Sad death of a Walkern boy

Hertfordshire Mercury, 25th September 1915


On Saturday afternoon an inquest was held at St Mary’s Hall, Welwyn, before Mr F Shillitoe, the Coroner for the district, touching the death of Percival Brown, aged 10, the son of Frank Ernest Brown, landlord of the ‘Robin Hood’ beer-house, Walkern, who was fatally injured on Thursday night and died at 11 o’clock on Friday morning in the Welwyn Cottage Hospital.  Mr Frederick Gray was chosen foreman of the jury.

Frank Ernest Brown, of Walkern, said: ‘My son Percival was riding with me from Knebworth to Walkern at about half-past nine on Thursday night last, when I was run into by a motor-car on the road near Knebworth.  It had bright lights on it, and was going towards Knebworth, and travelling at about 20 or 30 miles an hour. The car swerved as it came round the corner.  I was on the near side of the road, and it caught my off-side wheel.  I was driving a two-wheel trap. The trap was thrown right over into the road, and we both fell close to the horse’s heels.  I had an off-side lamp burning.  The car did not stop. I picked the boy up and laid him on the bank, and asked him how he was, and he said: ‘I am all right dad.’  I then tried to unfasten the harness from the trap. The horse lay struggling in the road. I failed to unfasten the harness.  I stopped with the boy until half-past four the next morning, thinking someone would come along, but no-one came.  About 4.40 a.m. I went to a house near by to get help. The boy could not get up to fetch anyone; he seemed dazed. I got help at the cottages and they came and got the horse up, and the wife of one of the men went for the doctor. The doctor came and attended to the boy, and I took him in my trap to Welwyn Hospital.  The horse was grazed a lot on the side , but was not lame. The boy died about 11 o’clock on Friday morning. I was present at the time.

In answer to the Coroner, the witness said: ‘I was about 200 yards from the bridge.  I saw the car just as it came up by the bridge.  I was prepared, and was right on the near side of the road.’

The Foreman: ‘Did this happen on the road between Knebworth and Bragbury?’  ‘Yes.’  ‘Why did you leave the lad lying there all that time?’  ‘I laid down with him.  I felt dazed.’  ‘You said you knew there were some cottages about half a mile away.’  ‘Yes, but I thought someone would come along.’

A Juror: ‘Did you see the number of the car?’  ‘No.’

The Coroner: ‘Did you see what sort of car it was ?’  ‘It was a big covered car.  I thought I saw three or four people in it.  I was driving on the near side.’

Inspector Bowyer: ‘Did you see where the car struck your cart ?’  ‘Yes, on the off-side wheel.’  ‘Don’t you think a car travelling at 30 miles an hour would have knocked your cart on to the grass ?’  ‘I don’t know.  It knocked the cart right over and the horse as well.’  ‘Are you quite sure it was at the time you state ?’  ‘Yes.’ ‘Can you tell me what time you left Woolmer Green: was it before or after the public-houses closed ?’  ‘Some time before.’

Herbert Deards, an assistant at the Milk Factory, said: ‘On Thursday night, about half-past nine, I went into the ‘Red Lion’, Woolmer Green,  I saw Mr Brown sitting on a table outside with another man, who asked me to fetch him two pints of beer out, which I did.  I stopped in the house until 10 o’clock, and Brown was outside then.  I stopped talking for about 10 minutes, and he was still there when I left.

The Coroner: ‘Can you say if anyone was in the cart?’  ‘No.’

The Foreman: ‘Are you sure you saw Brown on this evening?’  ‘Yes.’

A Juror: ‘Did you see Brown on two evenings?’  ‘Yes.’

Sergt. Wood: ‘On Wednesday evening had not Brown got a four-wheel van?’  ‘Yes, and he was talking to Mr Roberts.’

The Coroner: ‘On Thursday evening he had a two-wheel cart?’  ‘Yes.’

Inspector Bowyer, of Stevenage, deposed to examining on Friday morning the road on the Knebworth side of the bridge, where the accident occurred, and he produced a sketch of the road, which is 15ft 6 in. wide, with a bank 6ft high on one side.  There were no motor-car marks to be seen, and he could find no wheel marks on the near side of the road: only a mark where the horse had laid.  The road was patrolled by two Special Constables at 10.15 p.m., and there was no accident there then.

A Juror: ‘Then this accident could not have happened when Brown says?’  ‘No.’  The Foreman: ‘If this cart had been struck by a car wouldn’t it have knocked it on the grass?’  ‘Yes.’

Mr R. C. Stuart, registered medical practitioner, of Knebworth, said: ‘About 4.45 on Friday morning I was fetched by a woman who lives in the cottages, and she told me there had been an accident, and would I come.  I went at once, and found the boy lying on the side of the road between Knebworth and Bragbury on the Knebworth side of the bridge.  He was lying on his back covered with rugs and a coat.  He looked very pale and had spots of blood on his face.  He was quite unconscious.  I ordered his removal to the hospital at once and was helped to put him in the cart.  Brown had a swelling on the top of his head.  He was in a very dazed state, and naturally much upset.

The Coroner: ‘Were there any bones broken?’  ‘As far as my examination went I could find none.  The boy had a fracture at the back of the skull, and died from coma, produced by a fall.’

A Juror: ‘Do you think if he had been attended to sooner by a doctor he would have recovered?’  ‘No.’

The witness further stated that Brown was not the worse for drink, and it was quite possible the blow he had sustained rendered him quite dazed.

This was all the evidence given, and the jury found a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’.


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