H07553a — Motor Smash outside Bentham Stevens’ house, 1914

Box 48


Image 2: H07553b — Motor Smash outside Bentham Stevens house, 1914

Image 3: H07553c — Motor Smash outside Bentham Stevens house, 1914


‘Sussex Express 4 November 1914 — Lewes Crash’ — Richard Attlee, Actor.

Audio transcript at bottom of page


This Foden Steam Lorry became out of control as it descended St Anne’s Hill and crashed into 103 High Street on 4th November 1914. The house belonged to Frank Bentham Stevens, a well-known local solicitor with a practice in Brighton. He was also the Hon. Curator and Librarian of the Sussex Archaeological Society. The estimate for the repairs amounted to just under £58.


“103 High Street, Lewes Crash — Wednesday 4th November 1914


Mr F. Bentham Stevens, of 103 High-street, Lewes, had an early morning visitor on Wednesday, and one that was most unwelcome. The strange intruder left its mark behind, but fortunately, no human life was lost.

 Shortly before eight o’ clock, when a thick fog was hanging over the town, a steam engine, with tender and trailer, belonging to the Kemp Town Brewery, Brighton, arrived in Lewes, heavily laden. At the top of St. Anne’s Hill something went wrong with the gear, and the engine chose its own speed. Down the hill it travelled at a pace which alarmed the residents in that neighbourhood, and an untimely end for the runaway was foreshadowed. Blocks were placed in front of the wheels at intervals, but the speed of the engine and the slippery surface of the road simply caused them to be pushed to one side. On went the engine, and had the road been straight and clear an accident might have been avoided. The dangerous corner near Westgate had to be negotiated, and it was here the runaway came to grief. The driver stuck to his post till the last, and made every endeavour to right matters, but without avail. Just outside St. Anne’s House, the residence of Mrs. Smythe, the driver had to pull to one side to pass a cart. This was no easy matter, considering the pace of the engine, and an electric lamp standard on the edge of the pavement could not be avoided. It was broken asunder, and the impact must have snapped the steering chain. The engine was now quite out of control, and swerving to the opposite side of the road, it crashed into the front of Mr. Stevens’ residence, taking the broken lamp standard with it. The force of the collision demolished a portion of the outer wall, and the front of the engine protruded into a small apartment used as a hall. The engine chimney was snapped off, one of the front wheels collapsed, and other parts were also badly damaged. The driver did not alight till his engine came to a standstill, and his escape was nothing less than miraculous. The steersman and the man in charge of the trailer had previously jumped clear, but not without considerable risk.


In the hall of Mr. Stevens’ house was some antique furniture, Mr. Stevens being a prominent member of the Sussex Archaeological Society, and among the articles damaged was a valuable settle. The collision and the falling masonry must have given the occupant of the house a severe shock, but happily there was no personal injury, although the gardener, Olliver, had a narrow escape. He was on the pavement cleaning the windows of an adjoining room at the time of the accident.


Throughout the day crowds of people were attracted to the scene of the mishap. The damaged hall having been safely boarded up, the work of extricating the engine commenced and this was not completed till dark. The front part had to be secured to a trolley, and in this way Mr. Jesse Hunt’s engine was able to drag it clear of the house and take it to Brighton.


We understand the sale of the house had only been recently completed. An adjoining house has been unoccupied for a considerable time”