My grandfather died as a result of a tragic road accident while cycling to collect money for the local hospitals, which was just one of the many charities to which he gave his full support - not just by voice but by action. It was a tragedy that such a man so deeply involved with the village and his beloved church, who did so much for the community and would have given more, if allowed, should die from such a simple and easily-avoided road accident.
How the accident happened was, and is, a mystery, as the report of the inquest shows (extract taken from the "Bexhill Observer", September 14th. 1946)
Below, with the kind permission of the "Bexhill Observer", are the reports from the newspaper, of the accident, the inquiry, and two tributes to John James Newport, published the week before the inquest.
Extract taken from The Bexhill Observer September 7th 1946
"SERVANT OF HOOE"
"DEATH OF MR J. J. NEWPORT"
"Bexhill friends will share the regret felt by a large circle in Hooe and Ninfield at the death of Mr J. J. Newport, of Caritas, Hooe, which occurred in Bexhill Hospital on Thursday afternoon following a road accident in which he was involved with a motor lorry when cycling between Ninfield and Hooe on Monday afternoon."
"The mishap occurred at the junction of the Ninfield-Hooe Road and Straight–lane."
"Mr Newport was taken to Bexhill Hospital where it was found he had sustained severe chest injuries, but first he seemed to be making satisfactory progress, then haemorrhage developed."
"Mr Newport, who was extremely well-known in the district, held many offices. Since 1928 he had been Clerk to the Hooe Parish Council, and in March last he celebrated his 50th anniversary as chairman of the local election meeting."
"On that occasion, he recalled; "This day is the 50th anniversary of my chairmanship of the Parish Council elections of March, 1896. During the past 50 years, I have not missed more than four elections. When Parish Council meetings were held in the schoolroom, I must have been in attendance at about 100 of them; and since, in the Hall, I have attended 127. In addition, I have attended 88 Hall Committee meetings, making a total exceeding 300."
"Among his many offices, Mr Newport was a churchwarden at Ninfield, and Secretary of the Ninfield Parochial Church Council. For 25 years, he was schoolmaster at Hooe, where he was also secretary of the Flower Shows."
"The funeral takes place next Tuesday at Hampstead Cemetery, where Mr Newport's parents are buried, and it was at Hampstead that he spent his youth. It was Mr Newport's wish that there should be no mourning and no flowers at his funeral."
"SERVICE FOR HOOE"
"Today, as I write, a village worthy has been buried at Hampstead whose Memorial is indelibly written on the minds of the people of Hooe."
"By the sudden and tragic ending of his long and useful life we have lost not only a true friend but a public character whose great services to the community will not be easily replaced."
""The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones". He did no evil and although some of the unpublished good which he did may be interred with him, abounding good has been left behind, enough to keep alive an affectionate memory of himself green in the hearts and minds of everyone who knew him both in Hooe and Ninfield."
"When first J. J. Newport came to Hooe he held the post of head teacher of the village school, where he remained for many years, subsequently his chief work for the public good was done in his position as Clerk to the Parish Council for which he worked with an assiduous energy and devotion and self-imposed sacrifice, which brought its reward to others if not to himself."
"On the day when the occurrence, which was the cause of his death, took place, he was engaged on a weekly labour of love, collecting on behalf of the local hospitals."
"In Ninfield, he was a churchwarden and hon. secretary and treasurer of the Parochial Church Council."
"So passes from us an honest and courageous Christian, holding to his own convictions as to what was just and right. Truly it may be said of him, he saw no evil, heard no evil, spoke no evil."
"Late Chairman of the Hooe Parish Council."
From the Bexhill Observer September 14th 1946
"The Late Mr. J. J. Newport"
"FUNERAL OF HOOE RESIDENT"
"The funeral of Mr. John James Newport, of Hooe, took place on Tuesday at Hampstead Cemetery, where the service was conducted by the Rev. Edward F. Yorke, of St Luke's, Hampstead. The funeral was in accordance with the expressed desire of Mr. Newport, held privately and in a simple manner, and there were no flowers or mourning by his request. Those attending the funeral were Messers C. Newport, O. G. W. Newport, W. H. E. Newport, Owen A. R. Newport, and D. Newport (sons), Messers C. Wickham and E. Barton (sons-in-law), Mr. E. Crouch (Hooe), V. Natt (cousin), Mr. and Mrs. A. R. Martin (Hampstead)."
