The Motor Car Act of 1903 first introduced registrations for motor vehicles. The vehicles were registered with the local County Council and registration books were kept with details such as the model of vehicle, the address, the name of the owner and the type of use, i.e. trade, private or public (taxi). The registration documents have been lost for Manchester and Liverpool, yet Cheshire County Council’s records survive and are a valuable source for early automobile history in the region.
These records can help us explore the localised market for motor vehicles, especially in the formative period of motor manufacture when there were several smaller makers. The map below compares two North-Western manufacturers. Robinson-Price, who produced motorcycles in Liverpool; and the Eagle Motor and Engineering Company, who produced a variety of motorised vehicles in Altrincham. The map is based on ownership patterns identified in the Cheshire registrations from December 1903-1907. Robinson and Price are in Blue and Eagle in Red.
The map shows the concentration of Eagle owners in North-East Cheshire, predictably centred around Altrincham, the home of the manufacturer; and the concentration of Robinson Price owners on the Wirral, with a lower concentration and mixture in middle and south Cheshire. This shows that these manufactures were catering to the local market. A concept at odds with the globalised motor car market of later years.
The later records for 1908-1911 show that Belsize, a Manchester based manufacturer, was the largest represented in the Cheshire registrations which suggests a certain local bias. Looking closely at the registrations, several of the owners also Belsize shareholders and prominent Mancunian businessmen; and like the Eagle registrations, there is a concentration in East Cheshire, with considerably fewer on the Wirral and in West-Cheshire. Also notable are the number of Belsize vehicles registered for public, taxiing purposes, 16 in total, used by firms in Northwich, Knutsford, Hale and West Kirby. This tallies with the firms popularity as taxis during this period, documented in the Commercial Motor.
This blog acknowledges the work of Craig Horner, who is currently transcribing the records of Cheshire registrations held at the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies in Chester. This work is due for publication in the future.
While many councils might not have surviving registration records, Bury registration details can be found at Bury Archives. There is also published work on Wiltshire’s registrations: Hicks I., Early Motor Registrations in Wiltshire 1903-1914.