Author Topic: Old licence plates - checking  (Read 342 times)

Offline BenRalph

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Old licence plates - checking
« on: Sunday 12 May 19 09:46 BST (UK) »
I have quite a few pictures with old cars and motorbikes but don't know who's in the photos. I can see the licence plates on some of them. These photos are from about 1920 to the 60s I think. These will have been taken in England.

Is there anywhere I can search licence plates for owners, places of purchase etc. anything like that to help in narrowing down who's who?

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Online AntonyMMM

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Re: Old licence plates - checking
« Reply #1 on: Sunday 12 May 19 10:16 BST (UK) »
Vehicle licensing was dealt with locally for a long time, before the advent of the DVLA.

Those records that survive are now usually in the county archives, so you will need to have an idea of which district was the issuing one to know which county is going to have the records. This can be worked out from the letter combinations on the plate.

Look in the catalogue of the relevant archive and search for "vehicle licensing"

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Offline arthurk

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Re: Old licence plates - checking
« Reply #2 on: Sunday 12 May 19 10:36 BST (UK) »
There's a summary of what various archives hold at the Kithead Trust:

http://kitheadtrust.org.uk/motor-vehicle-records

If you don't know where a registration mark was issued, they also have a page for identifying that:

http://kitheadtrust.org.uk/trace-a-registration-mark
Researching among others:
Bartle, Bilton, Campbell, Craven, Emmott, Harcourt, Hirst, Kellet(t), Kennedy,
Meaburn, Mennile/Meynell, Metcalf(e), Palliser, Robinson, Rutter, Shipley, Stow, Wilkinson

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Offline andrewalston

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Re: Old licence plates - checking
« Reply #3 on: Sunday 12 May 19 10:57 BST (UK) »
The format of vehicle licence plates is pretty well described on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_registration_plates_of_the_United_Kingdom

Basically, two letters (originally one) were used to show a place or county, followed by up to 4 digits, such as "BC 1234". "I" or "Z" in the letters denoted places in Ireland, "S" in Scotland. There's a list in the Wikipedia article.

Some places ran out, and the order was reversed, with numbers first, starting at 1000 (1234 BC).

That became 3 letters followed by 3 digits (the original place letters with a prefix letter), such as "ABC 123". Again, as capacity was reached, the sequence was reversed, this time starting with 1 - 1 ABC.

In 1963 this was extended to have a suffix letter to show the year (ABC 123 A). Not every place had run out, so kept the old numbering, but in 1965 every car got a "C" suffix.

In 1983 the sequence was reversed - "A 123 ABC".

Some letter combinations, such as SEX, were never issued.

The scheme was changed completely in 2001.

Because the scheme was originally dealt with quite locally, the records sometimes ended up in the county archives. I know that Cheshire's early records are held in Chester. Many of the others are, as arthurk says, in the care of the Kithead Trust.

The records can be quite informative, giving details of owners and addresses.
Looking at ALSTON in south Ribble area, ALSTEAD and DONBAVAND/DUNBABIN etc. everywhere, HOWCROFT and MARSH in Bolton and Westhoughton, PICKERING in the Whitehaven area.

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Offline BenRalph

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Re: Old licence plates - checking
« Reply #4 on: Tuesday 14 May 19 20:32 BST (UK) »
Thank you for the info. I will take a look at the photos when I get home and try and deduce where the plates originated.

Offline BenRalph

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Re: Old licence plates - checking
« Reply #5 on: Tuesday 14 May 19 21:01 BST (UK) »
Just finding a picture I took of one of the photos on my phone, one of the licence plates is 'EUB952'. Looking on that website I can't find an area for them numbers. Am I maybe doing something wrong?

Offline KGarrad

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Re: Old licence plates - checking
« Reply #6 on: Tuesday 14 May 19 21:10 BST (UK) »
You have to ignore the first letter ;D
So "UB" was used by Leeds.

Quoting from that Wikipedia article:
Pre-2001 codes
Normally the last two letters would indicate where the car was initially registered. The letters I and Z are reserved for Ireland. If you want to look for the office code (or council code until 1974) easier, look at the bold letters next to the examples (ABC 123D; A123 BCD).
Garrad (Suffolk, Essex, Somerset), Crocker (Somerset), Vanstone (Devon, Jersey), Sims (Wiltshire), Bridger (Kent)

Offline BenRalph

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Re: Old licence plates - checking
« Reply #7 on: Tuesday 14 May 19 21:40 BST (UK) »
Ah, thank you. I was thrown off because one of the other photos had a plate with 'UB' and I didn't notice the past you quoted. I suppose I should keep rereading to get the hang of the way they work.

At least I now know the photos are local to Leeds. What I hoped it'd be.