Photographs, Negatives, Slides and Plates of Essex
This view of Rainham's triangle was captured from a position close to the church. Two inn signs can be seen in the distance - those of the Angel Inn on the left and the rebuilt Bell Hotel on the right. The latter closed in 2017. Indeed, Rainham has lost many of its public-houses. The Cauliflower on Upminster Road South was converted into a Balti Restaurant in the 2000s whilst The Cherry Tree was converted into a Tesco store. There are only horse-drawn vehicles in the photograph, some making deliveries to the shops of the triangle. The post-office can be seen on the far right. A trade directory published in 1912 lists Arthur William Holmes as the sub-postmaster. Locally-born, he had earlier worked on the ground as a postman. Also a retailer of stationery, he managed the business with his wife Jane whom he had married in 1909. The couple remained in charge of the post-office for many years, running the shop during both World Wars.
The old High Street at Grays has lost its character and looks like, well, many other places filled with homogenous boxes occupied by large brands. However, it was once an animated street full of vibrancy and idiosyncratic buildings, none more so than that of the Empire Theatre which can be seen to the right of this image. With seating for 800 patrons, this was the first cinema to be opened in Grays on December 22nd, 1910. The operators of the cinema were Frederick's Electric Theatres Ltd., a firm that opened further cinemas in the locality. A poster on the building shows that a forthcoming attraction was "The Magic Flame," a 1927 silent film directed by Henry King and starring Ronald Colman and Vilma Bánky, a woman dubbed "The Hungarian Rhapsody." Attendances at the Empire slumped in the run-up to the Second World War. An effort was made to convert the building into a live theatre but this venture failed. The premises were subsequently requisitioned by the Ministry of Food as a store for the remainder of the war. The building later served in a number of different leisure and retail roles until it was demolished in the 1960s.
Located in Solomon Road this building was known as the Meredale Independent School and Nursery in the 21st century. Superseding the church schools, work on this Council School commenced in 1906 and officially opened in May of the following year. The building was designed by the Chatham architect George Edward Bond, a man who pencilled a number of public-houses during his career. The entrance to the left was for girls and infants whilst boys entered the school at the far end of the building.
This inter-war photograph shows the triangle at Rainham and a view along Upminster Road. Unveiled in November 1920, the clock tower war memorial can be seen to the right of the image. The small van could be a Royal Mail vehicle as it is parked outside the post-office managed by Arthur and Jane Holmes. The protruding sign on Upminster Road is for the hairdresser Walter Kirk. The lorry to the left was part of the fleet operated by the haulier Alfred Henry Barker who was based at Burdett Road at Bow. His firm operated a daily service in the Southend district. The driver may have pulled up to tuck into a fry-at the Broadway Café run by Frederick Richardson. This popular stop for motorists was later kept by Frederick and Rose Trist.
This photograph of the Free Library at Grays was taken around a decade after the building had opened on a plot of land on Orsett Road donated by the brewer Charles Seabrooke, along with his business partner H. Astley. The library was formally opened by the Countess of Warwick, "Daisy" Greville. Although born in London, her ancestral home was in Essex. Opened to the public in November 1903, the building replaced a room in the Bank Buildings on the High Street. That may be the head librarian stood inside the entrance porch. Around the time of this photograph that post was held by Francis W. Saxton. Born in Plaistow, he had previously worked as a clerk for the railway company. The Grays & Tilbury Gazette and Southend Telegraph reported that the opening ceremony "took place amid scenes of dignified rejoicing which befitted the culmination of so important a scheme of municipal enterprise." Like many libraries of the period, it was mostly funded by the Andrew Carnegie, who donated £3,000 towards the project. The library was designed by the locally-based architect and artist Christopher Mitchell Shiner who produced a Renaissance-styled structure of locally-sourced red bricks with Portland stone dressings, topped with a roof of Westmoreland green slate. It was reported, and can be seen in this photograph that "the building was ornamented with carving, the gables bearing an allegorical representation of the arms of Grays, Thor"s belt, Thor"s hammer, and Thor"s oak, surrounding a view of the river, the Parish Church, and the Training Ship Exmouth." The clock tower was provided by the school children of the town. The building was damaged in the Second World War when a V-1 rocket landed in a pit to the rear of the building. This enemy action destroyed around 2,000 books held in the library. In later years the building was deemed too small for the town in which the population had increased significantly. Subsequently, a new library building was opened in January 1972.
This small three-arched bridge created a crossing of Rainham Creek. A continuation of the River Ingrebourne, the creek flows into the River Thames. An important site designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the habitats supported by the extensive reed marsh, the Ingrebourne flows through the old parish and from the village runs in a south-westerly direction to join the Thames at what was known as Frog Island, between Old Man's Head and Rainham Ferry. I assume this was the old Red Bridge marked on ordnance survey maps close to where the large Tesco supermarket stands in the 21st century.