Summer heatwaves in South Benfleet

Reverend Ralph Gardner
St Mary's Church records
'The Manse' the original Council Offices on corner of Kenneth Road and London Road. In the guide dated 1953/54

In August of 1932 a late summer heatwave swept across south Essex and one woman took her quest to be cool a bit too far.
She breezed into St. Mary’s Church in South Benfleet wearing nothing but a bathing suit and a large sun hat.
This was nigh on sacrilegious in those days.  It would still raise eyebrows today.
The vicar of the church, the Rev. Ralph Gardner, was certainly left boiling with rage.
“During the recent heatwave a lady was seen to enter the church dressed in a bathing costume and a large sun hat.  Apparently she had no sense of indecency in doing so,” he sniped.
Referring to the hat and the tradition of women covering their heads in church he sarcastically fumed:  “Possibly she thought the hat satisfied St. Paul’s ruling.  On the other hand, such is the ignorance of many people in elementary matters today, she had possibly never heard of St. Paul.”

In 1948 there was another big heatwave across Essex.  Temperatures soared to 88 degrees – a record at the time.
Things got so hot at Benfleet Council that leaders voted to fit two electric fans in the council chamber for £49 each.
“That should get rid of some of the hot air,” swiped one council member.

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