Taunton Courier 16 Aug 1933 Westport Fatality Resumed Inquest Verdict on George Henry MORRIS of Barrington

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Taunton Courier. Bristol and Exeter Journal, and Western Advertiser Wednesday 16 Aug 1933

Page 2 Column 3 & 4




The inquest was resumed at the Royal Oak Inn, Barrington, on Friday on George Henry MORRIS, a small-holder, of Barrington, who died as the result of injuries received by being knocked down by a car driven by Mr. F. W. C. WELDON a 19-year-old military student, of Midelney Place, Curry Rivel, on the main Ilminster-Langport-road at Westport on Tuesday, August 1st.

The Deputy Coroner for West Somerset (Mr. F. W. WILLMOTT) sat with a jury of eight, of which Mr. E. GATTY was chosen foreman. Mr. WELDON was represented by Mr. F. S. DODSON (Messrs. Dodson & Pulman, Taunton), while the interests of the deceased's widow were watched by Mr. Fredk PROCTOR (Messrs. Saunders & Proctor, Crewkerne). Supt. H. FRY represented the police.


P.S. MORRIS, of Ilminster, said at 5.5 p.m. on August 1st he went to the scene of the accident, and on reaching the Westport turning at Puckington he noticed a red flag and a warning notice board right on the corner.

After proceeding along the Westport-road as far as the last bend before the Westport Inn came in sight he saw another notice board to the effect that a steam roller was working. The first warning was the best part of a mile away and the last warning 250 to 300 yards from the steam roller. Arriving at the scene of the accident he saw on his off side of the road a steam roller and a little farther on a “tar-pot” with a horse attached. The horse was facing in the same direction as witness was going. On his near side at the entrance to the Westport Inn yard at the extreme end of the building he saw a motor-car stationary, and lying on the grass verge on the near side of the car, practically level with the front wheel, was the body of the deceased. Before his arrival deceased had been placed on an improvised stretcher. Witness ascertained that life had been pronounced extinct, and had the body removed. Witness examined the car and noticed that the radiator was dented, the off-side headlamp turned inwards, the cross stay between the two head-lamps bent, the radiator cap missing, and the glass of the windscreen broken. On looking inside the car witness found the radiator cap.


Witness interviewed the driver of the car and cautioned him. Witness asked if he cared to make a statement and advised him before so doing to consult his father, who was present. In a statement he said “I am a cadet at an Army college, and reside at Midelney Place, Curry Rivel. On Tuesday, August 1st, at about 5. p.m., I was driving my father's car, a Buick 24 h.p. saloon, from Lyme Regis to Curry Rivel. Arriving at Westport cross-roads, I was following another car. This car slowed up because a number of men were working in the roadway with a steam-roller and a tar-pot. I was about 10 yards behind the first car, and as the car passed the men stood at the side. I started to pass. All the men stood still, with the exception of one, who came from behind the tar-pot. He walked straight out into my track. I swerved to my left, and he ran the same way, with the result that I hit him with the centre of my car radiator. At the time I hit him he was running, and he went some few paces in the direction I was going before he fell. I stopped my car practically on a level with the spot at the side of the road where he fell. I got out to see of the road where he fell. I got out to see if I could render assistance and send for the doctor and police. This car in front of me to which I referred was driven by my mother.”

Continuing, witness said the first vehicle he saw was the steam-roller, which was stationary, and it was evident from the freshly-laid chippings on the road that the roller had not moved. Witness also ascertain <sic> from the driver that it had not been moved. The width of the road by the steam-roller was 20ft. The roller occupied 8ft. 6ins. Witness marked the position of the of the tar-pot by making marks in the road with a pick-axe. Witness also marked the position of Mr. WELDON's car. Witness later identified these marks to Mr. QUAYLE, the local surveyor, and assisted him in the measurements. Witness also identified to him certain brake marks which led up to the wheels of the car. They were not particularly pronounced. The road surface was dry and in fairly rough condition, and an ordinary tyre would have no difficulty in “biting” the road. Witness, in company with the Surveyor and Colonel W. HERRING COOPER, tested the brakes of the car. Both hand and foot-brakes were in good working order. There was a tendency for the car to skid when the brakes were applied, but he accounted for that by the test being made on a tarred surface and owing to the weather the tar would be very slack. At 7.30 a.m. the following day witness visited the scene in company with Mr. QUAYLE and a photographer, and three photographs (produced) were taken. The weather was fine and clear.


