During the construction of the Churchill Retirement living housing project on the A2 various remains have been found that date habitation of the area back to the early Iron Age, some 3000 years ago. Sandy Fleming from Rainham News visited the site to find out more

Watch her YouTube video on the discoveries here

When the Manor Farm pub were redeveloping their car park to build the Premier Inn hotel in 2010 the site was subject to an archaeological survey to check for any historic remains as it is so close to the A2. This investigation brought up various finds including Iron age and Roman pottery as well as an Air Raid shelter dating to the Second World War that was built for the staff of the Gas Showrooms. This would have been to the right of the photo below.

The area has been settled for thousands of years as the main route from the coast to the north of the country and these finds help give some context to the people who lived or travelled through the area.

The development of Churchill Retirement complex on the site of 5 bungalows on the A2 adjacent to the Manor Farm pub has given more opportunity for archaeologists to investigate the area. According to an interview with them this week significant Iron age discoveries have been made, in particular salt pits.

With the A2 being the main Roman Road to London (Watling Street) there have been significant finds in the area including recent discoveries of a Roman Temple in Newington close to the A2 and Roman Villas in Hartlip.

Toe Rags in Rainham – as recollected to Maggie Francis

Horace Moore is a Rainham boy through and through. He was born in 1933 and lived at 205 Station Road, Rainham and he has shared memories and some of his many stories of his life and time growing up in Rainham. 

The Oast House, next to the Station was the main Offices for Wakeley Brother’s many businesses and Horace remembers horses and carts going up Station Road taking wheat to the Oast, where the sacks of grain were hoisted up from the back of the carts into the building, but Horace was more aware that the wheat came in on the barges. 

That was where he was happiest, down by the water with everything associated with the river. 

When Horace was a lad, Rainham was just a small community with the majority of the population involved working in various ways on the river, in the brickfields or in the agricultural community. 

Along with the rest of the local children, he went to Solomon Road School from the age of 5. No fancy introductions to school in those days. As he says; ’You just got left at the door on the first day and was left to get on with it’. 

By the grand age of six and half, Horace was doing his first job. 

George (Cully) Carter had young Horace, picking up winkles with him and running up and down Station Road for him selling them from door to door. 

Young Horace would sell the catch from an old cart, calling on the locals to buy a basin of whatever it was that he and Cully had caught that day. 

Horace loved the river and would go shrimping and winkling in the winter on the mud flats. 

Spring found him trawling for pink shrimps and brown shrimps, fluing (catching flounders). People would buy them off the boats. 

At the age of 13 Horace was taken on as an Apprentice to Jack Carter (Cully’s grandson) to become a Freeman of the River Medway. 

Four years later Horace was called up for National Service. His love of the river made him want to go into The Naval Reserve, but he couldn’t get in because he was colour blind. 

Instead he went in the Army and served in Suez. He earned 36 shillings a week in the Army and apart from 5 shillings which he kept for himself, he sent all the rest home to his dear old mum. 

He found out later, that his mum had saved up all his for him. 

Once he was out of the Army and home in Rainham, he did all kinds of jobs associated with the river. 

He worked on various barges moving timber and cement and ballast. He was on one called the Kentish Hoy, a 120-ton motor barge, which had been built originally in 1904. 

Horace belonged to the river and it was obviously ‘in his blood’, but he realised he needed to get himself established. He was good at catching the fish and had a natural talent for selling the fish door to door. 

His opportunity to allow his love of sharing ‘the catch’ with the local population of Rainham came in 1984 when he established Hales and Moore fishmongers in Station Road to build a business with his family. 

Horace loves to tell wonderful tales of old Rainham, one of which he has shared. 

When talking about old friends he was relating tales of how to ensure they managed to get safely across the mud flats.
Apparently to stay safe the boots had to be a very tight fit so that the feet were secure and you could get a better, more solid grip on the mud! 

So what better way than to get some old bits of rag and wrap them tightly round each toe to fill out the boots? 

Who knew? That was where the term ‘toe rag’ originated. 

(The best bit though is his description of walking into the kitchen in his little terraced house to find all these’ toe rags’, hanging up to dry over the fire on washday) 

The Hales and Moore Fishmongers is still thriving and is one of local businesses who have carried on serving the local population during these recent months. 

Until relatively recently Horace was still the delivery boy, driving the van with orders to local customers and restaurants, but still never happier than when he was on a boat on some water, somewhere. 

Following in the footsteps of HSBC and Lloyds banks, Barclays Bank is closing its doors for the last time on 15th October 2021 leaving NatWest as the remaining clearing bank in Rainham. The building housing Barclays bank was sold in 2016 and rented back to them so it's unclear what will happen to it now. Barclays Bank in Gillingham closed in 2016 and old photos of that can be seen here: Barclays Bank Gillingham History & Old Photos

The London and Provincial Bank Ltd opened a Rainham branch as a sub agency to Chatham in July 1899. The bank mainly catered for small tradesmen and private customers with limited means, and confined its attention to the London suburbs, South Wales and the Eastern Counties, it was not until 1891 that a branch was opened at a leading commercial centre outside the London area, in Bristol. In 1917 the bank amalgamated with one of its formidable rivals, the London and South Western Bank, to form The London, Provincial and South Western Bank which subsequently merged with Barclays in 1918.

