A snapshot of life in May 1996

Brewers’ scheme met with cheers

Brewing could return to Watford if plans to transform a pub in the town centre go ahead. Allied Domecq Leisure wants to merge Benskin House and the adjacent Pennant pub in Station Road, Watford, into an enlarged pub and micro-brewery. The news marks another chapter in the long history of brewing in the town, which began in 1750 with the foundation of the Dyson brewery. The original Benskin brewery, which closed down in the 1980s, was for many years a major employer in the town. All the site’s existing buildings, including its Grade II listed stable block, would be preserved in the plan. As such, the idea is likely to be welcomed by conservation groups anxious to preserve the town’s historical heritage.

[May 3, 1996]

Turning back the clock for Peace Hospice

Fundraisers are being asked this week to turn back the clock to restore one of Watford’s most famous landmarks to its former glory. In just a few weeks’ time, the renovation of the former Peace Memorial Hospital in Rickmansworth Road will be finished and hospice patients will be able to move in – but the building will not be complete until its clock is replaced. For years, people set their watches by the clock and glanced up at it as they drove through the town. But eight years ago, when the Peace was left to decay, the famous chronometer was taken in broad daylight. Now jewellers David and Dan Jackson of The Parade are to build a replica of the clock their ancestor made more than 70 years ago and close another chapter in the Peace’s long and turbulent history.

[May 3, 1996]

Police tackle soccer yobs

Police are trying to keep ahead of the game for Euro 96 with a campaign to keep Hertfordshire’s hooligans at bay. Hertfordshire Constabulary is now backing the Crimestoppers Euro 96 – a nationwide police operation to put a stop to criminals who could spoil the European Championships this summer. The scheme, which is operating in conjunction with the Football Association, encourages local supporters to come forward with information which could prevent crime during the international games.

[May 10, 1996]

Theatre’s 21st birthday

After a troubled adolescence, Watersmeet Theatre in Rickmansworth celebrated its coming-of-age with a variety of entertainment on Saturday. The Three Rivers District Council-run premises laid on a day of fun to mark its 21st birthday and to raise its profile in the community. Outside the theatre, a 48-key Meayers Organ evoked a jolly atmosphere for visitors while a fairground ride entertained the children. Inside, a variety show was put on by a host of performing groups. Another innovation that met with approval was two screenings of the hit film Babe with admission set at 1975 prices – just 40p for adults and 20p for children.

[May 10, 1996]

Krishna fight ends

The sun is shining brightly over Bhaktivedanta Manor. After 11 years of lobbying, campaigning, court appearances and a lengthy public inquiry, devotees at the biggest Hindu temple outside India have seen a cloud lifted from over their heads. The hotly-contested dispute between Hertsmere Borough Council and The International Society for Krishna Consciousness over the right to worship, hold festivals and build a new road leading to the manor in Letchmore Heath, attracted media attention from around the globe. It was the strangest of ironies that temple spokesman Bimal Krishna das should be at the offices of Hertsmere Borough Council as the news reached him on Friday. “It was a complete surprise to us,” said Bimal Krishna das. “Obviously our reaction was one of happiness and elation that after 11 years of hard and long struggle to get this place open for public worship, we had got what we wanted.”

[May 17, 1996]

Sunday opening for store

A plan to start Sunday trading at Tesco in Rickmansworth has received fierce opposition from local residents. The store, in Harefield Road, has applied to Three Rivers Council for permission to open for eight Sundays a year, but residents fear this could signal the start of all-year opening. When the store was built five years ago, inspectors stipulated Sunday trading would not be allowed. Government policy has since changed and residents are concerned if permission is given the store will push to open every Sunday. Mrs Tricia Street, who lives opposite the supermarket, has organised a petition. She said: “Sunday is the only day of peace and quiet we get.”

[May 31, 1996]

What was happening in the world in May 1996?

• UNSCOM supervises the destruction of Al-Hakam, Iraq’s main production facility of biological warfare agents (May)

• The body of former CIA director William Colby is found washed up on a riverbank in Maryland, eight days after he disappeared (May 6)

• Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni wins a landslide victory in the country’s first direct presidential elections (May 9)

• A sudden storm engulfs Mount Everest with several climbing teams high on the mountain, leaving eight people dead (May 10)

• The Australian government produces a nationwide ban on the private possession of automatic and semiautomatic rifles, in response to the Port Arthur massacre (May 10)

• Russian President Boris Yeltsin meets with Chechnyan rebels and negotiates a ceasefire in the First Chechnya War (May 27)

• Albania’s general election is declared unfair by international monitors and the ruling Democratic Party is charged with rigging the elections. Several hundred protestors gather in Tirana to demonstrate against the election result (May 28)