Who's living at Rainham Hall?
Built in 1729, Rainham Hall has since been home to nearly 50 different families and inhabitants. Since opening in 2015 following a major project, we are bringing their stories to life, one by one, through changing programmes including exhibitions, activities and events.
Rainham Hall has been home to a diverse cast of characters from merchants, to artists, the children of a day nursery, a photographer, and even a cycling vicar. The building does not have an indigenous collection, and no famous former inhabitants or long family dynasties have been in residence.
Our conservation approach reflects the many changing layers of history, with paint schemes dating from the 1720s to 2000s. A series of different people have left behind decorative imprints on the building reflective of their time and taste, yet ultimately respectful of the architecture. However, there are no personal items or furniture which have been here for a long time; no boxes of archive documents in the attic. Former inhabitants, with a wide variety of backgrounds, had their own, individual reasons for living here. Our changing interpretation approach enables us to illuminate their lives and tell a variety of compelling stories about the building’s history.
In the recent past, various items and memories have been shared with the Hall. Some things are relevant to the eras of our programmes, but not necessarily specific to individual residents. We store, care and maintain these items, ready to be displayed as required in the future. We record memories shared with us and they enhance our understanding of the Hall’s history.
When the Hall opened in 2015 following a major conservation and interpretation project, our first programme 'Everything John Harle Left Behind', illuminated the life of the sea merchant, for whom the house was built in 1729. Our second and current programme, 'Remembering the Day Nursery' is based on memories of day nursery attendees during the 1940s and 1950s, allows us to shift the focus to a different era. Next we will look to the life and times of 1960s tenant, the Vogue photographer, Anthony Denney. Our changing interpretation approach will introduce the stories of many more inhabitants and continue until 2029 – the 300th anniversary of the building of Rainham Hall.