Peer's costly crash course in driving

Hello Lord Forester, got a new motor? Crashed it yet?

The car sale in Broseley early in the 20th century.
The car sale in Broseley early in the 20th century.

Neil Clarke of Little Wenlock, a local historian with a particular interest in transport and industrial history, has come up with a suggestion about this photo which we published in our Pictures From The Archive slot the other day.

It was a postcard from the collection of Ray Farlow of Bridgnorth, and the only information is the printed caption "Bought off James Davies' Motors, Broseley" on the front, and the name of the photographer – "Bartlam, Photographer, Madeley."

The car sale in Broseley early in the 20th century.

Neil emailed in to say: "It looks very much as if it was taken outside James Davies’ premises in Duke Street, Broseley – see page 68 in my book ‘Roads of East Shropshire’. Could the proud owner have been Lord Forester?"

Well, we couldn't possibly say, but if it was Lord Forester it is possible that this is a motor that he subsequently crashed, making headlines as he did so exactly a century ago.

And while in honesty the motor looks a bit too early to make that theory fit, we'll skim over that and instead wallow in his embarrassment by referring to the details of a court case reported in the Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News of October 1, 1921, headlined: LORD FORESTER FINED – "A WICKED TRAP."

It told how Lord Forester of Broseley (actually, Willey Hall), the then Mayor of Much Wenlock, was charged at Epsom petty sessions with driving a car negligently and to the danger of the public in Chessington, Surrey, on June 26. He pleaded not guilty.

Police had put a scaffolding pole across the road, with red lights on the ground under it. Such road blocks had been put across all main roads outside London during Sinn Fein activities at that time.

Lord Forester's car, alleged to have been travelling at "great speed" of between 40 and 50mph, ploughed straight into it.

"I shall report this to Scotland Yard. Look at the damage to my car," Lord Forester said at the scene.

Upset because the car was a new one belonging to his wife and he thought it was ruined, he said to the constable: "What the devil do you mean by putting the pole across the road without proper lights?"

Lord Forester had been driving since 1905 and had never been in trouble before. His chauffeur, Charles Rowe, was in the back of the car. Also in the car was a maid, Sarah Findlay.

Lord Forester said he was travelling at no more than 15mph but was unable to explain why his was the only car out of hundreds to have hit the barrier.

"This was the most wicked trap that could be devised to put before the public," he exclaimed in court.

It didn't do him any good. He was convicted of dangerous driving and fined £10 with £5 5s. costs.

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