Esme Cynthia Dennis was a cousin I didn’t know I had. She was my second cousin once removed, one of the Pub Dennises – her father and his father ran the Royal Oak, Chasetown, which is why I had no idea of her existence. Anyway, Esme was a posh name, to be encountered in plays or books about posh people, such as those lampooned by P G Wodehouse (Jeeves and Wooster).
Burntwood Road Bridge, to use the proper name, was dubbed the “Nasty Twisty Bridge” by my uncle Frank. It was a hazardous S-bend, where an important local commuter road, connecting Brownhills to Burntwood, crossed the canal. It was always a marvel that so few accidents occurred there. Buses would knock chunks out of the brick parapets and there are still fallen bricks on the bottom of the canal. The high parapets obscured any forward vision for car drivers, who approached the bridge blind.
Such a bridge could not be built today, but in the late 1840s when the Anglesey Branch Canal was built, Burntwood Road, as Whitehorse Road was then known, was contorted to cross it. At the time it would have been of little inconvenience to sparse traffic consisting mainly of pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.
LADY MOTORIST PAYS COSTS
In a case of driving without due care at Brownhills on Oct. 22nd against Esme Cynthia Dennis, 164, High Street, Brownhills, Mr. Cooper said defendant’s car collided with a car on the White Horse Bridge. Miss Dennis was approaching from Chasetown and the other vehicle was coming from Brownhills. The prosecution suggested that defendant approached that very awkward bridge on her wrong side of the road, and she admitted the other driver was travelling quite slowly.
Thomas Booth, the other driver, said he was driving along the White Horse Road towards Chasetown, and as he approached the rise of the bridge his speed was ten to fifteen miles per hour. He sounded his horn, but heard no response. He was two feet from his correct side of the bridge wall, and as he got over the bridge he saw defendant’s car approaching on the wrong side, about eight to nine yards away. He applied the brakes and stopped within five feet. Defendant’s speed he estimated at fifteen to twenty miles per hour. Her car struck his front offside mudguard.
P.c. White said Miss Dennis made a statement to the effect that she was driving a car belonging to Mr. Frank Thomas Woolley, and approaching the bridge at ten miles an hour, sounded a horn and heard no reply. When turning on the bridge she was suddenly confronted by the other car, and pulled to the left to avert a head-on collision. The constable added that defendant was obviously well on the wrong side.
The case was dismissed on the payment on £2 18s. costs.
My recollection of this bridge is that if Mr Booth’s car was two feet from the side he was more or less in the middle of the road.
Frank Woolley would marry Esme in 1939. His name rings a vague bell: I gather he appears in one of the pictures of the Park View Methodist Chapel Choir.