SMITHY CORNER ASHWELLTHORPE - ROAD SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS
Smithy Corner Ashwellthorpe, at the top (east) end of Wymondham Road where it meets the Norwich/New Buckenham road (B1113) - the old Turnpike - and Blacksmiths Lane.
For many generations, this junction looked like the picture below - the Smithy with wheelwrights on the right dated back several centuries; Smithy cottages on the left were built in the mid-1800s - buildings appear on the Ashwellthorpe Tithe Map of 1841.
was a dangerous road junction because of the diminished sightline looking to
the right (south) past the Smithy Cottages which, when coming from Ashwellthorpe Street,
obscured the road towards the Kings Head Public House and the sharp bend,
Sadly, Mrs Olivia Constance Browne from New Road, Ashwellthorpe, was killed at Smithy Corner in January 1948, and the Parish Council approached Norfolk County Council for road safety improvements immediately afterwards. The Inquest Coroner advised that the HALT sign should be placed in a more prominent position but that was the only official improvement that happened in the next thirty-five years, despite pressure from Ashwellthorpe villagers and its Parish Council. Work was carried out periodically tp cut back the hedges and other vegetation from encroachment on to the road.
In December 1956, plans had been drawn up by Norfolk County Council under its building restrictions lines policy which favoured the purchase of land to move the road junction over eastwards to gain a better sight line. The Parish Council were not in favour of this stating that one of the existing buildings at Smithy Corner was in a bad state and could soon be declared unfit and others could be compulsorily purchased with the resultant space used to clear and widen the splay. I believe this NCC policy stayed on the books until 1979/1980 when the County Council decided to abandon the former improvement lines on the Norwich Road/Turnpike and replace them with minor schemes for individual sections of the road "when conditions require it and financial circumstances make it possible".
With all the new development in Ashwellthorpe in the 1960s, there was more traffic using that junction. Ashwellthorpe Street/Wymondham Road used to be part of the B1135 from East Dereham to Woodton/Bungay, via Wymondham, and was also used by much extra traffic as a useful cut-through to the main Norwich to Ipswich road (A 140). The village policeman, who lived at Smithy Corner, did his best to make drivers more aware and safer by patrolling the junction on foot and pointing out the driver's error if he thought the driver might disobey the STOP sign.
The Smithy and wheelwright's buildings were demolished in the 1960s and, with the many requests and hopes that the junction could be made safer over decades, plans were eventually suggested by the NCC that the problem could be solved by the demolition of the semi-detached cottages on the other corner of Wymondham Road with consequent realignment of the junction.
.Smithy Cottages were Grade II listed buildings dating from the mid-19th Century and, certainly, buildings were shown at this site on the 1841 Tithe Map..
At the January 1984 Parish Council meeting, questions were again asked as to whether any road improvement plans were available. A preliminary scheme by Norfolk County Council Surveyors proposed that the cottages should be demolished in order to alter and widen the road and splay for better visibility. Planning permission was being sought from the South Norfolk District Council to which the DC requested that, before demolition started, the cottages be photographed for record purposes, with the window boarding-up removed; also that the Victorian cast-iron windows should be carefully taken out and set aside for use elsewhere. Listed Building consent would also have to be obtained
By April that year, the
County Council Highways sub-committee had decided on a cheaper improvement
scheme, costing £34,000 instead of £48,000 and the cottages would not have to
In August 1984, Norfolk County Council referred the matter back to the Surveyors with the order that they start all over again to prepare another report; this had come about through a Parish Council request, a petition from some villagers and a further site meeting. It was reported in October 1984 that the cottages had been acquired by agreement and not by compulsory purchase, The junction improvement plans were to be displayed in the entrance to Ashwellthorpe Village Hall on 19 November 1985 and the matter was settled at the Highways Sub-Committee of the NCC on 28 November 1984. It was decided the cottages should be demolished, .
.Demolition of the cottages started in October 1985.[photographs by courtesy of Mr and Mrs RIx]