Flashback: Firefighting heroes, a superhero mum and a record breaking Christmas for The Exchange

The Exchange. Picture: Norman Gunby

The Exchange. Picture: Norman Gunby - Credit: Archant

A look back at the stories of the day, this week, 60, 40 and 20 years ago.

1956

Five heroes risked their lives to save a blazing factory from almost certain destruction.

Howard’s Chemical Works, in Uphall Road, Ilford, was in danger of exploding when a fire broke out as a valve full of explosive gas malfunctioned.

Foreman Ned Anglum, assistant foreman Fred Prior and plant operators Stanley Miles, Harry Woodward and his brother Fred could easily have fled for their lives as small blasts rocked the factory, but they stuck to their training and managed to shut down all 20 valves pumping gas into the building.


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At any moment the gases could have blown up, but, as Fred Prior put it in the moments after the incident: “God was on our side”. The five men were able to hold back the flames until emergency services arrived.

1976

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A Chadwell Heath mother was badly burned as she fought to save her 10-year-old son.

James Williams, of Padnall Road, was helping to cook breakfast when his pyjamas caught fire.

“He ran screaming into the bedroom screaming,” said his mum, Dolly.

“The whole of the left side of his body seemed to be on fire. I tore as much of the burning clothes off him as possible before calling for an ambulance.”

The 32-year-old was taken with her son to King George Hospital, where she was also treated for burns to her hands.

Her son’s condition was later described as “satisfactory” and doctors credited her quick-thinking in smothering the flames.

1996

Traders in Ilford were experiencing a bumper festive period as eager shoppers looked set to make it a record-breaking year for profits on the high street.

The Exchange Shopping Centre had been bursting at the seams with shoppers desperate to grab last minute gifts.

Michelle Buxton, the centre manager, revealed that more than 180,000 people had visited the shopping centre in just seven days in the week before Christmas, a figure up 15 per cent from 1995.

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