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

60-years-ago. Picture: Romford Library

60-years-ago. Picture: Romford Library - Credit: 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.

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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.