Blake, Francis

Blake, Francis     1918 August 23rd           Alderbury

Fatal Motor Accident

Mr F Blake, of Homington, Knocked Down at Alderbury

A very unfortunate accident, which resulted in the death of Mr Francis Blake, of Homington, occurred on Wednesday near the Fountain at Alderbury. It was caused by the driver of a motor car turning in the main road and backing towards a side-road at the moment that Mr Blake was about to cross over from the side-road.

An inquest was held in the Alderbury Parish Room yesterday (Thursday) afternoon before the Coroner for South Wilts, Mr F H Trethowan.

Sarah Street, wife of James Street, a carter living in Silver Street, Alderbury, stated that Francis Blake was her father. His home was in Homington but he was on a visit to her, and was 86 years of age. At about midday on Wednesday he left her house to go to post, and a message came to her about a quarter of an hour afterwards that an accident had happened to him. He was shortly afterwards brought back seriously hurt, and died about 2 o’clock. He was not deaf.

Richard Henry Knight, Education Officer under the Surrey County Council, living at Sutton, said he was staying at Alderbury, and on Wednesday was coming up Silver Street going towards the Fountain when he saw a stationary motor car facing the road to the Post Office. An old man was in front of him, and as he got close to the corner and was about to go into the main road the motor car suddenly started to come backwards. It appeared to him that the driver was endeavouring to turn so as to get on the main road to Salisbury. He was accordingly backing it in the direction of Southampton and the old man did not get out of the way in time. He moved to the right but the back of the car knocked him forward and must have gone over him, though witness did not see it do so. The car was not travelling very fast at the time. The driver, and Mr Cox and witness attended to the old man and then took him to his daughter’s house in the car. Fortunately a nurse was there when they arrived and she took charge of the case. She asked him to send for a doctor and he wired to Dr Ward to come at once.

The Coroner : You do not know either party, the deceased, the driver, or the owner of the car, therefore your opinion is of considerable value to the jury. Do you think that there was anything negligent on the part of the driver?

Witness : No, I cannot say that I do.

It seems to me that the driver did not know that the deceased was behind him. If so the only negligence there could be was in not seeing whether anyone was behind? I certainly saw him stand up and look over the back of the car before he turned and backed, but the hedge must have prevented him seeing the old gentleman.

Walter Brixey, of 31, Hartington Road, Salisbury, the driver of the car, expressed his desire to give evidence, and said he agreed with what Mr Knight had said. He added that this was the first time he had driven a car and he was being taught by Mr William Read, who was standing near the Fountain when the accident happened and shouted to him. He did not know why he was shouting , and had no idea that anyone was behind the car.

William Read, the owner of the car, was not called to give evidence, but made a brief statement. He explained that they had come from Salisbury and he got out of the car at the Fountain to see that the main road was clear and then told Brixey exactly how to back the car and turn it round so that they could return to Salisbury. As he was backing it, witness saw the old gentleman coming out of the side road so he shouted to Brixey to put on the breaks. He hurt his leg in trying to save the old man from being knocked down.

Dr A E J Ward, of Salisbury, said he arrived at Mrs Street’s house at 1.30pm and found Francis Blake lying on the sofa in a dying condition. He had cuts and bruises about him, but no fractures, and he died from shock abut half-an-hour later. Witness had attended him before. He was a wonderful old man, but had palsy and a tendency to be shaky in his movements. He could walk well, but was not agile.

Answering the Foreman, the doctor said he first had a message about the accident from Read and Brixey, who called and told him they had knocked a man down and his hands were cut. Not knowing it was so far away as Alderbury he told them to take him to the Infirmary. They subsequently returned with a letter from the nurse saying that the old man was badly hurt, and at about the same time he received the wire, probably about 1.20. He was then driven out at once.

The Foreman explained that he had enquired about the way in which the message was delivered, because he wondered if the telegram had been delayed.

Mr Knight said he understood there was a telephone at Alderbury but it could not be used.

Mr Northeast, the sub-postmaster, who happened to be on the jury, stated that the telephone was only used to send messages to the Post Office at Salisbury, and it was not a public telephone.

Mr Knight said that if he could have gone into the Post Office and telephoned direct to Dr Ward’s house the message would have reached him in a few minutes, whereas a telegram might be delayed, and it might be a matter of life or death.

The Coroner said he took it that the jury regretted that it was not possible to use the telephone at Alderbury for a matter of this sort.

The Foreman said that that was so, but they knew that the sub-postmaster could not help it.

The Sub-Postmaster : We are only allowed to let the Police and the military authorities use it.


Dr Ward suggested that in an urgent matter perhaps Mr Macan’s telephoned might be used.


Addressing the jury, the Coroner pointed out the value of the evidence given by Mr Knight who was an unbiased witness and had told them exactly what he saw. He thought the jury would come to the conclusion that though Brixey was not a competent driver, and did not claim to be, there was no negligence on his part and that death was due to accident. The old man was apparently hidden by a hedge from the driver’s sight.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death” and gave their fees to the local Nursing Association.


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