From it’s earliest days as an Air Acceptance Park, there had been anxiety about public access to Hayes Lane, which at the time ran in a straight line from the end of Buxton Lane through to the junction with Old Lodge Lane.
The airfield was on the eastern side of the road while the huge Handley Page sheds were sited to the west, necessitating aircraft crossing a public road. Fears of a fatal accident caused by low-flying aircraft prompted discussions about the closure and diversion of Hayes Lane as early as June 1917, when the large number of spectators congregating on the Common and along Hayes Lane forced Lieut. Col. Francis Conway Jenkins to call for the public right of way to be prohibited on the Common, the fields adjacent to the Common and Hayes Lane. The long-planned diversion of Hayes Lane wasn’t put into action until the run-up to WW2, when it was promptly closed to the public for the duration of hostilities.
As far as we know, the first actual accident involving a member of the public travelling on Hayes Lane occurred on 12th July, 1926, during haymaking on Kenley Common. Ernest Reed, an ex-serviceman, was high up in the dickey seat of an empty pair-horse hay wagon, driving along Hayes Lane, when some part of the undercarriage or fuselage of an aircraft ‘clipped’ him during take-off from the adjacent airfield. He fell into the road and the horses bolted across the Common before being captured by Mr. George Couling, a corn and hay merchant, of Chaldon Road, Caterham, who was in charge of the haymaking on the Common.
RAF men ran to the assistance of Mr. Reed and he was taken to the Aerodrome hospital where the medical officer dressed his injuries before he was taken by ambulance to Caterham Cottage Hospital. As well as several fractured ribs, Reed was suffering from shock. Mr. Couling spoke very highly of his employee to the Press and lamented that the accident had come at an unfortunate time for the Reed family, as they had just been compelled to vacate the premises where they had been living, in Town End, Caterham, and the family had been forced to divide up and seek separate lodgings.
Records show an Ernest Walter Reed born in Caterham in 1887. He married Alice Jane Elizabeth Majoram at St. Mary’s, Caterham, in 1911, giving his profession as ‘carman.’ If this gentleman is the same Ernest Reed as the carman on the haycart in 1926, then his accident didn’t end his life prematurely. Ernest Walter Reed was laid to rest in All Saints, Warlingham (A/B/5) on 24th March, 1965, aged 78.
Electoral registers do indeed show a George Couling living at 26 Chaldon Rd, though by 1929, he appears to have moved to 32 Addison Rd, with his wife, Mary D. Couling.
Surrey Mirror and County Post, Friday July 16, 1926
Air Acceptance Park records – National Archives courtesy of Tony Adams
Electoral Registers, Birth, Marriage and Burial registers