SUNBURST BOOKS Rainham Kent - February 2024

21 & 23 Station Road, Rainham, Kent. ME8 7RS. 01634 261643. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kent’s largest charity secondhand bookshop.

A brief history

When The Rainham Bookshop was sold in 2006 the new owners continued trading in 17 & 19 Station Road but not in 21 & 23, leaving the previous owners, Hamish and Barbara Mackay Miller, responsible for the rent. The offices on the first floors of both buildings and a part of the ground floor rear were sublet but not the retail space at the front. At the time St Margaret’s Church were raising funds for major repairs to the roof. The campaign manager was Tony Andrews, a retired businessman and member of the congregation. He and Hamish came up with the idea of using the shop fronts as a second hand bookshop selling donated books. Volunteers came forward from the Church and other publicity to staff the shop, Tony took responsibility for administration on behalf of the Church and Hamish publicised it through his magazines Action Forum and The Net. The shop was a success raising worthwhile funds for the Church Heritage Fund and enjoyed by both volunteers and customers.

Then in 2019 Tony’s health deteriorated and sadly he died early in 2020 just as Covid began. In 2020 Barbara developed cancer and died in January 2021. With the impact of Covid restrictions the shop trade fell dramatically and it began to make a loss. Unfortunately the Church could not find anybody to take Tony’s place as administrator so they handed responsibility for the shop to the volunteers to continue to run it or close if they did not wish to continue. Gavin Strudley, the manager, volunteered to keep the shop open as far as Covid restrictions would allow. At the same time Hamish was concerned for the future of the shop as the lease was due for renewal and also for the monthly magazine “Action Forum” which Barbara had edited since 1971. His solution was to form a CIC (Community Interest Company) with volunteer directors and transfer ownership of both to the CIC with all profits donated to local churches, charities, voluntary organisations and some overseas charities. Fortunately new volunteers came forward to take on the editorial and distribution of Action Forum and that is doing well. The buildings, however, needed some major repairs, particularly replacing the extension roof and the front window of 23. Also the gas central heating was not “fit for purpose” and was replaced by electric radiators which work well, are cheaper to run and reduce our carbon footprint.  

Then in the summer of 2023 Gavin was forced to resign for health reasons and Luke Foord took over as volunteer manager with strong support from the other volunteers who wanted to see the shop continue. Both tenants in the first floor offices had prospered and moved to larger premises. It was decided to use the space to expand the retail area and also provide much needed storage space. Over the years there have been many changes to fire and safety regulations including making individual businesses responsible for doing their own risk assessments. Previously the Fire Brigade had made periodic inspections. A professional firm was engaged to do the risk assessment and provide recommendations. The most important of these were completed before Christmas and the rest are in hand.

 SUNBURST BOOKS - Kent’s largest charity second hand bookshop

Plans going forward

The layout of the shop has been changed to make it easier for customers to find what they want. This is an ongoing project. With the extra space we have more books on display that is resulting in a steady increase in sales, particularly as we now take payment by card. Our bestsellers are the reprints of the three Picture Books oh Old Rainham compiled by Barbara Mackay Miller (number 3 with Rosemary Dellar) at £12 each). We have many ideas of what we want to do to increase sales and contribute more to the community in Rainham both as cash donations and with social or cultural activities. These include extending our opening hours to 5.30 six days a week (currently we close at 3.00), listing more specialist books for sale on line and having children’s storytelling and other activities outside school hours.


To do more we need more part time volunteers, some to serve in the shop but others to sort and price donated books as they come in, to list books online then pack orders for posting, to organize children’s activities and to do the necessary admin including bookkeeping. If you are interested in joining the team please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01634 261643 9.00 to 3.00 Mon-Fri.



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