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Court case concerning a motorcycle accident on Pitchers Hill in 1911

At dusk, around 8.45 in the evening, on 29th July 1911, John Ernest Cull was still out delivering bread.  He was a Badsey baker whose home and premises – Sumachs Bakery - were at 18 High Street.  He was driving his horse and cart up Pitchers Hill towards Broadway and had stopped opposite ‘Rosebank’, the home of Robert and Kate Taylor.  He left the horse by the side of the road and crossed over to deliver some bread and called out ‘Baker’.

Meanwhile, coming down the road from Broadway, was a motorcycle and sidecar combination driven by Charles Pitchford, with his elderly mother, Mary, by his side.

Pitchford claimed to have swerved, to avoid Cull’s horse, collided with a telegraph post and turned the machine and sidecar right over.  As a result of this incident, Pitchford had to have his vehicle repaired and he took Cull to court to reclaim the costs.

The Evesham Standard of 27th April 1912, reported on the Court case which had taken place in Evesham, before Judge Ingham, the previous Thursday.

Charles Pitchford, a fruit merchant, of Bengeworth, was represented by Mr H.J. Smith.  He was claiming negligence on the part of John Ernest Cull, who was represented by Mr Geoffrey New.  He wanted to be reimbursed for the cost of repair to his motorcycle and sidecar, a sum of £13 3s 7d.  He had paid for the repairs himself to Mr Hitchings.  (This was presumably, George Hitchings who worked as an ironmonger at 44 Bridge Street, Evesham.)

Pitchford’s version of the events of the night in question was that he was coming home from Broadway and Cull’s horse, when he was about ten or twelve yards away, looked up startled and made a plunge across the road.  To avoid a serious collision, he tried to get between the animal and the side of the road.  In doing so, he missed the horse and shaft of the cart, but the nuts of his sidecar caught against a telegraph post and the combination overturned, throwing out both passengers.  He said that he was travelling at about 10-12 m.p.h. and did his best to avoid an accident.  Surprisingly, neither he nor his passenger were seriously hurt, but his vehicle was considerably damaged.  In Court, his mother, who was aged 77, did not attend, as her health was not as robust as it used to be.

In defence of the claim, John Cull, said that he was delivering bread on Pitchers Hill and at about ten to nine called on Mr Taylor, leaving his horse and trap on the left-hand side of the road.  After calling out ‘Baker’ he put his basket down and as he did so he heard a whizzing noise.  He went back to the road and his horse was grazing on the same side as he had left it.  Charles Pitchford and his mother were sitting on the ground. Mrs Pitchford was sitting on the side of the road and he asked her if she was hurt.  She replied ‘Oh no; I’m not hurt’ and then Robert and Kate Taylor came out of their house to help.  They took Mrs Pitchford into their house and she told them that they were in a hurry to get home before lighting up time!

John Cull had used his horse for pulling the baker’s cart for nine years and it was a very quiet animal, not frightened by motor vehicles.  Another witness to the event was Annie Georgina Pethard, wife of Edward John Pethard, of the ‘Sandys Arms’. She said the motorcycle was going very fast down the hill in the middle of the road.  It was going much faster than ordinary motorcycles went.  The driver appeared to get close to the horse and cart before he saw it and he ran into the post.  She said that the horse remained standing still and did not move at all.  Robert Taylor, a local carpenter, corroborated this evidence, saying there was ample room for Pitchford’s vehicle to pass. 

His Honour, Judge Ingham, said that the horse was not the cause of the accident and there was no negligence on the part of John Cull.  He decided the case in favour of Mr Cull.

Notes on the events and people involved in the Court case

  • ‘Rosebank’ is now 16 Pitchers Hill and, in 1911, there were no houses on the opposite side of the road.
  • The ‘Sandys Arms’ is some distance from ‘Rosebank’, so Mrs Pethard must have been out walking along Pitchers Hill when she witnessed the crash.
  • At dusk, the sun would have been low in the sky, shining into the face of John Pitchford as he drove from Broadway to Evesham and possibly affecting his vision.
  • Mary Pitchford’s death was Registered in the March quarter of 1913. She lived at 20 Elm Road, Bengeworth in 1911.  Her son, Charles, does not appear in the 1911 census returns.  As a fruit merchant he may have been out for all of census night collecting produce from markets and so was not recorded.
  • Charles Pitchford’s property at 19 &21 Port Street, Evesham (freehold shop, market gardener’s premises, out-buildings and yards, with frontage to Port Street and Castle Street) were put up for sale in 1923, as he had gone abroad.  
  • John Ernest Cull died in 1929, aged 68, and was buried in Badsey.
  • George Hitchings (1874-1962) is buried in Waterside cemetery. In 1911, he was unmarried and running the ironmongery business in Bridge Street with his widowed mother, Elizabeth.
  • The judge in this case was Sir James Taylor Ingham (1846-1928), of the Worcester Country Court Circuit.  The solicitors were H. J. Smith, who lived in Greenhill and Geoffrey New of Green Hill Park, Evesham.

Tom Locke – February 2021