The Road Through Harpenden

by Chris Reynolds

 

Early Motor Cars

A MOTOR-CAR, which was the subject of much attention, entered the town on Saturday night leaving, Sunday morning.

Obviously a great novelty in St Albans - but whether it came through Harpenden is not known.

Herts Advertiser 6th February 1897

The St Albans City Justices on October 17th imposed the maximum penalty of 10 and costs upon Sir Charles Lawes, Bart., for driving a motor furiously in St Peters Street, on Oct. 1st, when a pet dog, the property of a local resident, was killed. As a sequel to this unfortunate ride, Sir Charles was summoned in the St Albans County Court for the value of the dog, and was then ordered to pay 10 and costs.

One of the first motoring convictions in St Albans - involving a leading figure from Harpenden!

Herts Advertiser Year End Report, 4th January, 1902

In April 1905 there was a fatal accident at Markyate which attracted significant publicity, and the driver was sentenced to six months hard labour. There was another fatal accident near Dunstable in August 1905.

I have not identified the first fatality on the St Albans to Luton road through Harpenden.

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If you can add to the information given above please tell me.

 

The accident at Markyate is reported in the Luton News of 20th April 1905, but there are later reports of the inquest:

FATALITY AT MARKYATE

CHILD KNOCKED DOWN BY A MOTOR.

About four o'clock on Tuesday a shocking accident occurred on the London-road at Markyate, a child named William Clifton being knocked down by a motor car and killed. The child, who was only five years of age, had just reached its home in the London-road after attending school, and it seems that it was playing a few yards from the door when a motor-car approached what is described as a terrific pace and knocked the child down The wheels passed over its head, killing it instantly. P.s. Bell and P.c. Barker were atonce sent for, and the latter returned for Dr. Edwards, who was promptly on the scene, but of course nothing could be A lad named Harry Loveridge had stated that the motor passed him on the London-road and owing to the pace at which it was proceeding, he particularly noticed the number, which he has given to the police. The child's hat was picked up at 250 yards away from the scene of the accident, having been carried that distance by the motor. Whether the driver of the automobile was aware of the accident yet remains to be ascertained, but it seems to be the fact that he did not stop. This and other questionsa s to the pace at which the motor was proceeding will, of course, arise at the inquest but at the bear writing the time of the Inquiry had nor been fixed.

The Daily Mail put up a reward of 100 to find the car - and were presumably very surprised when it turned out that the car was owned by a member of the Harmsworth family (which owned the Daily Mail). A very detailed account of the inquest - and the car appear in the Luton News of 27th April 1905.

The accident near Dunstable is reported over three columns in the Luton News of 17th August 1905:

TERRIBLE MOTOR DISASTER Near DUNSTABLE

LADY KILLED; OTHERS INJURED,

EYE-WITNESSES INTERVIEWED.

A. painful sensation has been caused through out the whole of the district surrounding Dunstable by the terrible motor-car collision, which resulted, on Monday evening, the death of Mrs. Nance Montague Hawnt. of 9. Bentick-street. Cavendish Square, London, and involved great personal injuries to her husband. Mr William Montague Hawnt, motor-car factor (whose place of business is in Clerkenwell-road, London), and a friend the family. Mr. Thornhill Broom, Birmingham  ... ... (See British Newspaper Archive for full text).

While the car looks extensively damaged it was actually a car under construction and was being tested and was just the chaise, engine and two seats - and the bodywork had not yet been added.

February 2017   1905 News reports added