King's Bruton

"One Way Traffic" by our School Archivist, Andrew Leach

Archives Old Brutonian Association (Alumni)

Today’s pupils and staff crossing the road that runs through the School - known as Plox - learn to show great care to avoid the passing traffic. A recently-introduced 20 mph speed limit helps, of course, and the School is working with the County Highways Department to introduce extensive traffic calming in the near future.

Those who were at King’s before 1968 had no such challenges as virtually all through traffic in Bruton fought its way along the High Street and Patwell Street in both directions, leaving Plox a quiet backwater.

A calm backwater in Bruton

A change was inevitable, of course, as the quantity of vehicles making their way in both directions through Bruton increased year on year, and so it came as no surprise when, in early 1962, the Local Authority put forward a scheme whereby there would be a one-way traffic system round Bruton, involving greatly increased traffic past the School.

 The Hunt Meet in 1938 in the road outside the School gates

The Governors were alarmed at the prospect of traffic being diverted from an A road (A359) and a B road (B3081) through the centre of the School. Strong representations were made to the County Surveyor’s Department and to Somerset County Constabulary, and in July 1962 the Senior Warden, Colonel Wright, was able to read a letter to the Governors from the County Highway Surveyor to the Clerk of Wincanton Rural District Council declining the application for a one-way traffic system in Bruton.

Three young members of staff outside Plox – Gerald Watts and Pat Richardson with John Vallins beside his first car in 1960

This victory was, however, short-lived as in December 1964, there was a renewed application, this time from Bruton Town Council and supported by Wincanton Rural District Council, for a one-way traffic scheme to be tried out in Bruton. The Governors raised the question of the provision of a pedestrian crossing for the School but the County Council replied that they did not think the flow of traffic would justify such a crossing. In December, the County Deputy Surveyor announced that there would be an experimental one-way system for a period of three months, probably starting the following July. Again, the Governors asked that a pedestrian crossing should be provided, and again the request was refused.

A leisurely conversation in the middle of the road, with David Hickley on the right

The experiment began in the summer of 1968, and by the autumn, the Headmaster was reporting that everything was going smoothly and there were ‘no real difficulties for the School other than the danger involved in crossing the road’! He wanted two pedestrian crossings provided - one outside the main School gates, the other leading into the churchyard - but the Police said they would watch the traffic and operate a radar trap if they considered that speeding past the School warranted this. The idea of a tunnel, or a bridge over the road, was briefly considered, but rejected on the grounds of expense.

 The Reverend Rhys and senior boys wandering up Plox in the 1950s

In November the trial period for the one-way system was extended for a further three months and it was soon obvious that the battle had been lost. There was no going back. Of course the School gradually adapted to the new situation - pupils (except prefects) were no longer permitted to walk along the road, and the wall between the back of Old House and the Fives Courts was breached to allow a new ‘school route’ for them to use. No longer could victorious away teams disembark on church bridge and, linking arms, march up the road, singing the School song to let Bruton know of their success.

 Four VIPs, including Lord Blackford and Lord Allenbrooke, sauntering down Plox towards the church on Corpus Christi Day 1950

There is one occasion in the year, however, when the School continues to use the road, briefly holding the traffic at bay - this is when the whole School community processes down the road and into the churchyard for its annual Commemoration Service.

Andrew Leach - School Archivist

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