A History of the County of Essex: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
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In 1066 a priest held ½ hide freely in Rainham. (fn. 1) This suggests the existence of a church there before the Conquest, though the present building dates only from the later 12th century. Warin de la Haule, who held Rainham jure uxoris, presented to the rectory c. 1170. (fn. 2) When Rainham was in the king's hand, c. 1178, Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London, presented. (fn. 3) About the same time the king gave the advowson of Rainham to Lesnes abbey (Kent) at the request of the abbey's founder, the justiciar Richard de Lucy (d. 1179), and the bishop instituted the abbot as rector. (fn. 4) The abbey's right to the advowson of the vicarage was acknowledged in 1204 by Fulk Paynel, formerly lord of Rainham manor, and in 1219 by the Knights Hospitallers, who then held the manor. (fn. 5)
The advowson remained in the abbey's possession until its dissolution in 1525; it was then granted to Wolsey, who settled it upon Cardinal College, Oxford. (fn. 6) On Wolsey's fall the advowson reverted to the Crown and in 1531 was granted to the Hospitallers. (fn. 7) It subsequently descended with Berwick manor until 1920. Hector G. G. Crosse, who in that year sold the last of his Rainham estates, retained the advowson until c. 1930. (fn. 8) By 1933 it had come into possession of the Martyrs Memorial Trust. (fn. 9) Rainham was united as a single benefice with Wennington in 1954. (fn. 10) In that year South Hornchurch was transferred to Rainham parish. (fn. 11)
In 1274 the abbot of Lesnes held the church of Rainham and 20 a. of land which presumably formed the nucleus of Rectory manor, the history of which is traced above. (fn. 12)
The demesne of the Hospitallers' Rainham manor was freed of tithes in 1219, but those of their Rainham lands which were tithable were named in 1315. (fn. 13) An undated modus, probably of the early 14th century, unequally divided the tithes from the Hospitallers' manor of Moorhall between Aveley church and the chapel of the Hospitallers' Berwick manor in Rainham. (fn. 14)
The vicarage was worth £5 gross in 1254 and £10 net in 1535. (fn. 15) The vicarial tithes were worth £60 in 1650, and about £90 in the 18th century. (fn. 16) About 1800 they began to rise in value, and by 1810 were valued at over £400. (fn. 17) In 1838 the tithes were commuted: 166 a. of Berwick House farm were then tithe free; Moorhall (401 a.) paid a modus of £3 10s.; Berwick House farm (312 a.) and Berwick Ponds farm (353 a.) a modus of 15s. each; and Rainham Lodge (180 a.) one of 10s. The rectorial tithes were commuted for £230, the vicarial for £431 10s. (fn. 18) The vicar's glebe contained 4 a. in 1610 and 1851. (fn. 19)
The vicarage house was 'utterly decayed' in 1610, and had vanished by 1650. (fn. 20) In 1701 the vicar, Samuel Kekewich, bought a house and garden in the Broadway opposite the church; in 1709, three years after his death, his son formally transferred it to the churchwarden for perpetual use as the vicarage. (fn. 21) It was a traditional 17th-century house of three-roomed plan with an internal chimney-stack. In 1710 George Finch, lord of Berwick manor, encased it in purple brick, partly refitted it, and gave it a new staircase in a rear projection. (fn. 22) There was some internal remodelling in the early 19th century, and later a wing was added to the SW. (fn. 23)
In the 1170s three rectors are known by name. (fn. 24) The names of vicars are known from the early 14th century. (fn. 25) Twenty can be identified in the 14th and 15th centuries; 4 died while holding the vicarage, but at least 10 resigned it. (fn. 26) John Lawrence, vicar c. 1523–41, was accused of plotting against the king in 1536. (fn. 27) William Talbot, vicar 1544–68, was also rector of Wennington and non-resident in 1560. (fn. 28) Leonard Barker, vicar 1569–75 and Samuel Hilliard, 1718–42, were also rectors of Stifford. Hilliard was resident in both parishes. (fn. 29) From 1742 to 1897 vicars were usually non-resident and employed assistant curates, the best known being Charles Churchill (1732–64) poet and rake, who assisted his father, 1756–8. (fn. 30) In the later 18th century the curate received £30 a year, increased in 1814 to £50 and in 1826 to £120. (fn. 31) In 1612 Thomas Frith established an Ascension Day sermon. (fn. 32)
