Rainham Hall, a sadly underappreciated National Trust property overlooking the Thames marshes, is currently closed for renovation. A £1½m lottery grant closed the Queen Anne house in February, and next summer it reopens to visitors all scrubbed up and properly refreshed. In the meantime if you'd like to take a look inside, a behind the scenes hard hat tour is taking place on Saturday 6th December, pre-booking required. But if you were the person who left a Thompson Local Directory at the front gate over the weekend, all you get is a slow handclap.
Meanwhile over at the railway station, zone 6, c2c's Not Very Good Signwriting Team has been hard at work outside the toilets. You can see what they did, but I still can't see why they did it. Desperate times.
Rainham's new library opened in the summer on a plot of land between the station and the Norman parish church. It's a very 21st century building, a bold red-brick cluster with asymmetric ceilings, which hasn't endeared it to all residents. The library's at one end, with enlarged facilities including meeting rooms and a crèche, the aim being to create a brand new community hub at the heart of the village. Adjacent is a stack of 16 shared-ownership flats, because that's how libraries get funded these days, plus two retail units at ground level that remain stubbornly empty. Havering's head of culture Andrew Curtin has declared the combination "arguably the most perfect building in the borough", while former councillor Coral Jeffery calls it "an abomination reminiscent of a workhouse", "overbearing" and "totally out of character for a conservation area". Coral's closer to the truth than Andrew, alas, but it seems that to gain a new public building these days there's always a price to pay.
Up the Wennington Road is The Wool Shop, Rainham's very own knitters' paradise and baby boutique. This is the kind of shop that still has knitting patterns pegged up in the window, along with knitting bags, knitting wool and brown ribbed knitted garments. Wouldn't you much rather Time Out covered proper long-standing businesses such as this than the usual round of pop-up fashion outlets? Closed afternoons, closed Thursdays and Sundays.
If you are tempted to the outer reaches of the Wennington Road, be careful where you park. The residents don't like cars churning up their verge, so metal signs have been plonked in the grass to warn you off. A frightening one pound fine could be yours, this being the going rate when Essex County Council set the rate in 1952. Let's hope that Havering council never notice the potential loss of revenue, and that these heritage plaques continue to ward off transgressors long into the future.