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Local History Month: Striking Rainham Hall’s role in ‘heart of historic village’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 May 2017

Rainham Hall'’s fine wrought-iron railings. Picture: National Trust/Dennis Gilbert

Rainham Hall'’s fine wrought-iron railings. Picture: National Trust/Dennis Gilbert

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Georgian manor Rainham Hall is one of Havering’s most delightful gems, with its beautiful features and stunning gardens. Creative programme manager Sally James tells us about the attraction’s past and present.

Rainham Hall's creative programme manager Sally James has worked for the National Trust since 2014. Picture: National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon Rainham Hall's creative programme manager Sally James has worked for the National Trust since 2014. Picture: National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Rainham Hall is full of character and relevant stories from the past.

Built in 1729, for a sea merchant, the hall has since been home to nearly 50 different families and inhabitants.

The striking house, with its outbuildings and nearly three acre garden is situated in the heart of historic Rainham village.

Surrounded by housing, industry, and busy transport links, the hall is a remarkably fine example of Georgian architecture and its façade has changed little over the last 288 years.

A quirky exhibit on display at Rainham Hall. Picture: National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon A quirky exhibit on display at Rainham Hall. Picture: National Trust/Sophia Schorr-Kon

Robust and dignified, Rainham Hall was built to last. However, while it looks grand on the outside, our visitors are always charmed by the domestic scale of the interiors and almost every day someone tells us that they’d like to move in!

I started working for the National Trust in 2014 and joined the project team at the hall as the creative programme manager.

At that time we were in the midst of our major £2.5 million capital works and interpretation programme, with builders on-site, and an ambitious schedule of renovation work ahead of us.

As a lifelong resident of Havering, I’d visited the hall previously in 2008 and again in 2009, when it was leased by the trust to a private tenant.

Staircase inside Rainham Hall Staircase inside Rainham Hall

With my Masters degree in history, experience of managing Georgian houses in London, and my passion for local heritage, it was the perfect role for me and a great opportunity to be involved in fully opening the hall to the public for the first time.

I manage our changing exhibition programme at the hall, including overseeing historical research, content development, design, and loaning or lending items for display.

The hall has been home to a diverse cast of characters, from a local vicar, to coal traders, a Vogue photographer, and more.

It’s a joy to delve into the past; to see how different people have made the hall their own and the impact that they had in the history of Havering.

Views of Rainham. Rainham Hall Views of Rainham. Rainham Hall

Creating our exhibitions is a team effort; I manage a very dedicated staff team, and we have over 100 volunteers signed up to support us with a variety of activities.

We couldn’t do it without volunteers, who share their time and skills so generously with us.

Over 60pc of our exhibits have been co-created or co-curated by members of the local community, and it’s really important to us that the people of Havering get to shape the visitor experience at the hall.

We’ve worked with some great organisations such as Romford Model Engineering Club, the Havering Numismatic Society, and the Upminster Tithe Barn Museum of Nostalgia, as well as local artists such as The Material Girls.

Volunteer Lucy Weller and visitor experience officer Ella Hewitt enjoying an egg hunt event Volunteer Lucy Weller and visitor experience officer Ella Hewitt enjoying an egg hunt event

It’s our mission to enrich the understanding of the history of the hall and surrounding area, for both local people and our visitors from farther afield. Our current exhibition, Remembering the Day Nursery, is open for visitors to enjoy and is based on the memories of local people who attended the day nursery, which operated from the hall between 1943 and 1954.

Rainham Hall is open Wednesdays to Sundays. For more information please visit nationaltrust.org.uk/rainham-hall.

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