1976 - when Horsham baked in a heatwave

Horsham's open air pool in 1976
Horsham's open air pool in 1976

As a soggy and less than ‘flaming’ June bids farewell, it’s worth turning the clock back 40 years to 1976 and the heatwave that hit Sussex, along with the rest of the South.

It led to the hottest summer average temperature in the UK since records began and, not surprisingly, the country suffered a severe drought.

Enjoying the heatwave in Horsham Park back in 1976

Enjoying the heatwave in Horsham Park back in 1976

For 15 consecutive days from June 23 to July 7 temperatures reached a maximum of 32.2degC (90degF).

In the Horsham district water use was a distinct problem as this County Times report shows.

“As temperatures have soared into the upper 80s water consumption has gone up by an alarming 25 per cent.

And this has happened despite urgent appeals by Southern Water Authority to save water and avoid restrictions.

“‘The message seems to have gone off the boil’, said a spokesman adding that Henfield, Steyning and Storrington were now the worst hit areas facing water shortage.”

A week or two later and the news was: “After weeks of warnings and steadily increasing consumption, hosepipes and gardens sprinklers will be banned throughout the West Sussex division of Southern Water Authority from tomorrow (June 26).”

As the temperatures rose so did tempers as this report about the town’s open air pool reveals.

“Tempers became overheated at Horsham swimming pool as temperatures steamed into the 90s on Sunday.

“Those in the pool refused to leave as sweating crowds outside demanded to be let in.

“Police were called to cool the situation and came up with a compromise which seemed to satisfy most - if not all.

“And as a result of the complanits Horsham District Council has decided to open the pool two hours earlier in the morning and divide the day into three sessions ‘while the hot weather lasts’.”

Back to the present day and July looks like it could be far better than June, with the Met Office saying the temperatures should start edging up to the low 20s.

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