Flashback: Schools in crisis, an 11-year-old saved and poisonous chemicals

PUBLISHED: 10:00 10 June 2018

60-years-ago. Picture: Romford Library

60-years-ago. Picture: Romford Library

Romford Library

A look back at the biggest local stories from this day 20 and 60 years ago.


Romford and Hornchurch schools faced a crisis.

Up against serious staff shortages and a record intake of 11-plus pupils, education experts predicted even more crowded classrooms in September.

Secondary schools were going to be crammed to the doors and teachers feared their pupils’ progress would be hit.

Emergency measures were agreed by Romford Education Committee’s finance and general purposes committee.

In Romford’s secondary modern schools the average class size was predicted to jump from 34 or 36 to more than 40 in a few months’ time.

A Hornchurch headteacher predicted that his average classes of 44 would “probably rise to an average of 48 pupils per class”.

He confirmed that many parents were “very disappointed at the situation”.


Fully-clothed, a 37-year-old Romford man dived into the sea off Shoeburyness to save an 11-year-old girl.

The man, television service engineer John Wilson, of Priests Avenue, had been fishing from a boat about 200 yards away from the shore.

He heard people on the beach shouting to him and, looking shorewards, saw the girl bobbing above the waves.

“She looked in a bad way and I was the only one who could swim,” he said.

He plunged over the side of the boat and struck out towards the girl, who had fallen in while trying to rescue her small cousin.

When Mr Wilson reached the girl, she was semi-conscious.

Her cousin was safe, hanging onto a rubber water toy.


A poisonous chemicals stockpile, stored in a Gidea Park warehouse for around two years, was dubbed “a time bomb”.

The possibly lethal materials were stored, quite legally and authorised by the fire brigade, in containers in a warehouse owned by Railstore Ltd, on the Factory Estate, Elvet Avenue.

But the warehouse owners and the fire brigade’s fire prevention officer didn’t know what the chemicals were and the council was not going to say.

Fears were that if the chemicals became mixed, the outcome could become catastrophic for warehouse workers, pensioners in the nearby old people’s home and families living in two nearby blocks of flats.

Councillor Peter Gardner said: “I am appalled that the chemicals have been there for so long.

“No one is prepared to say what is there, if they even know what is there.

“This really is an accident that is just waiting to happen.”

NB There was no Romford Recorder printed for this week in 1978 because of a printers’ strike.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Romford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Romford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Romford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Romford News Stories


Medieval England was slow to develop a cash economy. Coinage was in short supply.


Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

The well-publicised delay to the Crossrail project will have come as frustrating news to many residents in our part of London.

Yesterday, 15:00

A look back at the biggest local stories from this day 60, 40 and 20 years ago

Yesterday, 14:00

We talk to hundreds of local business owners every day; we hear their concerns, understand their challenges and share in their successes.

Yesterday, 13:34

Officers forced entry to the address this morning (Saturday, September 22).

Most days we’re told we are too fat, too lazy and we have to do something about it. And that’s just from my friends.

Yesterday, 09:28

Rabbit hay was used to hide more than £10million worth of cannabis on a lorry stopped at the Dartford Crossing.


Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

The next step in renewable energy could be right beneath your feet as you walk through a Romford shopping centre.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now