The church of ST. HELEN AND ST. GILES, a dedication unique in England, consists of chancel, nave with north and south aisles and south porch, and a west tower. (fn. 33) The whole church, with the exception of the south porch, was built of septaria and flint-rubble, with ashlar dressings, probably c. 1178 when Richard de Lucy the justiciar arranged the grant of the advowson to the abbey of Lesnes (Kent). (fn. 34)
The church retains its original dimensions, but has undergone many minor alterations. The 12th-century arcades of three bays north and south of the aisle retain their original round arches and square piers with attached shafts, but 13th-century alterations affected all parts of the church. The upper stage of the tower was built, the clerestory windowsplays were recut, and the chancel arch with its chevron decoration was widened. In the chancel the north wall was rebuilt, and three lancet windows were inserted in the south wall. Later in the 13th century blind arches were inserted in the NE. corner of the nave, presumably as a reredos for a side altar. In the 14th century east windows were inserted in both aisles. The nave and chancel roofs were renewed in the 15th century, and the chancel roof with its king-posts survives. Other 15th-century alterations included the building of a north vestry, destroyed at an unknown date, (fn. 35) a squint cut in the south wall of the chancel arch, and a large central east window inserted in the chancel below the circular window. About 1500 the upper and lower doorways of the rood-stair were renewed, and it was perhaps then that a ketch at anchor was scratched on the stairway wall. (fn. 36) In the 16th century the tower was given buttresses and an embattled parapet of brick, and two narrow brick windows were inserted in each wall of the bellchamber. (fn. 37)
Thereafter little work was done on the church for over 300 years. In 1719 there was a choir gallery at the west end of the nave. (fn. 38) The porch was built after orders given by the vestry in 1738. (fn. 39) In 1767 a 1s. rate was levied for repairing and beautifying the church, and the repairs probably included the extension of the roof to shelter both aisles as well as the nave. (fn. 40) In 1856 the condition of the church was said to be disgraceful, but it was not until 1897 that a major restoration was undertaken. (fn. 41) The Revd. Ernest Geldart was appointed architect, and between 1897 and 1910 over £2,600 was raised and spent on the church. The intention was to restore its medieval appearance; the chancel regained its 13th-century fenestration, the clerestory windows were reopened, and the aisles once more had individual roofs. (fn. 42)
The font has a 12th-century bowl with a 15th-century octagonal stem. (fn. 43) The north door still has an ornamental hinge of c. 1200, and the foliated head of a pillar-piscina in the south aisle is of the same date. The south wall of the chancel contains a locker of unknown date, with rebated jambs and triangular head. At the restoration of the church a modern chancel screen made in Antwerp was set upon woodwork incorporating elements of the 15th or early 16th century. In the 1930s the screen was transferred to a Yorkshire church, leaving only the ancient woodwork. (fn. 44) The modern oak pews replaced the box-pews of the 18th and 19th centuries; they had replaced 15th-century pews, of which elements are preserved in a chair now in the chancel. The church chest, of oak covered with leather and iron-banded, is probably of the 15th century. (fn. 45) The removal of the west gallery during the restoration of 1897–1910 revealed considerable remains of 13th- and 14th-century red wall-designs, similar to traces in the rest of the church. A clock existed in 1687; it often needed repair in the 18th century. It was last mentioned in 1815: the sale of 225 lb. of old iron in 1821 may represent its end. (fn. 46)
The church has 3 bells: (i) 1618, Thomas Bartlet; (ii, iii) 1670, John Hodson. (fn. 47) The plate includes a cup of 1652 and patens of 1563 and 1713. The earlier paten serves as a cover to the cup of 1652, which may have been made from the Elizabethan one. (fn. 48)
The monuments include 2 mutilated brasses with figures, of the late 15th and early 16th century. (fn. 49) There are brasses to Kathleen (d. 1612), widow of George Frith and Robert Holden, Mary (d. 1630), wife of Anthony Radcliffe, and John T. G. Crosse (d. 1870).
