Lancashire nostalgia in 1984: Prison release; hosepipe ban; and earthquake hits county

Here's a look at some of the stories that were making the headlines back in 1984:

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 9:15 am
Updated Thursday, 8th July 2021, 9:16 am
Released from Preston prison early due to a Home Office exercise to reduce overcrowding
Released from Preston prison early due to a Home Office exercise to reduce overcrowding

Preston jail has vacancies as 60 men go free in mass release

More than 60 inmates walked to freedom from Preston prison as part of the biggest mass release in penal history.

The prisoners were all allowed out on licence in a new Home Office move aimed at cutting down overcrowding.

With reservoirs running dry water authorities have imposed a hosepipe ban

It follows a change in the rules of parole and affects more than 2,000 inmates across the country.

The exit at Preston was one of the largest in Britain. Prison staff jokingly marked the occasion by placing a red ink “Vacancies” sign on an office window.

The early release date clearly delighted the 64 inmates of Preston, who were allowed out in shifts from 8am.

Brian Oxley, 24, from Rotherham, serving 21 months for burglary, had expected to come out in September. But after walking from the huge wooden door to freedom, he said: “I realise this has given me a chance and I will not break parole.

“I have got a job to go to and I will go straight. This early release is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Each man was given a rail warrant and cash to give him a fresh start.

Acting deputy governor Mr James Maguire commented: It is an expedient system designed to relive overcrowding.

“The mood in the prison is quite bouyant.”

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Look back at a selection of pictures from 1984 here

Hosepipe ban amid county water crisis

Worried water board chiefs ordered a total ban on the use of hosepipes in a move to conserve vital supplies in Lancashire.

The drastic measure which will hit five million people has been taken as the region’s reservoirs dry up inch-by-inch every day.

Water levels are down to their lowest since the drought of 1976 and the normally rain-soaked Lake District, which supplies most of the North West, is in the middle of its driest spell for 90 years.

The hosepipe ban will cover all Lancashire except the West Lancashire district area, where local sources are not as depleted.

Householders face a maximum £400 fine for disobeying the order which could be the first of a series of rationing measures if rainfall does not increase.

Water authority officials issued a “common sense” appeal to help reduce the 24 million gallons used every day to water North West gardens.

Operations director Alan Michaelson said: “We hope the hosepipe ban will be sufficient. But if it gets more serious, we will have to take further action.”

Earthquake ‘biggest’ for a century’ hits

Britain was rocked by a huge earthquake - possibly the biggest for 100 years.

The tremor, measured at more than 5.5 on the Richter scale, shook the whole country just before 8am.

Shock waved were felt throughout Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire, North Wales, Greater Manchester and Merseyside. Buildings rocked and people were shaken on their feet.

Emergency switchboards, services and newspapers were flooded with calls from anxious people but there were no reports of bad injuries or any serious damage.

The previous largest recorded was on the Dogger Bank in 1931 when 5.1 was registered.

Seismologist Mr Terry Turbitt at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh said: “This tremor is very large by British standards. You would only expect a tremor like this every hundred years or so.”

The quake was much stronger than the one which hit Cumbria and Lancashire in 1979, and which registered 4.8.

Hundreds of thousands of households were affected throughout the region.

Experts believe the epicentre of the quake was near Anglesey.