In the mid-C18, Lapford was a remote community reliant on riverways and the Crediton-Barnstaple packhorse route for the transportation of goods. Out of necessity, it was largely self-sufficient.

The packhorse route passed through the northern part of the parish, a mile from the village centre, but it originally fell outside the jurisdiction of either the Barnstaple or Exeter Turnpike Trusts and in 1769 was described as “ruinous”. Some improvements came enabling the passage of wheeled vehicles to the village, but only with great difficulty in wet conditions.

Then, in 1830, came a major change! A new turnpike road through the flat Taw valley vastly improved Lapford’s connections with the towns of Crediton, Barnstaple and, South Molton, as well as the ports of Exeter and Bideford. Less than a hundred years later, Chevrolet lorries were bringing 1500 gallons of milk a day to the village’s creamery and The Yeo Vale Inn was a popular stop-off venue for those enjoying pleasure trips to Devon’s north coast.

Changes in the use of Lapford’s roads between 1830-1930 were rapid and not without incident. The following 25 tales—some amusing, some tragic—capture something of the impact of the ‘road revolution’ on the lives of Lapford villagers from the days of pack horses to the halcyon days of motoring.

1832

The Carter & the Baronet

Was a Lapford carter unfairly fined for driving without reigns?

1846

Irreverent Road Rage

Rev John Radford’s attempted stabbing of a toll-house keeper + four other turnpike tales involving Lapford’s notorious parson.

1848

A Birthday Invitation

The river crossing to Lapford was once notoriously dangerous. The low sides left many users nervous of a fall to the River Yeo below. The bridge became the scene of the village’s first reported road fatality.

1851

Imminent Peril

The final days of Lapford’s lamentable bridge.

1856

A Meals on Wheels Misfortune

Lapford’s earliest recorded vehicle accident occurred during a food delivery to harvest workers.

1870

The Perjure of a Fallen Jockey

Was alleged damage to a prize racehorse Lapford’s first false road accident claim?

1893

A Case of Fowl Play?

A play-time fatality shocks the village. Was it Lapford’s first hit and run incident?

1896

Now You See It!

The showman who provided many with their first magical memory of a motor-car.

1901

Eggesford Estate: Driven to Failure

The Red Earl, his motoring and the demise of his Devon Estate.

1905

Catching the Road Hog

Before radar, speedometers and police cars how did the village constable stop speeding motorists .. and who was the first?

1906

Rule of the Road

Lapford’s first collision between two vehicles. Before car insurance, how was it decided who should pay?

1909

The Sound of Progress

Lapford’s first reported motorcycle incident.

1909

A Hand in Her Own Death

Mrs Densham’s tragic fall onto the river bed at Lapford Mill bridge.

1915

Horse v Car

The amusing court hearing between the owner of a Daimler and a Lapford carter.

1916

A Complete Pig’s Ear

The merry labourer’s wife who made an unfortunate error after bringing her pig to Lapford.

1921

Shake, Rattle and Roll

A runaway car in the village centre shocks parents.

1923

Honourable Service

The first taxi service arrives in Lapford. Driver Jack Brayley offered service with a smile despite a sad past. In Lapford, he struck up a friendship with The Honorable Norah McGarel-Groves, a Baron’s daughter going through her own troubled time.

1925

Plague of The Saints

A charabanc accident in Lapford compounded a football team’s miserable season.

1925/1930

Dangerous Corners

As the number of motor vehicles increases, a number of blackspots emerge in the village.

1928

Harvest Home

The annual harvest involved many families. It was not without danger.

1929

Caught by a Pocket Watch

Lapford’s new telephone system enables the village constable to make a novel arrest.