Flashback: A chocolate factory fire, a dance curfew and a botched armed robbery

Prospect Hall in South Woodford, where Redbridge Council tried to ban music after 10.30pm in 1977. P

Prospect Hall in South Woodford, where Redbridge Council tried to ban music after 10.30pm in 1977. Photo: Google Maps. - Credit: Archant

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

1957: “The worst fire since the Blitz” was one firefighter’s verdict on a blaze that destroyed a factory and left 200 people jobless.

Hundreds of Hainault residents were roused from their sleep by explosions at the Gainsborough chocolate factory after a gang of safe-breakers unwittingly set alight a gas meter.

The factory’s 200 employees - many of them men on part time work after being laid off from Briggs’ body works at Dagenham – were left unemployed when the premises was entirely destroyed by the fire.

Firefighters revealed the fire must have ripped through the factory unnoticed for several hours during the night, finally being spotted at 4.15am by a night watchman at the nearby Tuck’s rubber factory who immediately called the fire brigade.


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1977:A Woodford Green residents’ association were told “dance on” after a controversial music curfew imposed by Redbridge Council was lifted.

Revellers at Prospect Road Hall had agreed to boycott the venue because of what they called “the unfair behaviour of the council” in setting a 10.30pm deadline for music after a small number of residents complained.

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Despite the fact no formal complaint about excessive noise had been made to the West Grove, Avenue Road and Globe Road residents’ association, the council introduced the curfew for a month before finally relenting.

At a meeting of the borough’s recreation and amenities committee, the decision was finally overturned.

Ernie Quiddington, the association’s social secretary, said: “We only want to run four dances a year, but it would be unreasonable to expect them to finish at 10.30 on a Friday or Saturday night.”

1997: A brave security guard foiled an armed robbery – despite already handing over more than £1,000.

A gang of gun-toting thieves struck at Granton Services, Green Lane, Ilford, as the 38-year-old guard left the kiosk with the money.

A stolen BT van pulled up alongside the cash van and a man holding a sawn off shotgun jumped out and threatened the man.

The guard handed over the cash but, as the van drove away, jumped into his own van and followed them.

After switching cars twice, the thieves became aware they were being followed and ditched their final car in Mayesbrook Road, Dagenham with the money still on the passenger seat.

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