1976 heatwave - when police were called over Horsham swimming pool anger

Horsham's outdoor swimming pool in the 70s
Horsham's outdoor swimming pool in the 70s

While Horsham residents have been enjoying a hot summer so far, at least the temperatures haven’t sparked a major row, with the police brought in to cool the situation - that’s what happened during the famous heatwave of 1976!

That year saw the highest average temperatures since records began, with hose pipe bans and firefighters battling grass fires.

But in late June the County Times reported that tempers had flared as folk looked to cool down in the open air swimming pool in Horsham Park.

As the temperature hit 90degC a long queue formed waiting to get into the pool on a Sunday.

Around 600 people, the maximum allowed, were already in the water or sunning themselves on the surrounding grass.

Staff asked those inside to clear the pool so those outside could have a chance to cool down - it didn’t work.

Some left, but a resolute 200 refused to budge, saying they’d paid for the day and had only been in for a few minutes.

No one was allowed in until the pool was completely clear and it appears some of those waiting outside got rather heated!

Police were called in to ask those in the pool to get out but argued that it wasn’t their job.

Finally, an inspector came up with a solution - with only 200 left in the pool, allow another 200 to enter.

The incident inspired the district council to open the pool for an extra couple of hours earlier each day.

As the heatwave continued, the County Times noticed that one building society in the town with ‘an extremely efficient cooling system’ attracted far more customers than usual who were keen to stand around and chat.

School sports days were cancelled and the paper reported that ‘pubs have been doing a roaring trade in shandies and lagers and lime’.

During that summer Heathrow recorded temperatures over 30degC on 16 consecutive days and five days saw temperatures exceed 35degC.

Denis Howell was appointed Minister for Drought but September and October proved very wet months, bringing an end to the heatwave and lack of water.

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