During a visit with fellow members of Llandysul History Society to Ceredigion Archives a few years ago we were shown registers containing information on the first motor vehicles in the county. This, combined with a lifelong interest in motoring together with an early boyhood passion for recording car numbers, has resulted in me starting a project to document the history of early motoring in Cardiganshire.
In 1903, with increasing numbers of motor vehicles on the road, and with numerous incidents and accidents occurring, the government decided that each vehicle would be given a unique number so as to be easily identified. Each county would be given a one or two letter prefix to be followed by a number with up to four digits; Cardiganshire was allocated the letters EJ. The prefix EJ continued until 1948 with a total of 8819 vehicles registered between the years 1903-1948; these are recorded in a series of 12 registers, all records being handwritten.
The records are quite comprehensive, recording vehicle make and type, horse power, seating capacity and colour, together with registration date and owner’s name and address, and whether private, goods or public conveyance. Any changes to these details have also been recorded.
The registration of vehicles in Cardiganshire began in late December of 1903, when five motor cars and four motorcycles were registered. A further two motorcycles were registered in early January of 1904. We can therefore conclude that these 11 vehicles were the only passenger carrying vehicles in the county at this time! Numbers of motorcars and motorcycles registered for the first time in each year 1903-1930 can be seen in the tables below.
|Number of motorcars in each year|
|Number of motorcycles in each year|
In the years up to 1930, there were 103 different makes of private motorcars recorded, 57 different makes of goods vehicles, and 54 different makes of vehicles used for public conveyance. The most popular make of car was Morris Cowley Oxford, with 357 registered, the first in 1920. Amazingly, no fewer than four steam cars were registered, the last as late as 1919!
In the same period, 86 different makes of motorcycles, 22 different makes with a sidecar attached, and 8 makes of tricycles were also registered.
At the time of writing this article I have been working for 18 months and have spent approximately 1000 hours collating and indexing each individual record from these registers transferring the information onto a searchable database. I’ve completed 8 registers out of a total of 12 which takes me up to EJ 3100 of first time registrations; counting re-registrations, some 6600 individual transactions have been recorded up till the end of 1930.
My aim is to finish indexing all the records onto the database by the end of 2015. The database will be searchable and be accessed through Ceredigion Archives’ web site. I’m also gathering as much information and photographs of these early vehicles as possible and hope to publish the results. My work continues….