Buying a heater in sweltering 1976

Billingshurst Playgroup
Billingshurst Playgroup

For those of us who were around in 1976, the year will be remembered for one thing in particular – the weather.

It didn’t rain for weeks, the reservoirs became dangerously low, and it was hot. Very, very hot.

The London Weather Centre recorded a top temperature of 35.9C – just short of 97F – on July 3, while there were at least 10 days which saw the mercury bubbling its way into the 30s.

Things were so bad, the government even created a minister for drought.

His name was Denis Howell and you have to wonder if he had a hidden talent for rain dancing because, shortly after the ministry was created, it started tipping it down.

With the scorched earth unable to soak up the deluge quickly enough, Prime Minister Harold Wilson then made poor Denis minister for floods.

Who says politicians don’t have a sense of humour.

But what does all this weather chat have to do with this lovely photo of small children, you may ask?

Well, in 1976, which boasted the driest, sunniest and warmest summer on record – until 1995 came along and spoiled everything – they were raising money to buy a new heater.

The boys and girls were members of Billingshurst Playgroup and, to be fair to them, the picture was taken at Easter so the ‘weather from hell’ was still a few weeks away.

The youngsters held an Easter bonnet parade at the village hall and raised the princely sum of £37 – about £280 today.

Fourteen children took part and the proud winners of the competition to make the best bonnet – with a little help from their mums – were Louise Arter, in the over fives group, and Joanne Lines in the under fives.

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