Heritage: The dangers of road travel

Be it a horse and buggy or a humble dog cart, the annals of the Illawarra Mercury are filled with road accidents involving colonial modes of transport that often proved fragile when put to the test.

Such was the case in January 1877 when Mrs Sievert, of Wollongong, set out on a journey in a horse and buggy with three female friends.

While driving along Dapto Road "at a quiet pace", one of the reins became fixed under the horse's tail and the animal became restless, veering to one side and upsetting the cart, the Mercury said.

Mrs Sievert, who was still holding the reins, became entangled under the vehicle while the horse, which was on its side, kicked violently to gain a footing.

Bystanders were able to extricate Mrs Sievert from her "perilous position", after which she immediately fainted. This aside, she was relatively unharmed, as were her passengers.

The horse was severely gashed and bruised, the buggy, which had been a "handsome hooded vehicle", was "converted into a total wreck".

An accident, "which barely escaped being fatal", occurred 12 months earlier at Woonona, when Mr Bennett went for a ride in his spring cart with four young women.

He had stopped at Mr Fry's to deliver some goods and on remounting his cart saw that the horse had rubbed off its winkers.

"He descended to readjust the winkers when the horse bolted, the wheel passing over Bennett's leg," the Mercury said.

"The four girls started screaming and this terrified the animal, which made for its stable at a rapid rate, going down hill. In turning abruptly off the road, the cart was upset, throwing the occupants out.

"A deep gutter is at the roadside and this received the poor girls and saved their lives as the wheel lay fairly over the gutter and would have been on the girls but for this very trench."

Fortunately, all escaped with only cuts and bruises; one of the passengers was "hysterically affected".

In June 1876 an accident occurred in Crown Street that resulted in serious injury to a pedestrian.

Allan Hamilton, a public school teacher at Bulli, was driving up Crown Street in his dog cart during a strong easterly wind.

At the same time Mrs E Harrigan, of Fairy Meadow, was crossing the street and, being very close to the dog cart, was blown against one of the shafts by "an unusually violent gust of wind".

She was thrown down and the wheel passed over her leg, fracturing it above the ankle.

After receiving attention at a house, Dr Thomas recommended Mrs Harrigan's removal to the Albert Memorial Hospital. 


The horse-drawn carriage was used as early as the 1600s in Europe. For a history on this mode of transport, visit powerhousemuseum.com.

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