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Exhibitions at Rainham Hall

Staff member and visitor at Rainham Hall, London
Staff member and visitor at Rainham Hall | © National Trust Images/Rob Stothard

The exhibitions at Rainham Hall reveal layers of history charting stories of previous tenants including Captain John Harle who built the Hall, Victorian cycling Vicar Nicholas Brady, Vogue photographer Anthony Denney and exploring at the Hall when it was a Day Nursery for children in the 1940's.

Layers of History at Rainham Hall.

The exhibition reveals and explores aspects of previous tenants of the Hall.

Focusing on four distinct time periods in the Hall’s 300-year history you will find interactive displays, historical information, film and audio stories as well as historical objects from the times.

Victorian Vicar & Curious Curate: Brady at Rainham Hall

Who were Nicholas and Emma Brady?

Reverend Nicholas Brady first came to Rainham Hall in 1874 following his appointment as vicar to the ‘out-of-the-way parish’ of Wennington, a small village near Rainham. Brady studied natural sciences at Cambridge University before taking up his first posting as a cleric in Cumbria. It was there he met his future wife Emma Godson in 1869. Nicholas and Emma lived at the heart of Rainham Village until their deaths; Nicholas died in 1911 and Emma in 1915.

Brady was also fascinated by the scientific discoveries of the day. Under Brady, Rainham Hall soon became a place of scientific research and discovery. Brady amassed a ‘valuable zoological and archaeological collection’ by 1900, which he invited people to view at Rainham Hall. Brady was also a member of the Cyclists’ Touring Club (now Cycling UK).

Brady was actively involved in setting up schools in all the parishes where he worked, including becoming chair of the Wennington school board responsible for founding Brady Primary School in 1887, which is still in existence today.

Remembering the Day Nursery

In 1942 Rainham Hall was requisitioned by Essex County Council as a day nursery. Many Rainham women were conscripted to work on the land or in local factories to contribute to the war effort. To allow mothers with young children to go out to work, the government set up wartime nurseries. Appointed in 1943, the first matron of Rainham day nursery was 40-year-old Miss Rhoda Violet Carter, who with two assistants and other staff ran the nursery with many children over the years only closing in 1954. The exhibition includes memories and stories from six local people who remember attending the nursery, objects which might’ve been used at the time and interactive displays to try our sleeping on tiny day beds, wind up record players and old-fashioned nappies.

The Denney Edition: celebrating an icon of 20th century design

Who was Anthony Denney?

Anthony Denney (1913-90) is perhaps Rainham Hall's most glamorous former resident. An influential photographer, interior designer and socialite, he lived at the Hall from 1964 to 1969.

Denney was something of a renaissance man; first studying painting at the Royal College of Art, and later turning to photography, interiors, and art collecting. He attracted the interest of then British Vogue editor, Audrey Withers, with some of his published images from his military career, having served in the Royal Engineers, eventually becoming a Captain, during the Second World War.

From 1947, Denney became one of Condé Nast’s chief photographers. His work featured in many influential titles, including House and Garden magazine and advancing to Decorations Editor for British Vogue.

Everything John Harle Left Behind

Who was Captain John Harle?

The son of a South Shields mariner, John Harle was one of six brothers who came to Rainham in 1728. John acquired the land on which the Hall was built and secured access to a wharf on the nearby Rainham Creek to land his cargo. We don't know who designed the Hall we see today; it is only from a lead rainwater hopper that we know it was built in 1729. We don’t know much about Harle but in recent years a Rainham resident, when at a car boot sale, made an extraordinary connection with a dealer who sourced an original copy of John Harle’s will which she generously donated to the Hall in 2014. The exhibition explores the times he would have lived in and the objects and places he might have come across.

Interior of Rainham Hall, London. Staircase within hallway.
Interior of Rainham Hall | © National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Community makers and curators

Community participation is central to all our exhibitions, ensuring all exhibits are created in partnership with local makers and groups.

In ‘The Denney Edition’, the third hall exhibition since opening to the public in 2015, around 80% of the original exhibition were by local artists, schools, and colleges.

Victorian Vicar & Curious Curate involved Wennington Parish Church, Brady Primary School and local residents Coral Jeffery and Babs Twaites in curating the scent choices for one of the displays.

A woman and child examine the contents of a glass case at Rainham Hall, London
Getting a closer look at Rainham Hall, London | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Victorian Cooking Scents and a Denney 'scentrepiece'

There are two scent artworks in the exhibition created by AVM Curiousities Tasha Marks with local contributors.

Local historian Coral Jeffery donated a photograph featuring Servants of Hall Hall 1900 including her grandmother who worked here. Coral and relative Babs Twaites chose the appropiate scents for this Victorian Cooking scent piece. The scents are held in copper pans and have been inspired by recipes of the day.

Anthony Denney worked closely with food writer Elizabeth David from 1956, photographing her food for Vogue and several of her books. In ‘The Denney Edition’, a scented installation brings to life Denney and David's work.

The installation consists of a series of scented ceramic pears, oranges, and figs presented ‘service à la pyramide’ in celebration of the displays Denney used for table settings, displays for his kitchen dresser and Elizabeth David's shop windows.

Visitors on a guided tour outside Rainham Hall, London

Book your visit

Please note you need to book tickets to Rainham Hall. You can book for today up until 8am. Every Thursday time slots will be available for the next 14 days.

Our partners

Arts Council England

Arts Council England invest public money from government and the National Lottery to make sure everyone's creativity is given the chance to flourish and we all have access to a remarkable range of high quality cultural experiences.

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