"The family of Mr. Newport feel that certain of Mr. Newports many friends and associates would have desired to express their sympathy by sending floral tributes had there been no expressed wish to the contrary and they respectfully invite such friends to send a donation to any of the three hospitals in which Mr. Newport was keenly interested; namely Bexhill Hospital, Princess Alice Hospital, Eastbourne, or the Royal East Sussex Hospital, Hastings."
"A United Memorial Service will be held at Ninfield Parish Church on Sunday, September 22, at 6:30 p.m."
"The whole of the funeral arrangements were entrusted to Hinkley Funeral Service, 52 Mount Pleasant-road, Hastings."
"A NINFIELD TRIBUTE"
"The death of John Newport, recorded in the "Bexhill Observer," leaves a vacancy in Hooe and Ninfield, which it will indeed be hard to fill. You so aptly head that article "Servant of Hooe", for his life had been devoted to the service of his fellow men, and the last part of it mainly to the service of those living in Hooe and Ninfield. You record faithfully, the many offices which John Newport held, and in which his every effort was directed to bringing the greatest good to the greatest number."
"One office, however, you do not mention, namely his work as organiser of the collections in the villages for the Hospital Benevolent Fund, and it was, I believe, actually when engaged on this errand of mercy that he met his death. The work of the hospital was very close and dear to him."
"It is, however, of John Newport, the man, rather than of John Newport, the office bearer, of whom I desire to write."
"First, and above all, he was a Christian, and it was from his love of his Master that he drew strength and was enabled to play his full share in the promotion of the welfare of those with whom he came in contact. The rest all seemed to follow; he was a great worker, conscientious, loyal, and thorough, so whatever he turned his hand to was well done. Few who came into intercourse with him could have failed to draw strength from his own love and strength, for he was a man who was entirely lovable; he was, too, a man with many interests. As expert pruner of fruit trees and grower of vegetables, his agricultural bent was denoted, and, on the other hand, he had some considerable literary leanings and talents."
"He leaves behind, I believe, much data which he had collected for an historical survey of the village of Hooe, and which I had the pleasure of reading some years ago. John Newport lies with his father and mother at Hampstead, but surely, his spirit will march with us as we grapple in these hard days with the problems which two world wars have left us. He has passed from us full of years and noble work accomplished, and I know of no man of whom it would be more truly written that "the trumpets sounded for him on the other side"."
"J. Berthon Sparke"
Extract taken from The Bexhill Observer September 14th 1946
"FATAL ROAD ACCIDENT"
"Inquest on Mr J. J. Newport"
"LORRY DRIVER NOT TO BLAME"
"The verdict of "accidental death" was returned by the district coroner (Mr F. C. Sheppard) at the inquest on Mr John James Newport, of "Caritas Villa", Hooe, who died from injuries sustained in a collision in which he was involved, while cycling, with a motor lorry driven by Mr Alfred Haffenden, of "Marlpits", Ninfield, at the junction of the Ninfield - Hooe Road and Straight-lane."
"The evidence did not reveal whether Mr Newport ran into the lorry or whether the lorry struck him and the coroner (Mr F. C. Sheppard) said the lorry driver did what he thought was right and could not be held to blame."
"Donald Herbert Newport, of "Little Ingrams", Ninfield, a dental mechanic, said his father, Mr John James Newport, of "Caritas Villa", Hooe, was, when he saw him the previous Sunday at Hooe, in perfect health. He next saw him in hospital on Tuesday. He understood something of what witness said to him and murmured a few words but was unable to say what had happened. His sight and hearing were good and he had ridden a bicycle for many years."
"Alfred Haffenden, "Marlpits", Ninfield, wood merchant, said that about 3:30 p.m. the previous Monday he was driving a 2-ton Ford lorry, laden with logs, along the Ninfield-Hooe Road to Eastbourne at about 15 to 20 miles an hour, on the left-hand side of the road. His wife and son were with him."
"A cyclist came out of Straight-lane on his left hand and was not going very fast. As near as he could judge, the cyclist was about 30 feet away when he first saw him. He came out of the lane as if he was going straight across the road and turned slightly as he was coming round towards Ninfield."
"He could not say if Mr Newport looked up; it was all done so quickly."
