C S Rolls, driving his first car, 1896.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph taken from an album of prints collected by English motorist, motor car manufacturer and aviator Charles Stewart Rolls (1877-1910). Prior to the Emancipation Act of 1896, Rolls imported this 3 3/4 hp Peugeot from France, and drove it in many early continental races, as racing was not permitted in the UK. The Emancipation Act (officially titled the Locomotives on Highways Act) legalised motoring by recognising a clas of 'light locomotive' (under three tons), and meant that speeds of 12 mph were permitted. Before the Act, motor cars had to be preceded on the highway by a pedestrian to warn other road users of the oncoming vehicle. This effectively meant speeds above 4 mph were out of the question.