Over the summer we displayed a series of local stories in the Blab exhibition and asked visitors for their feedback. Our visitors told us that one of the stories they found most moving was the story of the Nuneaton Bus Disaster, which occurred on 30 August 1924.
Seven people died in the Nuneaton bus tragedy on the Cock & Bear bridge. Most of the victims came from Stockingford.
When the 14 seater omnibus ran low on fuel the driver stopped to re-fill the tank. A huge flame burst, burning the driver and causing him to spill some of the fuel.
This fed the fire and flames spread quickly, engulfing the bus. People rushed to the back to leave the bus, but the vehicle was crowded and many were trapped inside.
Herbert Rollason, a miner and father of eight died saving others including his wife, a neighbour’s daughter and her friend. Walter Smith saved his wife and baby son but died alongside his five-year-old daughter.
Although the fire brigade attended quickly, all that remained of the bus afterwards was its frame. The fire was so hot it melted the coins passengers were carrying. Some of the dead were identified by their jewellery and wounds suffered in the First World War.
Nuneaton’s tragedy shocked the nation. As a result, the maximum number of people allowed on buses everywhere was reduced to make sure all passengers could reach the emergency exit.
The story of the Nuneaton Bus Disaster will be displayed again in Blab 2 (15 October-11 December) alongside new stories from the borough’s history. Your feedback on these displays will help us decide which stories to tell in the Local History Gallery. Come along and tell us which stories are most powerful to you!
Blab is part of the Creative Museums project led by Battersea Arts Centre and funded by Arts Council England.
As we prepared to display this story we uncovered more objects in our collection relating to the bus disaster. Nuneaton born artist Charles Jacombs (1876-1926) was involved in the 1924 bus tragedy. He survived but was left with a damaged heart, which eventually led to his death two years later.
Our collection contains several oil paintings by Jacombs including ‘Cock Bear Inn’. Painted in 1923 it depicts the pub that gave the site of the bus disaster, the Cock & Bear bridge, its name.