Motoring was firmly in the news in 1901. The trouble was it was mainly bad news for the motorist described as a horrid word' by a journalist reporting a collision in Reigate between a cyclist and a car.

The speed limit was 12mph in many towns, lower in others, and the expressed intention of Surrey's Chief Constable of the time, Captain Sant, towards those who exceeded it was to stop them at any cost.

The cost was policemen in plain clothes stationed at critical points to catch people speeding. Stopwatches were not used at this time; instead it was the individual policeman's judgment that was employed to decide how fast a car was travelling.

The automobilists' were said to be no more in favour of speed limits than many drivers are today. The policeman charged with judging who was speeding and who was not was described as being of small ability'.

Remarking on the rise of speeding convictions, the local paper said a car travelling at 14-15mph was more under control than a horse-drawn trap at 10-12mph.

It noted that in a recent race up Tilburstow Hill one car managed a maximum of 36mph and added that one day general driving speeds of 14-15mph would be commonplace.

At a court session in Reigate in October 1901, as well as motorists being fined for speeding, 46 cyclists were also fined.

It was reported that they had attained average speeds timed over a 176-yard distance of 15-30mph. This made it seem as though the forecast of speeds of 14-15mph was already the norm.

- Article and picture courtesy of Alan Moore, author of A History of Redhill volumes 1 and 2, www.redhill-reigate-history.