Henry Arthur Crouch Burden

Date published: 17/01/2014
© Newbury Weekly News














A tragic affair happened on Thursday afternoon. The children were leaving St. John's Infant School, and in the freedom from restraint they rushed out into the road heedless of danger. A traction engine drawing two furniture vans had come down the Andover-road and was close to the “island” recently constructed to afford safety for children. The vehicles were proceeding slowly, as the driver was on the look-out for traffic at this converging point. By some means- it seems almost impossible- a little fellow of six years ran out from the “island,” got between the vans and was endeavouring to get up and ride on the connecting bar. He was swinging for a time, and then fell back underneath the van. The wheels passed over his head, crushing the skull, and mercifully death was instantaneous. The children who had been all gaiety a minute before and laughing at their companion's daring, were now shrieking with terror. It was a painful scene which unnerved older people who had witnessed it. Mr. James Baverstock, who had previously noticed the boy's danger, went and picked up the poor little mangled body and carried it into the Hospital, only a few yards distant, but there was no necessity for surgical treatment.




The boy who had met with such a dreadful end was Henry Arthur Reginald Crouch Burden, the six year old son of a postman living in King's-road. The traction engine and vans were the property of Messrs. Wright and Pankhurst, furniture removers, of Rye, Sussex, and were returning from a journey to West Woodhay. The men in charge stopped for the night, and telegraphed to their employers. Mr. Wright, one of the firm, immediately travelled to Newbury, attended the inquest, where he expressed the greatest sympathy with the bereaved parents, and although it was conclusively established that there was no liability, he generously offered to pay the whole of the funeral expenses. It was unquestionably an accident, caused by the thoughtless daring of the boy, trying to get a ride on the connecting bar. It was impossible for the driver or the men behind to see what he was doing, and his sad death was caused by his own action. Nobody else was to blame, and the jury fully exonerated the driver.








The inquest was held on Friday evening in St John's Parish Room by the Borough Coroner (Dr. W.B. Heywood), and a jury of whom Mr.A.C. Bishop was foreman.


Henry John Reginald Couch Burdett, 3 Prospect Terrace, King's-road, identified the body as that of his son, aged five years and eleven months.


James Baverstock of Newtown-road, said on Thursday afternoon at 4.15 he was driving home and near the church he passed in front of a traction engine drawing two furniture vans coming from the direction of Andover-road. After he passed he saw a little boy trying to get on the connecting bar between the two vans. Witness said to his man, “Oh Frank, that boy will be killed.” He was pulling up his horse to run back, when he saw the boy fall back, and both wheels passed over his head. The body was underneath the van, the wheel just catching the upper part of the head, which was smashed. Death must have been instantaneous. He went back and picked up the body and carried it to the hospital. The child was quite dead.


The Coroner -What pace was the engine going? -Between two and three miles an hour.


A juror- Was there anybody behind to give notice?- I did not notice anyone.


The Coroner- Were there children about?-Yes they were all laughing one minute, and the next they were squealing like rabbits. It was a pure accident.


Francis George Lewis of Hope-cottages, in the employ of Mr. Baverstock, said he saw the boy swinging on the connecting bar between the two vans., and he saw him fall, the wheels passing over his head. The vans were travelling slowly, between two and three miles an hour. It was impossible for anyone to see the boy.


Job Robbins, of 6 Adelaide Terrace, Rye, Sussex, said he was driving the engine, but he knew absolutely nothing of the accident until one of the men ran up and told him to stop. There were four men and two of them were standing on the back platform of the last van. As near as he could say they were travelling about two miles an hour. H e noticed a few children about, but he was more engaged in looking out for motors at the cross-roads.


Foreman- It is your duty to look out forward, was there any means of your seeing what was happening behind?


Witness- No, my duty on coming to a crossing is to see there is no traffic in the way. I expect children to keep out of the way. There is nothing to prevent them getting on the van. If you speak to them they only turn and cheek you.


A juror- Was there no connection between the engine and the last van?


Mr. Wright the owner, said there was a rope connection by which a man at the back could ring a bell on the engine, and it could be stopped immediately. There was a man riding behind, and he rang the bell directly, while a man ran forward to stop the engine.


Mr. Kimber said that children were very reckless. He had seen a motor-car with four children riding on the back.


The Coroner said the accident which happened some time ago had largely prevented accidents. Children had been stopped from spinning tops in the middle of the streets.


