Friday, October 10, 2014
By the side of a road a few miles outside elegant, hilly Malvern, in the flat country between the villages of Guarlford and Rhydd, is this small corrugated-iron building, now partly surrounded by grass, weeds, and elderberries. Driving past many times, I took it to be a farm outbuilding, but then I noticed the way it faces right on to the road and the presence of a very old petrol pump at one corner. There’s an enamel warning sign about the dangers of petroleum spirit too, its red lettering still clear against a white background, now partly obscured by the elder. I assume, then, that this was once a small garage, supplying fuel to cars on the way to and from Malvern and also to vehicles associated with the neighbouring farm.* Like so many early garages and pumps, it is right by the roadside (the tarmac is just out of shot), so that the motorist had just to stop and refuel. Since Malvern is the home of the Morgan Motor Company, I have mental images of early three-wheelers and 4/4s pulling up…
In 1927, as car ownership increased in Britain, the Roadside Petrol Pumps Act was passed, giving local councils the power to licence petrol pumps. To start with, these pumps were hand-cranked, but by 1930, electric pumps were being installed on roadsides. World War II brought petrol rationing and the demise of many rural garages, but once the post-war period of austerity was over, there was a steady increase in car ownership again and many new purpose-built garages and filling stations were built. More and more, these were substantial buildings with proper forecourts, on to which one pulled, and eventually safety considerations meant that the old roadside pumps disappeared. The occasional survivor, either rusty like this one or more consciously preserved, remains to remind us of a very different era of motoring.
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*And since this is an assumption, I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who knows more about the history of this building.