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Char-A-Bang Fatality at Ryde, Wednesday 13th May 1908

On Monday 11th May a party of holidaymakers including Miss Lottie Owen aged 73 years of Northfleet came to stay at Dean House [previously called Somerset House]. Nine ladies and five gentlemen arranged to go for a drive to Yarmouth and transport was booked for around 10.00 am. The char-a-bang belonging to Mr.Taylor, arrived at 10.15 am and pulled towards the lower end of Dover Street, with the two horses facing down the hill towards the Esplanade. With everyone on seated the driver started to turn the char-a-bang round to go up the hill. Before the turn was completed, the vehicle stopped and ran backwards slightly, this caused one of the horses to fall; the second horse tripped over the first and also fell.

The gentlemen alighted from the coach, the driver Charles Bishop and the vehicle owner Mr Taylor tried to release the horses, but they were panicing and difficult to control. Part of the traces were uncoupled, but one horse remained attached to the char-a-bang. At that stage the coach started rolling back down Dover Street and the remaining horse bolted towards the Esplanade Gardens. The horse suddenly swerved to the left and the char-a-bang tipped over into the gutter, all passengers but one, were thrown into a heap on the pavement.

Picture of Esplanade, Ryde
Esplanade, Ryde

The Inquest held at the County Hospital Ryde, Tuesday 19th May

The acting deputy coroner Mr James Eldridge said this was an unusual accident as there were many char-a-bang trips around the island and invited the driver to give his evidence.

The driver of the char-a-bang, Charles Bishop then gave evidence and said he had been in the employment of the coach owner Mr. Taylor, postmaster for 14 years. On the day of the accident, he had been scheduled to take a party of people on a days outing to Yarmouth. He first drove to Castle Street, but found his passengers were waiting in Dover Street, as Castle Street was to narrow to turn the coach, he drove round and came down Dover Street. With the passengers onboard he started to turn the coach to go back up Dover Street, the road at that point gave him ample room to turn. As he was turning the offside horse staggered, which indicated collar choke and fell over dragging the second horse with it. He immediately applied the coach brake and got down to free the horses. The gentlemen alighted from the coach by the ladies remained seated. His employer Mr Taylor who was there to witness the coach departure and himself tried to hold the horses heads and unhitch them; most of the traces had been disconnected when the remaining horse broke free and bolted down Dover Street dragging the char-a-bang and remaining passengers with it.

It seemed to be heading for the Esplanade Gardens, when it swerved to the left and the coach overturned throwing all the passengers but one onto a heap on the pavement.

Dr. Thomas Alpheus Buck giving evidence said he received a call about 10.30 am to attended an accident and went round to Dean House where the injured had been taken. There were 10 people in total, he quickly examined them all and decided that Miss Owen and Miss Batt injuries were serious and should be admitted to hospital as a matter of urgency; Miss Owen was taken to the hospital in a landen [carriage with a roof].

Mary Ann Robinson, ward sister at the hospital said Miss Owen was examined on admittance and found to have a severe scalp injury and a broken wrist; she never regained consciousness, and died on Monday at 2.25 am.

The owner of the char-a-bang W.R.Taylor, of 9 Monkton Street then gave evidence, on the day in question he gave Bishop [driver] instruction to collect a group of people from Dean House, Dover Street around 10.15 am and drive them to Yarmouth. On his way back from the pier, he saw the driver on the box and char-a-bang was about to start off. He spoke to the driver, who then started to carefully turn the coach round ready to proceed up Dover Street. He [Taylor] was walking down the street when he saw the offside horse waver. From the signs he knew that the horse was being choked by its collar and ran towards the coach to assist. All the passengers but one were thrown onto the pavement; they were taken back to Dean House and seen by the doctor.

When questioned he said the char-a-bang had to be inspected every year by the police and was in good condition. He also said that the horses had been using the same collars for several years without trouble, but at times they did work backwards, if this happened the horse/s were disconnect and the collars repositioned. In summing up, the coroner said from the evidence presented it appeared to be an accident, but it was up to the jury to decide, the jury recorded a verdict of “accidental death”.

Footnote; - Miss Owens funeral took place at Swanmore Church, Ryde on Thursday 21st May.

This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:23

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