Cyril Moore QUAYLE, surveyor to the Langport Rural District Council, gave evidence as to the road measurements and the position of the vehicles. He prepared a plan (produced). The steam-roller was 80ft. from the cross-roads. The road was almost constant at 20ft. wide. The distance between the roller and the tar-pot was approximately 50ft. The steam-roller was approximately 7ft. wide, and was 2ft. from the edge of the road, while the tar-pot was about 3ft. The width of the tar-pot was 4ft. 6ins. and its length with horse was 19ft. 6ins. Its height was about 5ft. from the road level. The skid mark made by the car was approximately 36ft. Taken from a line of the horse's head the skid mark started 6ft. to the left.

In reply to Mr. DODSON, witness said the impression made by the car was more like a swerve mark than a skid mark. No instructions were given to the men as to keeping a look-out, and they had to use their own judgement.

In answer to Mr. PROCTOR, witness said the distance from the tar-pot to the back of the car was approximately 45ft. The distance from the tar-pot to where the body was picked up was 60ft. The width of the road allowing for the roller would be 11ft., and the over-all width of the car was 5ft. 7½ins. There was a clear view coming from Puckington of 990ft to the scene of the accident.

Mr. DODSON: You could not see everything. The vehicles would obstruct a certain number of the men – Witness: The steam-roller would obstruct everything else.


Charles MEADE, of Puckington, a labourer, who said he was with a gang of men tar-spraying in front of the roller, stated that he saw two motor-cars coming towards him. They were coming faster than they should have, and he got on the grass verge out of the way of them. He first saw it when the front car was 20 yards away, and it gave no warning. The two cars were about 100 yards apart. At no time did he hear a warning. As the last car went by he went back to his work. He looked round and saw his mates running up the road towards a car, and he did likewise. Witness saw deceased lying on the grass verge on the left side of the car near the wall adjoining the inn. He did not see deceased moved. Someone said to the driver of the car that he was driving too fast, and he replied that he wanted to keep in sight of his mother. Witness thought the speed of the car was too fast in view of the obstructions on the road. “He was coming like a madman.” said witness. Both cars were travelling too fast, but the rear one was gaining speed on the front one when it passed him.

Mr. PROCTOR Did you pass any opinion to your mates as to the speed of the car? - Witness: I never said anything to them about it.

Phillip Alfred Edward STONE, the driver of the steam-roller, said there was a lorry behind the roller laden with chippings, and the men were spreading the chippings on the road. He saw a car approaching at a fast rate, and –? gave no warning, neither did it attempt to slow up, but passed the roller quite all right. There would have been no need for the last witness to get on to the grass verge had the car been driven at a proper rate.

The Coroner: This car passed at a greater speed than the average number of cars passing during the day? - Witness: Yes.

The Coroner: Do you think the speed of the car was a safe one? - Witness: It was being driven too fast, notwithstanding that road tarring was in progress.


Continuing, witness said the second car, which came about five seconds behind the other one, seemed to be going faster than the first. He kept it in view, and it seemed to wobble first to the left and then to the right. Immediately it got level with the horse there was an impact. The car then seemed to go right across the left-hand side of the road opposite to the entrance to the Westport Inn, and there came to a standstill. Witness got off the roller. He first noticed that the red flag, which had been put up between the roller and the tar port on the opposite side of the road had been knocked down. Witness went towards the car and saw in front of it the body of the deceased, who was lying on the grass verge with his head towards the road. The car seemed to be slightly behind the body. Witness looked at deceased, and walked towards the car, the driver of which came towards him.

Witness told him he was driving too fast, and he said he was not as he was keeping his mother in line. MORRIS's job was to lead the the <sic> horse in the tar pot.

