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From the Sussex Express, 21st March 1924




A distressing fatality to a child in the village of Beddingham was investigated by the Coroner of East Sussex (Mr G Vere Benson) at the St Anne's Parish Room, Lewes, on Saturday evening, when he held an inquest on Wiliam Munnery, aged four years and eleven months, of New Cottage, Beddingham, who was knocked down by a motor car on the previous Thursday afternoon.

Mr E Digby Gates, solicitor, Brighton, appeared on behalf of the driver of the motor car.


Mrs Sarah Jane Munnery, who was distressed, said she last saw her child alive when he went to school on Thursday afternoon, when his last words were, 'Good-bye and God bless you, mummy'. A little boy named Reginald Masters was in the habit of bringing him home from school.

The Foreman (Mr S Baker) asked how it was that the child was going to school before he was five years of age.

The Coroner did not think that was relevant to this enquiry: they were only concerned with how the boy met his death. No doubt there would be a satisfactory answer, but he did not know what it was.

PC Lidbetter (Glynde) produced a rough sketch of the scene of the accident, which took place on the Eastbourne Road near the forked roads at Beddingham Church. The width of the road at that point was 22½ feet, and the accident had apparently happened in the middle of the road.

By Mr Gates – There was a slight bend in the road, but the driver would have been able to see another car approaching. If there had been children on the bank round the bend, the driver would not have been able to see them.


Reginald Masters, a bright little boy of eight, said he usually took care of deceased going to and from school. On Thursday afternoon he was accompanying deceased home and they were on the left hand side of the road. Witness was holding the deceased's hand and while they were standing still on the side of the road deceased suddenly started to run across the road saying, 'I am going to get that pretty stone on the other side of the road'. Witness saw the car coming and called to the deceased to wait until the car passed, but he kept on and was knocked down by the right front wheel of the car, which pulled up at once.

By Mr Gates – Witness was holding deceased's hand and deceased suddenly dashed across the road. If deceased had stayed with him he would not have been knocked down.

The Coroner remarked that the boy had given his evidence very well. It must be a good school to teach boys of his age to be so clear.


Mary Rose, wife of Frank White Rose, the driver of the car, stated that she was sitting with her husband in the front of the car. She did not see the accident and did not know the child was knocked down. When she saw the children on the bank they were close to them. She saw the deceased go across the road and thought he had got over. She saw another car coming from Eastbourne, and her husband slowed down. There was a low wall and it was not possible to see the children until they got round the bend. Witness called to the children to stay on the bank, in order to avoid the oncoming car as she was afraid they were going to run into it. She thought the other car had passed before the boy was knocked down. Their car was going at about ten miles an hour at the time of the accident. She saw two little boys hand in hand, and deceased left the other boy to run across the road, and he was caught by the car. The boy was at once taken to the Lewes Victoria Hospital by Captain Oganne, of Eastbourne, and the occupant of another car went for a doctor.

By Mr Gates – Her husband was on his proper side of the road and sounded his horn before he got to the bend.

William Thomas Halsey, chauffeur, 13 Down Road, Eastbourne, stated that on Thursday afternoon he was driving from Lewes to Eastbourne and was about 50 yards behind Mr Rose's car. As he turned the corner of the road he saw the little boy lying in the middle of the road, and Mr Rose's car had stopped a length and a half in front of the boy. Witness went back to Lewes for the doctor and was bringing Dr Gayton, when they met Captain Oganne's car taking the boy to the hospital. The doctor went into the other car and returned to Lewes with the boy. Mr Rose's car was travelling about 16 miles an hour before the accident, but he could not say what the speed was at the time of the accident owing to the bend of the road.

By Mr Gates – The short distance in which Mr Rose pulled up after hitting the boy showed that the car was going at a reasonable speed.

Dr Gayton stated that when they got to the hospital he found that the child was dead. There was a big dent on the right side of the head, under the ear, and there was obviously a fracture of the base of the skull. The right thigh was broken at the top.


Frank White Rose, the driver of the car, of Maplehurst, Wallington, Surrey, said he desired to give evidence. He said they had stopped at the railway gate a quarter of a mile from the scene of the accident. His wife called his attention to the fact that there was another car coming round the bend from Eastbourne. He sounded his horn and drew in close to the near side. When he got to the corner he saw a group of children, and he again sounded his horn, upon which the children scattered, leaving him a clear road. Just then the little boy jumped from the bank and ran right in front of the car. He was nearly clear, but as struck by the off wheel. He pulled up in a few feet, but before he could get out of the car one of the children picked the boy up and carried him to the side of the road. He was bleeding freely from the ears, nose and mouth.

In reply to Mr Gates, witness said he thought the car coming from Eastbourne was almost abreast of him at the time of the accident. Indeed a passenger suggested that it was not his car which struck the child, but he knew it had. He had been driving for ten years and had never been convicted under any section of the Motor Car Act. It was a 10 horse power four-seater car.

By the Foreman – There was no way of getting clear of the child.

In reply to the Coroner, witness said he did not think he was going at more than ten miles an hour at the time of the accident.

By the Jury – Before he got to the corner he looked at his speedometer and he was then going at 17 miles an hour. He slowed down because of the other car coming along and would not be going at more than ten miles an hour.


The Coroner commented upon the fact that the witness had given his evidence straightforwardly and frankly. It was for the jury to say whether he was driving at too great a speed and whether that was the cause of the accident. He was certainly well within the ordinary speed at which cars went along the road.

The jury, after a few minutes consideration, returned a verdict of 'Accidental Death' and suggested that in view of the fact that so many children went round the corner, it was a dangerous corner, and a warning sign should be placed there.

The Coroner said he would forward their recommendation to the County Council.

Mr Gates, on behalf of Mr Rose, expressed his sympathy with the relatives of the deceased and intimated that he would defray the expenses of the funeral.

The Coroner and the jury joined in the expression of sympathy and handed their fees to the parents. Mr Rose also doing the same.

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