Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page
The Rushden Echo and Argus, 17th January, 1936, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Ernest Frank Berridge

Coroner’s Warning to Pedestrians

Sequel to Rushden Road Fatality

Young Man Dragged From Sweetheart’s Side

Main Road Danger Spot Without Paths

  A young man out walking with his sweetheart on the Bedford-road near Rushden on Sunday night was dragged from her arm by a passing car, and received terrible injuries, from which he died in the Rushden ambulance on his way to Bedford Hospital.

  The two young lovers were Ernest Frank Berridge (19), the second son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Berridge, Church-Lane, Swineshead, Beds., and Miss Kathleen Salter, fourth daughter of Mrs. E. Salter, 87, Cromwell-road, Rushden.

  Berridge, who was a boot operative in the employ of Messrs. John White, Ltd., Rushden, cycled to Rushden on Sunday evening, and called on Miss Salter, who is employed as a boxmaker by Messrs. H. W. Chapman, Ltd., Rushden, and with whom he had been friendly for some short time.  He was invited into the house for the first time.

Hit By Car

  At 7.40 p.m. the couple were walking towards Rushden on the main Bedford-road, having just left the side-road leading from Wymington.  They were on the near side, and an overtaking car – a small one driven by Mr. Frederick Albert Bussey, insurance agent, of High-street, Ringstead – was in collision with the young man and carried him along for some yards, inflicting terrible injuries to the head.

  Miss Salter was unhurt.

  Mr. Charles Smith, who lives nearby, telephoned for Dr. Muriset, of Rushden, and the police.  The doctor arrived quickly, and assistance was given by P.S. Brown, P.C. Dobinson (Rushden), P.C. Brunt (Wymington), and civilian helpers.

  As soon as possible Berridge was placed in the ambulance, which left for Bedford Hospital, but he died on the way at Milton Ernest.  His body was later taken to Swineshead.

  The scene of the accident is on the Northants-Beds. Border, and the need for footpaths there has been stressed by the Rushden Urban Council on several occasions.


Inquest Comments

Coroner Says People Should Walk on the Right of Road

  A verdict of “Accidental Death,” exonerating the driver of the car from all blame, was returned at the inquest at Swineshead Church School on Tuesday.

  Mr. G. J. M. Whyley conducted the inquiry.  The driver was represented by Mr. H. W. Williams, of Northampton, and the deceased’s parents by Mr. A. Farr, of Bedford.  Supt. Robinson was present on behalf of the police.

  The first witness was Herbert Berridge, a farm labourer, of Swineshead, father of the deceased, who gave evidence of identification.

  He first heard about the accident, he said, at eight o’clock on Sunday evening, when he was sitting at home listening to the wireless, and he proceeded to the scene on the Bedford-road, Wymington.  He saw his son lying in the doorway of Mr. Charles Smith’s house, and later he went with him in the ambulance to Bedford.

  His son died on the way to Milton Ernest, but they continued on to Bedford.  The deceased was later brought back to Swineshead Post Office.

  His son’s sight, hearing and general health were good.

Badly Injured

  Dr. O. A. J. N. Muriset, of Rushden, said he was called to the scene of the accident at 7.45.

  He found the deceased lying half on the road and half on the grass verge on the right hand side of the road proceeding from Rushden.  The lad was badly injured and was bleeding from the head.  He remained with him until the Rushden ambulance arrived because he thought there might be a faint hope of recovery.  He had discovered that the lad was suffering from a fractured skull.

  Later the same evening he saw the body at Swineshead Post Office, where he made a more detailed examination.  Death was due to a fracture of the skull and laceration of the brain.

  In answer to the Coroner the doctor said he would imagine the injuries to have been caused by the deceased’s head coming into contact with some object such as a moving vehicle, and not by hitting the ground.

  Kathleen Salter, the only witness of the accident, said she was walking with the deceased on the left hand side of the road towards Rushden.

  The Coroner: There’s no footpath there? – No.

  Miss Salter said they were at Wymington about 7.30, and were walking arm-in-arm.

“A Sort Of Bump”

  The coroner: Did you hear a car come past and notice a sort of bump? – Yes.  The next thing I noticed was my young man falling a few yards in front of me.  I ran and spoke to him but got no reply.

