On 5th September 1958, the weather was so wet in Essex, that newspapers reported that "streets were turned into rivers". As dawn broke, the roads in and out of Rayleigh were littered with abandoned cars and buses and people were advised not to travel as a result of the terrible weather conditions. Ten years later the weather was responsible for yet more flooding. People reported seeing a stationary raft in the water in Rayleigh, but it turned out to be the roof of a pumping station almost entirely submerged in 14 feet of flood water caused by the wet weather. The summer of 1985 was one of the wettest on record for Rayleigh. The weather brought a rainfall of 9.7 inches, which was the wettest since 1958.
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Rayleigh most probably traces its root as a settlement to Saxon times. After the Norman invasion, Rayleigh Castle was constructed and is one of the few Norman Castles mentioned in the Domesday Book. The forests that once surrounded Rayleigh were designated as Royal Hunting Grounds and records from 1222 show that Henry III visited and hunted in the area. By 1394 the Castle had fallen into disuse and King Richard II gave permission for the local inhabitants to use the Castle and its foundations as a source of stone for building in the area. It is rumored that later, during the reign of Henry VIII, the king would meet Anne Boleyn in the area whilst they were courting. Records show that deer from Rayleigh were used to replenish the kings herds in Greenwich Park. Since the 1960's, Rayleigh was once a centre for leisure in the wider area, but many of the facilities it once had have been built to make way for a variety of new residential developments. Among the facilities to be lost were the Weir Stadium, that played host to greyhound racing and speedway, and the Regal Cinema.
Whilst we could not find any evidence that anyone famous comes from or lives in Rayleigh (although we would love to hear of any you might know about), it seems that spotting celebrities has been a much enjoyed pastime in the town. According to Smarp.com, there have been any number of famous people (or their doppelgangers) seen driving and shopping in the town. Among the more believable are Phill Jupitus and Russell Brand. Other, wilder claims, are made for David Beckham and Will.i.am. Had one lived in Tudor times it is possible that one might have spotted King Henry VIII meeting with Anne Boleyn.