EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: Flashback to the day Maggie visited Wisbech and was shocked by the aftermath of serious flooding

Tearfully 68year old Mrs Mabel Freeman tells Mrs Thatcher about the night her home was flooded.

Tearfully 68year old Mrs Mabel Freeman tells Mrs Thatcher about the night her home was flooded. - Credit: Archant

IN March 1978 Margaret Thatcher, still leader of the Oppositon and a year from becoming Prime Minister, dropped into Wisbech for a visit.

Mrs Thatcher meets Mr Michael Pallett and his family who were flooded out of their home in Lime Aven

Mrs Thatcher meets Mr Michael Pallett and his family who were flooded out of their home in Lime Avenue, Wisbech - Credit: Archant

She spent six hours visiting the area that also including being taken to Manea to inspect a pig farm. She also promised pupils at Wisbech Grammar School she would do what she could to keep the school open.

Mr Dan Lock shows the Tory leader round his flood damaged home in Lime Avenue.

Mr Dan Lock shows the Tory leader round his flood damaged home in Lime Avenue. - Credit: Archant

Here’s how we reported that visit.

Tory leader Margaret Thatcher chats to floodhit residents of Sybil Road Wisbech.

Tory leader Margaret Thatcher chats to floodhit residents of Sybil Road Wisbech. - Credit: Archant

Bowthorpe Maternity Hospital protesters confront Mrs Thatcher on her arrival back at Hudson Centre f

Bowthorpe Maternity Hospital protesters confront Mrs Thatcher on her arrival back at Hudson Centre for lunch. - Credit: Archant

Margaret Thatcher Chatteris, picture from Cambridgeshire Times March 1983.

Margaret Thatcher Chatteris, picture from Cambridgeshire Times March 1983. - Credit: Archant

Margaret Thatcher picture from Cambridgeshire Times March 17th 1978.

Margaret Thatcher picture from Cambridgeshire Times March 17th 1978. - Credit: Archant

THE Conservative Party leader, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, spent six hours at Wisbech yesterday and the amount which she managed to cram into that short space of time was quite astonishing.

Mrs Thatcher seeing the flood damage for herself, Left: Cllr Peter Skoulding, Cllr Alfred Harrold (M

Mrs Thatcher seeing the flood damage for herself, Left: Cllr Peter Skoulding, Cllr Alfred Harrold (Mayor of Wisbech) Michael Osbourn, Dr Tom Stuttaford and Mr Dennis Thatcher. - Credit: Archant

Between landing by helicopter outside the Hudson Sports Centre and leaving to visit pig farms at Manea, she had a briefing from Fenland district and Cambridgeshire county councillors on the flood relief measures taken after the January disaster.

Mr Hubert Leet, managing director of Seadyke Freight Systems Ltd, explaining his problems to Mrs Tha

Mr Hubert Leet, managing director of Seadyke Freight Systems Ltd, explaining his problems to Mrs Thatcher. Left: Dr Tom Stuttaford, Mrs Thatcher, Hubert Leet and Dennis Thatcher. - Credit: Archant


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She visited homes and industries which had been affected; gave television interviews and addressed a gathering of over 500 Conservative workers from the Isle of Ely and neighbouring constituencies.

Getting the message..... Mrs Thatcher and Dr Tom Stuttaford looking suitably impressed with the demo

Getting the message..... Mrs Thatcher and Dr Tom Stuttaford looking suitably impressed with the demonstration by Wisbech Hospitals Action Group. - Credit: Archant

Mrs Thatcher met banner-waving members of Wisbech Hospitals Action Group; promised pupils from Wisbech Grammar School to do what she could to see that their school did not close; and had an informal chat with local newspaper editors.

Mrs Thatcher being escorted from her helicopter by Mr Bob Aveling Chairman of the Isle of Ely Conser

Mrs Thatcher being escorted from her helicopter by Mr Bob Aveling Chairman of the Isle of Ely Conservative Association, and Dr Tom Stuttaford prospective Parliamentary candidate for the Isle. - Credit: Archant

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Before arriving at Wisbech, Mrs. Thatcher had been to Peterborough, where she toured the Perkins Engines factory and called on the Mayor, Mrs. Jean Barker. After her visit to Manea she returned to Peterborough by helicopter and then drove to Bradford by car to complete a hectic day.

Mrs Thatcher ,eeting flood victims during her visit to Sybil Road, Wisbech.

Mrs Thatcher ,eeting flood victims during her visit to Sybil Road, Wisbech. - Credit: Archant

From the moment that Mrs. Thatcher arrived at Wisbech with her husband it was clear that she was not prepared to stick rigidly to the timetable which had been carefully drawn up.

Margaret Thatcher launches the stern trawler Boston Sea Stallion. Date: Jun 1978

Margaret Thatcher launches the stern trawler Boston Sea Stallion. Date: Jun 1978 - Credit: Archant

Before going into the Hudson Sports Centre for her briefing on the flood problems, she strolled across the car park to speak to a Wisbech fire crew, under Station Officer David Rayner, which was standing by.

Margaret Thatcher launches the stern trawler Boston Sea Stallion. Date: Jun 1978

Margaret Thatcher launches the stern trawler Boston Sea Stallion. Date: Jun 1978 - Credit: Archant

From the sports centre she went to the Seadyke Freight factory in Nene Parade which was badly affected by the flooding, and was shown round by the managing director, Mr. Hubert Leet.

