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Longdon Hill, Wickhamford – an accident blackspot

Sir Gerald Nabarro, M.P., asked a question in the House of Commons on 11th November 1968.  He asked the Minister of Transport whether he was aware of the growing number of road accidents on Longdon Hill, Worcestershire, on the A44, between Evesham and Broadway in his Parliamentary constituency of South Worcestershire; and, in view of the difficult topography and the cost of approximately £200,000 for effective road safety reconstruction scheme, whether he will include this in the estimates for 1969. The Minister, Bob Brown, replied - We are aware of the fatal accident on 2nd September last. This was in fact the first fatal accident since 1956.  A reconstruction scheme will be included in the programme for 1969-70.

The A44 at Longdon Hill, Wickhamford, was a notorious place for accidents in the years after the Second World War, due to its steepness and narrowness. A few of the incidents reported in the local press in the 1950s were as follows: 

  • June 1953: Three vehicles were involved in a collision near the crest of the hill.  One car, following a slower one going towards Broadway, overtook about 100 yds from the brow.  That car sped up and the driver of the overtaking car tried to pull in behind it but he hit a van coming over the hill in the opposite direction.  His son’s head went through the windscreen.  He was fined £10 plus costs.
  • August 1953:  A learner driver, under instruction from Cecil Ward of Wickhamford, was driving towards Evesham when a car overtook them and collided with their car.  The other driver did not stop but was later apprehended; he was fined £5 for careless driving and £2 for failing to stop after an accident.
  • January 1955:  Evesham Magistrates wrote to the County Highways and Bridges Officer about the absence of warning notices on the approaches to Longdon Hill.  Some disagreed with this suggestion and Ernest Sturt of Wickhamford said that it was ‘pretty obvious’ that the crown of the hill was obscured. There were cat’s eyes and any motorist who overtook there deserved to be prosecuted.
  • June 1955: There was a collision between a lorry and a car, but there were no injuries.
  • May 1956: The driver of an Aston Martin DB3 sports car left the road on Longdon Hill and suffered concussion as a result of the crash. He was detained in Evesham Hospital to recover.
  • November 1956: Police Sergeant Walker was driving a police car up Longdon Hill towards Evesham, following a small van at 20 m.p.h. Behind him was a car driven by Mr Sharp, of Evesham, and behind him was a sports car.  The driver of that car indicated he was going to pass the slow-moving traffic. Walker gave an ‘exaggerated signal’ to the driver, but he still overtook when only about 20 - 30 yds from the brow of the hill.  In Bengeworth, the policeman caught up with the sports car driver, Thomas Kerr of Kilmarnock, who was eventually fined £20 and disqualified from driving for 3 months.

Longdon Hill
A picture from the 1950s, showing the descent from the brow of Longdon Hill towards Wickhamford.
Longdon Hill
Part of the original road up Longdon Hill, from the Evesham direction, showing how narrow it was; this section is now a parking area beside the dual carriageway.

Fatal Accident on 2nd September 1968

An Inquest was opened into the deaths of two young women in an accident on Longdon Hill on 2nd September 1968.  Linda Mary Mills, aged 17, of Friars Oak, Abbotswood, Greenhill, Evesham, and Ann Joan Walker, aged 20, of 35 Cheltenham Road, Evesham, died in a three- car collision on Longdon Hill.  They were passengers in separate vehicles, when the incident occurred on the evening of Bank Holiday Monday.

Linda Mills
Memorial to Linda Mary Mills in Waterside Cemetery, Evesham.

The Coroner, W.W. Sturgess, praised the valuable service given after the accident, by members of the public, the fire brigade, the ambulance service and doctors from Evesham.  (One doctor immediately on the scene was Dr Astley of Manor Road, Wickhamford.  He was already on the road, with his son in his car.)  It appeared that a mini-car, being driven from Broadway, was in collision with an on-coming saloon car, which in turn struck another car travelling in front of it.  The saloon car burst into flames and was soon burnt out.  Miss Walker was a passenger in the mini-car, and she died at the scene. Miss Mills was a passenger in the saloon car and she was taken to Worcester Royal Infirmary, where she died in the early hours of the following morning.  The Coroner adjourned the Inquest, as others involved were still in hospital.

Joan Walker was employed at Frank Idiens & Sons. Evesham, but originated from Farnworth, Bolton, Lancashire.  She had originally come to Evesham to work at the Evesham Journal. She was cremated at Cheltenham.  Linda Mills was buried in Waterside Cemetery, Evesham.

Longdon Hill road improvements

As promised by the Minister of Transport, plans were approved for the construction of a length of dual carriageway over the brow of Longdon Hill.  The road’s dual carriageways would be about 24 ft wide with a central reservation 10 ft wide.  The crest of the hill ‘where the visibility was nil’ would be cut away. 

The contractors started work, in October 1969, by lowering the hill by about 20 ft where the new section of road was to be laid.  About ten acres of land, occupied by nine different owners were needed for the scheme. There was a delay in the work after it stopped for the Christmas period as there were objections from growers whose fruit trees were to be grubbed to make way for the new road.  They had been offered £400 for their land, but were keeping the workmen and their bulldozers out until they had a better offer.  They believed it should be £2,000.  Henry and Walter Daniels owned a ten-acre orchard at the top of the hill and had been asked to give up one third of an acre.  They had had an independent valuation which was a figure of £10 per tree.

This matter was eventually settled and the new dual carriageway was soon constructed.

Longdon Hill
The aerial photograph shows the route of the present A44 dual carriageway over Longdon Hill.  Close by, to its right in the picture, are the partial remains of the line of the old single carriageway.

The road improvements at Longdon Hill resulted in far fewer reports of accidents in subsequent years.

Tom Locke – April 2022