To Devizes at 2 mph

Another entry in the 1953 Women’s Institute local history file, refers to an account by Mr William Herbert Hopkins about an outing to Devizes in 1880. We are told that it was the Chapel centenary Sunday School outing. We have not succeeded in matching a chapel or Sunday School to the year 1780, but the account of the outing draws our attention to how different transport was in the late nineteenth century.

The town of Devizes is only about six miles from Market Lavington and might take us about quarter of an hour by car or a little longer by bus. Apparently this outing took four hours each way, though it did go on an eight mile route, calling in at various villages.

About a hundred people went on the journey – scholars, teachers and others. Miss Bayliss had been involved in decorating some of the newest trucks with flowers, streamers and bunting. The trucks had seats fitted and some overhead protection for rain or sun. And the motive power for this outing was traction engines. The account in the file does not make it easy to visualise the ‘train’ as it gets called. We are told that there were three traction engines, but sometimes it sounds like one! It reads “Two heavy steam traction engines (used on the land) and one used for road work, threshing and corn grinding were owned by a farmer who lent the traction engine.” Then we are told the name of the engine driver was George Goddard and Mark Brown was at the wheel. We also learn that the engine (singular) was decorated.

There was a law in place at the time meaning that traction engines in use on the public roads were limited to moving at 2 miles per hour and had to be preceded by a man walking with a red flag. (See also our blog entry about a court case involving A speeding traction engine? in Market Lavington.)

What a pity that we don’t have any pictures of this special Sunday School outing, though we can share a photograph of a steam engine in use for farm work in Market Lavington.

image00220.jpg (602×386)

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