Flashback: Hungarian refugees, gravel pits and the Londoner of the Year

Father Christmas helped switch on the lights at The Exchange this week 20 years ago.

Father Christmas helped switch on the lights at The Exchange this week 20 years ago. - Credit: Archant

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

1956: A cold winter’s night in Chigwell played host to the final night of an international drama when 140 young Hungarian refugees arrived at the Grange Farm centre.

The brave young men had travelled for an entire week, many without a change of clothes, as they fled the fallout of the battle of Budapest - a failed uprising against the Soviet Union.

But as they drove through the high iron gates of the charity-run centre in Chigwell High Road, they feared the worst - quizzing their interpreters on why there were fences and men in uniform.

After being reassured the uniforms were Red Cross workers, the refugees relaxed, and were able to relax for the first time in seven days.

The British Council for Aid to Refugees hoped to use the Grange Farm Centre as a welcome centre for more refugees expected to arrive in the following months.

1976:Plans for a new gravel pit in Aldborough Hatch meant that Redbridge Council were looking at a £250,000 payday.

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Councillors had finally approved a long-term scheme to hand over a 100-acre stretch of land, believed to contain about a million cubic metres of easily accessible gravel, for excavation.

But that means that farmer Richard Lewis was set to lose more than half this land he had worked on for 20 years.

The 62-year-old said: “I was expecting this and have come to accept that the land should be used for the common good.

“They won’t work more than 10 acres a year so I will carry on with what I have.”

1996: A man who devoted his adult life to helping people with learning disabilities in Redbridge was thrilled to be named Londoner of the Year.

Jeffrey Pelta, director of the Parry Charitable Foundation, won the community service award - besting more than 6,000 other nominees.

Mr Pelta, 42, helped raise thousands of pounds over 20 years of service to help transform four homes in the borough to cater to mentally handicapped individuals.

“This is marvellous news. I’m very happy for him, he deserves it,” said charity chairman Jack Lane.