MEMORIES OF THE RAINHAM MARK AREA

Some weeks ago I was shown some postcards of the Rainham Mark area. Having spent most of my teenage years living at 140 Hawthorne Avenue memories of this familiar place in the 1940s and 50s came back into focus. ln the war years and immediately afterwards the collection of shops at Rainham Mark were like a mini High street. The Beehive Stores, run by an elderly couple, stood on the comer of Caldew Avenue and the A2. This was a little goldmine that sold anything that didn’t need a ration book. Vegetables spilled from sacks and battered boxes on the floor whilst an old flypaper dangled from the light fitting above. Next door was Highlys, the butchers, where queues of hatted wicker basket carrying housewives formed when off the ration offal was available. Nearby was Mr Beards Post Office, he also sold writing paper, ink, coloured pencils and Gloy glue. Mr Beard had the most impeccable copperplate handwriting, no matter how long the queue if he was not satisfied with the way he had written a form whilst seated on his high stool like a character from Dickens with his trusted dip pen he would throw it away and start again.

Between the post office and the butchers was Rainham Marks wartime equivalent to B&Q. Miss Bunton’s open fronted shed style shop sold everything in the hardware trade from brooms and brushes to hinges, paint, distemper, creosote, pegs, washing lines, garden spades and forks plus nails and screws sold by the pennyworth and wrapped in newspaper. One essential also provided at this emporium was re-charging accumulators which were used to power wireless sets which could not be plugged into power sockets but relied on these heavy appliances about the size of a modern car battery. I can still see Miss Bunyon in her ladies style, faded blue, bib and brace boiler suit, hessian apron and woollen hat.

The chippy just towards Gillingham is perhaps the only shop which has survived for well over sixty years, however it has lost its ‘bring your own newspaper’ sign. The Vets was on the opposite side of the A2 at the side of a neat bungalow. Down Hawthorne Avenue is Ashley Road which links to Pump Lane. l can’t remember with any accuracy what the row of shops were but just after the war the newsagents on the corner was called Milligans. I delivered papers for them, my round being the whole of Begonia Avenue to where it ended in a cabbage field long before Twydall Green shopping centre was built.

Most households had their papers, magazines and comics delivered through the letterbox. I recall quite clearly receiving seven and sixpence a week (37p in todays money). I’m informed £25 is the going rate today. In the middle of the row of Ashley Road shops was Coopers the grocers and at the end Miss Chapman’s greengrocers. She ran the shop with her brother George, a D Day veteran who in winter always wore his army great coat. Giving up the paper round I then worked for Miss Chapman and George. On Friday evenings after school I did local deliveries on the shop bike and boiled the beetroot (much to my mothers disgust due to the smell).

On Saturdays starting at 6.00am with another lad from Pump Lane and George we loaded the ex-army Fordson open truck with a canvas cab ready for the green grocery round through Twydall, Eastcourt, Woodlands and Lower Gillingham, all for the sum of £1. The bonus of  this job was that l learnt to drive this old army truck. Seven years later as a National Serviceman RASC  driver I was driving an identical truck in Suez ~ this time legally. Happy days.

John K. Austin

 

 

 

Developers want to build 1250 new houses on the orchards that run between Pump Lane and Bloors Lane, and also between Pump Lane & Lower Twydall Lane. The Lower Rainham Road cannot cope with the volume of traffic now, let alone with an extra 1,250 houses. Not to mention doctors, schools and Medway hospital. Please share this page around and let the council know that we are all opposed to this. The deadline for objections is 16 November 2020

For more info visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/saveourorchards

Make your representation (objection) here: https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/ Case Reference: 3259868

 

We moved to Lyminge Close, Twydall in 1960 from our wartime built pre-fab in Wigmore when I was 15 months old. Pictured are the 'modern' post war shops but there was also an older red-brick parade opposite. Out of shot on the right of the picture was 'Perks' a dry goods grocers where Mum would buy flour, rice - all sold loose from large wooden bins and served in paper cones expertly folded up from sheets on the counter by the shopkeeper. Even further up on the corner was Cross's the butchers. Well known for being sour faced and sarcastic, Cross was one of three butchers in Twydall; now a dying breed.

