Britain’s first known car fatality

It happened on Monday 17th August 1896 when Bridget Driscoll was knocked down by Arthur Edsell who was reportedly driving at 4mph.

The Morning Post’s report on Friday 21st tells us that Mr Percy Morrison held an inquest at Penge on the body of Bridget Driscoll, the 44 year old wife of a labourer of 137 Old Town, Croydon, who was fatally injured by a motor-car at the Crystal Palace on Monday 17th August.

May Driscoll, daughter of the deceased, said she had gone to the Palace with her mother and a friend named Elizabeth Murphy to see the Catholic fete connected with the League of the Cross taking place that day.  They were on the Terrace when she saw three motor cars approaching, the last one of which was coming at a very fast rate, and going from one side of the road to the other.  The ladies safely avoided the first two cars, but the third one, which was a good distance behind, swayed towards them. As soon as Miss Driscoll had run close to the rails she turned and saw the car passing over her mother.

At the subsequent inquest the Coroner [c] asked: Did the car knock the deceased down?’  The Witness [w] replied: ‘Yes’.

[c]: ‘Did the driver appear to be attending properly to his duty?’

[w]: ‘I don’t think he understood how to drive; he kept going from one side to the other, whereas the other two were going straight.’

[c]:’Did your mother do anything to warn the driver?’

[w]: ‘Yes, she put her umbrella up.’

[c]: ‘Was your mother quite sober?’

[w]: ‘Yes, and I am sure she did not fall down in front of the car.’

The jury returned a verdict of “accidental death” after an inquest enduring some six hours, and no prosecution was made.

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