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First recorded UK car journey - Micheldever Station, Hampshire

A station by Sir William Tite and listed Grade II, an example of a station giving its name to a village. It was the point of departure of the first documented motor car drive in Britain in which the Honourable Evelyn Ellis drove the first horseless carriage on a public open road in England - defying the "Red Flag Act" which was holding back automobile development in the UK.

Red Wheel Site:
Transport Mode(s):
Rail, Road

Micheldever Station, SO21 3AP

SO21 3AP
Visitor Centre:

About First recorded UK car journey - Micheldever Station, Hampshire


On 5th July, 1895, the Hon Evelyn Ellis drove from Micheldever station to his home in Datchet, near Windsor. The car was a brand-new 4hp Panhard et Levassor that had been driven from the factory in Paris to Le Havre, from where it was shipped to Southampton. Contrary to the accepted version, which has it that the car was then put on a train to Micheldever station, more recent research has shown that this is nowhere mentioned. One explanation could be that this was where Frederick Simms, who wrote the report, joined the run in the car, having travelled to that point by train. Because other pioneer vehicles in England were steam-driven, or petrol-driven prototypes that had not yet travelled far, the Ellis journey was the first reported drive of an imported car in England. The British automobile industry had still to start developing.

During the journey, Ellis was constantly on alert for the police as he was frequently breaking the existing speed limit. It was only in 1896 that the ridiculous maximum speed of 2mph in town, and 4mph in the country, would be raised to 12mph, which was then celebrated with the Emancipation Run in which Ellis also participated. Although legally deemed superfluous after 1878, the destruction of a red flag at that first Emancipation Run in 1896 was a symbolic act to mark the increased freedom for motorists provided by the relaxed speed limit. Ellis's original 1895 Panhard survives in the Science Museum collection.

A suitable commemoration was organised in 1995 for the centenary of Ellis's journey, but now the de Dion-Bouton Club UK has taken up the challenge to make this an annual event. Twenty-one cars were attracted on the first occasion, ranging from 1897 to 1904, and the club welcomed all marques as entrants. The oldest participating cars were Roy Tubby's 1897 Panhard et Levassor, only two years younger than the original Ellis car, and Gordon Cobbold's Benz Velo of the same year. Of 1899 manufacture were another Panhard and a Star, made in Wolverhampton, an early example of British car production but relying heavily on Benz designs. In a couple of years, the British car industry would be up-and- running, Alexander Nall's 1904 Humberette and Clive Boothman's 1904 Norfolk being perfect examples of these early efforts. Of course, a large number of the entrants were in de Dion- Bouton cars, but other marques present, such as the T'Elegante and the Lacoste et Battmann, used de Dion engines.

The sole tricycle taking part, an 1898 de Dion ridden by Mike Everett, was of historic importance, having once been owned by St John Nixon, who, as a young boy, had participated in the 1000-Mile Trial of 1900 when the UK industry tested their cars for the first time. At the other end of the scale, Andy Watt's 1904 Berliet was the ultimate Veteran automobile, with its four-cylinder 40hp engine delivering a 60mph capability. With only a few small problems that were repaired on the road, all cars reached Datchet village green, the end of the run, but not without stopping first at Ellis's house Rosenau, now called Woollacoombe. The future of the Ellis Journey event is bright long may it continue.

Nick Jonckheere

Reproduced from Automobile Magazine, September 2017 with thanks.

Subsequent discussions have suggested that Micheldever was possibly chosen because there was a hotel there, the village was on the main Southampton to London road, and as Ellis was expecting difficulties with the police, slipping out of Southampton quietly once the car was unloaded from the cross-channel ferry, might have been a more practical approach.

Micheldever is a village two miles away from the railway station, which was until 1858 called Andover Road. A village grew up around the station and was called Micheldever Station. The station was built in 1840 by the London & Southampton Railway, predecessor of the London & South Western on the main line to Southampton.

The station building by Sir William Tite is a well proportioned two storey building with flint walls and a hipped roof. It has an unusual veranda around it.

This illustration shows the Panhard & Levassor n ° 5 of Emile Levassor and Charles of Hostingue, victorious of Paris-Bordeaux-Paris 1895 - The Life with the Big Air of October 18, 1913, p.859 - Wikipedia Commons license

La Panhard Levassor n5 dEmile Levassor et Charles dHostingue victorieuse du Paris Bordeaux Paris 1895

The 1895 "Ellis Journey" from Micheldever Station to his home in Datchet is celebrated by re-enactments.
The following video from YouTube documents the event of 2018


Nigel Smith's excellent blog (What the driver saw) documents the first part of the journey route - as far as Basingstoke.

The map images enclosed are credited to him - with thanks.


Update - Red Wheel Plaque unveiled by Lord Montague of Beaulieu - 4th July 2021

Article on Hampshire Chronicle

BBC South News video clip:


By Road: The station is near the A303 Basingstoke to Andover road approximately 4 km (2 miles) from the village of Micheldever.

By Rail: it is served by trains from Waterloo, Portsmouth and Southampton.


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