You are in [Events] [Tragic death of Mr Freddie Pratt]

Shortly before the new motor fire engine, a Merryweather "Fire-King", came to Hungerford in Sep 1910, one of the fire brigade members, Mr. Freddie Pratt, landlord of the Bear Hotel, was killed in a terrible road traffic accident in June 1910.

Freddie Pratt had come to Hungerford in 1909 as the landlord of the Bear Hotel. He was a Freemason, and had gone to London to attend a Masonic function. He had only recently learned to drive, and he travelled in his own car to Reading to join the train. On his return from Reading late on a Wednesday evening in Jun 1910, his car left the road just opposite the Kintbury Tollhouse, turned over and caught fire as a result of the carbide (acetylene) lamps igniting the spilled petrol. Freddie Pratt suffered serious injuries and burns, and was trapped under the car. His brother-in-law was travelling with him, but was thrown clear during the accident, and was not seriously injured.

Because of the severe fire, it was some time before local people could partly right the car and release Mr Pratt. Dr Hemstead of Kintbury attended, and transported him back to his home at The Bear, where Dr Blake James attended him until his death a few hours later.

A grand funeral was arranged, with his colleagues in the fire brigade pulling the funeral carriage from the Bear along Charnham Street to St. Saviour's church in Eddington.

Photo Gallery:

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Pratt's Funeral
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- The scene of Freddie Pratt's car crash, Halfway Tollhouse, Sep 1910.

- The cortege leaving The Bear Hotel

- The funeral procession passing Faulknor Square. On the left is Alec Townsin's Refreshment Rooms with the Bear Hotel in the distance. On the right is James Stradling's cycle shop, a business founded in Newbury in 1877, and the Red Lion Inn.

- Crossing Eddington Bridge, and

- Approaching St Saviour's Church

The Report in the Newbury Weekly News:

PINNED BENEATH A MOTOR-CAR AND BURNT TO DEATH

INQUEST THIS AFTERNOON

Hungerford has had a week of shocks. The terrible thunderstorms which were experienced during the early part of the week, involving considerable damage to property, and which were the most severe in the recollection of the oldest inhabitant, were incidents which, in themselves, caused much un easiness among the local community, but the climax came on Thursday morning, when the tragic death of Mr. Frederick Roland Pratt, the landlord of the Bear Hotel, caused a painful sensation throughout the entire neighbourhood. The circumstances attending Mr. Pratt's death are of the most painful character, and the sufferings of the unfortunate man must have been of an intense nature.

The deceased, who was a Freemason and a Life Steward of that body, had gone up to London the previous day (Wednesday) to take part in the 11th anniversary festival of the Royal Masonic Institute for Boys, held at the Imperial Hall, Japan-British Exhibition, proceeding as far as Reading in his own motor car, which he has recently learnt to drive. He was accompanied by his brother-in law. On the return journey from Reading, everything appeared to have been all right, but when between Newbury and Hungerford, near the Old Toll House, just after midnight, something occurred which caused the car to swerve, and, going up a high bank, some six feet in height, it completely overturned. Mr. Pratt, who was driving, was pinned beneath the debris, but his brother-in-law was fortunately thrown clear of the car. To add to the horror of the -situation, the lamps of the car set fire to the petrol and the car at once became enveloped in flames.

The cries of the unfortunate gentleman and his companion soon attracted the attention of the occupants of the Old Toll House and of the cottages near, and, with commendable promptitude, they attempted to extricate the deceased from his dangerous position. Owing to the flames, however, it was some time before they could render assistance, but the men, women and even children of the cottagers put forth their most strenuous efforts to save the unfortunate man. Owing to his position, the car had to be turned on its side to remove him, so completely was he pinned down. The would-be rescuers were at last able to accomplish this, but not before Mr. Pratt had sustained terrible burns, and he had also received other injuries about the body, besides a terrible one on the head where he had come in contact with a telegraph post near by.

Dr. Hemsted was soon in attendance and rendered valuable aid, after which Mr. Pratt was removed to his home at Hungerford in a cab. Here Dr. Blake James attended him, but no hope was given of his recovery, and, after lingering in great pain for several hours, he passed away about seven 'clock.

It has not been possible to arrive at an exact conclusion as to what caused the car to swerve, the deceased's brother-in-law being completely prostrated from the shock, although he did not receive much personal injury. It has been suggested that flash of lightning either struck the car or blinded the driver, but the most likely probability, and this is derived from certain utterances made by the deceased during times he regained consciousness, is a curious one. At the spot where the accident happens stands the Old Toll House, commonly called the Round House from the way it is built, and at night time a curious phenomenon has-been noticed. Owing to the angles of the windows through the house abutting on the road, when motorists with bright lights are proceeding towards Hungerford, the windows through a reflection, and to motorists not acquainted with this, it appears that another motor is approaching. It is stated that the deceased imagined this and that he swerved in order to escape the imaginary object.

As stated before, the occurrence caused quite a painful sensation in the town, the deceased being well known throughout the neighbourhood, and much sympathy is felt for his bereaved widow. The deceased has been in the town about a year and was a member of the Hungerford Fire Brigade, in which capacity he attended in London, as a representative at the funeral of the late King.

The car was completely ruined by the accident and by the fire that followed.

See also:

- Fire Service 1910-1924

- The Bear Hotel

- Fire Service Scrapbook 1890-1913