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The Month in Theydon

A Month by Month Report since November 2002 by Trevor Roberts

The Month in Theydon Pages are Copyright (2002/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12/13/14/15/16/17/18) of Trevor Roberts, Local History Recorder.


March 2018



The “Winter in Control” was the headline of one national newspaper as dawn broke on the first meteorological spring day of 2018. The “collision” of the Storm Beast from the East with Storm Gamma produced the severest conditions nationwide for many years - as forecast.  The Village like Central London was the victim of biting winds and driven snow. Transport was badly hit with local roads almost impassable in hilly areas and the major motorways were closed in places. The Central Line remained closed down to Leytonstone and local commuters “slithered” their way to work where possible. 0on the southern region passengers in a train held for several hours finally overrode the door systems and walked along the line to the nearest station, causing further serious delays. The lowest temperature recorded was minus 11 degrees C in Hampshire and a unique weather twist was the closure of a ski and snow board centre in Kent due to adverse snow conditions.

It was revealed that, during the last three years, parents across England and Wales had been fined some £24M for failing to send their children to school and that some councils were issuing fines at rates, five times higher than average. Many of the absences were due to parents taking children away on holiday at off - peak times when costs were low; but certain holidays were claimed to be educational.

The international rumblings continued over the presumed poisoning by the Russians of two Russian dissidents in the UK at Salisbury. The Russian government denied responsibility and so Russian diplomats were expelled from the UK. In response the Russians expelled British diplomats and alleged that the poison used was of military origin and could have originated from the MOD chemical warfare establishment at nearby Portion Down. Several eminent authorities warned that this incident could be the start of another cold war.

The TBVH car park was cleared of snow for the last night Saturday performance of Quartet, the current production staged by the TBDS. However the wintry weather undoubtedly affected the attendance for this three day production.

The “old fashioned” Blue British passport had for many years been recognized as the symbol of British prestige and an unofficial bond for the holder. Its replacement by the European Union document of another colour had been a sore point with many British nationals. Therefore the government announcement that blue passport would return with Brexit was greeted with much general approval and elation. However it was now revealed that this new blue passport would still retain EU links by being printed by a Franco Dutch consortium and not by the British Del la Roche company, the original passport printers for many years: worse still, this action would deprive many British workers of employment. The Prime Minister claimed that this would be a much cheaper arrangement, but many MPs and other national organizations joined in the great outcry against this change.

The TBVH was the venue for a Spring Lunch in support of the Epping Forest Unit of St Margaret’s Hospital at Epping. The Unit provides care for those over 18 who have suffered from stroke, mental health problems and also provides rehabilitation for those recovering from acute illness. The Unit particularly raises funds for the purchase of faculties and items not covered by the National Health Service.

The Holy Grail of cricket was severely dented when the Australian cricket team playing in a 3 day test match in South Africa was accused of premeditated “tampering with the ball”. Consequently, the Team Captain Vice Captain were given lengthy banns from test cricket. In addition to the political implications, questions were raised about the, legality or illegality of this practice. and it appeared that there was a fine line between the two. The aerodynamics of the ball could be unbalanced by altering the surface of one side so that the ball "swings" during delivery. An accepted and legal method is to remove the shine on one side, by rubbing the ball against a trouser leg. An illegality is to physically damage the ball by excessive bouncing during play or, as in this case, by the surreptitious use of sandpaper - which was definitely “not cricket”.

Good Friday was celebrated in the Village with morning family service In the TBBC followed by a “Walk of Witness" from the Church along the
Avenue across the Green and finishing at the  Village shopping precinct where a short open air service was held. Lunch for all was then served at the Church and in the afternoon, a Meditation on the Passion of Christ was held at All Saints Theydon Garnon. In the evening, the Epping Church Choirs Association performed a Requiem by Malcolm Arnold in St John’s Church, Epping.

