What Speed is that Motor Vehicle Doing?

One case in the Bridport News stood out for me because it gave me more information about my Great, Grandfather.

In October 1933 Grandad Beck was himself involved in a car accident as a passenger in a taxi. While giving evidence Grandad Beck said He had travelled thousands of miles with Foot (the taxi driver). Thousands, that sounds a lot, was he exaggerating or the Bridport News. I started to consider whether Grandad Beck had a car and drove. From newspaper reports of the Police Standing Committee I knew that some of the Dorset Superintendents received allowances for the use of their own cars on police business. Supt. Beck was not mentioned, therefore I can assume that he didn’t have a car. When I asked my father he said, “Grandad didn’t drive and always used a taxi”. When Grandad Beck visited Wytherston (our farm near Powerstock) he always came with the same taxi driver.

Prior to moving to Bridport Grandad Beck used a horse and trap to travel between Beaminster and Bridport. This was told me by a gentleman who could remember seeing him in driving the trap. My father also remembers his Grandfather saying he drove a trap between the two locations. When Grandad Beck moved to Bridport in 1925 there would have been nowhere to stable the horse so this may have been when he got rid of the horse and trap. Below is a photo of Grandad Beck and his first wife Rebecca, likely to have been taken between Beaminster and Briport in the early 1920s.

Photograph shows Grandad Beck in uniform driving a pony and trap. Sitting beside him is his first wife, Rebecca
Grandad and Rebecca Beck Driving Pony & Trap

I conclude that Grandad Beck did not drive, from the police standing committee report I can see that this was unusual for someone in his position. Why he didn’t drive himself I can only speculate.

In 1934 the Transport Minister Leslie Hore Belisha imposed a 30 mph speed limit in built-up areas, as the previous speed limit on all roads of 20 mph had been abolished in 1930. In 1933 a driver alleged to be driving too fast down the main road in Lyme Regis was charged with driving a motor car in a dangerous manner and without due care and attention. The paper used the argument between the prosecutor, Grandad Beck and the solicitor defending as a heading. “Don’t be absurd”. Though for the reporter to call it a heated argument seems a bit of an exaggeration. This case was heard at Lyme Regis.

Accident near Beaminster

In October 1933 Grandad Beck was himself involved in a car accident and had the difficult task of prosecuting a case where he was also a witness.

The accident happened to a taxi in which Grandad Beck and his second wife were travelling in on Thursday morning of September 21st 1933. Just outside Beaminster the taxi was travelling down a hill, following a bus. The bus was doing about 20 miles per hour when it stopped very suddenly. The taxi also put on its breaks but the brakes locked, the taxi skidded and went into the back of the bus. From the report in the Bridport News, Grandad Beck was the only one injured, he had minor injuries to his face.

At the Bridport police court the bus driver Mr Arthur Martin, explained why he put on his breaks. As he rounded the corner two cars came towards him, side by side. One car was overtaking and on seeing this, Mr Martin, the driver of the bus put on his emergency brake. The overtaking car , also applied his breaks and pulled over, thus avoiding an accident. All those at the court agreed that if the two drivers Mr Martin and Wroner had not braked then there would have been a worse accident. Mr William Worner, licensee of the Quiet Woman Inn at Halstock, the driver of the car trying to overtake was in court being charged with: for driving a motor car in a manner dangerous to the public, driving without due care and attention, and failing to stop after an accident. He denied all the charges.

There was a lot of discussion as to whether the taxi was driving too close to the taxi. The driver of the taxi William Foot of Bridport, denied this. When Grandad Beck gave evidence as a passenger in the taxi, he estimated the taxi was literally crawling at about 10 miles per hour. He considered it was absolutely safe driving on the part of Foot (the taxi driver). The radiator, of the taxi, was smashed and the lamps damaged. When Grandad Beck was asked if he saw the two cars approaching, he said “I only saw stars for a few minutes”. To the amusement of the court room.

On the charge of not stopping, the defendant said “I didn’t stop because I didn’t consider I was in the wrong” He considered the accident was caused by the taxi driving too close to the bus. The charge of not stopping was dismissed. But for the other two charges he was fined £3 and costs. The defendant was also warned that if he was convicted for a similar offence his license would be suspended.

Dangerous Driving in Lyme Regis

The Bridport News reported an heated argument between a Bridport Solicitor and the Superintendent of police during the hearing of a case at Lyme Regis. From later reports we are given to understand that the two men were friends, but in the court room they were professional opponents.

The Solicitor was Mr. J Roper who was defending Paul Bradford from Sherborne against charges of driving a motor car in a dangerous manner and without due care and attention. The incident happened in the evening of Whit-Monday 5th June 1933, at about 9am. A witness, Charles Robinson from Luton, stated It was very fast and very hazardous, particularly in view of the nature of the throughfare, down Broad Street, Lyme Regis.

The witness stated that he heard someone shout “He’s got him”. The report in the Bridport News went on:
Mr Roper: As a matter of fact, you do not know whether the shout that you heard had anything to do with the car that passed?
Witness: Yes, I made enquires.
Mr Roper: I cannot have that.
Supt. Beck (Interposing): You asked the question and you must take the answer.
Mr. Roper: Don’t be absurd.
Supt. Beck: It is you who are absurd.
Mr. Roper: If you please, Superintendent, I am on my feet. At the moment this witness has made a statement upon hearsay, which I say is entirely improper.
The Mayor (Mr. G. H. Worth): The witness is entitled to give that answer. Get on with the case, please.

The witness estimated the car came down the road at 25 miles per hour. Broad Street in Lyme Regis is the main road running through the town. The road follows a very steep hill, down through the main shopping street to the bottom, where there is a sharp bend. At this bend the road becomes Bridge Street and narrows considerably to one vehicle width before it climbs the hill out of Lyme Regis.

P.S. Lovelace was standing at the bottom of Broad Street when the car passed him. The car, in his opinion was going at over 30 miles an hour, “a very fast speed”. The Sergeant took the number of the car and communicated with the motor patrol at Bridport. The motor patrol told the driver at Charmouth (the next village about 3 miles away) that he had been reported for dangerous, reckless, or careless driving. Paul Bradford, the driver, returned to Lyme Regis Police station to find out what the charge was and where the alleged offence took place, because he was convinced a mistake had been made.

When witness expressed the opinion that defendant was travelling in top gear, Bradford retorted: “That is where you are wrong. I was not. If I was travelling at 30 miles an hour it was far too fast. I was driving through Lyme Regis with great care”. He claimed that he was motoring down Broad Street in third gear at between 18 and 20 miles per hour. The statement that he was travelling at 30 miles an hour…was outrageous.”

The Bench decided to dismiss the case for dangerous driving, but to convict the defendant for driving without due care and attention. Supt. Beck gave 5 instances where Paul Bradford had been fined for other motor related offences. The bench fined the defendant £3 and declined to endorse his licence.

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Ref: Quotes in italics
Bridport News 13th October 1933
Bridport News – Friday 16 June 1933

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