross line. 

Photo of Rainham station in the 1980s

Photo of M2 Farthing Corner services in 1960s known as Top Rank Services

To conclude with a later memory. In the summer of  1967 a 30 mile night walk to raise money for St. Margaret’s Church began at the church at l0p.m. and the  route led to Key Street, then the A249 towards Maidstone, turning right through the villages of Burham  and Wouldham, on to Strood and along the A2 back to  Macklands in Station Road, the home of the Mackay-Miller family. Mr and Mrs Mackay-Miller, looked  after the walkers very well by driving round the route  and serving hot soup.  I welcome any comments, including possible corrections in the next issue. 

Arthur Kimber 

22 Asquith Road  Wigmore        

(note: original reference to Tudor Grove changed to Hurst Place for Church hall location thanks to Maria Jarvis for spotting)

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