Lunchtime seminar series – 10th February: Cameron Roberts

CHSTMSeminar Cameron Roberts

A priceless break in the monotony of things: The Princess Parkway as a prototypical British motorway (1929-1939)

On the first of February, 1932, transport minister John Pybus traveled to Manchester to cut the ribbon on what might seem to modern eyes to be a fairly unremarkable bridge across the Mersey River, where Princess Road met the boundary between Manchester and Cheshire. The bridge, however, and the parkway that it connected to on the Cheshire side of the river, was a first for Britain. Modelled after the American parkway system, the Princess Parkway was not just an early testing ground for the physical construction of motorways, but also an early illustration of the ideological concerns that motivated the construction of high-speed motor roads roads in the United Kingdom.

Transport in interwar Britain was a problematic and controversial matter, in which there were hotly contested debates about the safety and aesthetic problems brought about by the increasing use of the private automobile. The Princess Parkway, though it does not exist in most histories of British road building, was perceived at the time as the first substantive solution to these concerns. It proposed to solve the safety and congestion problems by the creating an efficient, dedicated motor road, while also solving the problem of aesthetic blight by making that road as beautiful as possible. The Parkway is thus an interesting prologue to the construction of British motorways which was to take place after the war.

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