Rainer Bathke obituary: Much-loved Village Games founder whose life took him to Camden Lock via Vietnam

PUBLISHED: 18:00 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 18:36 11 April 2019

Rainer Bathke with his wife Barbara and children Kim, Kay and Anabel. Picture: Barbara Bathke

Rainer Bathke with his wife Barbara and children Kim, Kay and Anabel. Picture: Barbara Bathke


Rainer Bathke, who died last month aged 76, was a well-known face throughout Camden.

Rainer Bathke on his motorbike in Vietnam. Picture: Barbara BathkeRainer Bathke on his motorbike in Vietnam. Picture: Barbara Bathke

With the help of wife Barbara, he had been running the unique Village Games — first in the heart of Hampstead and then in Camden Lock — for almost four decades.

Rainer was born in Germany but brought up in Australia’s Snowy Mountains before his work as a land surveyor took him to London — a hostel in Belsize Village, to be precise — via a stint travelling and working in south-east Asia.

It was Rainer’s maths degree which would inspire him to open the shop which made him a well-loved local face though.

After working as a surveyor in the UK, he decided to open a shop dedicated to his love for puzzles.

And so Village Games was born and with the support of his wife he opened on Heath Street close to Hampstead Town tube station.

After a few years there, rent rises forced a rethink and the shop moved down to Camden Lock where it remains to this day.

Barbara told this newspaper: “He had come to London and been working as land surveyor here, too. But a few years later we thought about a shop, it started with his great love of puzzles.

“He loved the unusual ones, 3D maths puzzles, but board games too. He built it up from nothing.”

“He came to England in 1969, I came as a tourist in 1970. It was the most amazing luck. We met in a hostel in Belsize... It was quite romantic, yes”

Before coming to the UK Rainer – sometimes known as Ray – had indulged a love for travel after following his father into the surveying trade.

He spent 18 months travelling Vietnam on a motorbike, and while there, in his capacity as a surveyor, he even worked inspecting communications towers in Vietnam for the US government during the war there.

Rainer, who still played a role in the shop’s administration despite illness even in the final year of his life, died on March 16 this year. With his family, he lived first in Belsize Village and then in Temple Fortune, and he also began popular – the “first of their kind” according to Barbara– games nights in Camden Town which would attract 50 or more people people to the Lockside Lounge.

Rainer is survived by wife Barbara and their three children Kim, Kay and Anabel.

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