Rainham, Havering

A residential district lying south of Hornchurch, interspersed with commerce and industry, particularly along New Road

The 18th-century Rainham Hall now belongs to the National Trust
The 18th-century Rainham Hall now belongs to the National Trust

Because of its situation beside the Ingrebourne River, with access to the Thames via Rainham Creek, there appears to have been human occupation of this area virtually since the ice retreated. Prehistoric implements have been found in Rainham Marshes and there is evidence of a Saxon burial ground. The name is probably a corruption of Reoginga-ham, from the Old English for ‘settlement of the ruling people’.

Rainham grew rapidly from the end of the 19th century, following the typical pattern that begins with larger villas for the well-off and then gives way to cheaper accommodation for the masses as advancements in transport provide improved accessibility.

Between 1945 and the end of the century Rainham doubled in size as a result of the seemingly uncontrolled construction of housing on former farmland north of the A13, where there is also a large Jewish cemetery. Beyond this is Launders Lane, where London’s only road bowling contests used to take place on Sunday afternoons until a few years ago.

The impressive Rainham Hall is a National Trust property, but its opening hours have hitherto been extremely limited. There are sufficient remaining elements of old Rainham to suggest what a charming marshland village this once was, but these have been engulfed by unsightly additions from the second half of the 20th century. Rainham Hall and the neighbouring church of St Helen and St Giles, for example, gaze across the road at a library and social services offices that are truly offensive.

Restoration work is presently under way at Rainham Hall and should be completed by summer 2015, after which the house will be open more often than it has been in the past, with increased community involvement. Meanwhile, ‘hard hat tours’ take place from time to time: see the National Trust web page for more details.

Postcode area: Rainham, RM13
Population: 12,482 (Rainham and Wennington ward, 2011 census)
Station: c2c (zone 6)
Further reading: Sue Curtis, Dagenham and Rainham Past, Phillimore, 2000