Carscapes: How the Motor Car Reshaped England

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Wellington Arch and Hyde Park Corner, about 1930

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© Alun Bull

Preston Bus Station and Car Park, Preston, Lancashire

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Coventry Market Car Park, listed Grade II

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© Steve Cole

Esso Filling Station. A6, Leicester. Listed Grade II

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© National Motor Museum

Argyll's Showroom, Newman Street, Central London, 1905

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Top Hole Roads Early motoring on unsuitable roads was dirty and treacherous, with pneumatic tyres tearing up the road surfaces in clouds of dust. Durable and well-drained road surfaces were critical to the development of motoring.

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© Derek Kendall

West London Audi, M4, West London. Car showrooms have travelled far from the adapted high street shops of the 1910s. Designed by Wilkinson Eyre, this curved glass-fronted building is one of the most expensive modern showrooms.

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Ford, Dagenham, Essex. When it opened in 1931, the Ford factory on the banks of the Thames at Dagenham was the largest car factory in Europe and one of the most spectacular industrial plants in the south of England.

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Anglo-American Oil Company (Pratts) Filling Station, Euston Road, London. This was one of the earliest filling stations to open in London. It was built to a very high standard by F.D. Huntington in 1922 and photographed by the renowned Bedford Lemere & Co

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Metropolitan traffic policeman, Fleet Street, London, 1960. In 1960, traffic police on point duty still had a role in controlling London traffic. However, automatic traffic lights and roundabouts were increasingly used to marshal junctions.

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An early AA Filling Station, Stump Cross, Essex. This was one of the six filling stations built by the Automobile Association in 1919-20, the first to be opened in Great Britain, and originally selling only British-made benzole.

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Michelin Building, Fulham Road, London. Listed Grade II

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East Sheen Service Station.

Motorways, bypasses, garages, petrol pumps, traffic lights and roundabouts… A new English Heritage exhibition at  Wellington Arch explores the impact of the car on England’s landscape and celebrates the buildings of motoring history that today are valued and listed.


Archive photographs and a selection of historic advertisements, cartoons and motoring magazines show how radically the English countryside and streets changed between the 1890s and 2010s, at first to accommodate the arrival of the motor car and later to manage ever increasing traffic jams and congestion. Also on display are an early 1930s traffic light, a petrol pump and other motoring memorabilia.


Wellington Arch is a particularly appropriate venue to host an exhibition looking at the impact of traffic on buildings. The Arch was built in 1828 but Victorian traffic jams meant that in 1883 it had to be dismantled and moved some 20 metres to its current location. Between 1958 and 1960 to further ease congestion – this time from motorised transport – Hyde Park Corner was radically altered and the Arch separated from Constitution Hill by a new roadway. Today it stands on a large roundabout surrounded by traffic (although pedestrians can easily access it via the underpass and at the traffic-light crossings).


The exhibition coincides with the publication of ‘England’s Motoring Heritage from the Air’ by John Minnis.

LiveReviews|2
2 people listening
Jane Sutton

Great fun little exhibition, just right for amusing kids and enticing them to walk round Hyde Park afterwards!

Chris Turner

Fascinating and superb selection of photos from the early days of motoring, really bringing it home how the car has changed all our lives - and not just visually. And with today's technological developments and the impact of climate change, the images also encourage us to ponder what the future will bring...