In 1887, the weather was so wet that flooding burst through the defenses at Rainham as it did all along the Thames Estuary. Historically Rainham has been liable to flooding because of its location on the bank of the Thames. In July 1923, the end of a spell of extremely hot weather brought about violent storms. The weather brought torrential rain and lightning that ripped through the roof of a house in Rainham.
Rainham appears in the Domesday Book as Raineham and its oldest building, St Helen and St Giles Church, dates from Norman times. For most of its history Rainham's prosperity was intertwined with the River Thames. At Rainham, wharfs were built to enable the transport of crops from the farms of Rainham and West Essex into the city of London. Later, as the city grew, the rural lands were pushed further away from London and the farms of Rainham were replaced by market gardens. The muck from London would be shipped to Rainham Wharfs to fertilize the crops and then the crops would be shipped to London to feed the population. This prosperous trade funded the building of magnificent properties such as Rainham Hall, built in 1729 by Captain John Harle (now owned and run by the National Trust). As London has grown the village of Rainham has been enveloped. In 2006 Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve was fully opened to the public by the RSPB, having been previously used by the MOD as a training area. The reserve is a wetland habitat for a diverse number of birds and plants and the largest of its kind on the north side of the Thames.
Terry Smith, from the dance group Diversity who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, comes from Rainham.