Sergt. Rufey said the police now seized any tops being used by children in the streets.


Mr. Empson said they played football in the streets outside his shop.


Mr. Baverstock remarked that they ran out in front of his horse . He thought it would be a good thing if a constable could be stationed near each school when the children came out of school.


The Coroner:- There are a lot of schools and you would want a lot of constables.


Sergt. Rufey- It would require all the police in the borough.


Robbins, the driver, said he had known a case where one girl knocked another down right in front of the engine.


The Coroner: Parents ought to punish children for playing in the streets.


The Foreman- It is quite true. They do not punish them.


Mr. Harry Brown- How can they be always after them? Children will play in the streets, and considering the number of motor-cars about the accidents are very few. Two or three thousand pass my house daily, and there has not been a single accident for three years, which speaks well for the carefulness of the drivers of vehicles. Children have not adapted themselves to the new motor traffic.


The Coroner- But this was quite slow traffic.


Mr. Brown- It was an unfortunate accident and nobody was to blame in the matter.


The Foreman said the jury were agreed that the death was accidentally caused, and the entirely exonerated the driver from all blame. They desired to express sympathy with the parents in the sad loss they had sustained.


A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.


Mr. Wright said he wished to express his regret at the accident, and add his sympathy with the parents in their sad trouble. He had made arrangements to pay the wholeof the funeral expenses of the child. His men had been travelling thousands of miles over the country roads for many years, and their instructions were to be as careful as possible when passing through towns or approaching schools. This was the first accident they had ever had, and he much regretted it, although it did not seem that his men were to blame.


The Foreman-It speaks very much for the great care exercised by your men.


The deceased boy's father thanked Mr. Wright for offering to bear the funeral expenses.


The jury gave their fees to the father.






The funeral of the deceased boy took place on Saturday afternoon in the Cemetery, and the little coffin was covered in flowers from his sorrowing school fellows and friends. One came from St' John's School with the inscription “In loving memory of Reggie, from his little school-mates.” He was a genral favourite being a smart bright boy. The mourners were the father and mother, two grandfathers and two aunts. The funeral expenses were generously borne by Mr. Wright, the owner of the traction engine.


Newbury Weekly News 21 November 1912.


p.80 Nch (B) 7






The sad accident which happened on Thursday afternoon, whereby a six-year-old boy lost his life in tragic manner, cannot be attributed to the motor-car, which has of late years added so much to the perils of the highway. On the contrary this was a very slow-running train of traction engine and two furniture vans, driven with the utmost care and regard for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It was indeed, the very slowness of the pace which enabled this boy, with youthful daring, to run out from the “island” which had been specially provided for children's safety at St. John's crossroads, and to get between the vans, in the attempt to ride on the connecting-bar. Of course in the eyes of older persons, the adventure would mean courting certain death, but this little fellow was as heedless of danger as so many of his age appear to be. It was impossible for any of the men in charge of the engine and vans, to see what he did, or to prevent the lamentable result of his action. The jury very properly exonerated the driver from blame, and extended their practical sympathy to the bereaved parents, while the owner of the vehicles, without the slightest obligation of liability, generously offered to defray the funeral expenses. These were bright gleams of compassion, helping to relive the gloom of this terribly pathetic event.


The accident again directs attention to the dangers incurred by children on their way to and from school. Glad to be released from the routine, they rush into the roadway and indulge in games regardless of passing vehicles. Some children apparently take a delight in seeing how successfully they can evade imminent peril which they so cheerfully invite. They are as irresponsible as the dogs which beset the path of the cyclist and motorist, and the youngsters are nothing like so nimble. At the behest of the Education Committee, teachers have continually warned children not to loiter in the roadways, and in some instances have stationed themselves at school-gates to enforce their authority. But at his point their authority ends. The Town Council have issued warning notices, the police have done their best to prevent the children from playing in the streets. Still it continues whenever the man in uniform is not on hand to prohibit. Parents have their responsibilities in the matter, and although it would no doubt be impossible for them to personally take their little ones to and from school. There could be more oversight either by themselves or older children. It is to be hoped that the lesson of this sad accident will not be lost on all concerned.


Newbury Weekly News 21 November 1912. Comment column.


P80 Nch (B)7


Sources:Newbury Weekly News 21 November 1912

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