A snapshot of life in February 1984

Skeleton dug up in town centre

A human skull and other bones have been unearthed by workmen digging in Watford town centre. The bones were discovered four feet below the ground by Colne Valley Water Company workers repairing a mains pipe in the alley which joins Watford High Street with St Mary’s car park. The workmen found the skull on Wednesday morning and more bones turned up throughout the day. Colne Valley engineer Mr Jeff Huckerby said: “We were going to put the bones back in the ground when we finished the job but the Vicar has now told us that he would like to move them into the churchyard.”

[February 3, 1984]

Ambitious plan for arts centre

Chairman Jill Roskilly has launched a two-pronged campaign to improve and expand facilities at Watford’s Pump House Theatre and Arts Centre. Although the Local Board Road centre is busy with activities every night the premises are not used during the day. To attract daytime users the building needs to improve facilities. Mrs Roskilly, of Rickmansworth Road, Watford, and the new managaement team want to provide proper heating for the theatre, a green room for centre members, install kitchens and reorganise the rooms used for meetings and rehearsals. An architect friend of the Pump House is giving his services for nothing. Soon Mrs Roskilly will be appealing to local businesses and organisations to help with either cash or equipment. Apart from a concessionary rent from Watford Borough Council the Pump House, which opened in 1971, is self-financing.

[February 3, 1984]

Shopping centre violence

Shoppers watched in horror when fighting broke out between rival groups of youths in Charter Place, Watford, on Saturday afternoon. The trouble started when a group of more than 400 teenagers from Oxhey and Holywell began arguing in the shopping complex at about 4pm. The fighting was triggered by a dozen youths on the upstairs balcony. More youths ran through the shopping centre to join in the fracas. The fighting continued for 10 minutes before police arrived. Shoppers and shopkeepers who saw the fracas were deeply disturbed by it. One witness said: “Charter Place seems to be deteriorating lately. Youngsters seem to use it as a meeting place and they mill about, upsetting people with bad language and looking for trouble.”

[February 10, 1984]

Elton weds in style

Watford Football Club’s superstar chairman Elton John, wearing a white and mauve boater, shook off the tag of showbiz’s most confirmed bachelor when he married 30-year-old studio assistant Renata Blauel in Australia on Tuesday. More than a thousand adoring fans waited outside St Mark’s Church in Sydney to see the couple arrive. Then, after a 30 minute ceremony the couple, both wearing white, kissed on the steps of the church. Elton, 36, dressed in a dazzling tails outfit created by Savile Row tailor Tommy Nutter, also sported a mauve bow tie and striped shirt when he arrived at the church. Inside the Anglican Church was decorated with hundreds of orchids and 3,000 white roses. Elton, used to a variety of musical instruments, had just one – the organ – to play the three hymns sung at the ceremony.

[February 17, 1984]

Burglars are on the run

Burglars and thieves are on the run – and it’s all down to you, say the police. Public awareness and neighbourhood schemes have helped reduce the crime rate in Watford and Rickmansworth by nearly 40 per cent in the first month of this year. Figures just released show that the number of reported crimes fell from 752 to 467 in January compared with the same month the previous year. A police spokesman said: “People nowadays are more aware of crime and criminal activities. People are not afraid to tell us what is going on and we can act accordingly. Neighbourhood watch schemes are also helping.”

Hospital wins £1m boost

More than a century ago in 1870, and probably without official fuss, Leavesden Hospital opened. The building reflected society’s view of the mentally handicapped, a forbidding place to lock away the unfortunates who did not fit in, and forget about them. But looking after mentally handicapped people has become one of the present Government’s priorities within the NHS and Leavesden is about to reap the benefit. At Monday’s meeting of the North-West Thames Regional Health Authority the regional team of officers recommendation that well over £1million be made available for upgrading works at Leavesden was approved. As a result, Mr Hugh Dulley, the hospital administrator, is looking forward to putting in hand far-reaching improvement to the building, changes that will be noticed even by the casual motorist as he passes by.

[February 17, 1984]

Protesters in march for unity

Don’t split Chater School. The message rang out loud and clear as 150 parents and children marched through Watford town centre on Tuesday. The banner-waving protesters made their way to Watford Town Hall to present a letter of objection to Mayor Geoffrey Greenstreet. It was the latest round in their battle to halt country proposals to move part of the West Watford school onto another site. Headmaster Mr Vivian Allen led the march. He said: “We are marching and fighting for generations to come. We are fighting for children and their right to enjoy a bit of grass and space.”

[February 24, 1984]

What was happening in the world in February 1984?

• Medicare comes into effect in Australia (February 1)

• Indian diplomat Ravinda Mhatre is kidnapped and murdered by Kashmiri terrorists in Birmingham, England (February 1)

• Space Shuttle Challenger is launched on the 10th Space Shuttle mission (February 3)

• The research team at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center announce history’s first embryo transfer from one woman to another, resulting in a live birth (February 3)

• Astronauts Bruce McCandless II and Robert L. Stewart make the first untethered space walk (February 7)

• Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skate their legendary ‘Bolera’ routine at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo (February 12)

• Six-year-old Stormie Jones becomes the first recipient of a successful simultaneous heart and liver organ transplant (February 13)

• British satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, premieres on ITV (February 28)