Skip to content

The latest addition to the Science Museum’s road transport collection is the last ever coin-operated kerbside parking meter in Westminster. It arrived at our storage facility last week (let’s hope the delivery van didn’t get a parking ticket).

Westminster Council was the first in Britain to install parking meters, back in 1958 (great Times article here), and the roadside sentries have been a feature of London’s West End (and elsewhere) ever since. This particular one was installed in Warwick Square in the 1990s and was dug up at an official ceremony on 7 May 2009.

Parking meter, 1990s (credit: David Rooney)

We’ve got some other traffic stuff in our collections. Alongside a handful of parking meters, a couple of traffic light sets and the Gatso speed camera I mentioned previously, we also have a 1980s handheld computer used by the Metropolitan Police to record details of illegally-parked vehicles which had been clamped, as well as a clamp itself:

Husky 'Hunter' computer (credit: David Rooney)
Wheelok wheel clamp (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)
'Wheelok' wheel clamp (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

Our road transport collection is by no means just vehicles. It’s about the whole driving system, the complex tangle of things that’s resulted from our attempts to move farther, faster, more safely and in more comfort – attempts that have been going on, I guess, since we first decided to see what was occurring in the next cave. But where do we go from here?

One thing’s for sure: at the Science Museum we’ll keep collecting whatever people come up with to help solve the problems of moving about. Speaking of which, I’d love to get my hands on more urban transport gadgetry, if any traffic engineers happen to be reading…