Shake, Rattle and Roll

Lapford, with its large station yard, market and direct trains to London became something of a hub for those wishing to get their produce to the large city markets. This started in the days of horse-drawn delivery vehicles (see Sainsbury’s Oldest Supplier) but continued well into the age of delivery vans.

In the early 1920s, the London & South Western Railway could offer delivery by the 4.45pm train to the morning markets of London, Southampton, Portsmouth, The Midlands and The North

Francis “Albert” Burridge, a poultry dealer from Witheridge, had purchased a car to enable him to make regular deliveries to Lapford station. On Friday 01 July 1921, he set out from Witheridge to catch the early evening train for the city morning markets. His car was full of dairy produce. He dropped off a passenger, Mr. Webber, at the top of Lapford and had just started the descent through the village when he found that his brakes were failing.

The car gained momentum as it passed Saxtons and goods were audibly shaking by Rattle Street. Still gaining speed he passed Hill Cottage where, to his horror, he saw children playing in the road ahead between the Sunday School and the orchards of Lower Town Place. He took action, swerving the car into a hedge just up from Victory Hall.

It was just enough to narrowly miss the children, but it forced his car into a series of rolls. The car eventually stopped, pointing up the hill that he had just descended at terrifying speed.

Lapford butcher, Charles Gale, and others, rushed to the scene. Albert lay, shaken, amongst a pile of broken egg boxes.

The car was a complete wreck and the eggs and butter smashed and scattered about the road
The Western Times, Friday 08 July 1921

A district nurse from the village was quickly able to provide first aid. Eventually, with assistance, the grateful driver was able to walk to Barris House where his sister-in-law, Effie Arscott, ran a boot store.

A telegram was sent from the post office requesting a car to take Albert back to Witheridge where he was examined by a doctor and sent immediately to Tiverton Hospital. He made a full recovery.

The possibility that the car could have driven into playing children horrified parents and sent a very real warning of the risks presented by motorised transport.