It was not until 1902 that Rainham acquired its own premises originally based in one of the shops next to the Post Office. The London and Provincial Board minutes of 14th October 1902 state that the Branch manager had written to the Board, on the 10th October 1902, suggesting the purchase of a site for the building of branch premises. “Rainham. Premises. With reference to Board minutes of 14th inst. Letter of 20th from Mr Long (Inspector) concurring in Branch Manager's recommendation that the freehold property at corner of High Street and Station Road be purchased for £475, but that the question of building there on, be allowed to stand for the present to be purchased.”


The changes in Rainham branch's premises are recorded in the Barclays Schedule of Title Deeds. This shows that the branch was originally located at “Myrtle Cottage”, High Street opposite what is now JCB Citroen. The London and Provincial Bank obtained the land adjacent to this building in 1902, presumably because they were occupying the building. In 1913 a tenancy was granted to the London and Provincial Bank for 14 years at a rent of £30 per annum and in 1926 this tenancy was renewed at £42 per annum.


In July 1938 Barclays Bank at Rainham moved to new purpose built premises 89-93 High Street on the corner of Station Road where it has remained since. Originally 89-91 High Street was rented out to other businesses (shown in the cover photo as Mattocks Sweet shop in the 1950s) but these became part of the bank itself in the late 1960s. The Coronation clock was attached to the wall in 1953 so the photo above from the 1940s was taken prior to that happening.

Interior photo of Barclays Bank Rainham taken on 24th June 1967

The church school was adjacent to Barclays bank on Station Road before Rainham Shopping centre was built and you can just see the edge of it in the photo.

There have been other minor changes to the building over the years with the entrance being moved further to the left and the cash machine that was in the wall on the corner of Station Road moved to the far left of the bank building on High Street in the mid 2000s. You can also see the differences in the Barclays Bank signs in the various photos over the years.

Below: Barclays Bank Rainham in 2001

Below: Barclays Bank Rainham in 2001

 Below: Barclays Bank Rainham in 2003

My GGGG Grandfather Robert Chambers was christened on the 13th of July in 1777 (as Robert ‘Chandler’) at Hollingbourne, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth nee Kemsley.  Not much is known as yet of Thomas Chambers background, confusingly his surname seems to have been spelt at times as Chandler.  Elizabeth Kemsley’s family were originally from Bredhurst and were landowners/farmers for many generations in that area.

Robert Chambers married Ann Hales on the 26th of October in 1801 (as ‘Chantler’) at Chatham.  The couple had at least 4 children together.  Unfortunately, baptisms for their children have proved difficult to find, but we do know that they had the following children:

  1. Sarah Anne (1802 Hartlip)
  2. Richard (1805 Harltip)
  3. Ann (circa 1811)
  4. Robert (1818 Rainham)

Robert (snr) was possibly working as a ‘waterman’ in 1818 when his son Robert (jnr) was christened at Rainham on the 12th of April (this is assuming that the entry was recorded correctly, and it was not meant to read ‘woodman’).  Again, the surname was recorded as ‘Chandler’.

By the time the census of 1841 was recorded, Robert’s surname was spelt ‘Chambers’ and he was living at Meres Court in Rainham with his wife Ann, and his son Robert.  The occupation of both men was recorded as ‘woodman’.  In the census of 1851, they were again recorded as woodmen, and were still living at Meres Court.

The Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser contained a notice which ran for a few years during the 1850-60s, mentioning Robert Chambers.  It was reported that the Earl of Aylesford owned 114 acres of valuable underwood in woodlands located in Boxley, Bredhurst, Rainham, Kingsdown, Milsted, Borden, Newington, Stockbury, Thurnham and Maidstone.  Robert Chambers was mentioned as a contact for those interested in viewing the falls, specifically located at Rainham.  This Robert was more likely to have been Robert junior, as Robert senior would have been approximately 82 years of age at the time. 

In the census of 1861, Robert (snr) and his wife Ann were still living at Meres Court, and he was recorded again as a woodman.  Robert (jnr) had married Caroline Celine Allen on the 14th of January in that year. 

Robert (snr) died in 1862 and was buried at Rainham on the 25th of June.  He was recorded as having been 86 years of age.  His son Robert (jnr) sadly died just 4 years later, on the 19th of May in 1866.  It appears that Woodreve Cottage, and the position of woodreve, then passed to his nephew Charles Chambers (Grandson of Robert snr).

Charles was the son of Robert (jnr)’s brother Richard Chambers (1805), whose family lived at nearby Bredhurst. 

