Takeley Telephone Exchange Explosion

Probably the single most newsworthy day in Takeley's history was Wednesday November 14 th 1962, the day of the Takeley Telephone Exchange Explosion. The exchange was on the A120 near the Four Ashes crossroads behind where the bus shelter still stands. 



explosion 1The explosion made front page news in both local and national newspapers and left buildings looking as if they had been bombed. Amazingly no-one was killed, although flying glass injured a number of people and five were treated in hospital. The A120 was sealed off by police and all emergency services were called to the scene as fires burned on in cable ducts.

The late Ray Altham was a keen photographer and thanks to him we have a number of excellent photographs showing the wreckage of the exchange and the damage to nearby houses.



The village school stood across the road from the exchange.  Headmaster William Stuart Thomson was expecting an inspection that day from the Divisional Education Officer William Primmer. In the school log book entry for November 14th he gives a detailed account of the damage caused to the school and the activities that went on there that day.

For more detail follow these links for the personal accounts of those there on the day.

Ray Altham tells the story of how the explosion occurred.

Don Dean (one of the first on the scene) gives his account of the day's events.

Photos from Essex Fire Brigade

But that wasn't the end of it.  Several months later, on Friday January 25 th 1963, a further explosion took place which blew concrete GPO manhole covers off again, some fragments landing up to 100 yards away.

explosion 3

Although a much smaller explosion than the one which demolished the telephone exchange, this could also easily have ended in disaster. At least one of the manhole covers was in front of the Brewers End school railings and the explosion took place at exactly the time some of the 168 children would have been awaiting their bus to take them home.

It was just chance that they had been given the day off because of a burst water main due to the severe weather.

The school log book for Jan 28th 1963 again captures the events from the headmaster's perspective.

If we try to imagine the effect today of just one of these things; burst water main, A120 closed, gas supply turned off, no telephones in the village and not least the explosion, we would consider it quite a hardship - but that winter the people of Takeley had all of them! 




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