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Remember When: Town on red alert over flooding risk

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

Martin Trepte

Remember When: Town on red alert over flooding risk

Cyclists in the flood waters on Cookham Moor.

1977: Maidenhead was facing flooding danger as the full effect of torrential rain pushed downstream.

Riverside residents were preparing for the worst as the Thames Water Authority issued a red alert. Emergency plans drawn up by the district council were being put into operation and householders in the affected areas were advised of the best ways to limit the damage.

A further half-inch of rain had fallen the previous night above Abingdon, Oxfordshire, adding to already swollen river levels.

And all Maidenhead residents could do was wait for the water to reach them as weather forecasters predicted further rain with some thunder.

From Angus Purdie, flood warden for Maidenhead Court Park, came a grim warning.

He said: “I don't think we’ve seen the full force of the water yet to come.”

Woodhurst Road, always one of the first to flood before the opening of the Jubilee River flood relief channel in the late 1990s, was already under 10 inches (25cm) of water.

One resident said the water had been rising quickly.

She added: “If it keeps coming we will have to move our carpets and furniture upstairs.”

A taskforce of council workmen and officers was on standby to help families in trouble.

Council advice included stocking up with candles and torches, food and drinking water, and setting up improvised cooking facilities upstairs.

They also advised people have a basket on a rope handy to lower from upstairs windows in case deliveries had to be made by boat.


Three flee as fire guts home

1982: Fire experts were trying to pinpoint the cause of a mystery blaze that swept through a house in Harrow Lane, Maidenhead.

A mum and her two children had to flee from their council house as the flames took hold in the living room and a bedroom.

A theory that faulty gas heaters were to blame had already been discounted after an examination by the Gas Board.

The blaze  had started in the home of Carol Mills and her two children after she sent son Stephen, 13, to light the fire in her bedroom.

At the same time she re-lit the fire in the living room.

“There was a tremendous bang,” said Mrs Mills. “Stephen ran downstairs shouting ‘Mummy, the bed is on fire’ so we got my daughter Monica and ran outside.”

The family ran to the telephone box by the shops on the Cookham Road to raise the alarm.

“The firemen were very quick and passed us as we went back to the house,” said Mrs Mills.

Station officer Frazer Gunn said the origin of the fire, which gutted the building, was still unknown.

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