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Remember When: Keeping calm and driving on

Welcome to Remember When, which takes a weekly look back through our archives, spanning nearly 150 years, to bring you snapshots from Maidenhead's past.

Martin Trepte

Remember When: Keeping calm and driving on

Firefighters in protective suits are decontaminated after tackling the spill

1987: A quick-thinking lorry driver avoided a serious chemical spill in Maidenhead by driving straight to the fire station as his cab filled with acid fumes.

Trucker Michael Whalley was praised for his actions after firefighters from three stations spent more than an hour tackling a leaking container of hydrochloric acid in the lorry.

Divisional officer Keith Oxley said: “Only a small quantity of acid was spilled but it could have been a serious incident if the driver had not had the foresight to report to the fire station.

“If it had been spilled in a built-up area there could have been serious repercussions.”

Mr Whalley, from Wiltshire, was making a delivery to a Maidenhead firm when he smelled the fumes and headed for the fire station instead.

The spill was contained in the lorry with no acid escaping onto the road.

Mr Whalley said: “I realised something was wrong when I noticed the smell and fumes in the cab. I didn’t panic – I just drove straight here.”

The lorry filled with fumes after the acid – an industrial cleaner – reacted with the vehicle’s fuel.

A chemical incident unit and fire engines from Langley, Slough and Wargrave took part in the clean-up, with police and ambulance standing by.

The area around the fire station was sealed off while the spilled acid was neutralised and washed away.


1987: Plans were unveiled to protect Maidenhead from a repeat of the disastrous 1947 floods by building a 30-metre wide flood relief channel from Boulters Weir to Boveney Lock.

The proposal, which had a price tag of £32million based on 1985 prices, had been prepared for the Thames Water Authority by a firm of consultants.

It was discussed by the then Berkshire County Council which saw it as the ‘creation of a new River Thames’.

The meeting heard  plans included a new channel east of the river together with embankments to protect Maidenhead and Cookham.

Experts estimated flood damage on the scale experienced 40 years before could cost up to £40m and 20,000 people could be affected.

Since the 1947 flood, it was reported, 2,200 homes had been built in the flood plain in Maidenhead and Bray.


1982: Members of the Maidenhead 400 committee unveiled a flag with a special logo to mark the 400th anniversary of the signing of Maidenhead’s first Royal Charter.

At least 40 celebratory events were planned in the town for the year and the Advertiser even incorporated the logo in its masthead.

It was planned to fly the anniversary flags on public buildings and at outdoor events and the distinctive logo was also to appear on T-shirts and sweatshirts which would be sold to the public.


1977: Bray singing star Marian Montgomery entertained New Year’s Eve revellers at the Hinds Head with an impromptu cabaret.

Her husband Laurie Holloway accompanied her on the piano at the party which included other Bray personalities such as Michael Parkinson.

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