Explore the gardens

The nearly three acre community garden at Rainham Hall provides an oasis of urban green space for visitors to enjoy, for free, all year round. Bring a picnic, take a stroll through the meandering borders or read on to find out how to get involved with garden projects.

The layout of the gardens has been altered many times since the Hall was built in 1729, and until a few years ago the gardens had been very neglected. Thanks to staff and volunteers the gardens are going through a transformation. Today the gardens comprise of formal borders at the rear of the Hall, a lower lawn, meandering borders, an orchard, an outdoor seating area and a 'wilderness' play section.

Visit the gardens

The gardens are open for visitors to explore throughout the year. It is a garden in development and we are working on several projects to enrich our outdoor spaces. Visitors are welcome to take a stroll, read a book or bring a picnic to enjoy on the lawn. We have regular activities and events taking place in the gardens, so please see our What's On page for more details. You can also get hands-on with our different volunteering opportunities, from joining the gardening team to work on permaculture beds and building an amphitheatre, to coming to our family muck-in days where you and your children can learn about insects that are beneficial to your garden and how to grow your own. You can help cultivate the gardens and grow the future. 

The gardens are free to enter and open all year round on Wednesdays to Sundays (10am-5pm or dusk if earlier in the winter). Please note they will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. There are two entrances to the gardens: 1) the main blue gates next to Rainham Hall and 2) the gate entrance further along Wennington Road. 

The wilderness features over 1,000 snowdrops in Spring, with a bank of beautiful bluebells and tulips following closely. In Summer the mixed perennial borders are at their very best with vibrant summer colours fading into cool pastel shades. Autumn is the time for harvest festival activities, when the delicious mulberries from one of our oldest trees ripen and we make host medlar jelly making sessions, bringing out the unqiue flavours of this unusual fruit. 

History of the Rainham Hall gardens

Rainham Hall was built in 1729 by sea merchant Captain John Harle (1688-1742) and the estate would have been much larger at this time, reaching nearly eleven acres of land. No records have survived about the gardens in this period, but some of the stone urns present today date from the early eighteenth century. The Hall has since been home to nearly 50 different inhabitants or families with many leaving a decorative imprint redolent of their time and taste, yet ultimately respectful of the inherent qualities of the building and gardens. 

The 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey of 1867 records some detail of the walled garden at Rainham Hall, which was divided into four distinct parts: formal garden; upper orchard; lower pond garden; and lower orchard. 

" In the rear there is a Pleasant and Shady Pleasure Garden; a Large and Productive Old Kitchen Garden, with a profusion of Wall, Standard and other Fruit Trees; a Small Grass Paddock with Pond."
- Description from the 1892 sale catalogue

In 1917, Rainham Hall was purchased by art historian and property developer Colonel Herbert Hall Mulliner. He never resided at the Hall, but oversaw a programme of restoration works. Mulliner clarified the structural lines of the garden and relocated two of the decorative urns to the front of the house. Few details of planting are recorded, but the long straight paths of the formal flower garden and terrace are clearly visible in photographs from a 'Country Life' article published in 1920.Following Mulliner's death in 1924, the Hall was put up for sale and the auction catalogue described the gardens as below: 

'The charming old world gardens are practically surrounded by a fine old red brick wall, and comprise, Lawn large enough for tennis, large sunk Kitchen Garden with herbaceous border, Flower Garden and numerous fruit trees, extending in all to about 2¼ acres. There are several beautiful old carved stone Vases and other ornaments in the grounds, and a fine wrought iron gate leading from the yard to the garden hung on a pair of old red brick piers.'

The National Trust acquired the Hall in lieu of death duties in 1949 and arranged a series of tenants to live in and care for the building. However, it had been requisitioned as a day nursery for local children during the Second World War and it was used for this purpose from 1943 until 1954. The Ministry of Health approved an Essex County Council request that a portion of the gardens should be used by the nursery. Photographs from the era depict children playing in the gardens.

During the later tenancy era the gardens became increasingly neglected and overgrown. In 2011, the gardens were opened to the general public following a project funded by London Borough of Havering and Veolia North Thames Trust. The major conservation and interpretation project at Rainham Hall was completed in 2015, finally allowing full public access to the Hall, gardens and new facilities such as the Stables Cafe. In autumn 2015 the National Trust appointed the first full-time Community Gardener to look after the gardens and to engage our people with our transformation projects.