"WENT ON GRASS VERGE"
"Witness cut straight across the road to his offside to give Mr Newport the whole of the road and went on to the grass verge grazing telegraph pole and came to a standstill in the ditch just in front of it. He got out immediately and saw Mr Newport lying on the ground about six feet from the grass verge. He did not say what had happened. The only injury he could see was on Mr Newport's forehead. The bicycle was in the centre of the road; the front wheel was damaged."
"The Coroner - As you swerved to your right, onto the grass verge. could you see what had happened to Mr Newport?"
"Witness -- No: I could not."
"You don't know whether he ran into the lorry or whether the lorry struck him? — I don't think the lorry struck him."
"Witness said there were no marks on the lorry to show. The brakes on the lorry were in perfect order; he had had them relined only three weeks before at the Ninfield garage."
"The Coroner - you say you can′t tell me exactly how far away Mr Newport was when you first saw him coming out of the lane - it might have been 30 feet - would not that, if you were travelling at 15 to 20 miles an hour, enable you to pull up?"
"Witness - no sir, because the bicycle was only just coming out of the lane. By the time I got there he would be right in my track."
"Mr Haffenden said he simply shot across the road."
"It was a question either of applying your brakes or swerving to your right; you chose the latter? - I thought that would be best, to give him as much of the road as possible."
"James Haffenden, who was a passenger in the front of the lorry, said the cyclist came from Straight–lane, straight across the road and seemed to be turning towards Ninfield. There was a high wind blowing. The cyclist seemed to be trying to hold his hat on with one hand. His right hand was on the handlebars and he seemed to be trying to pull his hat down with his left to keep it on. When witness first saw Mr Newport emerge from the lane he was a matter of feet away from the lorry: he should imagine about the length of the lorry."
"P. C. Marshall, Battle, said he saw the lorry near the junction at an angle on the offside grass verge. He examined it but found no marks to indicate a collision with a bicycle. The front wheel of the bicycle was buckled; the forks were buckled; the rear mudguard was pinched tight against the tyre and rim. The damage appeared to be consistent with the cycle having been struck on the right-hand side."
"The Coroner - Would you expect the same sort of damage if the cycle collided head-on into an obstruction?"
"Witness - Yes, more or less, except there were marks on the right-hand front fork."
"A BLIND BEND"
"P C. Marshall added that the Ninfield-Hooe road was a major road and Straight-lane was a minor road. It was a blind bend. There was a very high hedge running along the corner."
"Dr Sutherland, resident medical officer at Bexhill Hospital, said Mr Newport was taken to the hospital on the previous Monday suffering from a severe laceration of the scalp, a fracture of the skull, and fractures of the upper five ribs on the lower right-hand side, and minor abrasions. He was semi–conscious, but could not tell him what had happened. He died at 4:10 p.m. on Thursday from massive haemorrhage into the right pleural cavity brought about by the chest injuries."
"TAKEN BY SURPRISE"
"Summing up, the coroner said the cause of death was injuries sustained the previous Monday as a result of the cycle ridden by Mr Newport coming into contact, in some way or other, with the lorry driven by Mr Haffenden."
""I am not at all sure," Mr Sheppard continued, "whether the cycle ran into the lorry or the lorry collided with the cycle.""
"It seemed perfectly clear to him, the coroner said, that Mr Newport came out on the side road at a slight angle with the intention of crossing over to take up his proper side to proceed towards Ninfield. Mr Haffenden appeared to have been taken by surprise and did what, in his opinion, was the best thing in his endeavour to avoid a collision."
""What he did," said Mr Shepherd, "and I accept his evidence, was to swerve to his right in the hope of being able to avoid Mr Newport on his bicycle. I did suggest to Mr Haffenden then it might possibly have been better if he had immediately applied his brakes with a view to minimising any impact, which might follow any collision. He told me he adopted what he considered was the safer and better course and I must accept it — that that was his judgment and that he did what he thought was right. Therefore, he cannot be held to blame. It may be, of course, that when Mr Haffenden saw Mr Newport in the first instance the lorry may have been very much nearer to him than the 30 feet, which is the rough estimate given to me by Mr Haffenden. If that be so, that it was much nearer, then I entirely agree that Mr Haffenden could not have pulled up in such a short distance. Be that as it may, I am satisfied that there is no evidence of culpable or criminal or even of gross negligence on the part of Mr Haffenden. Therefore, my verdict must be inevitably one of "accidental death.""