In an abstract from his Easter Message, John Fry, the Vicar of the Theydon Parishes wrote “Easter is the Oldest and Greatest Festival in the Christian Calendar. It is a festival of new life celebrating that nothing, not even the grave, could contain Jesus Christ”. The date of Easter varies, taking place on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox.  Some may say Christians are fools to believe such stories as found in the Bible but, for the best part of the last two thousand years, there have been people who have found belief in the Easter story to be life changing.

Although not of any particular religious significance, many eyes could have been turned skywards this Easter weekend to possibly see an unusual sight. The Chinese Tiangong 1 space station was leaving its orbit and re-entering the earth's atmosphere having reached to end of its useful life. This 40 ft by 10 ft craft was free falling and had been detected by radar as being only 120 miles away from the earth's surface. It was expected to burn up in a spectacular display with only a few fragments reaching the earth or sea. The precise location for this “landing” was not apparently known but the Station’s demise caused some concern.
he Women’s World Day of Prayer was celebrated in the Theydon Bois Baptist Church.


The Theydon Art Group (TAG) held an evening open meeting for an illustrated lecture given by Keith West entitled “Artists’ Bloomers”.

The TBWI held their March meeting in the TBVH when Hilary Hedderick gave a demonstration of spinning yarn from a variety of wools using a basic old fashioned spinning wheel.


The month began with  “winter in control” with severe weather which badly affected local road and rail links, There was an increasing tendency for parents to remove  their children from school during term time to avoid the high expense of peak time holidays, the population was concerned about the poisoning of two Russian defectors in Salisbury which could result of another cold war, the Government announced the return of the blue British passport and then angered many by announcing that they would be printed in the EEC and the Holy Grail of cricket was dented by the Australians tampering with the ball during a test match. The month ended with a Chinese space lab about to return to earth “somewhere on the planet” in an uncontrolled descent, and Spring advanced progressively with cold wet weather and bright flowers - just in time for Easter.



February 2018



The increase in local crime which appeared to be related to the reduction in the number of police officers and the closure of police stations was causing concern. Consequently a freelance security organization, Theydon Security Ltd, apparently based in Thornwood Epping and comprising ex police officers and ex military personnel, was advertising its services. This organization offered a 24 hour 7 day a week physical presence in Theydon Bois for a fee of 70p per dwelling per day; this function would be backed by a 24 hour 365 days help desk. This service would apply to Theydon Bois only and the personnel employed would use liveried and nondescript vehicles. If a crime was witnessed, a citizen’s arrest would be made and the police called. Similar private security organizations were appearing elsewhere in the country.

Another sad sign of the times was the need for people to be taught to knit, once a common activity. Consequently, knitting classes were being held on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month in the St Mary’s Church Hall with the dual aim of teaching this skill and making coloured knitted squares to help the bonding of mothers and their babies in the St Thomas’s Neonatal Intensive care Unit.

A ”Sink Hole” appeared in the road at Heath Drive near to its junction with Duke’s Avenue. For several days motor traffic had negotiated the hazard with difficulty but the Drive was eventually closed and diversionary routes established so causing problems for the Primary school and other traffic. High water tables and unstable ground conditions were not unknown in the Village and recent winter rains may have created this unusual road hazard which had become known as "the mother of all potholes”.

To the dismay of some residents, the BT telephone call facility outside the chemists in the Village shopping area was removed, apparently without due notice being given. This facility had been in the Village for many years, and, even in this era of mobile telephones, was important to some e.g. when their phone batteries had not been charged. Someone must have thought that its removal was “progress” in this day and age, but the facility was still useful and important in emergencies.     

At the end of February, the UK was affected by extreme arctic - type storms from the continent titled the “Beast from the East” and, later, “Storm Emma” from the south which had already created havoc in Spain and Portugal; Metrological Red Alerts had been issued for this severe weather which could result in fatalities. The eastern areas of the UK were mainly affected with sub zero temperatures of minus five degrees C.  (night time) which were low enough to close schools, affect local road traffic and dislocate public transport. To its credit the Village School remained open but local commuters were affected by the temporary closure of the Central Line and traffic restrictions on the M25 and M11 motorways. and also some minor roads. Local food stores experienced increased demands for basic goods, and the wise and weather - experienced had shopped early or pre ordered house deliveries.

