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Romford Now & Then   Glimpses of the Past in the Present

 

The following recollections of the Dolphin Centre were kindly provided by Terry Hadert, a former Director of Leisure Services with the London Borough of Havering:

The day I was appointed as the London Borough of Havering's 'Director of Leisure Services' (in April 1980) the council voted to build the Dolphin (the design for which had already been agreed in principle and budgeted for). The project was seen as providing a 'state of the art' Romford swimming pool - replacing the lamented Mawney Road Baths (itself controversial in Edwardian times) - and a Town Centre community functions centre for meetings, social events, exhibitions, etc - a role once served by Laurie Hall at the eastern end of the Market and other Town Centre halls which disappeared earlier during the 1960's Town Centre redevelopment. These included included The Kings Head and Lambourne (YMCA) Hall. The Dolphin took it's name from the Dolphin Pub which stood for centuries in the Market place.

My tasks included liaison with the Dolphin's development team over detailed design and equipment - then taking responsibility for the building once built - commissioning, staffing and 'launching' public use. It was meant to serve generations of Romford residents and visitors. Sadly it didn't! The failure of the pyramid roof - so innovative at the time - reportedly provided the excuse for the Council of a later year to close it.

My office, on Mercury House 9th floor, overlooked the Dolphin site. I saw the temporary public car park which operated there closed, remaining buildings cleared (the Mercury Gardens welfare meals service transferred to Yew Tree Lodge - coincidentally on the old Mawney Baths site!) and saw and heard the piles being driven deep into Romford's Town Centre subsoil over weeks. Brian Evans wrote of Roman burial remains being discovered during the excavation. In that location how much other earlier history might have been disturbed?

Over the months the new building rose, in it's modern form, complementing the Central Library the other side of Main Road (the Library itself winning a design award after it's construction in the early 60's).

Among so many memories is climbing the builder's scaffolding to the highest point of the Pyramid frame - before roof panels were installed - for the 'topping-out'. The sweeping views over Romford, and the distance from where I stood to the bottom of the (then empty) swimming pool as I looked down, were impressive. After a thousand-and-one and many more happenings, including the 'to do' and protocol of the 'Royal opening' by the Duke of Gloucester, community use started - with the project living up to expectations.

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