Rainham Marshes

Rainham Marshes, Havering

A desolate landscape of marshland and silt lagoons situated east of Rainham Creek, and part of the ecological and development zone sometimes called Havering Riverside

Coots in the large lake in Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve

In the Mid­dle Ages the monks of Less­ness Abbey their sheep on the pas­ture here, and around 400 acres were in arable use in 1309. The first incar­na­tion of the Three Crowns inn may have been built beside Rain­ham Creek as ear­ly as 1550, serv­ing pas­sen­gers for the Rain­ham fer­ry, which car­ried Can­ter­bury-bound pil­grims across the Thames. The agri­cul­tur­al land was extend­ed by 185 acres through recla­ma­tion in the 17th cen­tu­ry.

The Three Crowns was rebuilt in the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry and wharves and indus­tri­al premis­es appeared on the river­front from the 1880s and lat­er filled much of Fer­ry Lane.

In 1906 the War Office bought a swathe of the mud­flats for use as rifle ranges, but these became rel­a­tive­ly inac­tive after the Sec­ond World War.

Rainham Marshes visitor centre
Rain­ham Marsh­es vis­i­tor cen­tre has been built across the Lon­don bor­der in Pur­fleet, Essex*

The Three Crowns was most­ly demol­ished in the ear­ly 1970s, and more recent­ly the rerout­ed A13 and the Chan­nel Tun­nel rail link have been con­struct­ed across the marsh­es.

In 2000 the Roy­al Soci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Birds acquired 850 acres of Rain­ham, Wen­ning­ton and Ave­ley Marsh­es from the Min­istry of Defence for the cre­ation of the society’s only nature reserve in Greater Lon­don. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the reserve is of par­tic­u­lar note for its diverse avian pop­u­la­tion, espe­cial­ly its wad­ing birds, win­ter­ing wild­fowl, finch­es and birds of prey. The reserve also sup­ports some scarce wet­land plants and insects and has one of the high­est den­si­ties of water voles in the coun­try.

Postcode area: Rainham RM13
Website: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – Rainham Marshes
* The picture of Coots in the large lake in Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Robert Lamb, and the picture of Rainham Marshes Visitor Centre is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Des Blenkinsopp, both at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.