English Heritage celebrates the age of the motor car with 13 new listings and a new book published through Yale.
From turn of the century “motor stables”, purpose built for one of the men who introduced the motorcar to Britain, via the original 1909 home of Morris Motors in Oxford, to the air-travel inspired 1960s Forton Tower on the M6, English Heritage’s project to understand and protect car-related structures and landscapes has resulted in 13 buildings being listed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of English Heritage. An exciting book, Carscapes: The Motor Car, Architecture and Landscape in England written by English Heritage experts Kathryn A. Morrison and John Minnis, is also published for The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press.
These 13 buildings, all listed at Grade II and dating from the turn of the century to the 1960s, chart the rise of motoring from an aspirational pastime for the few to a necessity for the many. Among the new listings are a grand Edwardian building decorated with stone tyre motifs in Kensington, a First World War air hangar converted to service cars, rural 1920s filling stations mimicking barns to blend in with the countryside, and a futuristic garage from the 1960s. These often little-known buildings provide a rare glimpse into England’s motoring past and how its landscape and architecture were re-engineered to accommodate cars.
A previous Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “There was an undeniably romantic flavour to motoring in the UK during the first half of the twentieth century. Cars looked distinctive and many designs we now think of as classics were born in that era. What’s less well recorded, however, are the buildings and structures that provided the setting and infrastructure for the golden age of the motor car. These listings, and the book being published alongside them, go some way to filling that gap. Cars are safer these days and driving far less of an adventure, but some of us still like to embrace our inner Mr Toad, and so it’s great that our motoring heritage is properly recognised in this way.”
Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: “The motor car, like the railways before it, changed the world in which we live. Now, in an age when it is common to blame cars for blighting our environment, it is time to recognise and appreciate the positive contribution they have made to England’s heritage. This book represents the fruit of a major English Heritage research project, part of our commitment to understanding the heritage of the 20th century. We expect that over the next few years it will improve our ability to protect early motoring structures in England.”
“This project is one of many English Heritage is carrying out which explores the historic environment according to themes and puts forward proposals for their better protection, including designation.”
The book sets out to illuminate the century-long process that saw the world around us re-engineered for cars. Exploring the history of various building types and structures associated with the car - filling stations, garages, car showrooms, car parks, motels, roadhouses, highways, bridges, and even signage - the book looks at how the car became such a powerful catalyst for change.
In May 2012, English Heritage announced the Grade II listing of the Markham Moor canopy in Nottinghamshire and the Red Hill Mobil canopies in Leicester. Other motoring related buildings that have already been listed include the former premises of the car dealer and manufacturer Rootes in Maidstone, Kent. Built in 1937-8 and Grade II listed, this is an excellent example of the large moderne style garages popular in the 1930s with an eye-catching vertical fin, rounded corners and extensive showrooms and workshops. The former Antiquarius building just off the Kings Road in London, where in 1919 a new garage was disguised to look like an “olde English” inn, and the Forge Garage in Penshurst, Kent, where an old blacksmiths was converted into a garage in 1965, are two other examples of buildings that represent our varied and much loved motoring heritage.