Flashback: A near miracle, fire at Romford shops and a mum fighting for better living conditions
- Credit: Romford Library
A look back at the biggest local stories from this day 20, 40 and 60 years ago.
With police patrol cars immobilised by the worst pea-souper for many years, Romford police performed a near miracle when they succeeded in restoring more than 50 panic-stricken, lost children to their anguished parents.
Amid traffic chaos – described by one driver as “near bedlam at Gallows Corner before darkness fell – buses crawled to a standstill and long queues of distressed shoppers and homeward bound schoolchildren formed outside Romford railway station.
By 4pm, Romford and Hornchurch represented fog-beleagured “ghost” towns and the first improvised flares to guide stranded lorries to emergency parking places appeared in South Street.
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Thousands of school children - including 4,000 pupils in Romford secondary schools - were sent home at 2.30pm.
Clockhouse County Junior School staff escorted children whose parents had been unable to come for them.
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As darkness added to the chaos, stranded pedestrians – many of them had waited vainly in bus queues up to 200 yards long – linked hands in human chains to cross blotted-out traffic intersections.
Shocked traders at Romford’s Quadrant Arcade were counting the cost of a fire which raged through and devastated some of their shops.
Early estimates showed that it was going to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair the damage.
Men from the three armed forces worked through the night clearing the rubble after two shops were destroyed and several others were extensively damaged by the mystery blaze in the arcade, next to the Market Place.
But despite the wreckage, most of the traders in the arcade were determined it was going to be business as usual before the Christmas rush was over and was already trading.
Striking firemen were shocked at the extent of the damage and one picketer said: “This would not have happened under normal circumstances.
“If we had been at work we would have controlled the fire and kept smoke and water damage to a minimum.”
A young mum braved sub-zero temperatures to camp outside Havering Town Hall in protest of living conditions at her flat.
As 18-month-old Kayleigh Stanley was cared for by a friend, her mum Rachel, 17, pitched a tent outside the council offices in Main Road, Romford, with her dad and friend along for support.
Despite the plummeting temperature, Miss Stanley told the Recorder how she would rather freeze than go back to her two-bedroom council flat in Hilldene Avenue, Harold Hill, and face a bathroom full of sewage.
In tears, Miss Stanley claimed that since August, her toilet has overflowed with sewage from all of the other flats connected to hers, flooding her bathroom with filth.
She said: “I just can’t go on like this anymore, I’ve got my daughter to think about.”