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From Carriages to Cars

From Carriages to Cars Taunton Somerset

This image shows Trull post office around 1912. The wooden structure which served as the post office from c.1908 for many years was a study used by the vicar when the vicarage was near the town end of Wild Oak Lane.

A placard referring to a massacre by the Turks probably refers to the Balkan Wars of 1912 – 1913. In trying to remain topical it’s the car that I want to talk about. The last few issues of The Somerset County Gazette refer to the increasing problems that we have with traffic in the town lately.

Like everything it all had to start somewhere and its a little known fact that the first proper car journey was undertaken by a woman. In August 1888. Bertha Benz took the world’s first long distance trip in an automobile when she drove the kids in her husband Carl Benz’s patent automobile. At least she did not get stuck in the traffic. The motor in this image belonged to Arthur Eastwood (presumably then inside the post office) of Leigh Court. His uniformed chauffeur waits patiently in the car. Often these early drivers progressed from horse carriages owned by the wealthy and sometimes could be hear to say “whoaa” as they applied the brakes.

The first car to be registered in Somerset in 1904 was Y1 and was owned by a person at Sparkford. The Somerset Heritage Centre holds motor vehicle licensing records where owners are listed as well as details of the vehicle. The invention of the internal combustion engine long preceded the appearance of Benz’s first practical car. Most car development took place in France and Germany. A French invention of 1863 took three hours to cover six miles so was hardly practical. Daimler and Benz invented the first real petrol driven cars in the 1880s. Neither man found immediate success as they were initially in competition with steam driven carriages. Benz finally found success with his 1893 four wheeled ‘Viktoria’ and then could start serious production of the motor car. Peugeot started car manufacture around the same time. America’s first motor company was founded in 1895 and a couple of vehicles were exported to Britain. The following year in the UK the ridiculous ‘Red Flag Act’ was repealed. Britain lagged far behind in establishing a motor industry and many people here had never seen a car. The Automobile Club of Great Britain was formed in 1900 and held its first 1,000 Miles Trial bringing the motor car to many towns and cities of the UK.

The era of the motor car had begun and today we suffer the consequences and freedom that motor vehicles have provided ultimately changing the face of our countryside more than anything else.

By Nick Chipchase

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