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.