Horrendous  conditions developed in the Midlands and northwards into
Scotland where motorway traffic was blocked by snow - blocked vehicles and their occupants marooned for long periods; in one incident these unfortunates received food and clothing lowered by rope from a motorway  bridge. A cynical reporter commented that these “storms” were the extreme elements of typical British winter weather which current generations have never experienced because of the mild winters of previous years. By evening the snow - laden clouds darkened as EMMA progressed eastwards; and this was the first day of metrological spring!


The Theydon Bois Art Group held a mini exhibition in the TBVH where a number of members each displayed a single painting.

The coming Easter (and better weather hopefully) was indicated by the first of six Lent Soup Church Lunches organized by St Mary’s Church and held in the Church Hall. These meals comprised soup, roll & butter, sweet and tea/coffee for the modest sum of £5.00. The proceeds of each Lunch were donated to a particular charity and so raise a substantial amount for worthy causes.

During November and December 2017 the following entries were made in the registers of St Mary’s Church:

Burial of Ashes
01 11 17                    Sheila Gymer
08 11 17                    Pat Jean Pleasant - Funeral in Church followed by                                     Cremation at Parndon Wood
20 12 17                    Elsie Hooper - Service at Parndon Wood
Funerals (cont)
21 12 17                    Thelma May Read – Funeral in Church followed by    Burial at Theydon Bois Cemetery

Summary for the Month

February began quietly with a quiz night at Theydon Garnon Church, a freelance Theydon Security organization appeared in response to increasing criminal activity locally, a sad sign of the times was the need for knitting classes at St Mary’s Church, the start of the Church Lent Lunches showed that Easter was on its way, the Theydon Art Group held a mini exhibition and a Sink Hole appeared in Heath Drive. Finally, the end of month saw the most severe winter weather for years as two arctic - type storms “collided” over the UK with their affect continuing into to March. But the Daffodils were flowering, a sure sign of Spring.



January 2018


Villagers who were watching on TV saw the New Year celebrated well before midnight in other parts of the world where the New Year arrived earlier. In London, Big Ben and its tower were being refurbished so the centre piece of the 15,000 firework display from moored barges was moved to the London Eye. But the clock was temporarily reactivated to strike midnight as usual and the surrounding scaffolding had been illuminated to blend in with the surrounds. As the midnight chimes rang out the magnificent fireworks display exploded into the sky before an audience of some one hundred thousand ticket holders along the Thames. But many stayed on to view the London illuminations or watch the annual London New Year’s Day Parade. This event comprised some 8,000 participants and included trade floats, vintage cars and marching bands.

In her New Year Message, the Prime Minister Theresa May, said Britons could feel renewed confidence and pride in the future for 2018. While Britext will be crucial, it is not the limit of the government's ambitions. These will focus on schools, the police and the NHS to change people’s lives for the better.

The increasing use of plastic material, and the problems relating to its disposal, was causing concern worldwide. Much UK plastic waste was shipped abroad for disposal, especially to China. However this vast country with extensive disposal/recycling facilities was no longer prepared to accept plastic waste from abroad and so the UK authorities were seeking alternative methods of disposal The Parliamentary Environmental Committee had called for the UK recycling and reprocessing facilities to be improved but, in the short term, MPs were considering a 25p “latte levy" on each of the millions of disposal coffee cups in daily use, and a total ban on cups by 2023 unless recycling improved. Fine plastic granules used daily eg. in facial makeup was another problem as these are being ingested by fish and animals and can eventually reach the human food chain.

To round off the Village Christmas/New Year Festivities, the Theydon Bois Drama Society presented the pantomime Cinderella in the TBVH. This was a good old-fashioned production in the true tradition of the theatre with music, colour, drama, romance and slapstick which encouraged audience participation. There were some slight variations from the original story. Cinderella’s slipper was not of glass but possibly pliable plastic which could have allowed another lady (an ugly        Sister perhaps!!!) to win the hand of Prince Charming,  and  Cinderella’s coach was of simple modern construction (from B & Q?) but this was no criticism of the staging and production. The cast were excellent especially Jack Chambers (a love - lorne Buttons) and Georgina Anstee in her first leading role as a demure yet strong Cinderella. Nicola Gilbert directed this entertaining production and a hard working back/front stage team helped the production to run smoothly.

