Rainham Hall is a National Trust property in – you guessed it – Rainham. This wee town (if you can call it that) is where I spent the first seven years of my life, and back then it was very much Essex. Now it’s classed as ‘Greater London’ and there’s much easier access via train and bus. It was weird to be back and remember so much, including my old primary school, and odder still to realise everything isn’t as big as I remembered, including Rainham Hall. I have a strong memory of going to a halloween event there when I was six, and having to crawl through a tunnel of sheets, but being really scared and making my bemused dad go first.
I realised whilst trying to straighten this photo (above) that Rainham Hall is not straight, and inside it is adorably sloping and creaky. Built in the early 1700s for a merchant when Rainham was all fields, it has had over 50 tenants in its 300 year history. One of them was photographer, interior designer and art collector, Richard Denney, the subject of a temporary exhibition. He lived there in the 1960s and turned it in to a suitably groovy party pad, though it was also a family home for him, his wife and kids. Working for magazines like Tatler and Vogue, Denney used Rainham Hall as a site for shoots. The exhibition aims to turn the house in to a ‘living magazine’, complete with fashion shoot ‘set up’ and props and fashion accessories laid out in various rooms.
I really liked the idea of this exhibition, they are going to be doing other past tenants as well. It gives you insight in to the marriage of the country house and the fashion industry which still continues today, and it was interesting to see not only Richard Denney’s living space recreated (or an idea of it), but also his use of Rainham Hall as a work space to create magazine content. He was an influential taste maker and stylist, and his stamp on this historic house is fascinating. I would love to go back and see future exhibitions about other people who lived there.
The Denney Edition is on at Rainham Hall until early 2022. Tickets are £5 and include entrance to the gardens. Book here