"From the Bexhill Observer September 21, 1946"
"Mr J. J. Newport"
"MEMORIAL SERVICE AT NINFIELD"
"There was a united service Ninfield on Sunday to the memory of Mr J. J. Newport whose recent death followed a road accident."
"The esteem in which John Newport was held was evidenced by the large congregation, which filled the little church. Warm tributes to Hooe's grand old man were paid by the Archdeacon of Hastings (the Ven. E. G. Reid), representing the Bishop of Chichester, the Rev H. Bradburn (Rector of Ninfield), who conducted the service and the Rev F. W. Hall of Little Common Methodist Church and representing the St Leonards and Bexhill circuit."
"The choir, under choirmaster A. T. Ridel, led in the singing of the hymns, ("The radiant morn has passed away," "Sing Alleluia", and "Peace, perfect peace."). Chanted were the 121st and 23rd Psalms."
"The Rev F. W. Hall spoke in glowing terms of Mr Newport service for the Methodist circuit, pointing out that, despite his advanced age, he cycled in all kinds of weather to outlying places to preach. He applied the great spiritual things to everyday life and he was a teacher as well as a preacher. His life confirmed his teaching; it was a life of Christian certitude."
""Our people, as I am sure your people, too, were graciously enriched and blessed by his ministry and by his life," he said. "We thank God for the completeness of his life and for his work.""
"Archdeacon Reid described Mr Newport is a great character and a great Christian gentleman."
""I had the privilege of having a good many dealings with him in the past seven years and I admired him for his convictions," he said."
"Mr Newport had been associated with Ninfield and Hooe churches for many years and had been a church warden, fulfilling the post very well indeed."
""There is nothing to be sad about in a great life that had been lived in the neighbourhood – a Christian life that has helped so many people. I am sure we will always remember him in these terms – "a great Christian gentleman who has set a great example," said the Archdeacon."
"The Rectal said he had had a great respect and affection for Mr Newport, many would remember him chiefly for his courage, is buoyancy of spirit, and for his unfailing service for his fellowmen."
""He was a good man, for the Holy Ghost and of faith - those words sum up the life of John," he said. "Pray God we may get something of his eternal spirit of youth and serve God as he served Him so faithfully.""
"Those present were Sir William Cosgrove, Mr and Mrs J. B. Sparke, Mrs Diton, Mrs Isted, Mr and Mrs L. Dann, Mr and Mrs S. Morris, Mrs N. Morris, Mr A. T. Stevens (Herstmonceux), Mrs Cole, Miss Brakefield, Mrs Tucker, Mrs Steer, Mrs D. Packham, Mrs W. Catt, Miss Catt, Miss Avann, Mrs Clark, Mrs Winchester, Miss Hoad, Mrs Langridge, Mrs Wickham, Miss A. Wells, Mr C. Wickham, Miss Crouch, Mrs Packham, Mrs Neave, Miss Hollandale, Mrs Stonestreet, Miss A. Bottle, Mr A. Haywood, Mrs P. Constant, Mrs Tapper, Mrs Tooth, Mr and Mrs Lambert, Miss Lambert, Mrs Bradburn, Miss C. Bradburn, Mrs Dallaway, Miss Alexander, Mr and Mrs Hammond, Mr and Mrs Mitten, Mr and Mrs L. Ballard, Mr and Mrs K. Smith, Mrs B. Smith, Mr and Mrs W. Roberts, Miss Roberts, Mrs Pratt, Mrs T. C. Sargent, Mrs Brown, Miss Brown, Mr and Mrs C. P. W. Baldock, Mr and Mrs Gordon Pont, Mr C. F. Pilbeam, Mrs Munn, Mr and Mrs G. N. Wells, Mr G. H. Ballard, Mr R. Wells, Miss Crouch, Miss Dickens, Mrs Peterkin, Mr and Mrs Offord, Mrs H. Pocock, Mrs Reid, Mrs H. Morris, Mr and Mrs A. C. Morris, Mrs Toon, Mrs Taylor, Mrs Veness, Mr Alan Collett, Miss Watkins, Miss Greenyer, Miss Gooden,,Mr and Mrs A. H. Sargent, Mr Hildred, Mr and Mrs G. H. Bretholomew, Mr M. C. Lewis."