The Slaugham Archives

Handcross Hill
The Slaugham Archive
Handcross Hill

A view looking up Handcross Hill.
Surely, a hundred years ago, that small mound on the left-hand side of the road cannot be a pile of rock salt for icy conditions?
View Large Version View Large Version
Picture added on 30 January 2012 at 09:32
This picture is in the following groups
Roads - Handcross - Brighton Road
You can see the Rectory roof on the right hand side.
Added by Tom Chamberlain on 11 July 2012
Well spotted, Tom. For a brief moment I wondered if the roof belonged to East Park, further down the hill, but I can see chimney pots on the left of the road between the first and second telegraph post which really confirms your statement that it is the Rectory.
I do not know when it was built but I have adjusted the date from 1910 to 1925.
The Large Version shows a close up of the house.
Added by Barry Ray on 12 July 2012
Hello all. I'm trying to learn more about the terrible crash that occured on Handcross Hill in 1906. My question is, am I right in saying the road that goes through Handcross High Street today is the original Brighton road? How did the bus come to be on Handcross Hill? Did it follow the current A23 route? And lastly, where exactly did the bus crash? Does anyone know exactly where?
Is there a memorial stone or something? Any help appreciated.
Added by Mike James on 10 August 2012
The bus followed the original A23, southwards along the Handcross High Street, bear left at the Red Lion (the scene of the inquest) and then fork right (picture #78) into the Brighton Road (now the B2110) to the top of the infamous hill. The bus followed the present A23 only from where the B2110 merges with the dual carriageway (A23) just south of the village. The accident took place somewhere south of this point on the main London to Brighton road in, what we would call today, a narrow country lane! A plaque was affixed to the oak tree into which the bus crashed, but the plaque and tree have long disappeared under many subsequent road improvement schemes and the precise site is not known. There is no memorial in the village, but there may be in the villages from where the bus set off. In the next few months I shall be uploading many photographs and more information on this terrible accident.

Added by Barry Ray on 11 August 2012
Thank you, Barry, that was most useful. It's quite daunting driving down there in a modern car let alone a rickety ancient bus; it must have been terrifying. I gather many victims were, shall we say, well oiled after stopping at pubs on the way (including the driver), but what an awful, awful disaster. On another note, has anyone got information on the Handcross ghost that supposedly appears at the B2110 fork? A figure of a woman is occasionally seen, I read.
Added by Mike James on 12 August 2012
The four-day inquest, which terminated on 7th August 1906, decided on a verdict of accidental death caused by the breakage of machinery. It also said that the driver committed an error of judgement in allowing the bus to travel so fast, but that there were no grounds for a criminal prosecution.
The omnibus left its depot at 6.00am at Regents Park and travelled to Orpington to pick up the party. It left Orpington at 8.00am and, according to a witness, the journey would normally take five hours to reach Brighton. The usual speed of a Vanguard omnibus is 12 mph. The omnibus reach the top of Handcross hill just before 11.00am and the accident took place a few minutes later.
At the inquest the driver, Henry Blakeman, was asked “Did you stop at many pubs or refreshment houses”, to which he replied “Not one; we had lemonade, beer and whisky on board”.
There were problems with the gearbox which necessitated stops at both Purley and Gatwick to make adjustments with a spanner. A witness said “The driver and his two mates had one bottle of beer between the three, but a few miles further on another bottle was drunk and that was all they had.
The Coroner asked the witness “Did that effect his driving”; he replied “Yes, he did not have as delicate a touch on the spark advance lever.” He thought the speed increased after the second glass of beer.
A witness, Henry Clarke, said he first saw the omnibus at Redhill. He was riding a cycle and held on to the omnibus, but going down Handcross hill he let go as the speed was too great for him to hold on. (No doubt this was common practice at the time. Best make sure the bus is going in the right direction!)
The general consensus was that the speed had increased from 12 mph at the top of the hill to 32 mph when it crashed. Other drivers had said that the brakes would “fire” if they were applied too readily, and that they preferred to free-wheel down the hill hoping that there would be no obstacles round the bend on this “country road“.
As for the ghost question, I have not heard of any apparitions but please let us know if one exists. Perhaps this is another drink-related question!

Added by Barry Ray on 14 August 2012
Excellent account of the crash Barry, thank you very much.
Added by Mike James on 14 August 2012
My dad was a young lad when this crash happened and he used to talk to me about it. He pointed out the site of the crash more than once to me.
If you go down Handcross Hill today you have the entrance to East Park Farm, then another entrance on a bend, and just passed that on the left is where the bus finished up.
I don't know if this information is of any use to you.
Pete Brown, old Handcross boy
Added by Pete Brown on 19 February 2013
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