A snapshot of life in January 1981

Shut-down firm saved

Jobs were saved in a Christmas deal after a west Watford company closed one day and was bought over the next. PEP, specialist engineers in Whippendell Road, was closed in mid-December by a receiver, with a £90,000 six-month order book on hand. Managing director Mr Peter Pond failed to persuade his bank to increase and extend a £41,000 loan. After discussions, both sides agreed that the ten-year-old business – despite having its best year for contracts – be wound up. The receiver changed the locks on the Rembrandt House premises and dismissed the ten employees. Mr Nicholas Vale, of the Watford-based Vale engineering group, then stepped in, bought PEP’s assets and saved the jobs.

[January 2, 1981]

Festive spirit alive and well

The Christmas spirit lived again at Watford General Hospital. Nurses turned their capes red-side-out, touring the wards for the annual Christmas singing. Firemen from Watford took a hydraulic platform to the Peace Memorial Wing and in pouring rain decorated the tree in front of the hospital with lights. A greengrocer donated a Christmas tree which was placed near the Peace Memorial Wing clock. The Salvation Army played carols for the long-stay elderly at Shrodells Wing. Wards and corridors were festooned with Christmas bunting. Traders donated some of last year’s decorations to swell the hospital’s stock.

[January 2, 1981]

Time now to save the pubs

Time, gentlemen, please… to stop closing down pubs in Watford High Street. This is the message many borough councillors wish to pass to the owners of town centre taverns. To emphasise their attitude, the council’s Development Control Sub-committee has refused an application for the recently closed Joseph Benskin pub and restaurant to become a retail shop. The decision was taken under a District Plan clause declaring the council’s intention to resist the loss of recreational and cultural facilities in Watford. It was moved by Councillor Mike Jackson, who said he was concerned about the prospect of losing another pub in Watford town centre. If this application was allowed, it could mean development companies bidding for the rest of the pubs with prime shop frontages to the High Street. That, in turn, would end life in the town at night and result in more and more town centre vandalism.

[January 9, 1981]

Teens could be shining example to all

Teenagers in Kings Langley could soon be waring fluorescent armbands on their way to and from school. The parish council is keen to see the youngsters of Kings Langley Secondary School wearing armbands. Infants in the village are already issued with bands that show up in the dark. The schoolchildren had first been advised to wear light coloured clothing by the Herts County Council campaign “Be safe – Be seen”. This idea was turned down by both the parish council and the school because of the problem of keeping the clothing clean and also because the school uniform is dark blue.

[January 9, 1981]

Date for parking plan

The first residents’ permit parking scheme in Watford could start in the autumn, if the financial go-ahead is given. Councillors have asked for the money to be put in the borough council’s 1981-2 draft estimates. The pilot scheme would operate in the central area bounded by St Albans Road, the railway line, Beechen Grove and Derby Road. Permits would cost £25. Herts County Council is responsible for highways but refuses to foot the bill for residents’ parking. So Watford’s Highways Committee is planning a pilot scheme, costing between £26,000 and £32,000, with money from a special 2p rate. Engineer Mr Cedric Avery said a permit charge above £25 was likely to meet “customer resistance”.

[January 16, 1981]

Relics going to museum

Relics from Rickmansworth’s past will be moving from a shed in Mill End to Watford’s new museum within the next few weeks. The plaque which adorned the Swan public house in the High Street from 1799 until the building was demolished in the mid-60s may once again be on public view. Already the museum is framing one window from the pub and two others from the Cart and Horses to go on show with a brewery exhibition. The collection belongs to the Rickmansworth Historical Society, whose members hoped that one day Rickmansworth would have a museum of its own. But the chance is even more remote now than it was when the society was formed nearly 27 years ago.

[January 16, 1981]

Pool plan off for four years

The new Cassiobury Park paddling pool has been postponed for four years. Watford Borough Council does not have the money to pay for it – the cost was last estimated at £150,000. The council hopes to be able to keep the existing pool in operation this summer. Last year the pool had to be closed because it was leaking and the water was muddy.

[January 23, 1981]

Silver coins go to British Museum

The six Anglo-Saxon silver pennies found near Whippendell Woods last summer were declared treasure trove by the jury’s majority verdict at a Watford inquest last week. They were seized by coroner Dr Arnold Mendoza on the Crown’s behalf. Dr Mendoza said: “They will be taken by the British Museum, perhaps to be returned to Watford.” British Museum expert Miss Marion Archibald said the coins were about 1,000 years old and from the reign of Edward the Elder and his successor.

[January 30, 1981]

What was happening in the world in January 1981?

• Greece joins the European Union (January 1)

• The Yorkshire Ripper, serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, is arrested by police in Sheffield, England, after the largest manhunt in British history (January 2)

• Salvadoran labor leader José Rodolfo Viera, and two American representatives, Michael P. Hammer and Mark David Pearlman, are assassinated at the Sheraton Hotel in San Salvador by two members of the El Salvador National Guard (January 3)

• The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the first TV adaptation of the Douglas Adams book, debuts on BBC Two (January 5)

• Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, a former British MP, is shot by gunmen of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, who had invaded her home in Coalisland, County Tyrone (January 16)

• At Deptford in London, 13 young black British people died in the New Cross Fire during a 16th birthday party. The fire was believed by many in the community to have been set by racists (January 18)

• The Iran hostage crisis ends after 444 days (January 20)

• Ronald Reagan is sworn into office as the 40th President of the United States (January 20)

• The very first DeLorean DMC-12 automobile is produced in Northern Ireland (January 21)

• The first parade to honour veterans of the Vietnam War is organised by the veterans themselves in Indianapolis (January 31)