Rainham, at the eastern end of the Medway towns, stood virtually alone from the conurbation before the 1920s.
In fact, according to Freddie Cooper, it had little association with the neighbouring borough of Gillingham. Mr Cooper, a former Mayor of Gillingham, wrote: “When mains water became available after the construction of the reservoir near Bredhurst in 1919, plots of land to the south of the A2 and in Wigmore were sold at about £1 per foot frontage. Many built their houses or bungalows which, for a two-bed, would cost as little as £300 and most of the new residents were escaping from the Medway Towns.
“For some years after 1929 we remained in the rural deanery of Sittingbourne, the Archdeaconry of Maidstone and the Diocese of Canterbury. Our Petty Sessions were at Sittingbourne. Historically we were part of the Manor and Lathe of Milton. Adam Maitland, who represented the parliamentary division of Faversham, was our MP and all newspaper reports were printed in the East Kent Gazette.”
Indeed, inspection of that august journal (edited by Mrs Rayner until its absurd demise in January 2012), proves Mr Cooper’s point. Even until the late 1970s, certain parts of Rainham (Otterham Quay Lane especially, where an editor in the 1960s and 1970s lived) were considered East Kent Gazette territory.
Mr Cooper adds: “When Rainham Cricket Club started in 1857 they played in the Sittingbourne League and if a farmer could afford a veterinary surgeon he, too, would have come from Sittingbourne. So it can be seen that historically Rainham remained very much part of East Kent and as such we were, and still are, Men of Kent while those from the west of the ancient boundary line were, and still are, Kentish Men.
“Obviously only those few conversant with the area would know of the line of that boundary, so the nearest physical feature running north to south, the river Medway, was chosen and used as the descriptive feature which ‘foreigners’ would understand. I realise why it was used but to the purist it has no foundation in origin.”
The Borough of Gillingham was created in 1903 and Rainham incorporated into it in 1928.