From the Archives - Motor Houses

In 1903 motorists were still unsure of the elements that made the ideal garage. Some were content with just sheltering their cars from the elements in converted barns, whilst others like Charles Rolls, created purpose built, state of the art spaces.

On 22nd October 1903, the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland sought the advice of Mr E.Keynes Purchase, the Club’s Honorary Architect, to provide guidelines for hotels who wished to cater for the car. Keynes Purchase was largely responsible for the design of Shaftesbury Avenue and would later assist Mewés and Davis in building the A.C.G.B.I Clubhouse on Pall Mall.

He advised hotels that had formerly been coaching inns to use their stables previously reserved for horses, provided the entrance was 8ft wide to allow cars to drive straight in and reverse out. Drains were to be blocked to prohibit petrol from leaking into the system. Floors were to be re-laid in asphalt or cement with an open channel into which oil could gather, which prevented it from lodging in the tyres.

Keynes Purchase also advised ventilation near floor level to carry petrol fumes away. The architect preferred pits for the mechanic to be outside the building as it posed less of a fire risk.

The new Felix Hotel, Felixstowe had recently employed the architect to create a commodious garage for automobilists on route to the continent, which included an 870 × 556ft storage area, separate engineering store and an external car wash area with glass roof. Lockers were provided for motorists belongings and toilets were graded by trade and gentlemen facilities. Yet again the pit was external but covered, with the specific measurements of 4ft deep x 6ft long, which included a grated sump hole.

However the most important piece of advice was to use electric light. Naked flames and Benzene were never good bedfellows and heating was seen as a luxury.

These new motorhouses may have housed the latest technology, but they were not comfortable environments on cold days.

Latest News

Sir Stirling Moss OBE (1929-2020)

Read more

'Seven for Seventy' - Celebrating Formula 1's Anniversary

Read more

Legends of Le Mans

Read more

The Greats of British Touring Cars

Read more