The news of the enforced closure of 10 shops within  the Rainham Centre has obviously caused consternation among the proprietors and great  concern among the public at large. It is understood  that those who have received notice from the  landlords are Barry’s Fruiterers, Morecut Butchers,  Rainham Health Food Shop, Quidsaver, Boots the  Optician, Bookmark, Xpressions, Ascot Flowers and Pet Supplies, who all expect to be closed for about 28  weeks.

Some will obviously try to relocated as close  to the centre as possible but the immediate problems  for shop tenants and their staff is most worrying and  the long term impact may also be far reaching. The letter to ‘all tenants’ dated 14th March said  that ‘following the results of soil investigation it has  been established that remedial works are required to  the centre which would commence on 1st May’. Of  course such a disruption in the pattern of Rainham  shopping has given rise to much conjecture in fertile  minds particularly as to the cause of the problem  which has not been made public and only a minority  of residents will remember the buildings on the site  pre war. 

I was fortunate to mention the situation which has  arisen to the well known retired builder Mr Len  Bridge only to find that he was actually born in one  of the three cottages which is now the ‘Nationwide’  shop so has an intimate knowledge of the area. His  address was then number l4 London Road and if one  views the buildings from the opposite side of the road  it can be seen that the original external structure of all  three cottages has been retained with shop fronts  which have been altered over the years. Mr Bridge  reminded me that just west of the cottages was the  blacksmith’s forge thought then to be operated by Bill Arraman. Many of us hung over the half door to  watch horses being shod or iron work being made or  repaired. Len and I agreed that one never forgets the  smell of burning horses hooves as the shoes were  fitted and the value which both the smithy and the  wheelwright next door were to a mainly agricultural  community.

These buildings together with a large  white ex farmhouse next to the forecourt of  Springates the wheelwrights, which was occupied by  Mr Bodiam who ran the corn chandlers now  Meridian Spice restaurant, covered most of the present High Street entrance to the shopping centre.  The other shops towards Station Road with the  exception of Barclay’s Bank have mainly the original  structures with new fronts.  Mr Bridge recalled that all the old buildings would  have had cellars, wells, cesspools and underground  water tanks to collect rainwater. He considered that  the wells were probably 50 to 60 feet deep, so the  water courses were fairly close to the surface  although now with heavier extraction they may be  lower. The fields at the rear of the properties were young orchards pre war but the land may have  previously been used for general agricultural  purposes for which farmers dug large holes to obtain  chalk to spread on the land and some of which were  then used for refuse disposal purposes. The other  problem which has caused constructional difficulties  locally relates to clay faults in the chalk sub soil  which have to be excavated and refilled with concrete  as otherwise the clay will expand and contract in a  different manner from chalk. 

A very large hole once appeared in the pavement in  front of the shop next but one to the western corner of  Holding Street and another developed outside the  shops opposite to the bottom end of the old Chapel  Lane (which is now the cul de sac just east of  Mierscourt Road). Len seems to remember a hole  suddenly appearing in the car park and most older residents had their own stories of sudden subsidence  and the reasons therefore. Perhaps the most  dangerous was the one that appeared on the railway  line just east of Berengrave Lane which caused a  derailment. l have a photo of the trucks.  No one locally seems to be willing to explain the  actual cause which has necessitated ‘remedial works’  but one hopes that this will become apparent as it  could have implications upon other buildings in or around the area. In the meantime it must be pure  conjecture. Whenever a subsidence occurs north of  the Church it is inevitable that the legend of Bloors  Place tunnel is resurrected. 

Freddie Cooper  25.3.02        

You have no rights to post comments