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Home | Brief history of car parks


Here is a very brief history of car parks from the turn of the century.

First UK multi-storey car parks

The City & Suburban Electric Carriage Company at 6 Denman Street, central London, opened the first multi-storey car park in the UK (and probably the world) in May 1901.  The garage had seven floors, 19,000 square feet, space for 100 vehicles and an electric elevator to move the vehicles between floors.

In 1902 City & Suburban opened its second garage, a converted building in Westminster known as Niagara that could hold 230 vehicles.  At both, electic vehicles were housed, serviced, cleaned, insured and delivered to owners on request.

Earliest surviving multi-storeys

The earliest surviving multi-storey car park was built in 1902-03 for the London Motor Garage Co. at 33-37 Wardour Street, it was three storeys, could hold 200 cars and is now a pub.

Botanic Gardens Garage in Vinicombe Street, Glasgow (pictured below), was built between 1906-1911.  The garage has a distinctive art deco facade, ramped access to the second floor and a category A listing with Historic Scotland.  It primarily provided storage space for cars belonging to local residents.

The 1907 Electromobile Garage, Carrington Street, London, was two storeys for 300 electric cars.  It is now managed by NCP.

Botanic Gardens Garage, Glasgow




First multi-storey municipal car park

A combined car park and bus station erected on Talbot Road, Blackpool 1936-37 was the first to integrate car parking with public transport.

Underground car parks

Some London hotels and apartment blocks built in the 1930s had car parks in their basements, including the Adelphi 1936-38 Grade II listed and Rossemore Court 1936.

Pay on foot

Oxford introduced the first fully automatic pay on foot system in 1974 in Westgate car park as part of its balanced transport policy.  Drivers collected a ticket at entry barriers, took the ticket with them while they shopped, paid at a pay station and were given a ticket to raise the exit barrier.   The Swiss system was installed and tested during 1973.

Park and ride

The first park and ride scheme operated from the 1960s in Oxford, initially as a part-time service from a motel on the A34 and then on a full time basis from 1973 as part of the balanced transport policy.  The number of schemes hardly changed until the mid-1980s.  By 1991 there were 20 Park and Ride car parks.  In 2003 there were 100 Park and Ride car parks in 40 different UK towns.

Recent renovations

Lex Garage, Brewer Street, London 1928-29 Grade II, now operated by NCP, has been renovated back to its 1930s styling and was awarded a special commendation in the 2009 British Parking Awards.


Talbot Road, Blackpool 1936-37 won best refurbishment in the 2014 British Parking Awards.  Exterior cladding has been replaced by frosted glass that lights up at night; some original features have been retained.