GB Driving Licences - A Brief History and Illustrated Survey
Licences to drive motor vehicles were introduced to Great Britain as a requirement of the Motor Car Act 1903. Prior to that drivers of motor cars required no authority in order to drive a vehicle.
Until 1930, driving licences were issued by local authorities (counties or county boroughs) using designs of their own creation. The only common features were those mandated by the Act but the general size, colour and dimensions varied enormously.
After the Road Traffic Act 1930, the design of the licence document was standardized and (although this varied over the years) standard designs were retained until the card licence was phased out in the 1970s. Minor changes were made in 1935 to reflect the introduction of driver testing. The licence slips that were pasted inside were produced to a broad standard but each local authority seems to have ordered its own stock and there was considerable variation between one authority and another.
Most of the information used in this article has been derived from the legislation that covered driver licensing, together with the extensive collection of historical licences held by the author
Updated to latest information November 2014
Any comments, or additional information, will be especially welcome.
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