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
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.
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.