  “The car stopped,” continued witness, “and a man got out and gave what assistance he could.  The car went by only three yards before it stopped.

  “I noticed a car coming from the direction of Rushden just before the bump with big headlights on.  It did not dim them, but it stopped, and someone came back to see what had happened.”

  Questioned by the coroner she said she did not know whether a man or woman came back because many cars pulled up at the same time.

  Miss Salter added that she was walking on the grass and her fiancé on the side of the road.

  The Foreman of the Jury (Mr. J. W. Fisher): Did the car coming from Bedford give you any warning? – I think it did, but I can’t remember much at all.

  Mr. Williams: Did you notice if the little car, which ran into the young man, had its lights dimmed? – I could not say because it was at the back of me.  I had my head down on account of the powerful headlights on the oncoming car.

  After that car had passed you I suppose everything was black? – Yes.

“He Had Gone”

  She thought the cars were passing just as the bump occurred.  “All I know is that when I lifted my head up my young man had gone.”

  P.C. Dobinson, of Rushden, said he was on duty in High-street, Rushden, on Sunday night when he received information that an accident had occurred on the Bedford-road, Wymington.

  He proceeded to the scene and found that the injured man had been removed to a nearby house.  Dr. Muriset was already there.

  He found the small saloon car involved in the accident on the left hand side of the road facing towards Rushden, and he ascertained that it was owned and driven by Frederick Albert Bussey.  It had not been moved before he arrived.  From the left hand side of the road to the left hand side of the car was a distance of three and a half feet, and the rear of the car was four feet from the road side.  From the right hand side of the road to the right hand side rear of the car was ten feet, and from the right hand side front of the car to the right hand side of the road was 11 feet.

  There was a large pool of blood close to the grass verge 32ft. from the rear of the car, and there was another small pool of blood six feet farther away from the car.

  Questioned, the constable affirmed that there was no footpath on either side of the road.  It was a starlight night and visibility was quite good.  He saw Mr. Bussey and his companion, Mr. James Cobley, but took no statements from them.  The road was straight where the accident happened.

Driver “Blinded”

  Bussey, in evidence, said when he was within one and a half miles of Rushden he noticed a car approaching with its headlights full on.  The headlights were very powerful.  He dimmed his but the driver of the oncoming car did not.  He kept them all full on.

  He was doing about 25 m.p.h. when he saw the car first, but he dimmed his lights and slowed up.

  “Just before the car passed me,” he went on, “I heard a noise and felt a bump.  I said to my companion, “I have hit something and I am going to get out and see what it is.”  I pulled up at once, and going back I found a young man on the ground.”

  Before he heard the bump he did not notice anyone on the road.  The other lights absolutely blinded him.

  “The other car went straight on as far as I know, and it is quite possible the driver of that car knew nothing about the accident.”

  Witness said he had been driving the same car for nearly a year, and had been driving cars for 17 years.

  The Foreman: I take it you were driving close to the grass verge? – Just about a yard away on my correct side of the road.

  Mr. Williams: I suppose you expected the other car to dim its lights? – I did, sir.

  Mr. Farr: How far was the approaching car away when you first saw it? – I could not judge that at night.

Saw Nothing

  How far did you travel with your lights dim? – About 20 or 30 years.

  What speed did you slow down to? About 20 m.p.h.

  You could not see anything at all in front of you? – No.

  Then why did you not stop? – I was waiting for the other car to dim its lights.

  Summing up, the Coroner said he thought the case was a perfectly clear one.  He asked the jury to give particular notice to the evidence given by Miss Salter, because she was the only person to see the accident.  She would be the one to attribute blame to the driver if there had been any blame, but she had admitted that the car pulled up within three yards and that she herself was so dazzled by the lights of the approaching car that she had had to bend her head downwards.

  In his opinion there was no question that the driver was dazzled.  The unfortunate thing about the whole affair was that these two young people should have been walking on the left hand side of the road because there was no footpath, when it would have been correct and much safer for them to have been on the right hand side of the road.

  He thought their verdict should be one of “Accidental Death” and the driver should be exonerated from all blame.  He expressed sympathy with the bereaved parents.

  The jury agreed with the Coroner’s submission, and the Foreman and Mr. Williams, on behalf of the driver, extended sympathy with the parents.

Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the People & Families index
Click here to e-mail us