Opposite in the older parade was a wet fish shop which became a chippy at night, the library, the Copper Kettle Tea Room/Corner Shop and my favourite place in the world - Arnold's. Tucked away in the far corner, along from the C.K., they sold toys, hundreds of them. It was cheek by Jowl with a milliners and when Mum shopped for her stuff, I was allowed to stand outside and press my nose against Arnold's window. Back on the side pictured, there was a Rumbelows at the lower end for TV's, Radiograms and the booming 45rpm single market. Far left, beyond the bottom of the parade was the good old Royal Engineer. Was there ever a night when there wasn't a fight there? In later years we would spend a pleasant hour or two dodging glasses and combatants while drinking their overpriced Stella Artois (nothing is new) which was then a novelty - 1970's pubs would barely have one lager pump among all the bitters and milds, the Engineer had two.

Twydall Kent in 1960s

The gap between the pub and the first shop pictured (waste land for many years) would be filled before the end of the 60's with a Liptons, for many of us the first Supermarket we'd ever seen. Forbouys was the newsagents who in the 1960's had Jambouree Bags with cheap sweets and toys, but also a 'Lucky Dip' a thin wooden flour barrel filled with sawdust. You paid 3d (1p!) and dove your hand into the barrel and grabbed one item. It would be anything from a Barrats Sherbert fountain, to a plastic toy. Next door was Woolworths (Woolies) which in those days still had the wooden floor, the island counters and the ubiquitous weighing machine at the door. Mum worked there as did (eventually) I on Saturdays but by then, a more modern Woolies had developed.

Ice cream would be bought in blocks, wrapped in newspaper to be taken home, every week the rag'n'bone man would come up our Close - like Steptoe and Son with a horse drawn cart. The onion seller would bring a cycle laden with huge onions, and on another day the peanut and toffee apple man would be there as well, also with everything on a bike. Developments over the years included the oddly shaped Holy Trinity Church built on wasteland land I used to play on. The lovely green area we played football on the right by the library was paved over to become a car park, and the doctor's surgery opposite the Church. For school we'd walk up Twydall Lane in the direction of the now defunct Bowaters and head into the infants, until we were 7 and had to go a little further up to Romany Road Primary which would take us past Tabearts. They sold just about everything, but the attraction for us kids was that he had rows and rows of sweets in Jars, sold by the quarter pound (100g in new money); I still remember the sweet smell in the shop of all that sugar just waiting to be bought.

Public transport in the 1960's defied modern belief. Twydall was served by at least three separate but related Maidstone and District (M&D) bus routes which ran to and from the Nelson Road Bus Depot. All would run along Beechings Way past the Golf course. The No. 1 and 1A, would turn up Eastcourt Lane, while the 1B continued down Beechings Way ending up at the bottom of Pump Lane. The other two turned along Goudhurst Road with the 1A following it past the shops at the bottom and turning round the bend to meet Beechings Way again, where it would turn back. Only the No. 1 would go up past the shops turning left along Waltham Road (lined on one side with police houses) on down Begonia Avenue to Hawthorne Road. All were double deckers with Clippies, but unlike the London routemasters the buses had closed rear decks. These days everyone uses their car, but then no-one had cars. Those buses were full; bottom and (hideously, smoking permitted) upper decks. Lyminge Close had a small parking area, which would hold 6 or so cars, the rest given over to play areas where football matches resembling the 'Wall Game' would sweep back and forth all afternoon.

I last visited a year or so back, and some 20 cars seemed to be parked in an enlarged area which encroached on virtually all the grass, with all the kids probably inside with their PS3's. Our play rules were simple, we left after breakfast with a cheese sandwich in our pocket and were home before dark. We either headed 'down' to Sharps Green, or 'Up' to the Darland Banks (which were north and south respectively) crossing the lethal Watling Street (A2) in the process. Somehow we all survived to be flabby and fifty.

I left Twydall in the mid 70s and travelled and lived at odd spots in and around the world before settling back in Sussex, about 70 miles away. On the few occasions I've been back though it feels further. I watched England win the World Cup, both Kennedy's and MLK get assassinated, and Neil Armstrong walk on the moon while living there, no wonder my memories are rooted firmly in the turbulent 1960s.