The names of various fields in the parish appear to indicate lost church endowments: Holy Bread Land, named in 1315, and said in 1499 and 1838 to comprise 26 a.; (fn. 50) Goddescroft (1315), Church field (1729), and Giles field (1838). (fn. 51) In 1925 Dr. E. H. T. Danaher gave £100 in memory of Mrs. Emily Stoker, the interest to be used for some religious purpose. (fn. 52)
The chapel of ALL SAINTS stood in Rainham churchyard in 1348. (fn. 53) In that year Sir John de Staunton was licensed to found a chantry there with two chaplains. (fn. 54) It was endowed with a house, 40½ a., and 20s. 10d. of Rainham rents. (fn. 55) A further 22 a. were settled on the chantry in 1392, but by 1521 the lands had so diminished that the endowment was only 33s. 4d. a year, and no one would accept the chaplaincy. (fn. 56) The right of presentation belonged to the lord of South Hall manor, (fn. 57) and with the lord's consent the bishop of London dissolved the chantry in 1521 and reconstituted it as a free chapel to be held by a literate unmarried layman. The right of presentation remained with the lord of South Hall manor, but it was Cardinal Wolsey who appointed Nicholas Lenthall, the only holder of this lay benefice until its dissolution in 1548. (fn. 58) Its yearly revenue was then 50s., derived from about 40 a. in the parish. (fn. 59) Sir Robert Southwell held half the land as part of Berwick manor, and it was to him that the chantry was sold upon its dissolution. (fn. 60)
Edward Drury was charged with recusancy in 1641 (fn. 61) but no papists were found in the parish in reports of 1676 (fn. 62) and c. 1770–c. 1812. (fn. 63) A temporary iron church was built in Cowper Road, opposite the mission hall, about 1902. It was served at first from Grays Thurrock and after c. 1910 from Barking. It closed c. 1938 when a parish was founded in South Hornchurch. (fn. 64)
OUR LADY OF LA SALETTE, Rainham, Dovers Corner, New Road, was registered for public worship in 1939. (fn. 65) A brick barn formerly belonging to Dovers farm served as a temporary church until 1967, when a permanent building, with a steeply pitched roof and a north entrance front mainly of glass, was opened on an adjoining site. (fn. 66)
Six nonconformists were enumerated in 1676. (fn. 67) They may have been Baptists, for there was a General Baptist church in Rainham by 1697; it was a sister church of the one at Pilgrim's Hatch, in South Weald. Thomas Fowle was its elder. (fn. 68) In 1701 some church members were being drawn away by Presbyterian teaching, and there is no record of the church after 1704. (fn. 69)
Wesleyan Methodism was introduced c. 1767 by John Valton, with the support of John Harle and his wife of Rainham Hall, where meetings were held. (fn. 70) Local opposition was violent, led by Harle's fatherin-law, who broke into a meeting with a horse-whip, but Valton continued to preach at Rainham until he left Essex in 1775. (fn. 71) The society survived his departure. John Wesley visited Rainham in 1784 and 1785, and preached to large congregations there in 1787. (fn. 72) Wesleyan preachers from London visited Rainham regularly for some years after Wesley's death in 1791, but eventually gave up. (fn. 73) The congregation may have survived a little longer under Independent leadership. In 1798 Henry Attely, minister of Bethel chapel, Romford, registered a building at Rainham for Independent worship. (fn. 74) There is no later record of that meeting-house, but private baptisms at Berwick manor were recorded in 1815 by Edward Andrews, Attely's successor at Bethel, and at Moorhall, 1825–9, by Anthony Brown, minister of South Ockendon Independent chapel. (fn. 75)
Wesleyan Methodism was revived from c. 1831 by preachers of the Spitalfields and Romford circuits. (fn. 76) A cottage was rented, probably Joseph Geach's, which was registered in 1831, until local hostility forced the landlord to repossess it. (fn. 77) Preaching continued, however, and in 1834 a small chapel was built, in the Romford circuit, probably the one registered that year by William Otter of Romford. (fn. 78) It stood in the Broadway opposite Station Approach. (fn. 79) Again local hostility led to closure, between 1848 and 1851. (fn. 80) The chapel may have been taken over briefly by the Brentwood Primitive Methodist mission in 1847, when Robert Eaglen registered a house. (fn. 81) The chapel was converted into 2 cottages which were demolished c. 1939. (fn. 82)
Methodism was re-established in the late 1920s. Meetings were held in an army hut in Upminister Road until a school-chapel was opened in Wennington Road in 1930, in the East Ham Wesleyan mission circuit. In 1959 a larger church was built beside it. (fn. 83)
The Gospel Hall, Cowper Road, originated in 1884 in a small gospel mission in Cowper Road which may have been Providence chapel, attributed that year to Strict Baptists. (fn. 84) In 1888 William Spear, of East Hall, Wennington, set up a small iron hall formerly used by Brethren in West Thurrock. (fn. 85) The mission was supported by Spear's agricultural partners, the Vellacotts, who were still among its leaders in 1976. (fn. 86) The present gospel hall was built later alongside the iron hall. (fn. 87)
South View mission hall, Wennington Road, was registered by Brethren in 1902. (fn. 88) As it was later known as Maskell's chapel, it may have been founded by Jeremiah Maskell, a village shopkeeper c. 1882–1912. (fn. 89) It still existed in 1930–5, when the members were described as Exclusive Brethren, but had ceased by 1954. (fn. 90)
The Hacton mission at Smokeholes in Rainham, just over the Upminster boundary, is treated under Upminster.
Rainham junior and infants schools, Upminster Road South, originated in a bequest of £50 by Dr. Lewis Bruce, vicar of Rainham (d. 1779), for teaching children to read. The money was used to establish a day-school (fn. 91) which existed by 1785, when John G. Crosse leased to the parish the site in Gravel Pit (or Coney) field, where the school had recently been built. (fn. 92) By 1833, when there were also three dame schools in Rainham, the school had 34 pupils and was said to have an endowment for the free education of 6 boys. (fn. 93) It was closed from c. 1838 to 1846, the building being let to provide alms for the poor. In 1845–6 the vestry used the rent from it to pay for the teaching of 15 children at an infants school which may have been held at the Methodist chapel in the Broadway.