The Coroner: Did it seem extraordinary to you, as the tar pot was inside the roller, how it was that MORRIS was struck by the car? - Witness: The car struck across the road to the right. It seemed to me that the car struck the flag, and thinking it would hit the verge, struck across to the right at right angles.

The Foreman: What made you watch the progress of the second car? - Witness: Because as it got level with my roller the car seemed to wobble, and I did not think it would get by.

In reply to Supt. FRY witness said he saw a pool of blood where deceased's head had been lying.


Frank DADE, of Puckington, a roadman employed by the Langport R.D.C., said the second car which passed just touched the top of his shovel as he was laying the chippings on the road. Just as the car touched the shovel something went off “bang.” Witness said to the driver: “What have you done?” and he replied: “I don't know what I have done.” He further said “I was keeping in line with my mother.” He was looking in the direction where MORRIS was standing by the head of the horse, on the right-hand side. Witness did not see MORRIS move from the horse's head.

The Coroner: Would there be any need for him to cross the road? - Witness: No, sir, I never saw him cross the road at all. Witness added that he was 10 to 11 yards away from MORRIS at the time.

Edward James MORRIS, brother of deceased, who was also working at the spot about two yards from the last witness, spoke to seeing the second car nearly hit DADE, and then of hearing the impact. “I turned around and saw a man lying on the road and a car stopped” said witness. “I ran over and saw it was my brother.” When he last saw his brother he was within a foot of the horse's head and holding the rein.

Stephen HULL, of Hambridge, another of the workmen, said when the cars reached him they were from 15 to 20 yards apart. The second car was travelling at a high speed, and after passing witness he heard the brakes being applied. The car swerved to the left, and the deceased was flung clean from it in front, and there he lay on his back. Witness heard no warning. The first car was going too fast for where men were working.


Evidence was also given by George Thomas GLOVER (bricklayer), Westport, who said he was watching the men working from the grass verge at Westport cross-roads. He saw the two cars coming from Puckington, and the latter seemed to swerve to the left when passing the steam-roller. Then it swerved to the right towards MORRIS, who was standing by the horse's head. The car then swerved to the left, taking what appeared to be the deceased on with it. He heard the brakes applied, and saw the deceased slide out from the near side of the car on the grass verge. Witness jumped over the notice board and ran to the deceased and in doing so he might have knocked the flag down. He felt his coat touch something, but he could not say what it was.

Mr. DOBSON said in order to shorten the time Mr. WELDON would not give evidence except to admit the statement made to the police. Mrs. HERRING COOPER, mother of Mr. WELDON, who had been in the court, had willingly offered voluntarily to place herself as a witness.


After being cautioned by the Coroner, Mrs. Muriel Stuart HERRING COOPER said she was driving the first car, and she could see half the road was up, and there were men on the other half of the road which was not being tarred. She slowed up and sounded her horn, and the men stepped off the road, some to the right, and two to the left. She changed gear, drove with car and went straight through. She noticed one of the men stoop and pick something up, but she did not know what it was. It was understood that her son should keep behind her both on the way to Lyme Regis and on the return. She knew the road very well. She could not say what speed she was going, but when she changed speed just before she reached the obstruction it was about 18 m.p.h. She could not say what speed she did in the obstructed section. She knew noting of the accident.

In reply to Supt. FRY witness said she did not see her son after they left Lyme Regis until after the accident. She did not agree with the speed at which she had been estimated to travel. She did not notice the danger notice boards, but it was obvious the road was under repair.

In reply to Mr. PROCTOR, she said her son had driven the car quite a lot and had had a licence ever since he was eligible for a licence. He was 20 years of age the day after the accident.

The Coroner, summing up, said it seemed to him that something must have happened which caused the Buick car to swerve at all, as there was ample room for the two cars to have passed in reasonable circumstances. He did not suppose they would come to the conclusion that Mr. WELDON drove with gross or criminal negligence.


The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.” and added a rider that the accident was caused by the negligent driving of Mr. WELDON. That negligence was, however, neither gross nor criminal.

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