Rainham, Havering

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

Rainham church of St Helen and St Giles - Fay1982

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’.

The church of St Helen and St Giles was built c.1178 by Richard de Lucy, who also found­ed Lesnes Abbey on the oth­er side of the Thames. It has sur­vived (unlike the abbey) as one of the best pre­served medieval struc­tures in out­er east Lon­don.

Rain­ham Hall

Rain­ham Hall was built in 1729 for John Harle, a sea cap­tain from South Shields who had mar­ried a Step­ney wid­ow and acquired Rain­ham Wharf. This com­pact red-brick house is a rel­a­tive­ly late exam­ple of the Eng­lish domes­tic baroque style.

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.

Rain­ham Hall was giv­en to the Nation­al Trust in 1949. A £2.5m restora­tion project was com­plet­ed in 2015 and the house is now open more often than it used to be, with increased com­mu­ni­ty involve­ment.

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, for exam­ple, gaze across the road at a library and social ser­vices offices that are tru­ly offen­sive.

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
and Jenny Collett, Rainham Hall, History Press for the National Trust, 2015
* The picture of the church of St Helen and St Giles at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph by ‘Fay1982’ at Wikimedia Commons, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.