Going round the bend ... in 1910! Picture shows Llangollen A5 crash 100 years ago

Reporter:

Paul Lawton

The early days of motoring were a dangerous time both for motorists and pedestrians.

In a press cutting that probably dates from around 1910 we see an early car that came to grief one night on the bend by Berwyn station, just west of Llangollen on the road that today we know as the A5.

The driver had been trying to avoid some straying sheep at two o’clock in the morning, no easy task since he would have had to depend on rather dim oil or acetylene lighting and for stopping just rod operated brakes working only on the rear wheels.

Picture from a pre-First World War newspaper that captures the aftermath of the night-time collision (courtesy of Colin Hurst Antiques, Llangollen)

The first hydraulic brakes to operate on all four wheels were not introduced until 1921. At that time anyone who could afford a car could just jump into it and drive away.

The very first official driving lesson wasn’t recorded until 1910 when an enterprising youth set up the British School of Motoring, now known simply as BSM.

Reassuringly, at least for those with little aptitude, there was no such thing as a government-administered driving test; that didn’t come for another quarter of a century. Drivers simply applied for a licence and it was issued automatically. The L-test came in during 1935.

The scene today. Road markings and lots of road signs, but no telegraph poles and no chapel

The bend is still one that requires care today and occasionally a vehicle will still come to grief, though there are now some bollards to give protection. The main difference between the views is the building in the background of the early picture.

This was Eirianallt Methodist Chapel, built in 1848, enlarged in 1868 and demolished around 1960. Apart from being a place of worship, it functioned as a small but successful village school and library for many years. Today it is reduced to just a wall edging the road.

The press cutting mentions repairs being carried out by the Vale of Llangollen Engineering Bus and Garage Company. They began the service between Llangollen (Victoria Square) and Oswestry in 1905, operating steam busses. The fare for the twelve-mile journey was 2d, just less than 1p.

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