The family fortune was made in the West Riding textile industry. The profits bought a number of landed estates. William Aykroyd created the first milch cow, Bradford Dyeing and Finishing, in 1835 and one of his sons, William Henry, bought Grantley Hall ninety years later. Five years before that purchase, W.H. was made a baronet in the 1920 Birthday Honours. He died in 1947 aged 81 and one might assume he’d had a life of privileged comfort. Not quite.
On Wednesday 18th August 1909, driving through Filey in his 35 horsepower motor car, he knocked two young boys off their bicycle. Twelve-year-old Henry SAVILE was badly injured and died the following day. His five-year-old brother, Arthur, suffered a fractured arm, gashed forehead and bruises but soon recovered.
I wrote about this event in Looking at Filey, quoting at length from newspaper reports. Death of a Boy makes rather grim reading but in researching this follow-up, triggered by the anniversary, I felt even more distressed by what had taken place.
It WAS an accident. A strong wind was blowing, carrying away the sound of the car’s horn, but Henry made a fatal decision to cut across the road to take advantage of smooth asphalt at the other side. He didn’t hear the engine or the warning hoot and realized too late that the motor was upon him. The boys’ aunt was riding a bicycle behind them and seems not to have expected Henry’s maneuver, nor to have realized the danger the vehicle posed. The coroner’s inquest apportioned no blame to the driver of the car. There was some public sympathy to spare for W. H. Aykroyd who had been “greatly distressed by the occurrence”. Not as much as the father of the boys, of course. Robert Arthur Savile wrote a letter to the newspaper five days after the tragedy that included this paragraph, with its reference to the driver’s position as a magistrate:-
Mr. Aykroyd informs me he is a gentleman and has plenty of money, but I could not accept money from him. What I want is my boy and that he cannot give. The only approach to compensation he can make is to set an example to others by giving up the speed fad, and spending what money he can spare in doing his utmost to avoid further accidents by putting into force the laws which are already made. Is it not time that laws were put into force for the rich as well as the poor?
Robert, who worked as a farmer and a butcher, was enumerated by the 1939 Register in Hunmanby, a widower since 1915 and looked after by a housekeeper. He died in 1943 aged 69. What would he have made of today’s rich-getting-richer world?
I remarked in the old post that Henry’s grave was somewhat neglected. At the beginning of this year, it was tidied and the soil around the base cleared away. Anyone passing can now see how he died.