Richard Chambers (1805) and his wife Jane (nee Callaway) had married at Gillingham in a double wedding with their siblings, Anne Chambers and William Callaway, on the 9th of August in 1829.  Anne and William Callaway were my GGG Grandparents. 

This was not the only Chambers/Callaway marriage to have occurred!  Sarah Anne Chambers (1802) the sister of Richard (1805), Anne (1811), and Robert Chambers (1818), had married Robert Callaway (brother of Jane and William Callaway) earlier in 1824.

Charles Chambers married Eliza Kitchingham on the 4th of November in 1865, at St Margaret next Rochester.  The couple would have raised their many children at Woodreeve Cottage.  The census records of 1871, 1881, and 1891, record the family as living at Meres Court, with Charles working as a woodman or woodreve.  In 1881 the address had been recorded as ‘cottage’.

In the census of 1901 Charles was recorded as a woodreve ‘in park and wood’.  His six sons, who were still living at home, were working as wood cutters.

Charles died on the 25th of October in 1907 and was buried at Rainham on the 30th of that month. 

In the census of 1911 Eliza can be found still living at the cottage, with 3 of her adult sons.  William Chambers was 39 years of age and was recorded as the woodreve/wood keeper.  His brother Thomas was a wood dealer, and his brother James a wood cutter.  The address was now recorded as ‘Miers Court’.

William Chambers was christened on the 14th of April in 1872 at Rainham. 

By 1939, William Chambers was an unmarried bachelor, living at Woodreve Cottage with his unmarried siblings.  The siblings living with him were Thomas, Edith, and James.

In 1947 William Chambers died. 

Death of Mr William Chambers:

Well known at Rainham, Mr. William Chambers, of Woodreeve Cottage, Miers Court Road, passed away on Saturday after a very short illness.  Mr.  Chambers, aged 74 years, was one of a large family who had been connected with farming for many years.  He had been employed as a woodreve and gamekeeper by Messrs. H. and R. L. Cobb, auctioneers, and was a familiar figure at their sales in East Kent.  He was a bachelor, but leaves three brothers – Messrs. James and Thomas Chambers who also reside in Miers Court Road, and Mr. Edward Chambers, of Natal Farm, Rainham.  The funeral took place at Rainham Churchyard yesterday (Thursday)’ (East Kent Gazette, 11 January 1947, p5)

Woodreve cottage was occupied by many generations of the Chambers family spanning over 100 years.  As we do not know when Robert (snr) initially began working as a woodreve, they may have been living there for much longer.

I am certain that my GG Grandfather, Robert Callaway, would have spent a lot of time at Woodreve Cottage.  Robert Callaway was christened on the 1st of December in 1839, at Gillingham, the son of William Callaway and Ann nee Chambers (1811).  Tragically his mother Ann died shortly after the birth of her son Richard in 1843, her baby boy passing away just a few weeks later.  Robert was only about 4 years old at the time.

It appears that William and Ann’s children were then sent to live with Aunts and Uncles.  Robert lived with his Uncle Robert Callaway and Aunt Sarah Ann (nee Chambers) at ‘Meresboro’, not far from his Grandparents at Woodreve Cottage.  Also living at Meresboro, was Robert’s older sister Eliza (nee Calloway) who had married Thomas Boakes in 1854.

There is no doubt that Robert would have spent a lot of time with his relatives growing up in Rainham.  I like to imagine him as a boy running between his home at Meresboro, and his Grandparents at Woodreve Cottage.   I hope that after the sadness of his mother’s death he was comforted by growing up within a close-knit family, and playing with his many, many cousins who lived nearby. 

By the time the census was recorded in 1861, my GG Grandfather Robert Callaway was a young man.  He was recorded as boarding with the family of William Kitchingham.  Also living with the Kitchingham family was his cousin Harriet Chambers (sister of Charles Chambers who was to live in Woodreve Cottage a few years later).  Harriet was working for the family as a house servant and was recorded as having been just 13 years old.  Perhaps Robert was tasked with looking out for his young cousin, it is almost certain her presence there was not just a coincidence.

Robert was still living with the Kitchingham family in 1871, at No. 12 Orchard Street.  Just a couple of doors down, lived his widowed Grandmother Ann Chambers (nee Hales) with his cousin Elizabeth’s family.  Elizabeth Callaway (daughter of Robert Callaway and Sarah Ann Chambers) probably felt more like a big sister to Robert, and by this time she was married to Robert Hales.

On the 4th of October in 1874, Robert Callaway married Ellen May (from Hadlow) at Rainham.  His brother-in-law, Thomas Boakes, was recorded as a witness.   I like to think that his two children (including my Great Grandmother) grew up visiting Woodreve Cottage and spending time with their many relatives living in Rainham.





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Action Forum is a free monthly magazine that is distributed to the Rainham area covering Wigmore, Parkwood and Hempstead as well. This archive covers old copies of the magazine dating back to its initial publication in 1969 and give a fascinating glimpse into life in Rainham over the last 50 years.