In 1846 the parochial school was reopened and a master and mistress were appointed. (fn. 94) A new school for 245 children was built in 1872 next to the old one, which was later demolished. (fn. 95) In the 1870s an evening-school was held there. The school received annual government grants from 1875. (fn. 96) In 1893 a school board was formed, which took over the school. (fn. 97) In 1897 a new school for 300 was built behind the 1872 building, which became the infants department. (fn. 98) The school was enlarged by Essex county council in 1926. In 1934 it was reorganized for mixed juniors and infants. (fn. 99) The 1897 building was destroyed by bombs in 1944 and was not replaced. (fn. 100) After the bombing the children were taught in shifts because of lack of accommodation; some went to Arnold Road school, Dagenham. In 1947 four huts were leased and in 1948 the church hall was hired for temporary accommodation. In 1953 the school was reorganized in separate infant and junior departments. (fn. 101)
Parsonage Farm junior and infants schools, Allen Road, were planned by Essex county council. The infants school for 240 was opened in 1964 and the junior school for 320 in 1966. The infants school was enlarged in 1967 and again in 1972 and 1973. The junior school was gradually enlarged between 1968 and 1974. (fn. 102)
Brady junior mixed and infants school, Wennington Road, was opened in 1969 for 320 children by the London borough of Havering. (fn. 103)
The Chafford school, Lambs Lane, was opened in 1934 by Essex county council as Rainham senior, later secondary (modern), school, Upminster Road, for 360 boys and girls. (fn. 104) It moved in 1950 to new buildings in Lambs Lane for 450 children. (fn. 105) It was enlarged in 1962 and 1971 and was renamed in 1973. (fn. 106)
La Salette Roman Catholic junior mixed and infant school, Dover's Corner, New Road, was opened in 1957 as an Aided school for 200. It was enlarged in 1969–70. (fn. 107)
In 1965 the administration of the above schools was transferred from Essex county council to the London borough of Havering.
Private schools perhaps included one taught by Wriothesley Danvers, licensed in 1612 to teach in Rainham. (fn. 108) The school which Charles Churchill (1731–64) conducted while he was curate at Rainham in 1756–8, may have been at Rainham. (fn. 109) In 1823 there was an academy for girls probably at Rainham Hall. (fn. 110) Miss M. Swann kept a private school for children aged 5–8½ years for over thirty years until 1958. (fn. 111)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR. (fn. 112)
John Adgoe (or Adge), waterman, by his will dated 1608, gave a rentcharge of 6d. a week from land at Crayford (Kent) to provide bread for the 6 poorest people in Rainham. The rent-charge was redeemed in 1929 for £52 stock.
Thomas Frith of London, scrivener, by deed dated 1612, gave a rent-charge of £5 17s. from his estate in South Weald to pay 10s. for an annual sermon in Rainham church on Ascension Day, 2s. to the minister, 12d. to the clerk or sexton, and 2s. a week in bread for Rainham poor. In 1966 when it was said that the sermon payment had not been claimed for over 20 years, the vicar agreed to accept it for his discretionary fund.
John Lowen, by will proved 1678, left a rentcharge of £2 12s. from his manor of Gerpins to provide six 2d. loaves weekly to Rainham poor. In 1938 the rent-charge was redeemed for £104 stock.
Since the 18th century the three bread charities described above have been jointly administered. In c. 1750 24 loaves were being distributed each week. (fn. 113) During the years 1791–4 only 9 loaves were being given, but from 1795 the number was again 24. In 1811 the income from the three charities was being used to relieve the rates. By 1837, however, it was again being supplied according to the donor's wishes. Bread was still being distributed in 1969.
William Heard, by will proved 1593, gave a rentcharge of 30s. from land in Rainham to be distributed at Easter to 15 poor and honest parishioners. By 1620 the charge seems to have been transferred to land in Wennington. (fn. 114) It was still being received and distributed in 1818, but had been lost by 1837. John Spicer, by will dated 1598, gave a rent-charge of 6s. 8d. for the poor. In 1690 the charity was said to be 'abused'. About 1721 an attempt was made to revive it, but there is no later record of payments, which had certainly ceased by 1804. Henry Gabbott, by will dated 1610, gave £5 in trust for the poor. It was in the hands of the vicar in 1613, but nothing further is known about it. (fn. 115) Martin Spicer, by will dated 1614, gave 40s. stock in trust for the poor. It had been lost by 1690. John Elkin c. 1680 gave £20 to the poor. In 1715 this money, with £25 provided by the vestry, was used to build a parish house. In 1721 Mary Johnson, lady of the manor of South Hall, seized the house and evicted the two inmates. There is no evidence that the vestry ever recovered the house.