Thirty six members and two visitors attended the TBWI January meeting in the TBVH on a very cold day. It was agreed that the resolution “Stop Female Genital Mutilation” should be proposed for adoption at the National Federation Meeting in June 2018. The pending resignation of Janet Slater due to a move away from the area was reported, as also was the death of Pat Philpot and her forthcoming funeral on 30th January next.

It was announced that the UK was in the grip of the worst influenza (flu) outbreak since 2010. Parts of the country had experienced a sharp increase in general illness since the start of winter. In Wales there had been a 40% increase in GP visits at 65 per 1000 cases. Hospitals were seeing a high rate of patient admissions with ambulances held waiting to transfer patients into casualty departments, who when admitted were deposited in corridors to await attention and possibly a hospital bed.

Stormy conditions to all parts of the country caused storm damage to buildings and especially to trees and overhead power cables. In Essex, winds in excess of 80 mph were reported with 1,300 storm incidents including the loss of a pub roof! Consequently some 9,700 homes in Eastern England were without power and the lack of heating could increase the incidence of flu especially among the elderly. Fortunately the Village was relatively unaffected by these wintry conditions.

The snow finally arrived in the Village on a Sunday morning with a steady fall which quickly produced “snow people” from anyone outdoors and not on the move. As usual the slippery surfaces on the hilly routes away from the Village created problems for motorists, but traffic was fortunately light, it being a Sunday. However a rise in temperature followed by a frost did not help matters and spring seemed to be far away, despite the slow emergence of crocuses from the snow in some sheltered places.


The problems with overhead rail passenger rail services continued on from 2017, augmented by the rail unions strike over the Christmas season. To add insult to injury, train operators announced fare increases from the beginning of 2018 of 3.4% the largest for five years. There were complaints that rail users were being priced out of the market and would have to resort to road travel which would increase traffic congestion generally

The former nearby WW2 airfield at North Weald has an extensive aviation facility for light aircraft and helicopters incliding the base for the important Essex and Herts helicopter ambulance service which operates throughout the area and has on occasions served Theydon Bois. The EFDC had now approved plans for the building of a National Police Air Service (NPAS) base for two helicopters at the airfield. When completed, the existing NPAS unit at Lippetts Hill, High Beach, would move to the new North Weald location.

Dentists accused the Government of a short sighted approach to the problem of tooth decay in England following NHS reports that hospital operations to remove children’s teeth had increased to nearly 43,000.  Critics claimed that the UK dental monitoring service was second rate but others pointed the finger at the high sugar content in children’s diets especially those containing fruit drinks and sweet snacks.

January saw the New Year welcomed, as usual, in the Village and in London where Big Ben was roused from its overhaul slumbers to see the New Year in. There was less celebration in Liverpool where a car park fire destroyed some 1500 cars. Rail services remained affected by continuing track work and the annual fare increases pleased few passengers. The perils to the world population of the excessive use of plastic were finally recognised and restrictions on plastic food wrappings, coffee cups etc. were proposed. The dangers from diesel fumes and oil were now also recognised and so diesel vehicles were becoming unpopular and possibly unsellable. Law and order issues relating to the lack of police presence were causing concern and the Metropolitan police helicopter unit was now moving to the local North Weald airfield. But the Village scene was changing with the demolition of the Sixteen String Jack Pub and the partial demolition of the Old Village School plus the threat of housing development as proposed in the published EFDC Local Plan. The most serious flu outbreak for eight years resulted in local doctors being in high demand and hospitals cancelling minor operations due to bed shortages. The weather remained very cold but spring flowers were starting to appear and birds preparing to nest.


Earlier (2017) Months

Last Updated: 5th June 2018