Remembering the Day Nursery at Rainham Hall

Nursery children at Rainham Hall during the Second World War

Running from 10 February 2017 - 31 December 2018, our second major exhibition programme told the story of the era when the building was requisitioned and operated as a day nursery for local children between 1943-1954.

During the Second World War, with many men away fighting there was a shortage in Britain’s workforce. The government, via local authorities, set up wartime nurseries to allow mothers with young children to go out to work. Many of these establishments were housed in prefabricated buildings but the children of Rainham had the run of the historic Rainham Hall and its gardens. The building was requisitioned by the Essex County Council in 1942, and the nursery was in operation from 1943-1954.

Former employee of the nursery recalled this extraordinary period in the building's past:

" There cannot be many buildings of such historical value that can boast of having hundreds of tiny feet trotting through their grand hall!"
- Nurse Dorothy, Havering Echo, 12 January 1971

The exhibition was based on the memories of seven former nursery attendees: Roger, Linda, Joe, John, Janice, Diane and Pat. Visitors were able to discover tales of childhood and daily life at the nursery; from playtime, to snacks and afternoon naps. For the first time, Rainham Hall was a public, communal building and the grand front door opened each morning to the youngest members of the community. In the day-time it was filled with the chatter and clatter of little children and their carers, but closed and silent at night.

Visitors were able to immerse themselves in the era through a variety of exhibits and displays, including audio visual installations, objects on display, artworks by local makers, historic photographs, and oral history excerpts. 

Perhaps you remember attending as a child, have photos from your nursery days at Hall or even kept a memento from the nursery such as your favourite toy? The team at Rainham Hall have spoken to just a handful of former nursery children so far, but the intake was as large as 45 children at one time and hope many more will come forward. Former nursery attendees and employees are invited to re-visit the Hall after nearly 50 years, to help bring to life a lively era in the building’s history.

Please note that this exhibition is now closed. Our new exhibition about 1960s tenant, Anthony Denney, will launch in late May 2019.