BARRY Symonds will not forget the day he was caught in the London smog.

As a young church server, he joined a party from Oxford going to the Guild of Servers’ annual meeting in 1952.

That was one of the worst years for pollution in the capital.

Mr Symonds, of Ringwood Road, Headington, writes: “We all went by coach to Paddington Parish Church in London for a service and then to the meeting.

“When we reached Hyde Park, the smog was so bad that police had flares.

“We edged slowly to the Paddington area and parked the coach in the street until we returned late afternoon.

“Returning to the coach, the driver decided it was too dangerous to try to get back to Oxford.

“I was with my mother and friends and it was decided that the only way back to Oxford was by train.

“The whole coach party linked hands and locals led us to Paddington Station. It was quite a scary experience and one I will never forget.”

Mr Symonds was prompted to write in after seeing the photograph of the ‘well service’ at St Margaret’s Church, Binsey (Oxford Mail, April 26).

He enclosed a picture taken when the Guild of Servers visited the church for the ‘well blessing’ in the early 1950s.

The well is said to have been the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s treacle well in Alice in Wonderland.

The picture shows the parish priest, the Rev Arnold Mallinson, on the well steps, the Bishop of Dorchester, Kenneth Richens, is in the centre, and Bob Miller, secretary of the Oxford Guild of Servers, is on the Bishop’s right.

Barry Symonds, who served at Christ Church Cathedral as well as at St Albans Church in Charles Street, East Oxford, is the lad on the left of the picture.

  • The Great Smog of 1952 darkened the streets of London and killed about 4,000 people in four days.

A further 8,000 died from its effects in the weeks and months to follow.

Initially a flu epidemic was blamed for the loss of life.

In 1956, the Clean Air Act introduced smokeless zones in the capital, which reduced sulphur dioxide levels and made the intense smog a thing of the past.

Buildings recovered their original stone façades which, during two centuries, had gradually blackened.