This film is part of Free

First for Everything

The first self-service petrol station and the first parking meters pop up in the South West of England.

Current affairs 1963 1 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


Shell's first self-fill petrol station in the South West is opposite Charles Church on Bretonside in Plymouth designed by Peter Roseveare. The Rotunda, here as Turnbull's and later becoming Staples is situated on the outer edge of the roundabout and looks suitably space age. Notice the two-way system and remember your tank does not have to be closest to the pump but gloves, whether filling or at the draughty till, are a stylish necessity and not just for the cameras.

Passers-by and drivers look on with curiosity at the newly installed parking meters in Plymouth. When did parking meters become a thing? In 1935 actually, in Oklahoma invented by engineering professors Thuesen and Hale with the patent put down by newspaper magnate Carl Magee. In the UK the first one popped up on Grosvenor Square in London in 1958. Mechanical in nature, a slotted coin moved the coloured pointer to the length of stay and the timer whirred away on a dial. Parking meters are associated with anti-social behaviour as depicted by Paul Newman's Cool Hand Luke (1967) or The Beatles more gentle Lovely Rita, Meter Maid of the same year; of course now it's less Ringo more Ring and Go!