Traffic mayhem at Durweston bridge is nothing new. A spectacular near- disaster 90 years ago is explained by Roger Guttridge.
Durweston’s long-suffering river bridge is a regular target for miscreant lorries – and as this picture shows, that’s nothing new. It was taken on March 25, 1929, after a lorry belonging to Park’s of Portsmouth crashed through the stonework and ended up hanging precariously over the river.
The accident happened after the lorry’s gearing snapped as the driver turned left towards Durweston.
‘The lorry swerved to the right and made straight for the
stone wall of the bridge,’ says a contemporary newspaper report. ‘Realising that a collision was inevitable, the driver and his assistant jumped out of the
cab and got clear of the vehicle without any injury.
‘The lorry completely blocked the road, and it was found impossible to haul it back owing to the dangerous position it was in. A crane had to lift it out.’
The road was blocked for hours forcing traffic to make a ‘wide detour, considerable inconvenience being caused to those who were using the road’.
The lorry was carrying cargo of chemicals for the chemists Timothy White’s.
The report adds that driver Mr A O Haker and his assistant Mr Newell, both from Portsmouth, had a ‘miraculous escape’.
Fear of drowning
‘Had they not jumped clear they would in all probability have been drowned as there is a drop of about 30 feet to the river and the water at this spot is very deep.’
As the large crowd in the background suggests, the spectacle generated much interest among the locals.
‘It was quite a thing in those days and hundreds of people went to see it,’ Ethel Light (née Hardy), of Shillingstone, told me about 20 years ago.
‘The lorry had to be unloaded so carefully because the chemicals it was carrying would have polluted the river.’ Ethel, whose brother Herbert is in the picture, lived at France Hill just outside Blandford.
‘I was about 13 at the time and it obviously made an impression on me,’ she said.
‘Even now I don’t like sitting in the front of a coach to come round that bridge. It gives me a funny feeling that it’s going to do the same thing.’
Sue Sloper, of Stour Close, Shillingstone, whose mother is in the picture, told me: ‘She and a friend cycled out from Blandford to see the lorry. The accident was big news.
‘Mum also said the driver was so frightened that he passed out.’
by Roger Guttridge