Rainham: an eastern place apart from Medway

Rainham, at the eastern end of the Medway towns, stood virtually alone from the conurbation before the 1920s.

In fact, according to Freddie Cooper, it had little association with the neighbouring borough of Gillingham. Mr Cooper, a former Mayor of Gillingham, wrote: “When mains water became available after the construction of the reservoir near Bredhurst in 1919, plots of land to the south of the A2 and in Wigmore were sold at about £1 per foot frontage. Many built their houses or bungalows which, for a two-bed, would cost as little as £300 and most of the new residents were escaping from the Medway Towns.

“For some years after 1929 we remained in the rural deanery of Sittingbourne, the Archdeaconry of Maidstone and the Diocese of Canterbury. Our Petty Sessions were at Sittingbourne. Historically we were part of the Manor and Lathe of Milton. Adam Maitland, who represented the parliamentary division of Faversham, was our MP and all newspaper reports were printed in the East Kent Gazette.”

Indeed, inspection of that august journal (edited by Mrs Rayner until its absurd demise in January 2012), proves Mr Cooper’s point. Even until the late 1970s, certain parts of Rainham (Otterham Quay Lane especially, where an editor in the 1960s and 1970s lived) were considered East Kent Gazette territory.

Mr Cooper adds: “When Rainham Cricket Club started in 1857 they played in the Sittingbourne League and if a farmer could afford a veterinary surgeon he, too, would have come from Sittingbourne. So it can be seen that historically Rainham remained very much part of East Kent and as such we were, and still are, Men of Kent while those from the west of the ancient boundary line were, and still are, Kentish Men.

“Obviously only those few conversant with the area would know of the line of that boundary, so the nearest physical feature running north to south, the river Medway, was chosen and used as the descriptive feature which ‘foreigners’ would understand. I realise why it was used but to the purist it has no foundation in origin.”

The Borough of Gillingham was created in 1903 and Rainham incorporated into it in 1928.

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2 Responses to Rainham: an eastern place apart from Medway

  1. Dr Chris Lawrence says:

    This is a bit of a long shot….

    I am tracing the history of Rainham Parish Council, which was abolished when Gillingham expanded in 1929. When the incorporation occurred, the Parish records disappeared, and have never been located (minute books, financial records etc). This fact was recorded by both Freddie Cooper and in Baldwin’s ‘History of Gillingham’ book. For the most part, the East Kent Gazette did an excellent job in reporting the activities of the Parish Council. However, neither Sittingbourne Library, nor the Colindale (British Library) Newspaper Archives have copies of the EKG for early 1896 – a key time in the history of Rainham Parish, which had only been formed in 1894.

    Since Mrs Rayner was the last editor of the EKG, might you or she have any idea if:
    1) the newspaper had its own archive copies of that period, and
    2) what might have happened to them after closure of the paper. Where might they be now?

    Have you any ideas where I could go from here? Three months newspapers over 100 year old, but the gap is infuriating, and it seems like I’m a few months too late to ask the EKG themselves!

    Any help you can offer would be much appreciated.
    Thanks
    Chris

  2. David Wood says:

    I have to correct some points made regarding Rainham Cricket Club. First, the club was founded in 1856 and not in 1857. I have a copy of the first scorecard of Rainham versus The Angel Club, Strood, from July, 1856, reported in the Rochester Gazette. The match report clearly states that this was the first match played by Rainham Cricket Club.
    Second, Freddie was wrong if he said Rainham played in the Sittingbourne League in 1857. The club played in that league in 1905 and 1906 and won the championship both seasons. The only previous league in which they played was the Chatham and District League in 1896. There isn’t a record of the club playing in a league before this.

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