Mrs Thatcher chats to Jonathan Peel, chairman of the How Hill Trust, as he shows her round How Hill

Mrs Thatcher chats to Jonathan Peel, chairman of the How Hill Trust, as he shows her round How Hill today.Picture taken: 23/05/1990.Source: Library.

Among those accompanying Mrs. Thatcher were the Mayor and Mayoress of Wisbech, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Harrold; chairman of Fenland District Council, Mrs. Beryl Petts; vice-chairman, Mr. Robert Wallace; council leader, Mr. Michael Osborn, housing committee chairman, Mr. Peter Skoulding; policy and resources committee chairman, Mrs. Doreen Fleming, and representatives of the county authority.

Mrs. Thatcher ideally dressed for Norfolk with a warm fur-trimmed top coat and simple, elegant day d

Mrs. Thatcher ideally dressed for Norfolk with a warm fur-trimmed top coat and simple, elegant day dress to take her through numerous appointments.Picture taken: 15/01/1974.Source: Library.

From there, the Conservative leader was taken to Lime Avenue, part of the vast council housing estate which was under water in January.

Mrs Margaret Thatcher with some of the men who helped to build the stern Trawler Boston Sea Stallion

Mrs Margaret Thatcher with some of the men who helped to build the stern Trawler Boston Sea Stallion which she launched at Richards Shipyard, at Southtown, Yarmouth, yesterday (21/06/1978).

There it had been arranged that she would call on Mr. and Mrs. Dan Lock before moving on to Sybil Road, an area of private housing, but Mrs. Thatcher decided to go on a walkabout. She spoke to many residents of the area, discussing with them the problems of insurance and of redecorating flood damaged property.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher is shown the Formula One 88 Lotus racing car by Mr. Colin Chapman, Managing D

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher is shown the Formula One 88 Lotus racing car by Mr. Colin Chapman, Managing Director of Lotus (right). With them are the Lord Mayor of Norwich Mr. Alan Driver; and Mr Denis Thatcher.Picture taken: 05/08/1981.Source: Library.

In Sybil Road, she was due to meet Mr. and Mrs. Richard Ward, whose home had three feet of water on the ground floor and whose 14-month-old daughter is now in hospital suffering from asthma, probably caused by the flooding.

Library file picture dated 7/10/86 of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with Jeffrey Archer, depu

Library file picture dated 7/10/86 of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with Jeffrey Archer, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party at the 1986 party conference in Bournemouth. - Credit: PA

But before calling on the Wards, Mrs. Thatcher made an unscheduled visit to their next-door neighbour, 68-year-old widow Mrs. Mabel Freeman, who lost all her possessions on the ground floor.

 <co filer>Margaret Thatcher , pictured during a brief stop in Narborough during a "Whistlestop" to

Margaret Thatcher , pictured during a brief stop in Narborough during a "Whistlestop" tour of the region in May 1983. The then MP for South West Norfolk, Sir Paul Hawkins, can just be seen over Mrs Thatcher's right shoulder. .( see story TWT 27/5/83) - Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant

This was one of the worst hit roads in the town and Mrs. Thatcher was clearly shocked and moved by the devastation she found there.

<co filer>Margaret Thatcher , speaking from the back of a cattle float(rt),, addresses the crowd in

Margaret Thatcher , speaking from the back of a cattle float(rt),, addresses the crowd in Castle Acre during a "Whistlestop" tour of the region in May 1983. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant

She said afterwards that she had been impressed by the stories she had been told of the help which had been given to the flood victims.

 <co filer>Margaret Thatcher , thronged by the crowd in Castle Acre during a "Whistlestop" tour of

Margaret Thatcher , thronged by the crowd in Castle Acre during a "Whistlestop" tour of the region in May 1983.( see story TWT 27/5/83) - Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant

“The local authority has been marvellous and the voluntary organisations wonderful,” she said.

View of an original Spitting Image puppet of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher which i

View of an original Spitting Image puppet of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher which is being auctioned at Christie's auction house in Kensington, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 7, 2007. The puppet is expected to reach £1,000 to 1,500 when it is sold alongside other items in the Christie's film and entertainment memorabilia sale on Wednesday December 19, 2007 in London. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Questioned as to her views on the Government aid formula, Mrs. Thatcher said that this was a matter which she was still discussing with the local authorities.

It was clear, however, that, while central government had spent so much time talking before deciding what to do, the local councils had acted very promptly.

By this time, Mrs. Thatcher had spent so long with victims of the flooding, that she was well behind the schedule planned for her.

This meant that she was late arriving at the Hudson Sport Centre to address the party workers assembled there and was not able to spend the amount of time with two groups outside the building which she obviously wanted to do.

One group comprised members of the Wisbech Hospitals Action Group and the other consisted of about 20 sixth-formers from the local grammar school.

The spokesman for the pupils was Louis Backer, who told Mrs. Thatcher: “The grammar school is in danger of being closed because of the Labour Government’s policy and we hope that, when you come to power, you will save it.”

Mrs. Thatcher replied: “If we come into office quickly enough, we can save it. I am all in favour of grammar schools.”

She invited the two protesting groups into the meeting in the sports hall.

The question of the reorganisation of secondary education in Cambridgeshire was one with which Mrs. Thatcher dealt at some length when she met local newspaper editors at the Stewart Rooms after her speech at the sports centre.

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